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Methodology and
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Foundation Chair of Marketing
University of Glasgow, Scotland
“all research is influenced by the
philosophical position of the researchers,
the nature of the project and the
intended audience” (Jordan and Gibson,
2004). “Questions of method are
secondary to questions of paradigm”.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
The final choice of research strategy and
method should be seen as a culmination of
issues at the level of the researcher and
the research paradigm, the latter involving
the interconnected issues of ‘ontology’
(what is the nature of reality?),
epistemology (What is the relationship
between the inquirer and the known?) and
methodology (How can we know the world,
or gain knowledge of it?)
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Paradigms can be interpreted as worldviews
or a set of beliefs that underpin an
individual’s understanding of the world and
their place and relationship within it (Guba
and Lincoln, 1998). A paradigm is, a
consensus across the relevant scientific
community about the theoretical and
methodological rules to be followed, the
instruments to be used, the problems to be
investigated, and the standards by which
research is to be judged (Marshall, 1998).
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Inquiry paradigms can be revealed by the
researcher's responses to the following three
questions. Firstly, what is the form and nature of
reality and therefore what can be known about it – the
ontological question – secondly, what is the nature of
the relationship between the knower and what can be
known – the epistemological question – and thirdly,
how can the inquirer go about finding whatever he or
she believes can be known – the methodological
question (Guba and Lincoln, 1998). Ontology is
concerned with the nature of being and reality.
Epistemology can be explained as “how we know
what we know (Marshall 1998).
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Any discussion of the research process
undertaken for the purpose of gathering
knowledge “would need to start with a
consideration of the theory of knowledge – or
epistemology”(Zahra and Ryan 2005).
Epistemology is concerned with an
“examination of the nature of knowledge and
the links between theory and data in the
construction of knowledge” (Aitchison 2005)
Professor Luiz Moutinho
There are currently four major
paradigms which structure research
(positivist, post-positivist, critical
theory and interpretivist), (Goodson
and Phillimore, 2004). Guba and
Lincoln (1998) call the positivism the
‘received view’, while Riley and Love
(2000) term positivism the ‘master
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Positivists take the ontological perspective
that research is objective (that is the
researcher neither influences or is
influenced by the researched), findings are
‘true’, and not only that human behaviour
can be explained rationally and logically.
For positivists, the independence of the
researcher from the researched is crucial,
as any interaction between them will
threaten the validity of the research.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Positivism supports a quantitative
methodology and generally utilises a
hypothesis approach, which is then tested
empirically, as the ontological perspective
dictates that objective enquiry provides a
true and predictive knowledge of external
reality (Zahra and Ryan 2005). The goal
of positivism is scientific explanation
whereas the purpose of social science is
the “understanding of the meaning of
social phenomena”.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Post-positivism recognises that only partially
objective accounts of the real world can be
made. Post positivists, whilst sharing the
same ontological view, also recognise some
of the criticisms levelled at positivism (it being
context-less for example) and address them
by generally conducting research in more
naturalistic settings, often combining
quantitative with qualitative techniques (Guba
and Lincoln 1998)
Professor Luiz Moutinho
At the other end of the spectrum to positivists,
intepretivists and social constructionists take the
phenomenological perspective. This contends
that multiple realities exist that are socially and
experientially based, the researcher and the
subject are inextricably linked, and that research
is subjective, fluid and informing (Crouch 2005;
Guba and Lincoln 1998; Jennings 2005; Small
2004). This perspective uses qualitative
methods in order to explain and understand
human experience and often deals with an
individual perspective.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
The researcher in the interpretative
paradigm needs to understand the social
world as it is, at the level of subjective
experience. He or she seeks an
explanation within the frame of reference
of participant as opposed to observer of
action (Zahra and Ryan 2005)
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Comparison of the paradigms of positivism and phenomenology
Social constructivism,
Causal relationships
Multiple realities
Extrinsic, value-free
Intrinsic, value-laden
Science report
Localised, possibly
generalisable to similar
setting and contexts
Source: Jennings (2004:104)
Professor Luiz Moutinho
A third paradigm is critical theory,
which takes the ontological
perspective that there is a ‘virtual’
reality, shaped over time by various
social, political, ethnic and economic
factors. This requires a subjectivist
and transactional epistemology and
usually consists of long-term
ethnographic and historical studies.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
The methods usually, but not
exclusively, associated with a
phenomenological approach are
qualitative in nature and include
methods such as in-depth
interviews, participant observation
and ethnography.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
A range of methodologies and their related paradigms
Grounded theory
In-depth interviewing & focus groups
(with an interviewer protocol
emphasis on
Instrumental case research
Survey & structural
equation modelling
Survey & other
multivariate techniques
Theory-testing research: emphasis on measurement
Source: Healy and Perry, 2000:121
Professor Luiz Moutinho
It could be argued that the post-positivist
paradigm would be better termed the ‘quasipositivist’ approach, because post-positivists,
whilst interested in explanation, also want to
predict and control phenomena, which is also
a common feature of positivism. It could be
argued that the post-positivist paradigm is
actually positivism with a view qualitative
methods thrown in to add a little meaning
and context.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
The criticism mostly commonly ascribed to
positivist inquiry is that it is context-less
which therefore limits not only the
relevance of the data but any meanings
attached to the topic of enquiry. Further
limitations include the nomothetic
disjunction (that generalisations cannot be
extended to individual cases) and
exclusion of the discovery or creative
dimension in inquiry.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
The post-positivist approach (using
qualitative research methods to
supplement quantitative methods)
is a popular approach in scientific
research and is commonly used to
bring context and meaning to
quantitative research findings.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
The assertion that there are
significant limitations with
quantitative methods as they
cannot fully address questions
of understanding and meaning.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Thomas (2004) cited Walle (1997) as saying that
using only quantitative, etic methods of data
collection can result in dehumanised research as
a result of a pursuit of rigorous, standardised
data. Walle (1997) also points out that in much
social science research “The main role of qualitative research has
typically been reduced to helping create and
pose hypotheses which can then be tested and
refined using scientific and/or statistical research
methods and models.”
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Guba and Lincoln (1998), in their critique
of the perceived superiority of quantitative
methods of enquiry in social science
research believe that “Human behaviour,
unlike that of physical objects, cannot be
understood without reference to the
meanings and purposes attached by
human actors to their activities”. Objective
reality can never be captured. We know a
thing only through its representation.
Professor Luiz Moutinho
“Embracing a more creative, artistic approach
to research” (Phillimore and Goodson, 2004).
This ontological perspective implied the
usefulness of several different methodologies
but essentially required a method that
acknowledged the interactive and cooperative nature of the relationship between
the interviewer and the subjects being
investigated (e.g. innovative methods such as
semiotic analysis).
Professor Luiz Moutinho
Science and Art compared
Anthropology term:
Scientific Method
Etic (Science)
Rigor emphasized
Mathematical tools prominent
Qualitative Research
Emic (Art)
Insight/intuition employed
Qualitative data employed
Especially useful when
Appropriate data can be
Questions can be attached
via the scientific method
Many informants needed
Adequate time for research
Formal/scientific methods will
not result in needed data
Formal models are not useful
Few informants are available
Time pressures do not permit
formal research
Net result of tradeoffs:
A sacrifice of possible
important data and/or
abandoning certain research
topics is accepted in order
that research is placed upon
a firms scientific foundation
Rigor is sacrificed for the sake
of attacking questions which
formal methods cannot easily
Insights/institution of skilled
researchers are allowed a free
Possible time savings