Chapter Three: Research Methodology
The way in which research is conducted may be conceived of in terms of the research philosophy subscribed to, the research strategy employed and so the research instruments utilised (and perhaps developed) in the pursuit of a goal - the research objective(s) - and the quest for the solution of a problem - the research question. We have outlined our research question and research objectives in Chapter One. The purpose of this chapter is to:
· discuss our research philosophy in relation to other
· expound our research strategy, including the research
· introduce the research instruments that we have developed and utilised in the pursuit of our goals.
3.2 Research Philosophy
A research philosophy is a belief about the way in which data about a phenomenon should be gathered, analysed and used. The term epistemology (what is known to be true) as opposed to doxology (what is believed to be true) encompasses the various philosophies of research approach. The purpose of science, then, is the process of transforming things believed into things known: doxa to episteme. Two major research philosophies have been identified in the Western tradition of science, namely positivist (sometimes called scientific) and interpretivist (also known as antipositivist)( Galliers, 1991).
Positivists believe that reality is stable and can be observed and described from an objective viewpoint (Levin, 1988), i.e. without interfering with the phenomena being studied. They contend that phenomena should be isolated and that observations should be repeatable. This often involves manipulation of reality with variations in only a single independent variable so as to identify regularities in, and to form relationships between, some of the constituent elements of the social world. 3-2
Predictions can be made on the basis of the previously observed and explained realities and their inter-relationships. "Positivism has a long and rich historical tradition. It is so embedded in our society that knowledge claims not grounded in positivist thought are simply dismissed as ascientific and therefore invalid" (Hirschheim, 1985, p.33). This view is indirectly supported by Alavi and Carlson (1992) who, in a review of 902 IS research articles, found that all the empirical studies were positivist in approach. Positivism has also had a particularly successful association with the physical and natural sciences.
There has, however, been much debate on the issue of whether or not this positivist paradigm is entirely suitable for the social sciences (Hirschheim, 1985), many authors calling for a more pluralistic attitude towards IS research methodologies (see e.g. Kuhn, 1970; Bjørn-Andersen, 1985; Remenyi and Williams, 1996). While we shall not elaborate on this debate further, it is germane to our study since it is also the case that Information Systems, dealing as it does with the interaction of people and technology, is considered to be of the social sciences rather than the physical sciences (Hirschheim, 1985). Indeed, some of the difficulties experienced in IS research, such as the apparent inconsistency of results, may be attributed to the inappropriateness of the positivist paradigm for the domain. Likewise, some variables or constituent parts of reality might have been previously thought unmeasurable under the positivist paradigm - and hence went unresearched (after Galliers, 1991).
Interpretivists contend that only through the subjective interpretation of and intervention in reality can that reality be fully understood. The study of phenomena in their natural environment is key to the interpretivist philosophy, together with the acknowledgement that scientists cannot avoid affecting those phenomena they study. They admit that there may be many interpretations of reality, but maintain that these interpretations are in...