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The research stance/philosophy

Chapter 2

Research Classifications

Types of research strategy (these are neither exclusive nor exhaustive):

  • Exploratory
    • Clarifies the nature of the problem to be solved
    • Can be used to suggest or generate hypotheses
    • Includes the use of pilot studies
    • Used widely in market research
  • Descriptive
    • Provides general frequency data about populations or samples
    • Does not manipulate variables (e.g. as in an experiment)
    • Describes only the "who, what, when, where and how"
    • Cannot establish a causal relationship between variables
    • Associated with descriptive statistics
  • Analytical
    • Breaks down factors or variables involved in a concept, problem, or issue
    • Often uses (or generates) models as analytical tools (e.g. Job Characteristics Model)
    • Often uses micro/macro distinctions in analysis
  • Critical
    • Focuses on the analysis of bias, inconsistencies, gaps or contradictions in accounts, theories, studies or models
    • Often takes a specific theoretical perspective, (e.g. feminism, labour process theory)
  • Predictive/Confirmatory
    • Mainly quantitative
    • Identifies measurable variables
    • Often manipulates variables to produce measurable effects
    • Uses specific, predictive, or null hypotheses
    • Dependent on accurate sampling
    • Uses statistical testing to establish causal relationships, variance between samples, or predictive trends
  • Action
    • Associated with organization development initiatives and interventions
    • Practitioner-based, works with practitioners to help them solve their problems
    • Involves data collection, evaluation, and reflection
    • Often used to review interventions and plan new ones
  • Applied
    • Focuses on recognized needs, solving practical problems or answering specific questions
    • Often has specific commercial objectives (e.g. product development)

Preparing for Your Research, Page 86

  • Do not begin your data collection until you have identified your research questions reasonably clearly and checked what is expected of you by your institution. Also do not start until you have gained research ethics approval.
  • Develop your data collection instruments with these research questions at the forefront of your thinking
    • If you do not do this, there is the risk that your results will not allow you to illuminate the research questions
    • Your research strategy and research design must be informed by your research questions
  • If at all possible, conduct a pilot study to determine how well your research instruments work
  • Remember that your access/sampling strategy will affect the kind of data you can collect and thus the kind of analysis you can do

Exercise: Springfield University 3

Title: Research Stance

Springfield University is one of over 150 universities in the UK. Well established, it has some 12,000 students on average per annum, both full and part time, studying a wide range of courses such as medicine, biology, business studies, finance, history, law, creative writing, etc. However, it was built in the 1940s and its infrastructure is beginning to become very tired, often many facilities are broken or in need of repair and not up to what a student would expect, especially given a change in government policy and rise in tuition fees across the sector in 2008. The learning technology and catering facilities are also dated, both key aspects in students’ learning environment. Many Undergraduate students with UCAS offers who have achieved their grades are simply choosing to go elsewhere. Springfield is located in a region that has many other Universities within travelling distance and it is therefore not surprising that student intakes are gradually declining.

The Business School is at stake here and it is thought moving the whole of this department off campus will not only provide room for other departments on campus but also enhance the Business Schools’ branding with its own separate marketing entity. Many other Business Schools in the UK have moved off campus to their own satellite campus over the past decade. Moreover, the academics, some of many years’ service, are less than enthusiastic about the move as they feel it would take them and their students away from the heart of campus life. The new campus where the Business School would be housed would embrace the latest in technology, teaching facilities, learning resources and, above all, be attractively located in the City centre. However, there are disadvantages, not least the lack of staff car parking facilities and a paucity of teaching staff office space. The biggest threat to the vision at least according to the University Executive, is the ‘mindset’ of the staff, which, in their view, would need ratcheting up a fair few notches to embrace the philosophy of the new building as an ‘up market, quality’ establishment. In addition to being away from central campus, one of the many things staff will need to embrace is shared office space. This, and other new innovations, will be a steep learning curve for many staff.

The University has decided to initiate research to examine how they should prepare itself for the change, position itself as a newly branded Business School in the market place and the appropriate accompanying staff behaviour.

Your answer should be fully justified with reference to the text. It is important to stress that there is not one right answer but some are justifiably better solutions than others.



Describe and justify a possible research stance for your research project.

A possible research stance:

Students should, with appropriate reference to chapter 2 of Bryman and Bell, briefly explain the two possible research stances i.e. 'positivism', and 'interpretivism'.

The proposed research, it can be argued, falls somewhere between the positivist and interpretivist stance, i.e. 'realism'. The reason for this is that it is likely that the Uuniversity College Governors, Executive executive and Staff staff will have widely different perceptions and interpretations on the change process, repositioning, and necessary resultant staff behaviour, (interpretivism). On the other hand, the researcher could look scientifically at the 'before' and 'after' effects on students and staff of the current new Business School building College environment to the proposed new College environment, (positivism). However, the researcher will have to make 'sense', or a 'reality' out of all the different stakeholder views, so a 'realism' stance is most appropriate.

Given the above, the subsequent research strategy will, inevitably, be leaning towards an epistemological and ontological stance of a qualitative, inductive nature using a methodology based on in in-depth interviews or group discussions. (Bryman and Bell, page 23).

Check your answer