Monthly Archives: September 2014

Triangulation/ Mixed method research

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In continuation with our discussion about paradigms and methods, today I will talk about how combining them can make the research rich and grounded with triangulation or mixed method research.
 
Triangulation: is the process of validating the research findings with analysis of the research question from different perspectives. Triangulation often employs two or more methods to increase the credibility and validity of the research findings. Use of multiple methods is combined in triangulation to validate findings for a strong well-rounded analysis.
 
Advantages of triangulation: Additional sources of data analysis provide in depth study of the question from different angles. Inadequacy of one method is complimented by other method. Overall comprehensive data is obtained by recognizing the inconsistencies in data set.
 
Mixed method research: Quantitative or qualitative research fetches single output, which is either descriptive understanding of human behavior or statistical average mean. So some researchers think that findings with one method are not enough to justify a research instead they use mixed methods to obtain convincing and simplified results. These researchers believe that subjective and objective findings compliment each other to strengthen research by studying it from multiple standpoints. Thus mixed method research fetches both subjective and objective findings to build a meaningful theory with a wide scope of exploration.

Qualitative vs Quantitative research

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 Now let us compare qualitative and quantitative research :
Qualitative researchGoal: To understand, or unpack human understanding and capture their experience because it is the study of perception.

Data collection: Data is obtained through human interaction with methods like interviews, focus groups, observation, and ethnography.

Time: Is time consuming research because it takes time to build trust and get people talk and express what they feel and think about certain issues.

Reasoning: It uses inductive reasoning to work towards building a theory.

Limitation: Problem with qualitative research is its exponential relativism.

Outcome: Exploratory inquiry based on opinions, perspectives and understanding, most preferred among researches in sociology.

Weakness: Extracts context rich data, Findings lack evidence and are thick with too much fluff; Because of researcher’s involvement findings can be biased.

 

Quantitative research

Goal: To quantify and generalize data from sample to population of interest.

Data collection: Measurement of incidences with numerical or objective data through surveys, or experiments makes data collection easy, precise and quick.

Time: This research can be finished in the specified time because it follows a scientific step-by-step method that can be replicated.

Reasoning: It uses deductive reasoning based on testing, or falsifying theories.

Limitation: Problem with quantitative research is that the findings are statistical with no scope for human intervention.

Outcome: Solid scientific statistical output, most popular and well regarded in American scientific community.

Weakness: Findings are difficult to comprehend since they are too technical, although findings are backed with evidence they disregard the social world involvement.

 

 

Constructivist paradigm

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If social science research is seen only from positivist (scientific) perspective then there is no scope for human interaction in it. The scientists who think that a social phenomenon is not just numbers and average but is based on deep human interpretation are called as constructivists.
 
Constructivist paradigm goes by the ontological belief that reality or truth is dependent upon social actors and epistemologically this truth is subjective which can be described and interpreted. Constructivist paradigm adapts methodology to fetch rich quality data for finding patterns of human behavior. So constructivist paradigm uses qualitative research that fetches descriptive answers and insights for questions posed to human participants.
 
Qualitative research is highly regarded by social scientists because it goes beyond the positivist replicable, linear approach of research that follows specific steps to falsify a theory. Qualitative research goes hand in hand with constructivist paradigm with an intention to interpret, describe and understand human behavioral patterns. 
 
Methods used in qualitative research to elaborately describe human experiences are observations, interviews, focus groups, and ethnographic study. Researcher’s involvement in conducting qualitative research is utmost important to understand human outlook, and observe their day-to-day routine.
 
Few examples of constructivist research are as follows:
 
  1. An intervention model based on technology supported classroom learning.
  2. Examining use of storytelling method in postdoctoral classrooms.

Positivist paradigm

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To pick up from the pervious post about paradigms, social science research is broadly tied to paradigms. Now let us talk talk about the positivist paradigm. Philosopher Karl Popper aligned his viewpoint around scientific research that any theory cannot be tested until it is falsified. He propagated the idea to test the theory, falsify it and test again and again until it is proved. In this whole process of evolution of the theory, Popper seems to convey about building truth over cumulative reality. Karl Popper’s theory of falsification backs positivists view of truth that ontologically  reality is external and epistemologically reality can be obtained objectively.
 
Positivist paradigm adapts methodology to fetch quantifiable data for evaluation, calculation and manipulation. Obviously, methods used to gather and manipulate such data are surveys, and experiments so that they minimize researcher’s influence and fetch unbiased scientific outcome. As a result, positivists believe in numbers, statistical data, and are interested in finding the average or mean of the human phenomenon in numbers.
 
Apparently positivist paradigm is most popular in American research community because it is reliable, is tried and tested, can be replicated with time and is backed with scientific explanation of facts and figures. Besides, the quantitative findings of positivist paradigm are objective that maintain the status quo without focusing on changes in the result.
 
Few examples of positivist research are as follows:
  1. What are the factors drifting consumers towards driving alternative energy cars?
  2. What are the effects of mass media depiction of war and its consequences?

Paradigms of social science research

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Last week in the sociology research methods class, I could completely identify the lost and confused expressions on the faces of my freshman classmates, with my plight as a first year grad student in Fall 2013. Obviously, discussing about philosophies of ontology, epistemologies, and truth seeking felt like heavy stuff to digest for some. I completely empathize with these newbies because I was equally disoriented in between philosophies of truth seeking, paradigms, methodologies, and methods, but the whole process of preparing for comps made my concepts pretty strong. So I want to dedicate the next series of blogs to my freshman classmates about research paradigms, philosophies and methodologies in an attempt to make the concepts easier for them.
 
To take it from top, all scientists started research in the quest for seeking truth or reality. Initially, they believed that the only truth in this world is something that can be seen, touched, tasted, weighed or measured which happens to be the basis of scientific research. While some researchers thought that truth can be experienced with human intervention because knowledge is socially constructed which happens to be the basis of social scientific research. This means there are different ways of seeking truth called as paradigms. To understand paradigms even better they can be compared to different religions. All religions ultimately seek to reach god (truth) based on their assumptions, beliefs and values. Like some religions believe in one god while others believe that god rests in each one of us.
 
Paradigms in research significantly guide the choice of methods to seek truth. However, the choice of methods depends upon the paradigmatic perspective of defining truth. So there are two main philosophical beliefs that differentiate paradigms, which are ontology and epistemology.
 
Ontology is the way one perceives reality like:
  1. Reality is external and independent of social actors
  2. Reality is dependent on social actors
Epistemology is the way one perceives how knowledge can be acquired like:
  1. Knowledge can be obtained objectively
  2. Knowledge can be experienced subjectively
Thus researchers tag themselves along with the paradigms that define their outlook of reality, knowledge or truth. Paradigms are important in research because they affect the way we conduct research and reflect researcher’s foundation of reality.

Shopping with stories

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Recently I attended a close friend’s house warming party…a completely Indian traditional affair. I felt like I was the odd man out in terms of fashion and clothes. Looking at other ladies in colorful, made to order dresses and sarees I felt like I really have a lot to catch up. For me this was an eye opener because for the past six years I immersed myself so deep into studies that I haven’t taken out any me time.  Apparently, I decided to do some research on Indian fashion trends like kurtas, churidars, Punjabi suits and cotton tunics. While I was browsing the online shopping websites of big retailers in India I was fascinated with the blogs attached to every category of shopping items like ethnic wear, business attire, accessories and much more for men and women alike. To me, this shopping research once again emphasized the significance of “storytelling” in every aspect of  human life.
 
To explain it precisely, I was looking for women’s section and I found these blogs written about what would interest me if I am a smart working professional. I liked the idea of they suggesting different ways of accessorizing a singe dress for variety of looks. I think it is a great feature for women like me who are  out of touch and have no time to shop for hours for the latest clothes, cool accessories, trendy handbags, and matching shoes.
 
Finally, what struck me most in this whole process was the use of stories in marketing and sales. I cannot stress enough on how we all are programmed to relate with stories. I saw a blog that explained the story of cotton clothes and their importance in summer, while another story that accentuated seasonal styles in ethnic wear. Believe me! I completely agreed with every word written on those blogs and quickly related with their stories. For example: one of the models called herself Sara who showcased clothes from a distinct professional perspective. Sara’s story justified her choice of clothes to suit the work culture she is associated with. Similarly, there was a urban guy by the name Sid, who wore clothes and accessories that complemented his cool dude personality. Now, how easy they make it for the  consumers to attach themselves with one of these personalities, and dress accordingly. Fashion blogs enable people like me to buy what is suggested and get the desired look, on the other hand matured shoppers like my friends can find ideas to experiment with their stuff.  Reading blogs about fashion and clothes is informational and inspiring to shop in a stress free environment. So I am asking you my friends, have you tried shopping online with the help of stories on blogs, if not then you must try….coz you can experience shopping at a different level.
 

Why social scientific research

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I have this extraordinary curiosity about all subjects of the natural and human world and the interaction between the physical sciences and the social sciences by Ian Hacking
 
 
Today I am going to talk about social scientific research and its importance in our life. Apparently when we talk about research it is popularly associated only with STEM related fields ranging from technology, pharmaceuticals, medical surgery, astronomy, mobile phones, alternative energy cars etc. Not many know about research in other fields like social sciences and how it compliments scientific research. Research in social science is important to understand the human conduct and psyche of increasingly diverse population in the society we live in. Social science research enables to understand people and their problems in the society for offering solution and create a self sustained society by empowering women and children with education, building the  socio economic gap by creating employment options, and ultimately strengthening democracy.
 
As social scientists we learn to conduct research and analyze data to understand, discover, and interpret patterns of behavior among a group of subjects with respect to a unique social phenomenon. Socio scientific research is about finding meaning from individual experiences because we believe that reality is dependent on social actors. We have to put our relational and human skills to test in order to extract data from the subjects. Social science research is conducted on topics typically like educational disparities, women education, homelessness, poverty, gender inequalities, employment and immigration issues etc. Further, each stream of social sciences concentrates in niche area like my field of communication research that focuses on topics like mass media, public relation, communication in education, communication in social media, technology and its effect on communication, intercultural communication, organizational and small group communication, mediation, rhetorics and so on. Thus every stream in social scientific research offers a new perspective to an issue for enhancing human life. Therefore, investing in research is like investing in the future of humanity because research helps excavate historical evidences of social issues, their explanations and evolution over time and offers resolution to these issues with current dynamics in perspective. 
 
So far we learned how research can change millions of lives positively. Now I will explain how social science and scientific research work together in enriching human experience. Example: 1. Before working on any new medicine the scientists need to know social scientific research findings that present the statistical data of how many people are affected by a particular disease every year, why is the disease most prevalent among a particular sect or area, the probable social, economic, or environmental reasons of the disease, consequences of the disease, how do people overcome this disease at present, what kind of medicine do they take, what are the limitations and side effects of the existing medicine, finding the number of people being cured and so on. Only then the scientific research team is able to obscure the niche to create and cater these patients with new medicines, or vaccinations for recovery from such a disease.
Example: 2. A mobile phone company studies the market with social science research to understand what do people think about smart phones, what would they like to see new in it, what are the problems in their existing phones, what is their spending capacity, how much phone bill are they paying at present, what will be their paying capacity in coming future, what are the gender respective choices in the smart phone and so on. Only after collecting this data and analyzing it the mobile company is able to design a product that satisfies the consumer requirements in demand about the look, color, storage, efficiency, speed, size, effectiveness, and cost.