All entries for Saturday 09 January 2016

January 09, 2016

Methodological Breakthrough, Part B: Introducing The New Methodology!

Introducing Triangulated Mixed Methods Methodology

Ta da! This has come as a breakthrough for my research as I have now identified what I believe to be the research methodology that is most suitable for my research. Triangulated Mixed Methods is a research methodology that applies Triangulation approaches within the context of Mixed Methods research, which essentially according to some writers enable higher levels of validity and reliability through comparisons and corroborations of differing types of data from different sources, which exactly matches my vision of my research project.

From the initial rereading, Cresswell provided the clearest and most useful definitions of this type of Mixed Methods methodology that convinced me of its suitability. Cresswell describes Triangulated Mixed Methods Methodology as suitable for research projects involving comparisons, validations and expanding discussions between quantitative and qualitative findings. This is suitable for my project because it will involve comparing quantitative data with qualitative data and using these further analytical comparisons and discussions to expand on separate analyses and discussions that shall be made with each data set in the thesis.

There are other reasons, but that was the major, influential definition of Mixed Methods that has encouraged the favoured methodological view to Triangulated Mixed Methods.

What does all this mean now for my research Methodology and research Philosophy?

In brief: Triangulated Mixed Methods methodology is now the research methodology for my Ph.D. with Constructivist Grounded Theory now being used as a research method along with questionnaires. Interview and focus groups shall be used in addition at a later stage as and when deemed necessary. This obvious impact on my methodology will have an impact on my research Philosophy, although the Philosophical assumptions and perspectives of Triangulated Mixed Methods, and Mixed Methods in general, appears to be highly discussed and debated by a lot of authors and Philosophers (oh fun!)

So will this methodology make reality any easier to understand?

Er, no, well, it will, eventually! Basically, even years before starting the Ph.D. I had an idea that my research would be quite complex because what I am doing is exploring perceived learning (quantitative data, qualitative data) and actual learning processes that take place (qualitative data, mostly). This direction has not changed; it has only became more specified and detailed but I am not going to discuss the specifics on here: I shall leave them to my future published research papers and thesis. The methodology now selected makes a lot more sense to me because it allows me to investigate the phenomenon in exactly the way that I envisioned.

What next?

Loads. Sheer absolute loads to do, which is fine because it gives me plenty of blog material! Methodologically speaking, I need to select the most appropriate variant of the Triangulated Mixed Methods methodology to use, as there are several variants that have been designed and debated, although I already have a fair idea but need to do more reading and experimenting into this. Also, I need to identify Philosophical assumptions and develop Philosophical arguments for using Mixed Methods methodology and this shall take a little while given the amount of debates from various authors. Following this, I then need to carefully plan the way that Constructivist Grounded Theory and Questionnaires shall work effectively within a Triangulated Mixed Methods methodology, and carefully think about the practical assumptions and considerations that Triangulation makes upon the data analysis. Not only this, but I also need to carefully consider the Philosophical assumptions, arguments, practical applications and so on of both Constructivist Grounded Theory and Questionnaires and the way that a Triangulated Mixed Methods methodology actually bring these Philosophical and Methodological differences together in the way that research objectives are achieved.

Additionally I need to carefully consider the way in which the methodology and methods all come together to deal with issues of data validation, integrity, reliability, consistency, coherence, authenticity, and so on, and also develop ways in which challenges that each method and the methodology provides shall be carefully managed, maintained and dealt with so that any data errors are avoided as best as possible.

All this and much more shall be considered within the thesis and various research papers that shall be published from the research. Now that the methodology and methods are set, I can begin to think about, within the context of my research, all these Philosophical, Methodological and practical issues and much more than has been discussed here as I think I have wrote enough about the subject for the time being!

‘till next time: is there really such a thing as objective reality?

Methodological Breakthrough, Part A: Background To The Problem!

Explaining the Background

Regular readers will have probably come to know that Constructivist Grounded Theory became the selected research methodology (framework of understanding overall research design of exploring phenomenon of interest) and that the following problems were fairly immediately obvious:

  • Considering the integration of quantitative and qualitative data was proving to be problematic within a Constructivist Grounded Theory methodology

  • Compatibility issues therefore between Philosophically different approaches to understanding reality

The initial decision to use Constructivist Grounded Theory as an overall methodology led to Philosophical and Methodological problems. Philosophical problems in that Positivism and Interpretivism differ widely in that Positivism suggests a social reality independent of human perceiving and thinking therefore reality is absolute whilst Interpretivism suggests a social reality dependent on human perceiving and thinking therefore reality is relative. Positivism suggests that reality can be explored through reducing reality to a series of variables and the exploration of relationships between them; Interpretivism along with Constructivism suggests social reality as an interpretation therefore each person constructs their own perspective of reality and is therefore more complex to understand than a simple reduction to a series of variables and their relationships.

In what way could research be designed so that differing Philosophical perspectives increase in compatibility within a single research project? Could the phenomenon of interest be explored and explained using methodologies and methods that adopt either of these Philosophical definitions and then integrated to explain the phenomenon?

Methodological problems came about because Constructivist Grounded Theory as a methodology for this research entailed compatibility issues between quantitative and qualitative data that were not so easily resolved, as it was realised that Constructivist Grounded Theory unlike other flavours of Grounded Theory did not work with quantitative data. Even if I persevered with this, I envisioned having difficulty with figuring out and explaining the way that quantitative data from questionnaires could integrate with qualitative data from Constructivist Grounded Theory techniques as there was no guidance in textbooks available.  This obviously led me to knowing that as a methodology, Constructivist Grounded Theory was no longer applicable

To briefly explain my logic behind that (shall be exploring more about this in the thesis) Constructivist Grounded Theory as a methodology makes most sense in contexts that are exclusively qualitative; where all research methods are based on collecting and analysing qualitative data. With my research, this is simply not the case because the phenomenon of interest needs both quantitative and qualitative data to provide the basis of substantial and detailed theorising therefore I was not willing to alter any methods unless absolutely necessary in order to stay within the Ph.D. time frame. So, to find answers, I had to revisit previous research methodological ideas.

Returning to previous ideas

So, I had a problem to solve. Constructivist Grounded Theory was no longer making much sense as an overall methodology and given the phenomenon of interest I was not willing to drastically redesign any of the methods that are in development. Therefore I had to find a more appropriate methodology that assumed compatibility between differing Philosophical perspectives, and therefore allowed for the differing data types to be more effectively explored, compared or integrated within a single research project, leading to more effective and sound theorising of the phenomenon of interest.

Thinking back to earlier in the Ph.D. before initially deciding on Constructivist Grounded Theory as the most appropriate research methodology, I had thought for a while about Mixed Methods methodologies as well as Triangulation methods. Triangulation I had in the back of my mind to work with along the way, but Mixed Methods at the time unfortunately was considered unsuitable as the types I had learned about I considered inappropriate due to incompatibility between sequence orderings and timings of methods along with mixing approaches, and the vision I had of the research.

After a short stint into rereading mixed methods methodologies I thankfully came across a methodology that appears to be extremely appropriate for my research and for whatever reason I had not noticed it the first time I read a set of Mixed Methods literature.

That methodology is Triangulated Mixed Methods methodology!

January 2016

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