Understanding research philosophy and approaches to theory development

Saunders, Mark N. K.; Lewis, Philip; Thornhill, Adrian and Bristow, Alexandra (2015). Understanding research philosophy and approaches to theory development. In: Saunders, Mark N. K.; Lewis, Philip and Thornhill, Adrian eds. Research Methods for Business Students. Harlow: Pearson Education, pp. 122–161.

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Much of this book is concerned with the way in which you collect data to answer your research question(s). Most people plan their research in relation to a question that needs to be answered or a problem that needs to be solved. They then think about what data they need and the techniques they use to collect them. You are not therefore unusual if early on in your research you consider whether you should, for example, use a questionnaire or undertake interviews. However, how you collect your data belongs in the centre of the research ‘onion’, the diagram we use to depict the issues underlying the choice of data collection techniques and analysis procedures in Figure 4.1. In coming to this central point you need to explain why you made the choice you did so that others can see that your research should be taken seriously (Crotty 1998). Consequently there are important outer layers of the onion that you need to understand and explain rather than just peel and throw away!

This chapter is concerned principally with the outer two of the onion’s layers: philosophy ( Sections 4.2 and 4.3 ) and approach to theory development ( Section 4.4 ).

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