A research philosophy could be explained as a way that the data about the research question or topic could be gathered and used. The purpose of the research is usually to transform the beliefs into facts. There are two major philosophies – positivist and interpretivist (Galliers, 1991).
Positivist philosophy is based on the belief, that the surrounding environment is stable and can be observed from the objective point of view. This philosophy seems a little bit out of date, as the environment around us is constantly changing, even one individual is now able to send the biggest rocket into the space with a car in it. According to this philosophy the previously conducted observations are enough to base the predictions on them.
As for the interpretivism philosophy , according to it, the observation of an individual and subjective interpretation of the facts and data gathered can be reality. The philosophy states, that natural habitat of the subject being observed is more reliable to conceptualize the research topic.
These two major philosophies could be seen as the basics of the different research methods, like quantitative and qualitative methods.
When it comes to a research method, there are several methods, one can use. According to Saunders et al in the book Research Methods for Business Students, there are three different methodological choices of research design – Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research Design.
Quantitative research design is more data collection. The research is based on numbers and quantitative perception and analysis of the research subject. It is used for analyzing big data or population research. Quantitative research is recommended when fewer variables and more data is to be analyzed. But usually, the research lacks depth and is based on the numbers and statistics. According to Saunders, quantitative research design is mostly used to use data to test the theories and could be associated with the deductive approach. There are several research methods to generate quantitative data, like interviews, observations, data analysis, graphs, surveys, etc. But the data is usually numerical.
As for the qualitative research design, it is used for non-numeric research. Open questionnaires could be used during the research, the variables are more and provides deeper analysis of the research subject or question. Interviews, open questions, focus groups, etc. could be used for the qualitative research. This kind of research is stated as a naturalistic, as the research is done in the naturalistic environment of the researched variables. Saunders argues, that qualitative research design is used to test the existing theory with qualitative variables. Case studies, interviews with open questions, observations, etc. could be used to qualitatively research the problem/theory.
Mixed methods research design is used when the research should be deeper and broader. It is better practice to combine both qualitative and quantitative research designs and use research methods associated to both. The mixed methods will be described below, stating the nature, skills, advantages, disadvantages of the method and the feasibility of the method in researching the Element six theories and questions.
Mixed Methods Research
Creswell believes, that there are four major types of mixed methods designs for the means of research. These are: The Triangulation Design, the Embedded Design, the Explanatory Design, and the Exploratory Design.
The Triangulation Design
This is the most common and widely used design of the mixed method research. (Creswell, Plano Clark, et al., 2003). It is concentrated on researching different data on the same topic in order to have a wide, deeper understanding of the topic. The data collected is supposed to be more complementary than , for example secondary.
According to Tashakkori in the article “The past and future of mixed methods research: from data triangulation to mixed model designs”, methodological triangulation is the use of more than two methods in studying the same subject or theory / problem. It is the combination of both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. Tashakkori believes, that only one method is not enough to deeply and fully research the topic of interest.
The Embedded Design
Creswell explains embedded design as a mixed method design in one data set provides a supportive, secondary role in a research unlike the triangulation design. In the case of embedded design, there is a data used for a research and other data are collected only to supplement the primary one.
The Explanatory Design
The explanatory design is a two-phase mixed research method. The first phase is the priority and the second phase of research answers all other questions. It is called explanatory design, because the second phase is used to explain the primary questions of the first phase topics.
The Exploratory Design
Alike to the explanatory design, the exploratory design adds value to the first phase of research by exploring the additional questions to support the primary research questions / phase.
Ridenour and Newman (2008) believe, that Mixed methods research is the third methodological movement, underlying and emphasizing the importance of the methodology. But some scholars believe, that combining two methods could be confusing for some researchers. (Deniz and Lincoln 1994). But the combination of two research methods are still very popular among the researches.
As mentioned above, it is very important to have a full understanding and the picture of the whole research process.
In order to design the proper mixed methods research, there are three questions to ask / answer according to Creswell:
- What will the timing of the quantitative and qualitative methods be?
There are two options – Concurrent and Sequential.
- What will the weight of the qualitative and quantitative methods be? It could be equal or unequal, depending on the project specifics.
- How will the two methods be mixed? Either by merging, embedding or connecting the data.
These are very important questions to ask and answer before starting the research project. Planning the scope and design in advance is a big step forward to a successful research project.