All entries for Friday 15 January 2016

January 15, 2016

Revisiting Philosophical and Methodological problems, and solving them!

During the past few blog posts I have been discussing the various Philosophical and Methodological problems that have occurred even before the time that Constructivist Grounded Theory was initially considered as an overall methodology. It was realised that this really was not going to work and therefore scrapped plans to use Constructivist Grounded Theory as a methodology and instead decided to use Mixed Methods methodology; more specifically, Triangulated Mixed Methods methodology, whilst using Constructivist Grounded Theory as a method along with other methods to collect and analyse data. It did not take long to realise that this form of Mixed Methods would practically answer those questions that I have been asking for a while.

Philosophical Problems

The central problem I had was reconciling differing Philosophical perspectives: Positivism and Interpretivism. Even when Constructivist Grounded Theory was replaced with Triangulated Mixed Methods methodology the reconciliation between widely differing Philosophical perspectives was not apparent straight away.

Whilst reading through the Philosophical literature of Mixed Methods methodology it became apparent that merging or combining these perspectives is impossible and not desirable in Mixed Methods methodology. This is because the differing Philosophical perspectives entail particular methodologies which themselves entail the development of particular methods that address different but related questions, sub questions and problem areas of a wider research project. In my Ph.D. research for example the research problem and research questions have been designed in a way that entails the need for differing Philosophical perspectives and therefore differing methodologies and methods to properly investigate the phenomenon of investigation.

From this, Mixed Methods methodology makes sense to use because it enables the mode of inquiry to encompass two related but separate Philosophical perspectives that deals with different questions and problems of the same phenomenon. But what of the Philosophical perspective of Mixed Methods? There is a general consensus in the literature that the Philosophical perspective of Mixed Methods is Pragmatism, which is a Philosophical orientation of reality that defines research design in terms of its usefulness and that it works to an acceptable level. What this basically suggests is regardless of the Methodological perspectives that are a part of a research design, as long as it is purposeful and explores the phenomenon of investigation as required, then it’s an acceptable research design. In addition to Pragmatism some papers reference methodological relativism as the key perspective but this shall need further exploration. Some initial thinking suggests that Pragmatism and Relativism along with Contextualism and Interpretivism could be all related in some way but this needs further exploration. There appears to be plenty of debate and discussion of Philosophical perspectives of Mixed Methods methodology and these shall be explored in time.

In all however, Pragmatism appears to be the overarching Philosophical perspective and has therefore answered my question about Philosophical reconciliation, but shall be reading further into Pragmatism as a research design Philosophy. So, what of the methodological problems?

Methodological problems

Any Philosophical problem of a research design introduces a Methodological problem because they are related. The Methodological problem that was encountered at the time therefore was the merging or combining of quantitative data and qualitative data in order to correlate, combine, merge, and corroborate data as fully as possible in order to present a holistic analysis of the phenomenon of investigation. Just like the Philosophical problem, it was realised that the Methodological problems would be resolved simply through introducing Mixed Methods methodology.

Mixed Methods methodology offers a number of different solutions to the problems of mixing quantitative and qualitative data and I have decided to go for mixing at the interpretation stage. What this means is both quantitative and qualitative data shall be analysed separately using their respective sets of analysis methods, but the discussion shall corroborate, compare, contrast, and relate quantitative findings and qualitative findings. This obviously has been noted in academic literature as being challenging and I shall talk about this another time, but in the meantime I think this approach to dealing with the methodological problem works. Additionally, mixing could take place at the analysis level therefore qualifying the quantitative data and quantifying the qualitative data although I am not sure at this time if this would be really relevant. This shall need further investigation and thinking.

So in summary: the previous Philosophical and Methodological problems have been resolved simply through changing the methodology itself, but this has introduced pages of new questions that need exploration, and the answers to those questions shall produce more questions but that is the way research works!

‘till next time: you won’t learn unless you ask, but be prepared to ask more questions from the answers!

January 2016

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