Qualitative research has its roots in a number of philosophical and pragmatic fields, and, consequently, the field has evolved in a number of both competing and/or complementary ways. Even the language of qualitative research will differ depending on the lens you select. Denzin and Lincoln’s (2008) and Creswell’s (2007) introduce these differences with clarity.
Selecting qualitative research methodologies involve working through the vast array of choices of approaches. Further examination of the various classifications and typologies showed the diversity and complexity in the field. (Creswell, 2007). From the field of education alone Jacob (1987) has outlined 5 different approaches: ecological psychology, holistic ethnography, cognitive anthropology, ethnography of communication and symbolic interaction. Drawing further from the education field, Lancy (1993) further enriched the field with the anthropological, sociological, biological perspectives; case studies; personal accounts, cognitive studies and historical inquiries (ibid). Learning from Creswell who decided to present 5 approaches (some mentioned above and many more mentioned by different authors and researchers over time), my preferred choice of approach and/or a combination of approaches should be derived from my own personal interest and need, and electing those discipline orientations that would allow for the combining application of a strong tradition of qualitative research which allow for the observer to be part of what is being observed, self-reflexivity (becoming more and maintaining self-awareness of my position as a scholar practitioner), and the application of hypotheses and ‘rational’ deduction as found in the positivist fashion. This latter is important because I usually direct my research and its finding for the benefits of my fellow practitioners and decision makers within the quantitative world of modern businesses. Any finding from a given management research within my field of work must also be actionable. Results may be the result of and definitely should lead to a practical action(s). In this respect, Easterby-Smith et al (2008) suggest that ‘both traditional analytic research and action research are legitimate activities.
Each qualitative research design process begins by our taking of an ontological position that define the philosophical assumptions of the nature of reality, ‘or a paradigm or worldview as a basic set of beliefs that guide action’ (Creswell, 2007) ; the epistemology which refers to a set of assumptions of the best of way inquiring and interpreting the nature of the world; the methodology which gives us the techniques used to inquire into a given situation (Eaterby-Smith, 2008); Axioligical which reminds us of the our position as a value laden being and therefore the potentiality of various biases being introduced and/or cloud the a management research and its finding; and, last but not least, the rhetorical aspect of management research which refers to the language use in writing, delivering research finding in such a way that would engage the intended audience of the research.
Some of the paradigms or worldviews worth mentioning here include: post-positivism, constructionism, advocacy/participatory and pragmatism are among the most mentioned and adopted by management researchers and theorists. Post-positivism gives the necessary quantitative/realist approach to a solid management research as evidenced in the use of multiple levels of data for rigorous analysis and to help to ensure the validity of approaches used. Post-positivist would present their qualitative research in the form of scientific reports, with a structure resembling quantitative approaches: problem, data collection, results and conclusion. I personally think this form of qualitative research stands the best chance of being seen as a valid study within in a circle of management practitioners.
Another paradigm: the social constructivism involves individuals like us scholar practitioners seeking an understanding of the world within which we work and perform. It calls for the researchers to ‘develop subjective meaning of our experience’ as directed towards certain objects and/or situation. These subjective meanings would of course be varied and multiple in numbers and thus help us understand the complexity of views prevailing in an organization. The views which are derived from and through the various interactions between individuals of all levels within an organization and a purposeful self-reflexivity within the historically shaped cultural norms that operates to govern and/or influence the conduct of a member of an organization. In qualitative research this approach of ‘sense-making’ is known as the ‘interpretative research’ whose outcome is nothing less than a deep understanding of the studied phenomena.