Theory and Research Design

Categories: Design, Focus Series, Theory, Uncategorised

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Throughout March we will explore research design, with a focus on theory and conceptual frameworks. Find the unfolding series here


Thinking about theory at the design stage? See this multidisciplinary collection of open access articles!

Groenewald, T. (2004). A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 42–55. https://doi.org/10.1177/160940690400300104

Abstract. This article distills the core principles of a phenomenological research design and, by means of a specific study, illustrates the phenomenological methodology. After a brief overview of the developments of phenomenology, the research paradigm of the specific study follows. Thereafter the location of the data, the data-gathering the data-storage methods are explained. Unstructured in-depth phenomenological interviews supplemented by memoing, essays by participants, a focus group discussion and field notes were used. The data explicitation, by means of a simplified version of Hycner’s (1999) process, is further explained. The article finally contains commentary about the validity and truthfulness measures, as well as a synopsis of the findings of the study.

Also see this follow-up article by the author:
Groenewald, T. (2018). Reflection/Commentary on a Past Article: “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated”. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406918774662

Gross, R., Karyadi, D., Sastroamidjojo, S., & Schultink, W. (1998). Guidelines for the Development of Research Proposals following a Structured, Holistic Approach for a Research Proposal (SHARP). Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 19(3), 268–282. https://doi.org/10.1177/156482659801900308

Abstract. SHARP (a Structured, Holistic Approach for a Research Proposal) is a structured method for developing a research proposal that can be used either by individuals or by teams of researchers. The eight steps in SHARP are (1) setting up a causal model, (2) establishing a fact–hypothesis matrix (FaHM), (3) developing a variable–indicator–method matrix (VIM), (4) selecting the study design, (5) defining the sampling procedure and calculating the sample size, (6) selecting the statistical methods, (7) considering the ethical aspects, and (8) setting up an operational plan. The objectives of the research proposal are to help the researcher to define the contents and to plan and execute a research project, and to inform potential collaborators and supporters about the topic. The proposal that is produced during the process can be submitted to agencies for possible funding.

Hayes, A. L. (2015). The Role of Cultural Contexts in Research Design Decisions: Reflections on the Conflicting Study Results in the Bahraini Context. SAGE Open. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244015583336

Abstract. Self-reporting surveys in social science are commonly criticized for generating results that are often found not to reflect the actual behavior of participants. This article discusses the limitations of such surveys specifically in exploring the Arabian Gulf context and explains how the Islamic Work Ethic can create biases in survey research. The reflections in this article are based on the author’s experiences in conducting social research in Bahrain using self-reporting questionnaires and focus groups. The discussion presented in this article highlights the salience of socio-cultural factors in designs of research studies and suggests that the cultural context in which a study is conducted may significantly affect the adequacy of specific research methods. This article also implies that, due to societal values, using self-reporting surveys to identify patterns in institutional practice may result in overrated self-evaluations rather than a description of “what is.”

Rostvall, A.-L., & West, T. (2005). Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives on Designing Video Studies of Interaction. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 87–108. https://doi.org/10.1177/160940690500400406

Abstract. In this article the authors discuss the theoretical basis for the methodological decisions made during the course of a Swedish research project on interaction and learning. The purpose is to discuss how different theories are applied at separate levels of the study. The study is structured on three levels, with separate sets of research questions and theoretical concepts. The levels reflect a close-up description, a systematic analysis, and an interpretation of how teachers and students act and interact. The data consist of 12 hours of video-recorded and transcribed music lessons from high school and college. Through a multidisciplinary theoretical framework, the general understanding of teaching and learning in terms of interaction can be widened. The authors also present a software tool developed to facilitate the processes of transcription and analysis of the video data.

Subramani, S. (2019). Practising reflexivity: Ethics, methodology and theory construction. Methodological Innovations. https://doi.org/10.1177/2059799119863276

Abstract. Reflexivity as a concept and practice is widely recognized and acknowledged in qualitative social science research. In this article, through an account of the ‘reflexive moments’ I encountered during my doctoral research, which employed critical theory perspective and constructivist grounded theory methodology, I elaborate how ethics, methodology and theory construction are intertwined. Further, I dwell on the significance of reflexivity, particularly in qualitative research analysing bioethics concepts. Through an account of the universal ethical principles that ‘I’, as a researcher, encounter, and a micro-analysis of the observed relationships that influence the theoretical construction and arguments developed, I explore the quandaries an ethics researcher undertaking a reflexive approach faces. I elucidate that reflexivity unveils – for both researcher and reader – how the researcher(s) arrive(s) at certain positions during the knowledge construction process. I conclude by stating that reflexivity demystifies the moral and epistemological stances of both the study and researcher(s).

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