January 09, 2016

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!

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