Crotty Chapter 1

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THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL RESEARCH Meaning and perspective in the research process Michael Crotty ($)SAGE Publications London Thousand Oaks New Delhi 1 INTRODUCTION: THE RESEARCH PROCESS ... many arrows, loosed several ways, Fly to one mark . Willi,lIn Shakespeare, Henry V They call it 'scaffolded learning'. It is an approach to teaching and learning that, while careful to provide an initial framework, leaves it to the learner to establish longer term structures. What is presented here
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  THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIALRESEARCH Meaning and perspective in the research process Michael Crotty ($)SAGE Publications London Thousand Oaks New Delhi  1 INTRODUCTION: THE RESEARCHPROCESS ... many arrows, loosed several ways, Fly to one mark . Willi,lIn Shakespeare, Henry V They call it 'scaffolded learning'. It is an approach to teaching and learning that, while careful to provide an initial framework, leaves it to the learner to establish longer term structures. What is presentedhere is offered in this spirit. It is to be seen as in no way a definitive construction of the social research process but merelya framework for the guidance of those wishing to explore the world of research. Research students and fledgling researchers-and, yes, even more seasoned campaigners-often express bewilderment at the array of meth odologies andmethods laid out before their gaze. These methodologies and methods are not usually laid out in a highly organised fashion and may appear more as a maze than as pathways to orderly research. There is much talk of their philosophical underpinnings, but howthe method ologies and methodsrelate to moretheoretical elements is often leftunclear. To add to the confusion, the terminology is far from consistent in research literature and social science texts. One frequently finds thesameterm used in a number of different, sometimes even contradictory, ways.In response to this predicament, here is one reasonably clear-cut way of using terms and grasping what is involved in the process of socialresearch. It is obviously not the only way in which these terms are used,  THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL RESEARCH nor is it being suggested that it is the onlydefensible way to use them. Equally, it is not the only way of analysingand understanding the research process. This is scaffolding, not an edifice. Its aim is to provideresearchers with a sense of stability anddirection as tht'y go on to do their own building; that is, as they movetowards understanding and expounding the research process after their ownfashion in forms that sui t their particular research purposes. FOUR ELEMENTS As a starting point, it can be suggested that, in developing a researchproposal, we need to put considerable effort into answering two questions in particular. First, what methodologies and methods will we be employing in the research we propose to do? Secnnd, how do we justify this choice and use of methodologies and methods? The answer to the second question lies with the purposes of our research-in other words, with the research question that our piece of inquiry is seeking to answer. 1t is obvious enough that we need a process capable of fulfilling those purposes and answering that question. There is more to it than that, however. Justification of our choice andparticular use of methodology and methods is something that reaches into the assumptions about reality that we bring to our work. To ask about these assumptions is to ask about our theoretical perspective. It also reaches into the understanding you and [ have of what human knowledge is, what it entails, and what status can be ascribed to it. What kind of knowledge do we believe will be attained by our research? What characteristics do we believe that knowledge to have? Here we are touching upnn a pivotal issue. How should observers of our research for example, readers of our thesis or research report-regard the outcomes we layout before them? And why should our readers take theseoutcomes seriously? These are epistemological questions.Already our two initial questions have expanded. We find ourselves with fourquestionsnow: ã What methods do we propose to use?ã What methodology governs our choice and use of methods? ã What theoretical perspective lies behind the methodology in question? ã What epistemolof;Y informs this theoretical perspective? At issue in these four questions are basic elements of any research process, and we need to spell out carefully what we mean by each of them. INTRODUCTION:THE RESEARCH PROCESS ã Methods: the techniques or procedures used to gather and analyst' data related to some research question or hypothesis. ã Methodology: the strategy, planofaction, process or design lying behindthe choice and use of particular methods and linking the choice and use ofmethods to the desired outcomes. ã Theoretical perspective: the philosophicalstance informing themethod ology and thus providing a context for the process and grounding itslogic and criteria. ã EjJistemolof;Y: the theory of knowledge embedded in the theoretical perspective and thereby in the methodology. In social research texts, the bulk of discussion and much of the terminology relate in one way oranother to thesefourelements. What one often finds, however, is that forms of these different process elements are thrown together in grab-bag style as if they were all comparable terms. It is not uncommon to find, say, symbolicinreractionism, ethnog raphy andconstructionism simplyset side by side as 'methodologies','approaches', 'perspectives', or sorneth ing similar. Yet they are not trulycomparable. Lumping them together without distinction is a bit like talking about putting tomato sauce, condiments and groceries in one basket. One feels compelled to say, 'Hangon a moment! Tomato sauce is one of many forms of condiment. And all condiments are groceries.Let's do some sorting out here'. Similarly, one may feel urged to do somesorting out when confronted by items like symbolic interactionism,ethnography and constructionism all slung together.Ethnography, after all, is a methodolof;y. It is one of many particularresearch designs that guide a researcher in choosing methods and shapethe use of themethods chosen. Symbolic interaction ism, for its part, isa theoretical jJersjJective that informs a range of methodologies, includingsome forms ofethnography. As a theoretical perspective, it is an approach to understanding andexplaining society and the human world, andgrounds a set of assumptions that symbolic interactionist researchers typically bring to their methodology of choice. Constructionism l is an ejJistemolof;Y embodied in many theoretical perspectives, including sym- bolic interaction ism as this is generally understood. An epistemology, we have already seen, is a way ofunderstandingandexplaining how we know what we know. What all this suggests is that symbolic interaction ism, ethnography and constructionism need to be related to oneanotherrather than merely set side by side as comparable, perhaps even competing, approaches or perspectives. So there are epistemologies, theoretical perspectives and methodologies.  THEFOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL RESEARCH Ifwe add in methods, we have four elements that inform oneanother, as depicted in Figure 1. Figure 1 epistemology ---= --=- --=- theoretical perspective III ~ ~   --= methodology III III ~   methods One or other form of constructionism is the epistemology found, or atleast claimed, in most perspectives otherthan those representing posi tivist and post-positivist paradigms. As we have Just noted, the epistemology generally foundembedded in symbolic interacrionisrn is thoroughly constructionist in character. So, if we were to write down the four items we are talking about, we would be justified in drawing an arrow from constructionism to symbolic interactionism to indicate this relationship. Ethnography, a methodology that sprang in the first instance from anthropology and anthropological theory, has beenadopted by symbolic interactionism and adapted to its own purposes. For that reason, our next arrow may go from symbolic inreractionism to ethnography. Ethnography, in turn, has its methods of preference. Par ticipant observation has traditionally been accordedpride of place. So, out with the pen for yet another arrow. Here, then, we have a specific example of an epistemology, a theoreticalperspective, a methodologyand a method, each informing the next as suggested in Figure 2. The textbooksdescribe several epistemologicalpositions, quite a number of theoretical stances, many methodologies, and almost countless 4 INTRODUCTION THE RESEARCH PROCESS Figure 2 constructionism ~   symbolic ., interactionism ~   ethnography ..l. participant ., observation methods. An attempt to list a representative sampling of each categorymight result in something like Table 1. (But note the several 'etceteras'occurring in this table. It is not an exhaustive listing.)To denote another typical string, an arrow could start with 'objectiv ism'. Objectivism is the epistemological view that things exist as meaningful entities independently of consciousness andexperience, that theyhave truth andmeaning residing in them as objects Cobiecrive' Table 1 Epistemology Theoretical Methodology Methodsperspective ObjectivismPositivism (andExperimentalSamplingConstructionismpost-positivism)researchMeasurement andSubjectivismInterpretivismSurvey researchscaling (and their variants) ã SymbolicEthnographyQuestionnaireinteractionisrnPhenomenologicalObservationã Phenomenologyresearchã participantã HermeneuticsGrounded theoryã non-participantCritical inquiryHeuristic inquiryInterviewFeminismAction researchFocus groupPostmodernismDiscourse analysisCase study etc Feminist standpointLife historyresearchNarrative etc. Visual ethnographicmethodsStatistical analysisData reductionTheme identificationComparative analysisCognitive mappingInterpretativemethodsDocument analysisContent analysisConversation analysis etc.
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