World Views

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The Selection of a Research Design


Two important components in each definition are that the approach to research involves philosophical assumptions as well as distinct methods or procedures. Research design, which I refer to as the plan or proposal to conduct research, involves the intersection of philosophy, strategies of inquiry, and specific methods. A framework that I use to explain the interaction of these three components is seen in Figure 1.1. To reiterate, in planning a study, researchers need to think through the philosophical worldview assumptions that they bring to the study, the strategy of inquiry that is related to this worldview, and the specific methods or procedures of research that translate the approach into practice.

Philosophical Worldviews
Although philosophical ideas remain largely hidden in research (Slife & Williams, 1995), they still influence the practice of research and need to be identified. I suggest that individuals preparing a research proposal or plan make explicit the larger philosophical ideas they espouse. This information will help explain why they chose qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods

Selected Strategies of Inquiry Philosophical Worldviews Postpositive Social construction Advocacy/participatory Pragmatic Qualitative strategies (e.g., ethnography) Quantitative strategies (e.g., experiments) Mixed methods startegies (e.g., sequential) Research Designs Qualitative Quantitative Mixed methods

Research Methods Questions Data collection Data analysis Interpretation Write-up Validation

Figure 1.1

A Framework for Design—The Interconnection of Worldviews, Strategies of Inquiry, and Research Methods

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Preliminary Considerations

approaches for their research. In writing about worldviews, a proposal might include a section that addresses the following: ● ● ●

The philosophical worldview proposed in the study A definition of basic considerations of that worldview How the worldview shaped their approach to research

I have chosen to use the term worldview as meaning “a basic set of beliefs that guide action” (Guba, 1990, p. 17). Others have called them paradigms (Lincoln & Guba, 2000; Mertens, 1998); epistemologies and ontologies (Crotty, 1998), or broadly conceived research methodologies (Neuman, 2000). I see worldviews as a general orientation about the world and the nature of research that a researcher holds. These worldviews are shaped by the discipline area of the student, the beliefs of advisers and faculty in a student’s area, and past research experiences. The types of beliefs held by individual researchers will often lead to embracing a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods approach in their research. Four different worldviews are discussed: postpositivism, constructivism, advocacy/participatory, and pragmatism. The major elements of each position are presented in Table 1.1. The Postpositivist Worldview

The postpositivist assumptions have represented the traditional form of research, and these assumptions hold true more for quantitative research than qualitative research. This worldview is sometimes called the scientific method or doing science research. It is also called positivist/postpositivist research, empirical science, and postpostivism. This last term is called postpositivism because it represents the thinking after positivism, challenging

Table 1.1

Four Worldviews Constructivism • • • • Understanding Multiple participant meanings Social and historical construction Theory generation

Postpositivism • Determination • Reductionism • Empirical observation and measurement • Theory verification Advocacy/Participatory • • • • Political Empowerment Issue-oriented Collaborative Change-oriented

Pragmatism • • • •...
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