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Compare and contrast the methodological and theoretical approaches

of two different pieces of social science research exploring the same


topic/issue.
Student number: 13401587

"A tree in the forest is a tree, regardless of whether anyone is aware of its existence or not. As
an object of that kind, it carries the intrinsic meaning of treeness. When human beings
recognize it as a tree, they are simply discovering a meaning that has been lying in wait for
them all along." (Crotty, 1998, pp8)
"We need to remind ourselves here that it is human beings who have constructed it as a tree,
given it name and attributed to it the associations we make with trees." (Crotty, 1998, pp43)

Abstract
Contrasting ontological foundations underlying the social science research have an extensive
impact on the determination of study elaborated and research methodology applied; what is
more, on the overall establishment and justification of findings and acquiring of knowledge in
general. This paper presents an explorative analysis contrasting and comparing two of the
following studies; Was it Worth it? A Qualitative Exploration into Graduate Perceptions of
Doctoral Value1 and The Impact of Doctoral Careers2. The choice of studies will not only
allow us to reflect and contrast theories and methods grounding social science research;
above all, the decision will benefit our profound perception of interplays among deviating
paradigms. In order to construct coherent and well-informed discussion throughout, the
earliest in order will further be referred to as the study x, latter as the study y.
The discussion of this paper is divided into three primary sequences. The first section of the
analysis explores the significance of Kuhn’s paradigm phenomenon in relation to scientific
and interpretative paradigm3 (Cohen et al., 2007) regarding inquiries concerning its ontology
and epistemology (Guba and Lincoln, 2005). The virtue of study x and study y is applied as
an illustration of these anomalies under the influence of quantitative and qualitative research
approaches. The following part identifies research methodologies exemplary under the
authority of quantitative or qualitative modes of inquiry. Once more, study x and study y
demonstrate a detailed account of research methods and techniques concerning its ontological
background while exploring a similar field of interest. In spite of it all, it could be generally
agreed, that findings are the primary concern and determination of studies conducted.
Therefore, the last part of the paper identifies and evaluates critical findings considerations of
study x and study y that oblige to be acknowledged to assess the legitimacy of the scientific
knowledge acquired.

The Paradigm has shifted


When referring to the paradigm, it could be generally agreed that The Structure of Scientific
Revolution written by Thomas Kuhn in 1962 is viewed as a preeminent work which shattered
the dogmatic views complementary with the scientific behaviour (Godfrey-Smith, 2003). The
ideas and terms used in Structure had an extensive impact not only on the philosophy of
science; moreover, it influenced the entire way how philosophers, historians, and sociologists
address the science ever since. Having established that, the term paradigm could be broadly
defined as a nature of perceiving the world and the interaction with it. This outlook implies
specific claims about the world and views complementary to collecting and analysing data.
Accordingly, the manner of scientific thought and processes involved (Shuttleworth &
Wilson, 2008). To make this explicit, the essential matter of Kuhn’s theory is the doctrine of
one paradigm per field per time. Under these circumstances, the emphasis is placed on the
construction of consensus, that is not refutable. In other words, to progress in a particular
paradigm, debates regarding its fundamentals are confined (Kuhn, 1977). It is essential to
mention that now and then anomalies occur within the paradigm. Cumulation of anomalies
will eventually lead to crisis, and subsequently, the old paradigm will be replaced with the
new paradigm. Nevertheless, not everyone agreed upon these theoretical grounds; Popper's
critique of Kuhn’s hypotheses stressed the importance of continuous conjectures and
refutations associated with continuous testing of fundamentals regarding science (Popper,
1963).

Ontological positions.
Building on the theoretical grounds regarding the understanding of Kuhn’s phenomenon of
paradigm, the nature and essence of research paradigms in spite of its ontological and
epistemological foundations under the scientific or interpretative paradigms can be reflected.
Hence, in the view of a scientific paradigm, the positivist view associated with the study of
the natural world was first implemented into the social world by Comte's book A General
View of Positivism 1848 (Crotty, 1998). The ontological perception of positivism is that of
realism. More precisely, realists hold the view that reality is single, measurable, and fixed;
moreover, the reality exists independently of the knower (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992).
Furthermore, the inquiry of reality is objective and value-free. Quite the opposite is detected
under the authority of the interpretative paradigm, where the ontological viewpoint is
perceived as the relativism. In other words, the reality is constructed, multiple, and besides,
subjective, differing from person to person. What is more, the relationship between knower
and reality is inseparable (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

Epistemological positions.
Given these attributes, the epistemological standpoint of both paradigms ought to be
identified and evaluated due to the aim to recognise the strengths and limitations associated
with the distinctive research approaches. Hence, as elaborated by Crotty (1998, pp8 & pp43)
at the beginning of the paper, the example of how different nature of realities influences the
process of knowing the reality provide an appropriate illustration of the epistemological
differences associated with various paradigms. Regarding the positivist's view, knower's aim
is to discover the absolute knowledge of the objective nature of the world (House, 1991). In
detail, phenomena have an independent nature that can be discovered by research. This is
contrasted by the interpretative paradigm that holds the view, that the reality is dependent on
our knowledge of the world (Crotty, 1998). In other words, the meaning of the world is
subjectively constructed; moreover, knowledge, in general, is socially derived and historically
placed. Finally, as can be expected positivists and interpretative paradigms are associated
with different research methodological approaches. For the positivist’s paradigm, the
approach is quantitative. On the contrary, the interpretative paradigm is identified with the
qualitative approach.

The implication of various positions in conjecture with study x and study y.


Fundamentally, given the theoretical summary of the previous characteristics, it is now
appropriate to move on to the specific examples of the previous hypotheses by virtue of the
study x and study y. Clearly, both of the studies share the same overall theme of the doctoral
degree, yet each of them is only able to reflect on certain phenomena as a result of research
methodologies applied and inquiries associated with them. The aim of the study x (Bryan &
Guccione, 2018) is to create an in-depth exploration of the doctoral degree as perceived by
graduates and appreciate the overall benefits of doctoral value for graduates within and
beyond academia. For this reason, qualitative research methods were applied, and the
dynamic processes and relationships underlying the field were able to be identified and
constructed. Vice versa, the study y commissioned by the Research Council UK (2014) ought
to examine the impact of the doctoral degree in relation to the following core themes. The
overall doctoral value to employers, the socio-economic impact, and current role/previous
career role of graduates. Accordingly, this study measures correlations between distinct
variables and therefore, quantitative research methods were enforced for ‘vast majority’ of
time. The fact of ‘vast majority’ will be further elaborated in the last section of the analysis.

Research methodologies and research methods in contemplation


of the study x and study y.
The following part of the analysis will compare and contrast methodologies and research
methods in association with the study x and study y under the influence of different
ontological and epistemological perspectives. The definition of the term methodology is
adapted from Grix (2002), such as the system that is involved with the logic, abilities, and
disadvantages underlying different research approaches. Generally speaking, when defining
qualitative research, it is mostly by means of quantitative research. This is as a result of the
latter having a well-established ground of definitions. In light of this, "by the term qualitative
research, we mean any research that produces findings not arrived at by statistical
procedures or other means of quantification" (Strauss & Corbyn, 1998, pp10-11). What is
more, we define "qualitative research as the collection of extensive data on many variables
over an extended period, in a naturalistic setting in order to gain insights not possible using
other types of research" (Gay & Airasian, 2000, pp627). In like manner, these definitions are
contrasted with that of “quantitative research that is concerned with the collection and
analysis of data in numeric form. It tends to emphasize large-scale and representative sets of
data, and is often, falsely, in our view, presented or perceived as about the gathering of facts”
(Blaxter et al., 1996, pp61). To sum up, whereas the study x is of inductive nature and ends
with particular hypotheses or grounded theory, study y is of the deductive nature and begins
with the hypotheses or theory (Glesne &Peshkin, 1992).
Participants and procedures.
With this in mind, research methods associated with techniques and procedures are identified.
There is an extensive variation with regards to the number of participants involved in studies.
In the case of study x, 22 participants were involved in the qualitative exploration, while,
study y consisted of 1839 participants. The variation resonates with the number of researchers
involved in each study. On the one hand, study x was conducted by a small-scale number of
researchers; on the other hand, study y was created by large-scale research organisations.
With regards to the sampling, study x applied the purposive sampling, where participants
were gathered through social media network. In other words, study x consists of non-
probability samples, and therefore, findings of the study are not able to be generalised into
the wider population. In a different manner, the main channel for recruitment of participants
in the study y was through alumni office and therefore, the sampling process ought to be
characterised instead as non-probability then probability sampling. For this reason, yet the
study y is a large-scale and mostly quantitative study, it is rather complicated to generalise the
findings into the wider society. Before moving to technical processes involved within the
studies, it is essential to note that the study y is a longitude study comparing studies
conducted between 2003-4 and 2005-6. In the case of the study y, disseminating survey was
implemented; however, the sample of participants differed to those studies conducted in
earlier years. For example, study y allowed participants outside the EU to be part of the
research on the contrary to previous studies. Therefore, caution must be taken while
comparing and contrasting those studies within longitude framework.

Technical processes within the research studies.


To begin with, the central technical core of study x is summarised as the constructivist
approach to interviewing (Charmaz, 1995), in which researchers allow participants to use
individual definitions of concepts, such as for benefit and values. On the contrary, study y
implemented the logic chain approach, that was used in order, to sum up, various complex
processes and allowed vital elements to be measured and evaluated. With regards to research
techniques, study x adopted semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions to gather
in-depth data. Subsequently, a comparative analysis was applied to identify and explore
emerging themes and ground the thematic framework of the study (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
What is more, inductive coding of data allowed for themes to emerge from the gathered data.
Finally, sub-themes and themes were grouped and agreed upon. Hence, with respect to study
y, research techniques involved survey with pre-coded closed questions. "Precoding
questions involves the coding frame (i.e., the set of possible answers) and associating each
response category within the frame with a value label (which is typically, but not necessarily,
numeric" (Lavrakas, 2008, pp1). Besides, set of key questions was duplicated from the
previous DLHE (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education) & LDLHE (Destination of
Leavers from Higher Education Longitude Survey) questionnaires to allow for the longitude
analysis of the data. Lastly, HESA rounding methodology was implemented to protect
personal data of all participants.

Evaluation of findings with respect to study x and study y.


Limitations.
Last part of the analysis will reflect on the findings with respect to the summary of previous
characteristics. While considering findings, it is consistently essential critically evaluate data
presented. Hence, with regards to study x, it is essential to acknowledge major criticism that
is concerned with the validity and reliability of the findings. In other words, it is complicated
to implement conventional standards of validity and reliability. This is as a result of
interactions between researchers and participants not being able to be replicated. As
mentioned earlier, with relation to sampling, it is impossible to generalise findings of study y
into a wider population. Fundamentally, expert knowledge of the field is essential in order to
analyse quantitative data accurately and therefore provide valuable knowledge. Contrarily,
concerning the study y, research expertise must be taken into account while evaluating the
findings of the study. According to the Black (1999), poor knowledge of the application of
the statistical analysis ought to have a negative impact on the final interpretation. In addition,
confirmation bias must be considered while evaluating the contribution of the study y. In
other words, there is a possibility that the researcher might miss certain phenomena within
the observations. Finally, as mentioned earlier, the study y consisted of quantitative research
methods in the majority of the time. However, the qualitative approach presented by a
minority of open questions was added to broaden the overall view of the study.

Strengths.
Fundamentally, it is necessary to endorse the assets that each of the studies contributes to the
overall process of acquiring knowledge within the field. Study x benefits the overall field with
the ability to grasp complexities that are often missed by positivists inquiries (Denscombe,
2010). Moreover, the processes involved in the study allow reflecting on the dynamics and
causes associated with particular phenomena. On the other hand, approaches underlying the
study y ought to provide the ‘scientific objectivity.' In other words, quantitative data can be
often interpreted by means of statistical interferences based on the mathematical principles
and therefore portray the scientifically objective knowledge (Antonius, 2003). What is more,
study y is based on measurable values and therefore is open to replication and validation.

Conclusion
It is not always easy to evaluate research approaches, and studies associated with them, a
however profound understanding of the foundations underlying those are of a considerable
asset. Not only while assessing studies conducted by other researchers, but for the purpose of
conducting research. This analysis ought to define the effect of underlying ontological and
epistemological positions on studies conducted. This was reflected with the association to the
paradigms, methodologies, research methods, and technical processes. Finally, the limitations
and strengths of each of the research approach were acknowledged to evaluate the overall
findings of the studies.

Word count: 2488


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Index
1
Bryan, B. & Guccione, K., 2018, Was It Worth It? A Qualitative Exploration into Graduate Perceptions of
Doctoral Value. Higher Education research & development. University of Sheffield.
2
UKRI (United Kingdom Research and Innovation), 2014, The Impact of Doctoral Careers. Final Report.
3
Note; for the purpose of this analysis, the term scientific paradigm refers to the positivist and (post)-positivist
mode of inquire, moreover the term interpretative paradigm reflects equal position such as the constructivist
paradigm. Definition of paradigms is used according to the terminology of Cohen et al, 2007.