All entries for June 2015

June 15, 2015

Ethical research and Qualitative Research

Follow-up to Researcher's paradigm: useful resources from CES PHD Support Group

A while back i was talking with Elaine and she suggested two great books that she found helpful for her research. She advised that I post about the two books for everyone to get the chance of reading

The Author

Both books are authored by David Silverman who is a Visiting Professor in the Business School, University of Technology, Sydney. Professor Silverman has a PhD on Organization theory. He pioneered a taught MA in Qualitative Research at Goldsmiths in 1985 and supervised around 30 successful PhD students. Since becoming Emeritus Professor in 1999, he has continued publishing methodology books. He has also run workshops for research students in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

The Books

  • The first book is Doing Qualitative Research. (2009, 3rd edition). Library link

silverman1There's a chapter about Ethical research that Elaine found very helpful. So, I borrowed the book and scanned the chapter for you (you're welcome!) You can download the scan here

Here's what the Library catalogue has to say about the book

Written in a lively, accessible style, Doing Qualitative Research provides a step-by-step guide to all the questions students ask when beginning their first research project. Silverman demonstrates how to learn the craft of qualitative research by applying knowledge about different methods to actual data. He provides practical advice on key issues such as defining 'originality' and narrowing down a topic, keeping a research diary and writing a research report, and presenting research to different audiences.

You can read the complete Table of contents here

  • The second book is Interpreting Qualitative Data, Fifth Edition (2015)

silverman2According to the publisher

Silverman walks the reader through the basics of gathering and analyzing qualitative data. The book offers beginners unrivalled hands-on guidance to help them get the best out of a research methods course or research project. This is the perfect companion for all those new to qualitative research.

Unfortunately this book is not yet available in the Library, however, we have an older version here

You can buy the books from Sage following these links:

  1. Doing Qualitative Research A Practical Handbook Fourth Edition
  2. Interpreting Qualitative Data Fifth Edition

June 06, 2015

Using NVivo in your research

Writing about web page

Free software

qsrThankfully, Warwick University provides all its students and staff members with a free licence of NVivo, this is available for use on University and personally-owned machines.

NVivo itself is not free, far from it! A copy of NVivo 10 for Windows Full License is listed on the website for a whopping $2,345.00! Even with the best discount it will still cost $670.00. A student version (limited functionality) would still set you back $215.00.

nvivoSo, when you hit that download link from the IT Services' website, make sure you make the best use of the software.

But what exactly is NVivo?

NVivo is a platform for analysing forms of unstructured data. NVivo provides an data interrogation using search and query and visualization tools.

Introducing NVivo 10 for Windows Software

In case you’ve missed it, Esther provided an introduction to using NVivo in our last CES Support Group meeting. You can watch a video recording of Esther’s speech at the 50-minute mark in this video

Practical resources for researchers

Our friend Hessah was generous enough to provide us with these resources for using NVivo:

  • The University of Warwick User Guide: Nvivo Working with Data (Download)
  • The University of Warwick User Guide: Nvivo 10 Further Features (Download)
  • QSR International NVivo 10 Getting Started Guide (Download)
  • Video on getting started with NVivo10 (New Project & AutoCoding)

June 03, 2015

What is axiology and how does it relate to ontology and epistemology?

Follow-up to Researcher’s paradigm from CES PHD Support Group

axioAccording to Encyclopaedia Britannica

Axiology, (from Greek axios, “worthy”; logos, “science”), also called Theory Of Value, the philosophical study of goodness, orvalue, in the widest sense of these terms. Its significance lies (1) in the considerable expansion that it has given to the meaningof the term value and (2) in the unification that it has provided for the study of a variety of questions—economic, moral, aesthetic, and even logical—that had often been considered in relative isolation.

But how does axiology sit within other elements of the research paradigm? namely ontology and epistemology

In order for us to be able to understand the different meanings of each of these lovely terms, we need a historical prospective.

I was able to find references to four major eras of human understanding of reality and knowledge generation. We will call these eras of realism.

  1. Plato & Aristotle (Sanzio)The first era of realism is called the idealism period. This era existed at the time of Socrates. According to idealism, reality or ontology is spiritual, epistemology is about rethinking tried and true ideas, and axiology is about the absolute and the eternal. Socrates believed that man is a temporal being.
  2. The second era of realism was popularized by Aristotle. Here reality is both objective and measurable and not spiritual, epistemology is through the use of senses, while axiology is based on nature’s laws and thus could be acquired. The Aristotelian teachings of realism are referred to as essentialism.
  3. The third era was the first of two radical ages; pragmatism. Pragmatists were very strict about what they accepted and they rejected. Any factors of ontology, epistemology and axiology that were to be included in their work (or even considered) have to be found useful; otherwise, they were instantaneously dropped. A philosophy stemming from the pragmatism stance was Progressivism. Progressivism was proposed by our much beloved hero John Dewey. Dewey instructed public schools to teach only what is of interested to students. Everything that is not regarded as useful was thrown away.
  4. Finally, the fourth era and the second radical age is Existentialism, which was born after WW2. According to Existentialism, reality is subjective (very daring indeed!), epistemology is only a personal pursuit or quest loaded with choice and axiology was the expression of freedom.

So in short, ontology, epistemology and axiology used to mean different things in different times of history according to how people generally perceived the world and regarded knowledge as being created. Not very helpful? Here's somthing

Dr. Marcia Hills and Dr. Jennifer Mullett (from the University of Victoria, Canada) wrote a very useful account defining Paradigm, Ontology, Epistemology And Axiology. Here is what they had to say about these concepts and how they relate to research (these were directly copied from their article):

Defininitions of Paradigm, Ontology, Epistemology, Axiology and Methodology in research context

Participatory Paradigm

A paradigm is "a set of basic beliefs (or metaphysics) that deals with ultimates or first principles. It represents a worldview that defines, for its holder, the nature of the world, the individual’s place in it, and the range of possible relationships to that world and its parts, as , for example, cosmologies and theologies do" (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p. 105). Guba & Lincoln made a significant contribution in articulating four differing worldviews of research - positivist, post positivist, critical, and constructivist- based on their ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions. Heron and Reason (1997) argue for a fifth worldview – a participatory paradigm. Community-based research is situated within this paradigm and also embraces the ideology and methodology of co-operative inquiry created by Heron & Reason (1988; 1994; 1996; 1997).

A participatory paradigm rests on the belief that reality is an interplay between the given cosmos, a primordial reality, and the mind. The mind "creatively participates with [the cosmos] and can only know it in terms of its constructs, whether affective, imaginal, conceptual or practical" (Heron, p.10) "Mind and the given cosmos are engaged in a creative dance, so that what emerges as reality is the fruit of an interaction of the given cosmos and the way the mind engages with it" (Heron & Reason, 1997 p. 279). As Skolimowski (1992) states; "we always partake of what we describe so our reality is a product of the dance between our individual and collective mind and "what is there", the amorphous primordial givenness of the universe. This participative worldview is at the heart of the inquiry methodologies that emphasize participation as a core strategy", (p.20).

Subjective–Objective Ontology

Ontology refers to the form and nature of reality and what can be known about it (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). In contrast to orthodox research that utilizes quantitative methods in its claim to be value free (but which is more accurately described as valuing objectivity), and many qualitative approaches that value subjectivity, community based research endorses a subjective-objective stance.

An subjective-objective ontology means that there is "underneath our literate abstraction, a deeply participatory relation to things and to the earth, a felt reciprocity" (Abram, 1996, p. 124). As Heron and Reason (1997) explain, this encounter is transactional and interactive. "To touch, see, or hear something or someone does not tell us either about our self all on its own or about a being out there all on its own. It tells us about a being in a state of interrelation and co-presence with us. Our subjectivity feels the participation of what is there and is illuminated by it", (p.279). So community-based research is interested in investigating people’s understandings and meanings as they experience them in the world.


Epistemology refers to the nature of the relationship between the knower and the what can be known. Guba & Lincoln (1994) claim that orthodox science, because of its belief in a "real" world that can be known, requires the knower to adopt a posture of objective detachment in order "to discover how things really are" (p.108). There is a presumption that the knower and the known are separate and independent entities that do not influence one another. There is a search for the "truth"; for the facts in objective and quantifiable terms which holds empirical data in the highest esteem.

In contrast, community-based research rests on an extended epistemology that endorses the primacy of practical knowing. In community-based research, the knower participates in the known and that evidence is generated in at least four interdependent ways – experiential, presentational, propositional, and practical (Heron & Reason, 1997; Heron, 1996).


In addition to considering the three defining characteristics of a research paradigm suggested by Guba and Lincoln –ontology, epistemology and methodology, - Heron and Reason argue that an inquiry paradigm also must consider a fourth factor –axiology.

Axiology deals with the nature of value and captures the value question of what is intrinsically worthwhile? The fourth defining characteristics of a research paradigm, axiology, puts in issue "values of being, about what human states are to be valued simply because of what they are" (Heron & Reason, 1997, p. 287). The participatory paradigm addresses this axiological question in terms of human flourishing. Human flourishing is viewed as a "process of social participation in which there is a mutually enabling balance, within and between people, of autonomy, co-operation and hierarchy. It is conceived as interdependent with the flourishing of the planet ecosystem" (Heron, 1996, p. 11). Human flourishing is valued as intrinsically worthwhile and participatory decision-making and is seen as a means to an end "which enables people to be involved in the making of decisions, in every social context, which affect their flourishing in any way" Heron, 1996, p. 11).


One methodology that is particularly well suited to community-based research is co-operative inquiry (Heron, 1996; Reason, 1994). Co-operative inquiry is a participatory action methodology that does research with people not on to or about them. This methodology engages people in a transformative process of change by cycling through several iterations of action and reflection. Co-operative inquiry consists of a series of logical steps including; identifying the issues/questions to be researched, developing an explicit model/framework for practice, putting the model into practice and recording what happens and, reflecting on the experience and making sense out of the whole venture (Reason, 1988). Therefore, evidence about what constitutes "best practice" is generated by people examining their practices in practice and reflecting on these practices.

You have read alot, here's a funny comic


  • Abram, D. (1996), The spell of the sensations. New York: Pantheon
  • Arif, M. (2007). Baldrige theory into practice: a generic model. International Journal of Educational Management, 21(2), 114–125.
  • Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.
  • Guba E., & Lincoln, Y., (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y (Eds.) Handbook on qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage. 105-118.
  • Hills, M and Mullett, J., (2000). Community-Based Research: Creating Evidence-Based Practice for Health and Social Change. in Proceedings of the Qualitative Evidence-based Practice Conference, Coventry University - May 15-17 2000, Coventry, UK.
  • Heron, J. (1996) Co-operative inquiry. London: Sage.
  • Heron, J. & Reason, P. (1997). A participatory inquiry paradigm. Qualitative Inquiry. 3 (3) 274-294.
  • Reason, P. (Ed). (1988) Human Inquiry in Action. London: Sage.
  • Reason, P. (Ed). (1994). Participation in Human Inquiry. London: Sage
  • Skolimowski, H. (1992). Living philosophy: Eco-philosophy as a tree of life. London: Arkana

What on earth is a case study?

Case study Research

I think it is fair to say that not every expert or author agrees on what case study research is, some regard it as a methodology while others regard it a research design. This simple fact brought confusion and some lively discussions to both of our two meetings.

I think it is fair to say that not every expert or author agrees on what case study research is, some regard it as a methodology while others regard it a research design. This simple fact brought confusion and some lively discussions to both of our two meetings.

Case study as method, methodology or research design

case_study__anatomy_folds_by_artistshospital.jpgNow, to set the record straight, I am not going to tell you that the answer is this or that, simply because there is no clear answer. So when you read the different points of view choose that answer which makes more sense to you and make sure you can defend this choice (to your supervisor and in your viva).

So, case study is reefed to as a research method, research methodology, genre and research design!

The most prevalent of those is regarding case study as methodology, authors such as Yin and Stake and Pollard regard case study as a methodology (or an approach to research).

Authors like Elliott & Lukeš regard case study as a research genre. What is meant by genre is a guiding principle for the research deign. So, for these people, case study refers to a higher level of abstraction. So bare with me:

If you were to imagine your research paradigm, with the your ontology on top dictating what is reality, followed by your epistemology or epistemological standpoint dictating how we know something and finally the methodology on bottom dictating how do we go about finding out something. Then, case study (as a genre) will belong in your epistemology rather than in you methodology.


All you need to know is that debate about the nature of case study is on going. So keep an eye out.


  • Hamilton, L., & Corbett-Whittier, C. (2012). Using Case Study in Education Research. Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.

Image credit: ArtistsHospital

June 01, 2015

On the generalizability of case study research

Writing about web page


In our second meeting, we came across the discussion about the generalizability of case study research. Here is some or what was discussed and some extra resources that I found.

Why generalizability

screen_shot_2015-06-01_at_110232.pngThe strength of a single case study is the ability to go really deep into the intricate details and relationships of the case, the downside is being too specific and thus effecting the generalizability of the results. Of course generalizability is not the goal of case study research (as was mentioned in the discussion). So where does this leave us? Is our case study research in vain? Of course not, this is because (a) the close study of a certain case or as Yin says the “assessment of the prevalence of a phenomenon” could he inherently valuable maybe the phenomenon is one of a kind! And (b) although the results of our research are not necessarily generalizable, they can (and should be) transferable. Transferability of results refers to the situations where the results can be applied or relevant in another context. This is a more specific than generalizability, which mostly applied to quantitatively generated results using statistical tabulation of samples from a larger population.

Thanks to Michelle for mentioning that Yin talks about two kinds of generalizability; (1) statistical generalizability and (2) analytic generalizability. On the one hand, statistical generalization comes from a sample of the population, requiring an “interpretive second step from these characteristics to theory” (Yin) . On the other hand, an analytic generalization is a direct confrontation of the case study with an established theory.

My (very quick and brief) Internet search revealed that the first use of the term transferability in this meaning is attributed to Lincoln & Guba's Naturalistic Inquiry (1985).

Thinking bout generalizability and transferability

Each and every researcher should give their work a good amount of thinking about the transferable outcomes that wok could provide. Here the transferable element could be anything; the research conclusion obviously or a part of it, a section or sub section from the design phase, the research method especially for those who develop innovative research methods and so on. (Listen to our talk about this at the 35 minute mark -link above).

Read more:

12_generalizability.pdf: Moreau, Jean-Luc. "Generalizability" Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. 2009 Sage Publications.

2nd Group meeting summary

Writing about web page

11219728_10153339058278540_601117441024260248_n.jpgIn brief

So last Wednesday we had our second meeting for the PhD support group, on the agenda of the meeting we had a discussion about the definition of case studies (including a talk about revealing contact details about your case study) generalizability of case study [link] research and using NVivo for qualitative data analysis.

The meeting was extra especial because we had our friend Anne join us from the U.S. over Skype, with the magical technological advances and tech wizardry and with Anne heroically waking up right in the middle of the night we were able to have our across-the-Atlantic meeting of the minds. Also to make our gathering that much better we were joined by Henry who is nearing the submission date of his thesis, and was generous enough to join us and share with us some great advices related to our discussion points (more on that later).

So what is the case in case study

So, the first item of business; definition of a case study, the idea here was to collaboratively figure out what defined the “case” part of each of our respective case studies. So, in turns we each presented our research topic and what outlined the boundaries of each case; for some of us a case was a subject institution like a school or a university; for others it was a person whom they had interviewed or were planning on interviewing; and interestingly for some of us a case was a collection of people within an organization like teachers, headmasters and teacher trainers.

Also, some of us are looking at multiple case studies (example Asima and myself) while other are looking at one case study (example Hessah and Hafiz).

Being careful with language

Asima made an important remark about being careful in using the language when talking about the research method and methodology. So terminology such as ‘case study’ comes loaded with meanings and related connotations and the researcher is actually borrowing aspects of case study design, aspects that are related to his or her research. Here the researcher is urged to tread lightly so to speak when talking about the design of their research. They should talk only about those related aspects and make a clear cut about what is it they are borrowing and what is it they are not. (Listen to Asima talk about this and her reflection on Yin’s case study book at the 9 minutes mark of the recording – link above).


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  • Hi Xenia and thank you for passing by. The answer to your question is yes. All Warwick staff and stu… by Mohammad Waseem Sandouk on this entry
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