A Strategy for Delayed Research Method Selection: Deciding between Grounded Theory and Phenomenology

By Reiter, Sebastian; Stewart, Glenn et al. | Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, January 2011 | Go to article overview

A Strategy for Delayed Research Method Selection: Deciding between Grounded Theory and Phenomenology


Reiter, Sebastian, Stewart, Glenn, Bruce, Christine, Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods


1. Introduction

Research methods are 'traditionally' chosen prior to data generation based on the nature, aims and goals of the research project. However the 'traditional? process of a research method selection may limit flexibility in revising or changing the selected research method at a later stage. This can lead to potential implications, such as shortcomings in the research design and hence results of the study. In addition recent studies often fail to detail the process of research method selection while being excellent in describing them. They rather critique the methods conventionally applied and emphasize on the negative aspects instead of proposing alternatives or innovative solutions.

Such shortcomings, paired with the need for rigorous and relevant research to address the needs of various stakeholders, suggests more attention be paid towards the research methods selection. In addition, multiple stakeholders such as academia, practitioners, and industry partners increase the complexity of research demands, objectives and expected results. Furthermore, practitioners and industry partners tend to look for tangible results that can be easily transferred and applied to practice. Thus, academia must not be neglected in striving for rigor and relevance (Robey and Markus 1998) Rigorous research in particular, can be achieved not only through carefully selecting and applying the research method but also detailing its execution.

Research method selection is dependent on the circumstances and objectives of the research rather than deriving from philosophy (how we think about it) or methodology (how we study it) (Hammersley 1999:80). Selecting the most appropriate research method must be driven by the research question and current body of knowledge in the area researched (Wynekoop and Russo 1997) as well as the data accessible to the researcher. Unfortunately, researchers are often confronted with an overwhelming number of research methods and regularly struggle to decide on the most suitable one.

Their selection is often based on assumptions about the expected results, influenced by their previous experiences or the supervisory team in the case of PhD or research students. This applies particularly to interpretative qualitative research, where it is not always immediately clear what is the most suitable research method to use as the research objectives shift and crystallize over time. Positivist research on the other side for example often does not have this issue and is usually more controlled and straightforward.

Given the multiple research methods available, choosing the most appropriate research method is not an easy task. Even when limited to qualitative interpretative methods, there are still numerous options (Miles and Hubermann 1994) to be considered. Basically each possible research method has advantages and disadvantages (Benbasat, Goldstein and Mead 1987) which need to be taken into account. Other than the knowledge and background of the researcher, the influence of the research team and the capability of human information processing can be a limitation as well. According to von Wright (1979) the human short term memory is restricted to 5 +/- 2 observational units which limits our taxonomy. On the other hand, Tesch (1990) refers to 27 qualitative research methods These might be perceived in different ways by different people in the same manner as different disciplines favor different types of methods as well as the use of different vocabulary for qualitative research. This reason further highlights the need for a strategy to select the most appropriate research method.

Mason (2002:26) suggests the creation of an overview of potential research methods and data sources in the initial research stage including the ones which might be rejected. She further highlighted that by generating data and analysing data paired with the experience gained by researcher throughout this process the research most appropriate method could be selected. …

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