PhD Reflections

PhD Reflections 2: Research Design

The first year of a PhD usually involves a study of research methods, strategies of inquiry, and epistemological and ontological underpinnings of research.

Our ontology, or better termed worldview (Creswell, 2009), is the lens through which we look at our research problem. Whilst this is inevitably connected to the our individual standpoint and expertise, it also has a lot to do with our chosen field of study and what we want to do with the research. The researcher then decides on what strategies of inquiry to adopt.

John Creswell conveniently divides worldviews into four:

Postpositivism: reductionist, deterministic, and lends itself to Quantitative strategies to research.

Social Constructivism: seek understanding through interaction and engagement and meanings are socially constructed. This ‘lens’ favours more Qualitative approaches to research.

Advocacy/participatory: seek emancipation for particular groups/individuals. The Social Constructivism approach doesn’t go far enough, so the researcher adopts recursive or dialectical methods. This ‘lens’ also favours qualitative strategies.

Pragmatism: arises out of situations and consequences, concerned with context and conditions of the research problem. Naturally, it favours Mixed-Methods strategies.

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  1. How does a pragmatist see the reality?
    Does pragmatism make one to arrive at a practical solution of the existing research problem?
    What's the strategy behind mixed-method? what sort of problem can you resolve using mixed-methods?

  2. Rather than focusing on the method, Pragmatism sees the researcher emphasising the problem, and using all approaches necessary (and available) to conduct the research and derive knowledge. Cherryholmes (1992), Morgan (2007), and Creswell (2009) all support its basis for research.

    Pragmatism is not attached to either other philosophical view of reality. 'Reality', then, is seen by what works best for the researcher at the time, as he/she draws from qualitative and quantitative approaches.

  3. Sorry,I forgot the references:
    Cherryholmes, C. H. (1992). Notes on pragmatism and scientific realism, Educational Researcher, 21(6), 13-17.
    Morgan, D. L. (2007). Paradigms lost and pragmatism regained: Methodological implications of combining
    qualitative and quantitative methods. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1, 48-76.:
    Creswell, J.W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and
    mixed approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  4. What's the basis of knowledge for a pragmatist? A priori or Posteriori? In order to identify the existence of a problem and practicality of providing a solution how does he makes sense of the world?

  5. It depends on the purpose of the research; something which the researcher has to make clear at the onset. The two elements QUAL and QUAN are actually seperate, but either complementary or concurrent, and tied together in the final analysis.

    Those holding the belief that there are strong associations between paradigm, methodology and methods then may consider different methodologies and methods to be philosophically incompatible.

    Hence some debate about the use of mixed-methods.

  6. Addressing those issues about the usage of mixed-methods can be a good start as in identifying the pros and cons!! The limitation of your research can be the scope for future research.

    Is it going to be inductive or deductive?

  7. From a critical realist's perspective world is seen as stratified, differentiated and changing. It rejects positivists approach of generalisation of facts rather offers scope to embrace objective view of single reality in different perception. The establishment of relationship between concepts and reality is through intransitive and transitive knowledge.Reality is out there in 3 ontological domains : an 'empirical domain' consists of data/facts of what we experience, 'actual domain' where events happen whether we experience it or not,'real domain' events are produced and we see the tangible impact of it. What would be a pragmatist's view of the world and reality?

    References: Bhaskar,R (1978) A Realists Theory of Science,Hassocks: Harvester Press

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