Philosophical Perspectives

Report
MYERS
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH IN BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT
PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES
Chapter 4
Sage Publications Limited
© 2008 Michael D. Myers
All Rights Reserved
Philosophical Assumptions
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH IN BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT
Written Record
Data Analysis
Approach
Data Collection
Technique
Research Method
Philosophical
Assumptions
Philosphical Perspectives
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QUALITATIVE RESEARCH IN BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT
Introduction

All research is based on some underlying assumptions about
what constitutes ‘valid’ research

Epistemology refers to assumptions about knowledge and
how it can be obtained

All qualitative researchers should understand the grounds of
their knowledge, especially the validity and scope of the
knowledge that they obtain
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QUALITATIVE RESEARCH IN BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT
Three categories

All research can be classified into three categories: positivist,
interpretive, and critical

Qualitative research can adopt any one of these perspectives

For example, case study research can be positivist,
interpretive, or critical
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QUALITATIVE RESEARCH IN BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT
Qualitative research
influences/guides
positivist
interpretive
critical
Underlying philosophical assumptions
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Assumptions of positivist research

Social reality is objective, testable and independent of
theoretical explanation

The researcher should be objective and unbiased

The researcher should be a detached value-free spectator,
only an observer of the objects of study

Theories and hypotheses can be tested independent of an
understanding of meanings and intentions

Lawlike relations can be discovered in organizations, and the
purpose of research is to increase our predictive
understanding of phenomena

Scientific research should have formal propositions,
quantifiable measures of variables, and hypothesis testing cases are of interest only as representative of populations
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Assumptions of interpretive research

Social reality is socially constructed

Theories are reconstructions of the facts, and the
criterion of a good theory is an understanding of
meaning and intentions rather than deductive
explanation

Meanings in natural science are separate from facts,
whereas in social science meanings are what constitute
facts, for data consist of documents, intentional
behaviour (action), social rules, culture, etc., and these
are inseparable from their meanings for agents

The hermeneutic circle – the ‘logic’ of interpretation is
irreducibly circular: parts cannot be understood
without the whole, data and concepts cannot be
understood without theory and context, etc.
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Assumptions of critical research

Similar to interpretive research except that in addition:

A focus on critique – critique of the prevailing social
conditions and system of constraints

Consider the complex relationships between human
interests, knowledge, power and forms of social control.

Challenge prevailing communities of assumptions

Challenge established social practices

Have an ethically-based stance

Some types of critical theory suggest individual
emancipation and/or improvements in society
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Examples

Positivist research – Wong and Ellis (2002). A focus on
testable propositions

Interpretive research – Orlikowski (1991). A focus on sensemaking and meaning

Critical research – Myers and Young (1997). A focus on
hidden agendas, power, and other ‘taken for granted’
aspects of social reality
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