Qualitative Research in Tourism: Ontologies, Epistemologies and Methodologies

By Jenny Phillimore; Lisa Goodson | Go to book overview

12

The research process as a journey

From positivist traditions into the realms of qualitative inquiry
Karen Thomas
Aims of the chapter
• To outline how research can be seen as a product of a wide range of influences.
• To explore the use of qualitative focus groups within a multi-method study.
• To examine how the philosophical underpinnings of positivism have impacted upon the design and implementation of a focus group study.
• To explore the research process as a journey shaped by key phases of decision-making.

Introduction

At the heart of the research process lies a complex interplay of choices and decisions which mould the nature and direction of research. Thus, many of the fundamental challenges facing the social science researcher relate to the core activity of decision-making and the justification of the strategy and method(s) adopted (Crotty 1998:2). Studying the theory and philosophical foundations of social science research reveals that 'different research … methods are not just responses to different research needs but also embody quite different ontological and epistemological perspectives' (Arksey and Knight 1999:15). Denzin and Lincoln (2000:19-22) articulate this, outlining how the final choice of research strategy and method should be seen as a culmination of issues at the level of the researcher and the research paradigm, the latter involving the interconnected issues of 'ontology (… What is the nature of reality?), epistemology (What is the relationship between the inquirer and the known?), and methodology (How can we know the world, or gain knowledge of it?)'.

An understanding of the theory and philosophical foundations of social science research not only provides a knowledge base from which to evaluate current practice, but helps to ensure that researchers are 'better able to set forth the research process in ways that render it transparent and accountable' (Crotty 1998:216). Although the need for reflexive accounts

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