Dr. Gisele Loriggio Borelli-Montigny 2010
Science, from the Latin "scientia", means knowledge. Furthermore science represents a social subsystem, which aims the production of intelligence and knowledge. This system uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena, through a process called scientific research. This process bases on searching and processing information, according to established procedures and aims fundamentally to contribute to generation and evolution of human knowledge in all sectors. Research will be called scientific if its realization is subject of a planned investigation, whose development is drafted according to methodological standards, as required by science.
Similarly, management research also focuses on knowledge production. It intends to analyze different situations or problems in the turbulent business environment of an organization, and propose new strategies and/or solutions for determined work or procedure methodology that will improve corporate efficiency and effectiveness.
The first step in scientific research is to identify a research problem or the area of interest to be studied, but also to considerate the feasibility of the research plan and whether it can be performed systematically.
The research design is normally chosen based upon the desired outcome of the research. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are valid ways to evaluate a phenomenon in the proper context; however they can also be combined. By examining the particular situation, the research question, and the critical factors of each design, the researcher can make a more informed choice and enhance both reliability and validity of the study.
Research design is specially influenced by four key points: a. the research question or focus, b. the available funding to perform the research, c. disposable time and time frames, and d. researcher’s competence and special skills (Figure 1).
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Figure 1. The four key points which influence research design (adapted from Remenyi)
Additionally research design is also strongly influenced by the assumptions related to each research paradigm. The researcher must compare the different scientific paradigms and see, as objectively as possible, free from bias, which of the contrasted theoretical models allows a wider and better understanding of the reality phenomenon to be studied.
Generally two basically main types of philosophical paradigms are described, which are: the positivist and the interpretativist-constructivist (phenomenologist). For a particular research question there will be a specific paradigm to be adopted and reciprocally, the philosophical position applied is influenced by the practical aspects of the research problem. Both qualitative and quantitative methods may be used appropriately with any research paradigm (Saunders et al., 2009, p. 106).
The different epistemological perspectives are based on different visions of reality and on researcher’s relationship with that reality (Thietart et al., 2001, p. 36).
Positivists consider that, as in the field of science, knowledge can only be based on what can be observed and experienced. The slogan of positivism was to disregard the inaccessible determination of causes, giving preference to the determination of the laws, thus replacing the method a priori by the method a posteriori. Positivism in this way was therefore a deterministic philosophy that on the one hand professed the systematic experimentation and on the other, considers unscientific all study of final causes. It just admits that the human spirit would be able to reach the truths of the physical world through experimental methods, but this way would not reach the truth of metaphysical questions.
Interpretivism in general is the thesis that mental content is judgement-dependent: the facts about what propositional attitudes someone has are exactly captured by the (potential) judgments of some Ideal Interpreter (or Interpreters). Central to the interpretivist paradigm, which historically grounds most qualitative traditions, is the assumption that realities are multiple, fluid, and co-constructed, and knowledge is taken to be negotiated between the observer and participants. From this framework emerge evaluative criteria valuing research that illuminates subjective meanings and understands and articulates multiple ways of seeing a phenomenon (Cohen and Crabtree, 2008).
Constructivism is a theory of knowledge (epistemology) which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences. Research support for constructivist techniques has been mixed, with some research supporting these techniques and other research contradicting those results.
The combination of paradigms is also possible and refers to an overlap rather than a fusion - the components of each paradigm remain distinct and functional in themselves. This allows the scope of a study to be widened. The various facets of a phenomenon can be examined while leaving room for contradictions to emerge, leading to new perspectives and knowledge (Gendron, 1996).
Whatever research paradigm is chosen the ability to develop a convincing argument in support of the research findings is paramount (Remenyi et al., 2009, p. 38).
The need for knowledge about health care services in any country is becoming increasingly apparent to health professionals, managers and the general public due to the growth of these services and the problems associated with cost containment, determining the quality of services and improving population health.