Case Study Research Methods (Continuum Research Methods)

Methodologies: the quantitative qualitative continuum
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Muranganwa notices that research onion concepts create a firm basis for development of coherent and justifiable research design. Raithatha also claims that on the basis of the research onion model an appropriate research methodology can be designed step-by-step, thus it can be used as the main academic research model. Although the research onion is an efficient model widely used in social sciences works of Raithatha , Ramdhani, Mnyamana and Karodia in marketing , it is also used in exact sciences work of Muranganwa, in computer science, Lloyd, in information technology.

However, it is crucial to assess whether this model is suitable in the context of futures studies and adapt it to the specifics of researching the future. People think about the future and prepare themselves for desirable and undesirable events on a constant basis. In psychology this phenomenon is known as future-oriented thinking — our plans, hopes, expectations, predictions and construction of possible scenarios of future outcomes — is a natural part of our mental life and in many cases has a potential to determine the present behavior Aspinwall, Similarly, Voros defines anticipation as a way of foresight.

As a cognitive or methodological approach anticipation may be associated with explor- ative and predictive ways of thinking Voros, and on individual level may be summarized by the demands to Aspinwall, ; Miller et al. Closer examination of these demands makes it obvious that future-oriented thinking and will to know the future on the individual level may be primarily associated with decision-making process.

Futures Studies: From Intuitive Forecast Towards Scientific Approach

But the demand to know future rises not only on individual level — as Phillips claims, governments and leaders throughout the history made a lot of efforts to achieve foresight — from hiring astrologers to establishing special committees and even academies for futures research as a means of strategic planning. Thus the demand for futures studies may be originated from both — inner individual and external collective levels.

The main critics of researching the future may be summarized by following conclusions:. There is, of course, a lot of common sense in critics of futures studies as a scientific field, though, Slaughter and Bell argue, that most of the critics are based on misunderstanding of the main aspects of futures studies. On the basis of these statements it can be noticed, that prediction per se is a natural part of a scientific approach.

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Niiniluoto notices that futuristic trend is a common feature of many scientific disciplines, such as economics, physics and psychology — laws, orders or natural regularities create a set of constraints for present environment and lead to prediction of observable events in the future. Niiniluoto argues that without prediction any scientific theory will not meet testability criteria.

Patomaki also claims that even though social sciences usually do not use predictions, anticipation of futures is an integral part of all social actions, thus social sciences should also have the ability to give explanations of possible or likely futures in order to stay relevant in a contemporary environment. On the other hand, Slaughter argues that foresight should not be considered from an earlier worldview for that it is based on assumptions which do not comply with current circumstances or needs. For this reason, Niiniluoto proposes a clear distinction between the object and the evidence of the research: the object of futures studies is not the future but the present and the knowledge of the present is evidence about the future.

Therefore, the future consists of multiple possibilities and non-actualized powers of existing environment which may unfold under certain circumstances. In terms of researching the future in an open-system, contemporary futures studies have changed the research perspective from prediction to trend analysis, possibilities and scenario construction Patomaki, , and moved from forecast or prediction towards foresight — possible, preferable future analysis and designing the future.

Further attempts to consolidate futures studies as a scientific approach may be associated with the discussions on ontological assumptions of futures studies. Jouvenel attempted to define the ontology of futures studies through facta and futura concepts, claiming that facta refers to scientific approach which primarily based on collecting data about tangible past events, so that predictions can be made on the basis of collected data using extrapolation method.

On the contrary, the concept of futura implies the absence of past data, which could be analyzed. Futura refers to cognitive products, such as wishes, fears, expectations, etc. This paradigm was further developed by Polak and Boulding Researching human perception authors admit the dual nature of reality and distinguish the present which is actual and the imagined which is referred to the thought-realm. This dualism shapes the preconditions for the definition of future as such — the division and categorizing of feelings, perceptions and responses within time continuum enables men to experience the movement of the events in time, thus distinguish between before , now and after or the past, present and the future.

However, Polak and Boulding also claim the future must not only be perceived, but shaped as well through the image of the future. A critical shift of futures studies ontology paradigms can be associated with introduction of disposition concept by Bell According to Poli the core difference in understanding the future was the concept of multiple possibilities where disposition is referred to as a fact, that can actualize in future under certain circumstances. From ontology point of view, disposition is no longer a cognitive product, but a fact that has a potential to condition the future.

In order to develop a coherent futures research design it is crucial to identify the logical steps which would link epistemological and ontological assumptions with research methods and ways to interpret the findings. Methodology is a general research strategy which delineates the way how research should be undertaken. It includes a system of believes and philosophical assumptions which shape the understanding of the research questions and underpin the choice of research methods.

Research methodology is an integral part of a dissertation or thesis which helps to ensure the consistency between chosen tools, techniques and underlying philosophy. The research onion provides a rather exhausting description of the main layers or stages which are to be accomplished in order to formulate an effective methodology Raithatha, The research methodology has its starting point with delineation of the main philosophy, choosing approaches, methods and strategies as well as defining time horizons, which altogether take the research logic to the research design — main techniques and procedures of data collection and analysis Figure 1.

The research onion, proposed by Saunders et al. The analysis of literature on futures studies methodology has revealed that futures studies is a specific research field as it deals with phenomena which are not actualized yet, thus it underpins specific ontological and epistemological assumptions which lead to choice of strategies, techniques and methods different from ones used in business studies.

In order to adapt the research onion model it is crucial to analyze and determine the appropriateness of the model for futures studies and make necessary logical corrections within six original layers of the model. A critical overview of six research onion layers has led to discovery of one additional layer — Layer 2: Approaches to futures research , which could be logically included into original model thus forming a coherent research onion model for futures studies. Altogether, seven main layers of the research onion for futures studies were distinguished: 1 research philosophy; 2 approaches to futures research; 3 approaches to theory development; 4 research strategy; 5 methodological choice; 6 time horizons; 7 techniques and procedures.

In order to address the matter of scientific basis of futures studies, it is important to highlight the basic techniques of the research first. From a historical point of view there may be distinguished two classical or mainstream — positivist and interpretivist, and two rather recent — pragmatist and critical realist,mpositions of scientific research philosophy Mingers, ; Molis, ; Saunders et al.

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The strict dichotomy between positivist and interpretivist position is a matter of constant critics on the basis of distinction between natural and social sciences. Positivist philosophy admitting that entities such as ideas or social structures exist independently of human beings, does not take into account the role of individual in a social reality.

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Previous Figure Next Figure. The researcher's perceptions and interpretations become part of the research and as a result, a subjective and interpretive orientation flows throughout the inquiry CRESWELL, This resulted in placing more emphasis on inductive exploration, discovery, and holistic analysis that was presented in thick descriptions of the case. If the intent is to generalize from the research participants to a larger population, the researcher will employ probability sampling to select participants. The operationalisation of teacher competences as an evaluation tool for teachers' career promotion included the use of a teacher portfolio and the breaking down of competences to measurable indicators of performance. They produce results that are easy to summarize, compare, and generalize.

Conversely, interpretivists claim that existence of the world, independent of human thought and perception is impossible. Bhaskar proposed an idea of transcendental realism and critical naturalism, combined into a theory of critical realism. First of all, Bhaskar challenges the classical empiricism idea of atomistic events, being the ultimate object of knowledge and distinguishes two types of knowledge:. According to Bhaskar the existence of present, past and future does not depend on our knowledge or experience of it — real entities exist independently of events and events occur independently of experience, thus the domains of real , actual and empirical can be distinguished Table 1.

The core aim of science is to produce knowledge of mechanisms which are intransitive objects, existing independently of men and the statements laws , describing these mechanisms. Traditional definition of causal laws based on Hume works implies that causation mechanism is based on a simple conjunction of events, where event 2 follows event 1, although such causation is true mostly for closed systems. In this context causal laws are defined as generative mechanisms of nature , which can be determined within closed system by experimental activity and are efficacious outside closed system, therefore — transfactual.

Causal laws are understood to operate as tendencies, for that they do not explain what would happen under certain circumstances, rather than what is happening in an unmanifested way. According to Bhaskar , social phenomenon is both — causal and interpretive in nature, thus critical realism in a certain way reconciles the two main ontological positions — positive and interpretive, providing a basis to bridge explanation and understanding.

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Within the scientific research this position causes the change of focus — from researching events as such to investigation of mechanisms, producing these events. In case of futures research, the exploration of generative mechanisms is significant in the search for regularities, having potential to foster future events. Saunders et al. Within the field of futures studies there exist various ways of understanding the future and its relation to the present and past.

Assumes the predictability and controllability of future. Future prognoses are based on our knowledge of present and past — finding events regularities, based on causal, law-like and functional relations, enables precise calculation of future events by extrapolation.

Assumes unpredictable nature of future. The future is perceived as random, chaotic and unpredictable chain of events, thus the control or prediction of future as such is impossible, knowledge of future can only be obtained through intuitive strategy. Assumes the flexibility of future. The future is real, although not manifested yet, it consists of multiple possibilities and actualizes through transformative events, therefore the future can be influenced at least to some extent by participating actors. Patomaki , Bell , Van der Heijden claim critical realist position provides rather distinct basis for futures studies, while List and Aligica reasonably notice that critical realist approach can be employed for explanation of possible future constraints.

On the basis of analysis of Patomaki , Bell and Van der Heijden critical realist ideas for futures studies, the most significant assumptions may be summarized as follows:. All things considered, it can be argued that critical realist philosophy provides rather distinct theoretical framework for futures studies. The idea of multiple futures, which are real, but not manifested yet, shifts the focus from precise scientific prediction of the future to exploration of causal mechanisms and extrapolation of trend by construction of narratives up to a certain point in the future and creating possible development scenarios.

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On the basis of ontological classification of futures studies stated above it can be concluded that positive philosophy has a potential to provide theoretical ground for futures studies in areas where obtaining tangible data is possible, for instance in fields such as demography, economic development. Interpretive position is based on understanding the spectrum of images of the future, rather than on scientific forecasting, therefore it aims to provide an insight not a prediction.

Criti cal realism on the other hand, assumes the possibility of different futures which can be influenced from present at least to some extent, thus it can be employed as ontological position for scenario construction and analysis in areas such as institutions, culture, politics. List distinguishes two approaches of studying the future: quantitative forecasting is based on mathematical operations such as extrapolation, econometric modelling, etc.

The first approach — forecasting , is mainly applied in areas where tangible quantitative data is available, e. Deductive research logic is referred to reasoning moving from general rule to a specific law-like inference and is usually used for theory testing. Inductive reasoning is a way of theory building, starts with specific observation on the basis of which a general rule is formulated.

Kuosa also argues that one of the most significant errors in contemporary futures studies is the demand to control or exactly predict the future, because future as an entity is changeable and unpredictable. However, failure in real life is a common phenomenon which is also a part of scientific knowledge, therefore it is important to accept failing as a part of scientific approach.

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Although both deductive and inductive inferences are widely used in contemporary futures studies, Kuosa reasonably notices the shift towards abductive reasoning. According to Paavola, Hakkarainen and Sintonen abductive reasoning is a form of inference, starting with observation of clue-like signs, which provide the basic notion for further research.

Thus, abductive inference is a best guess or conclusion based on available evidence. Presenting research strategies, Saunders et al. Research strategy can be referred to as a general way which helps the researcher to choose main data collection methods or sets of methods in order to answer the research question and meet the research objectives. In futures studies all these groups of methods may be used for reaching the specific research objectives — to describe the exact patterns of future development, what future will be like; prescribe the set of actions in order to reach desirable future; explore the possible development of future events.

Therefore, the three main research strategies may be distinguished — descriptive , nor- mative prescriptive and explorative.

Qualitative research methods involve numbers and mathematical operations, while qualitative methods imply collection of a vast descriptive data. Mono method is used when the research is focused either on quantitative or qualitative data gathering; mixed methods — quantitative and qualitative methods used within the same research in order to achieve different aims and offset the constraints of the use of single method; multi-method choice undermines the use of both, qualitative and quantitative methods, although the research is based on of them, while the other method is auxiliary or supplementary.

Such presentation of research choices is also relevant to futures studies, according to Saleh et al. There are also methods, that are successfully employed as both quantitative and qualitative — scenario construction, modelling. Time horizons in futures studies usually refer to periods to be studied or chronological horizon of varying breadth. Following the research onion step-by-step, the final layer — techniques and procedures, moves the research design towards data collection and analysis.

All previous choices determine the type of basic data collection and analysis procedures, which will help to answer the research question. The construction of research design in futures studies may be based on the concept of research onion, proposed by Saunders et al.

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Choosing the research methodology and building up a research design in futures studies may be carried out following seven steps corresponding the seven layers of the research onion for futures studies:. Choosing philosophy in futures studies may be complicated due to the fact that there is no empirical evidence of the future as such. In order to choose an appropriate philosophy, it is important to determine the operational field of the research and available data sources.

If the research will focus on the use of qualitative data which is often the case, interpretivism or critical realism may be chosen as the main philosophy. Interpretive position can be chosen if the research would mainly focus on construction of futures narratives and understanding the spectrum of images of the future to provide an insight. Critical realist position assumes the possibility of different futures which can be influenced from present at least to some extent, thus it is often used for scenario construction in areas such as institutions, culture and politics.