Research Methodologies at the Dissertation Level
Identifying applicable research strategies at a level suitable for dissertations is almost as difficult as the process of conducting and completing a dissertation-level research experiment. Methodology tends to differ according to the various factors found within the desired outcome. Yet methods cannot be orchestrated to generate this outcome from the data, but merely facilitate its collection and synthesis. Any successful research methodology does not, therefore, create knowledge, but rather is an applicable strategy for identifying and processing the information which exists.
Hathaway (1995) stresses that there are decisions embedded within the creation and conduct of research methodologies that are generated both within the research setting and within the perceptions of the researcher. The concept of an unbiased methodology is thus inherently impossible: All researchers come to the experimentation process with preconceived opinions of how and why the research process should transpire. The selection and application of methodology thus serves two practical stages: First, the research methodology is selected with the end result in mind, and is believed by the researcher to reveal the data which already exists in a clear and uncontestable format. Second, the research methodology creates a barrier between the researcher and the data. This last point is of particular significance. If the researcher acquires and applies a methodology that is suitable to the research process, than the data will naturally emerge and be presented in a manner that removes the biases of the researcher.
In order to demonstrate a familiarity with how, why, and to what extent specific forms of methodology are effective in conducting dissertations, this paper shall provide a basic overview of standard methods used in research studies. The focus of this paper is on comparing and contrasting the differences between qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methodologies. To further explore the effectiveness of these strategies, each will be evaluated as a method for measuring followership qualities in a medical facility.
Qualitative Research Strategies
The effectiveness of qualitative research studies is frequently criticized. Qualitative research studies reflect heavily upon data that is collected from research subjects and is not processed into numerical data. Qualitative research tends to focus on the perception of subjects, and is frequently found within the methodologies used to define and describe the extent of communication-based or interaction-based research. Examples of such are customer service surveys or respondents to interviews assessing various traits within the scope of a given study.
Qualitative research methodologies are dismissed by those who favor numerical-based data on the grounds that perception is arbitrary. The qualitative research study does not, however, dismiss the pooling process. All qualitative research studies seek to define and describe trends which exist within the sample population. The scope of the study creates limits upon how, why, and to what extent the researchers seek to explore the knowledge which is found within the sample population.
Furthermore, qualitative research efforts are believed to bridge the gap between hard data and the interpretation of data. This point is critical within qualitative research studies, for there is an extensive and measurable gap which suggests that the numerical data is difficult for the average reader to acquire and assimilate in terms of content. Schon (1983) refers to this as the “high, hard ground where practitioners can make effective use of research-based theory and technique, and there is a swampy lowland where situations are confusing ‘messes’ incapable of technical solution” and notes that “problems of the high ground, however great their technical interest, are often relatively unimportant to clients or the larger society while in the swamp are the problems of greatest human concern.” (Schon, 1983; Cited in Darlington, 2002; 8) Accessing this “swamp,” as Schon calls it, is difficult for those who do not frequently move within hard data. Indeed, not only is the data difficult to assess but it is also difficult to put into general application. Darlington (2002) stresses that the “swamp” is where the majority of research of human perception, emotional content, and behavioral influences occur. She writes: “The swampy lowland of practice in the human services is a place where there are rarely control groups, where operationalising key constructs in behavioural terms is highly problematic (Is happiness the frequency of smiling behaviour?), where the politics of the setting are often overwhelming and where values and ethical issues are critical and complex.” (Darlington, 2002; 8) Such traits cannot be realistically measured by numerical data, and the process of seeking trends within sample populations stresses outcomes that are found within measured content of these non-quantifiable features.
- Qualitative Data and Followership in Medical Communities
Studying followership within the health care setting indicates an assessment of how well management leads and why the employees wish to follow these leaders (Bass, 1990; Anderson, 1998). The use of quantifiable data in this setting helps to reflect upon the general application of behavioral and emotional motivation in regards to leadership. For example, one of the quantifiable measurement methodologies that can be applied to this setting is that of the semi-structured interview process. Unlike free-form interviews, a semi-structured interview is designed specifically to focus upon themes present within the research setting. The researchers use a question-and-answer process common to all interview methodologies, yet require the respondents to reflect specifically upon their perceptions concerning the questions asked. In this manner, the interviewer can help ensure that the questioning process remains within the general scope of the study. Furthermore, using similar questions for all respondents can help the researchers define and assess the prevalence of specific themes within the answers provided.
Studying followership through the quantitative methodologies can help get a critical view over how and why those working within the health care setting respond emotionally to their leaders. The study of followership embeds the concept of emotional responsiveness to positive leadership, where leaders who are effective generate a willingness to follow among employees (Bass, 1990; Chaleff, 1995; Kelley et al, 1996). Measuring the qualitative responses of the survey respondents can help create an impression of how well the leaders lead, and the influence of their leadership upon the behaviors of their employees. Atchinson (2003) emphasizes that implementing an effective followership strategy is a long and painstaking process which can lead to significant dissent among the employee population due to oversights of structure, form, and function among the leaders. A quantifiable study of how the employees respond to the existing leadership setting can help stress those areas which the employees concede are effective and those which they identify as insufficiently addressed in the drive to create positive leadership.
- Quote paper
- Cory Contini (Author), 2009, Research Methodologies at the Dissertation Level, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/230613