Article Review by Nelson Dordelly-Rosales:
1. Krauss, S., (2005) Research Paradigms and Meaning Making: A Primer.
The Qualitative Report, 10 (4), 758-770.
The paper Research Paradigms and Meaning Making: A Primer provides an introduction to some of the basic issues in attempting to work with both quantitative and qualitative research methods. It explains how qualitative data analysis can be used to organize and categorize different levels and forms of meaning. It argues that the heart of the quantitative vs. qualitative “debate” is philosophical, not methodological, and it offers an overview of the epistemological differences of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. The article introduces the notion of meaning making in social sciences research and how it actually occurs through qualitative data analysis. It defines meaning as “the underlying motivation behind thoughts, actions and even the interpretation and application of knowledge” (Krauss, 2005, p. 763). The task of constructing meaning through qualitative data analysis is explained through a variety of perspectives and approaches.
Problem/Issue and the Importance/Significance
The focus is on the task of constructing meaning through qualitative data analysis. This paper is significant because it examines the concept of the philosophical realist paradigm and introduces the notion of “meaning making” in research methods and how meaning is generated from qualitative data analysis specifically. To that end, it explains epistemological differences between quantitative and qualitative research that allows us to understand phenomena and to get more realistic results. Some examples are also provided.
What will be the epistemological similarities and differences between quantitative and qualitative research paradigms? How can the realist philosophical paradigm accommodate both, quantitative and qualitative research paradigms? How meaning can be constructed and organized using a qualitative data analysis approach?
Sample and sample selection process
Qualitative data selection in qualitative research is intuitive to discover (not measure) potentially important insights. The author explains the need to make use of multiple research methods to optimize the data selection process, to increase both the breadth and width of data selection.
Data Collection Methods
Krauss (2005) found that qualitative data collection meaning is constructed on “a variety of levels of daily life through the exchange of ideas, interaction, and agreement between the researcher and the participants” (p. 764). The author supports his point of view through some examples from the literature, within social sciences, about how meaning can be constructed and organized using a qualitative data analysis approach (interpretivism). The author also cites a multi-year religiosity initiative as a case in which he was involved in conducting both qualitative and quantitative research to assess religiosity in the lives of young people.
Data Analysis Method
Krauss (2005) argues that qualitative data analyses in qualitative research are guided by a reflective paradigm in an attempt to acquire social knowledge. In this sense, according to the author, meaning is constructed in a variety of ways, that is, “through construction, the researcher is not a blank slate; rather s/he is an active participant in the process” (Krauss, 2005, p. 767). This means that, epistemologically, the researcher is engaged in the setting, participating in the act of ‘being with’ the respondents in their lives to generate meaning of them” (p. 769). In addition, developing themes and storylines featuring the words and experiences of participants themselves adds richness to the findings.
Krauss (2005) explains that the realist paradigm has the unique goal of facilitating the meaning-making process, which is an important learning facilitator that has the power to encourage transformative learning. The realist philosophical paradigm attempts to accommodate quantitative and qualitative research methods. In the area of religion for example: “the result of the process was a major study that tapped into the richness of individual religious experience, along with a broader understanding of religious behaviors and knowledge levels across large groups of young people” (p.758). As a whole, the realist paradigm has less limitations than each one separated.
According to the author, realist researchers reject the framework of validity that is commonly accepted in more quantitative research in the social sciences. Nevertheless, realist research inherently assumes that there is some reality that can be observed with greater or less accuracy or validity. In this sense, “rigor in qualitative data analysis is a necessary element for maximizing the potential for generating meaning” (Krauss, 2005, p.765). This rigor provides trustworthiness to the results.
Qualitative researchers can operate under different epistemological assumptions from quantitative researchers. Ethical issues can sometimes result in confusion and uncertainty among researchers. In qualitative research, as well as in quantitative research, researchers are expected to employ high standards of academic rigor, and to behave with honesty and integrity. Ethics can emerge from value conflicts. I think that being a ‘purist’ researcher looking only at one small portion of a reality that cannot be split or unitized “without losing the importance of the whole phenomenon brings an ethical issue to the research process” (Krauss 2005, p. 767).
The concept of meaning making in research methods and how meaning is generated from qualitative data analysis are the most important contributions of this paper. This article discusses the philosophical differences between quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative research is positivist, objective and scientific that can be accomplished by statistical software packages commonly used for quantitative data (descriptive data). Qualitative researchers operate under naturalist, constructivist, eclectic and subjective assumptions (researcher interpretation). Qualitative research is a highly intuitive activity that contributes greatly to the construction of meaning. As researchers, we should focus on “the significance of different levels of meaning such as worldviews or philosophies of life, and the importance of meaning as a critical element to human existence and learning” (Krauss, 2005, p.767). I think that the author makes a good point regarding the need to make use of multiple research methods to optimize the data collection and the analysis process; that is, a mixed approach increases both the breadth and width of data collection and data analysis. The author provides an excellent overview of the basic issues in attempting to work with both quantitative and qualitative research methods toward the goal of generating meaning. Using both methods together contributes to a better understanding of phenomenon. I think that, it is important to make use of multiple research methods because it means broader understanding of behaviors and knowledge levels across large groups of people. Different philosophical assumptions or theoretical paradigms about the nature of reality are essential to understanding the overall perspective from which the study is designed and carried out. Within this holistic approach, critical realism framework, both qualitative and quantitative methodologies together are appropriate toward the goal of generating meaning and understanding thinking, behavior and worldwide formation. Indeed, the heart of the quantitative-qualitative “debate” is philosophical, not methodological.
2. Gephart, R. (1999, 11 14). Paradigms and Research Methods. Retrieved 05 21, 2009, from Academy of Management, Research Methods Division: http://division.aomonline.org/rm/1999_RMD_Forum_Paradigms_and_Research_Methods.htm
Gephart (1999) explains three prevailing paradigms or views of the world which are currently shaping research: Positivism, Post-positivism or Interpretivism and Critical Postmodernism. The author introduces the concept of each paradigm, describes the key features of each worldview or “forms of scholarship,” the nature of knowledge pursued, and the different means by which knowledge is produced and assessed within each paradigm or worldview. Very synthetically, the three strands of thinking and researching are different in the following way: Positivism assumes an objective world which scientific methods (for example, experimental and survey) can more or less readily represent and measure statistically, seeking to predict and explain causal relations among key variables. Post positivists or interpretivists assert that these methods “impose a view of the world on subjects;” their concern is the interplay between objective and subjective meanings. Critical postmodernists, on the other hand, argue that these imposed views or measures implicitly “support forms of scientific knowledge that explicitly reproduce capitalist structures and associated hierarchies of inequality” (p.5). In this sense, the goal is “social transformation involving the displacement of existing structures of domination” (p. 6). The author concludes saying that these paradigms or theories are somewhat “separate but not greatly distant from one another” (p.7). In general the goal of research is adequate reflection of peoples’ experience in making inquiries from one or more theoretical frameworks.
Problem/Issue and the Importance/Significance
The need to help readers understand some of the basic assumptions underlying forms of research present in the field: Positivism, Post-positivism or Interpretivism and Critical Postmodernism. The author attempts to make us understand the key features, the usefulness of each paradigm, and how the three paradigms can be interwoven into research.
What will be the epistemological similarities and differences between positivism, interpretivism, and critical postmodernism? What are the main assumptions, key ideas, theories, figures, goals, theories, and criteria, unit of analysis and research methods of each paradigm?
Sample and Sample Selection Process
Sample and sample selection varies according to specific paradigm. Positivism uses quantitative criteria; interpretivism and critical postmodernism apply qualitative criteria and therefore, are more intuitive and flexible; however, rigor and specific principles are essential for good research.
Data Collection Methods
In this article, the author uses grounded theory development and suggests the mixture of quantitative and qualitative paradigms. The author explains, however, that data collection and the research methods, goals, criteria and unit of analysis of each paradigm are different: (a) Positivist research uses experiments; questionnaires; secondary data analysis; quantitatively coded documents, Likert scaling, and structural equation modeling, Qualitative uses grounded theory testing, among others. (b) Interpretivism uses: ethnography, participant observation, interviews, conversational analysis, and grounded theory development; case studies, conversational and textual analysis, and expansion analysis. (c) Critical Postmodernism uses: field research, historical analysis, dialectical analysis.
Data Analysis Method
The author explains that the positivist research unit of analysis is the variable. The unit of analysis of interpretivism is the meaning. Critical theory-Postmodernism (PM) uses as unit of analysis: deconstruction, textual analysis.
Among the limitations and delimitations of each paradigm are the following: Positivist research assumes as its goals uncovered truth and facts as quantitatively specified relations among variables. Interpretivism/Constructivism is a related approach, which is based on analysis and look for persuasion using ‘sensitizing’ concepts. Its goals are: describe meanings, understand members' definitions of the situation, and examine how objective realities are produced. Critical theory-Postmodernism (PM) aims to investigate/uncover hidden interests, enable more informed consciousness, displace ideology with scientific insights, and change.
Criteria of validity vary according to each paradigm; the author explains that positivist research, in place of prediction uses explanation, rigor, internal and external validity and reliability. Interpretivism uses the trustworthiness and authenticity. Critical theory-Postmodernism (PM) uses theoretical consistency, historical insights, transcendent interpretations, basis for action, change potential and mobilization. Its unit of analysis are: contradictions, ‘incidents of exploitation’ and the sign. In general, realist researchers reject the framework of validity that is commonly accepted in just one method of research.
Currently there is a reexamination of ethical standards to protect better the rights of research participants within each paradigm. Among principles are: voluntary participation, informed consent, confidentiality, anonymity, and prevention of risk of harm.
Gephart (2005) provides an excellent overview of the three important and prevailing paradigms, views of the world, or philosophies of research, namely, Positivism, Post positivism or Interpretivism, and Critical Postmodernism. I think that we might consider that each school is eclectic in the sense that they choose the best from all sources. I also think that the three strands are different but they can be interwoven, integrated or mixed into the research with the purpose of improving the process of inquiry and its results.
I regard the mixed paradigm as a more reasonable strategy for research. Why? Because I think that by understanding the main differences, and weakness of each of the current leading theories, and by demonstrating that each one, separately, provides just one view of the world, the promise of impartiality of each one might be criticized as illusory. An integrated perspective is a strategic open-mindedness approach, which can tolerate all different theories and points of view coming from all different directions that helps us better understand research problems and their solutions. Positivism provides a partial view of reality (its inductive view of quantitative data). Interpretivism and critical studies are also a partial view of life; each one is subjective (a deductive view of qualitative data). Given the progressive changes evidenced in contemporary society, it is imperative a holistic understanding of phenomena (and view each problem from different angles or from an interdisciplinary view). In this sense, “toleration of others requires broken confidence in the finality of our own truth” (Tuck, 1988, p.21). So, I think is important synthesizing into a unity all of the best components in the various philosophical theories. My idea of being integrative is to retain the scientific commitment, but also to combine it with the assumptions of qualitative research.
3. Mackenzie, N., & Sally, K. (2006). Research Dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology. Retrieved 05 21,2009, from Issues in Educational Research: http://www.iier.org.au/iier16/mackenzie.html
Mckenzie and Knipe (2006) criticize the perceived dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative research methods in research textbooks and journal articles: “considerable literature supports the use of mixed methods” (p.1). The authors begin with a definition of leading paradigms in educational research, which are the following: positivist, post-positivist, interpretive/constructivist paradigm, transformative, and pragmatic paradigm. They discuss the language commonly associated with each major research paradigm. The focus is in the basic issues in attempting to work with mixed research methods and how “the research paradigm and methodology work together to form a research study” (p.1). To that end, they clarify the difference between methodology and method: “The most common definitions suggest that methodology is the overall approach to research linked to the paradigm or theoretical framework while the method refers to systematic modes, procedures or tools used for collection and analysis of data” (p.4). The authors also clarify the difference between paradigms, methodologies and the traditional “dichotomy” of quantitative and qualitative research methods and data collection tools. They conclude with a discussion and explanation of how to combine paradigms and methods.
Problem/Issue and the Importance/Significance
The paper examines the features of each paradigm and their main argument is to “demystify” the role of paradigms in research. It questions the “dichotomy” quantitative-qualitative as a way to teach research methodology. Research texts and university courses “can create confusion to undergraduate, graduate and early career researchers” (McKenzie and Knipe, 2006, p.2). It suggests teaching a combination of both, quantitative and qualitative methods of research, making use of the most valuable features of each. That is, “research methods in research texts and university courses should include mixed methods and should address the perceived dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative research methodology” (p.1).
Why qualitative and quantitative methods should be combined? How the research paradigm and methodology work together to form a research study? Is there a difference between methodology and methods? How to match paradigms and methods?
Sample/Sample selection process and Data Collection/Analysis Method
According McKenzie and Knipe (2006) each research paradigm, framework, or methodology applies different sample/sample selection process and data collection/analysis methods. Each overall framework or methodology of research is consistent with the definition of each paradigm and hold unique features, which are specific to their particular approach. For example, the positivist and postpositivist paradigm usually applies experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational, among others. The interpretivist/ constructivist paradigm applies naturalistic, phenomenological, hermeneutic, interpretivist, ethnographic, multiple participant meanings, and social and historical construction. The transformative paradigm applies critical theory, neo-Marxist, feminist, critical race theory, Freirean, participatory or emancipatory, among others. The pragmatic paradigm applies among others, consequences of actions, problem-centered, pluralistic and political. In a mixed research paradigm the decision-making process does not necessarily follow a linear path, the process is more realistically cyclical, and the researcher can mix methods or can make changes as the research progresses.
In this article, the authors assume that educational research should be taught as a mixed paradigm. They argue that a combination of both, paradigm and methods and tools is the right way to teach research methodology. Mixed method is itself a statement of what could be, rather than a groundbreaking notion, especially in the instance of educational research.
The rejection of reliability and validity in qualitative research has resulted in a shift for “ensuring rigor” from the researcher’s actions during the course of the research. Each researcher's theoretical orientation has implications for every decision made in the research process. This obviously has implications for trustworthiness/validity considerations. The emphasis on strategies that are implemented during the research process has been replaced by strategies for evaluating trustworthiness and utility, which are implemented once a study is completed.
According to the authors, many writers fail to adequately define research terminology and sometimes use terminology in a way that is not compatible in its intent, omitting significant concepts and leaving the reader with only part of the picture. In this sense, confusion can be created when authors use different terms with different meanings to discuss paradigms; for instance, methodology and methods are usually used interchangeably but they have different meanings. The authors conclude stating that mixed method, like all research approaches, needs to be viewed through a critical lens while at the same time recognizing as valid its contribution to the field of research.
From philosophical perspective, showing how much reflection it takes to start up an investigation, the article discusses different types of research and the language associated with them. The terms qualitative and quantitative refer to the data collection methods, analysis and reporting modes, instead of the theoretical approach to the research, which is the methodology (the overall approach to research linked to the paradigm or theoretical framework, while the method refers to systematic modes, procedures or tools used for collection and analysis of data).
This article applies almost directly to our situation as young researchers and is very useful for us to distinguish the type of methodology to apply in our own research. It explains the strengths of each leading methodology or theory of research, which are the following: positivism and post-positivism, interpretivism/constructionism, transformative, pragmatism, and a mix-methods approach to research, which are excellent theoretical frameworks. In a mixed research paradigm the decision-making process does not necessarily follow a linear path, the process is more realistically cyclical, and the researcher can mix methods or can make changes as the research progresses. This view applies to constitutional interpretation. This past year I proposed the mix paradigm in constitutional interpretation in the Annual Graduate Conference in King’s College, University of London:
I'm delighted to say that my paper on “Eclecticism in Constitutional Interpretation” was selected for publication in the book Law and Outsiders Norms, Processes and 'Othering' in the 21st Century, edited by Cian C. Murphy and Penny Green, (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2009)
4. Article Review
Monte-Sano, Chauncey (2008) Qualities of Historical Writing Instruction: A Comparative Case Study of Two Teachers’ Practices. American Educational Research Journal, 45 (4), p. 1045-1079.
The author analyzed qualitative and quantitative differences of the practices of two high school teachers of U.S. History, in real-world History and writing instruction over time (seven months). The analysis included forty two students’ performances that resulted from these practices rather than researcher interventions. The author demonstrated that both, teachers and students need training in the work of “writing evidence-based historical essays that involves sifting through evidence and constructing an interpretation in writing” (Monte-Sano, 2008, p. 1046). The results show that the teacher that supported students’ development in writing evidence-based historical essays was more successful in improving students’ growth than the other. The author aims to help high school teachers of U.S. history become more acquainted of different qualities of instruction to help students to learn how to read, write and think historically. She explains that there are different qualities of instruction that support students’ growth in writing evidence-based historical essays. These qualities are the following: approaching history as evidence-based interpretation; reading historical texts and considering them as interpretations; supporting reading comprehension and historical thinking; asking students to develop interpretations and support them with evidence; and using direct instruction, guided practice, independent practice, and feedback to teach evidence-based writing. According to the author, “the act of writing alone is not sufficient for growth in evidence-based historical writing” (Monte-Sano, 2008, p.1045).
Problem/Issue and the Importance/Significance
Students and teachers tend to have difficulties integrating documentary evidence into written accounts of past events. The author proved that the above mentioned qualities of teaching would foster growth in evidence-based historical writing. This study is important because history educators still know little about the relationships between teaching and learning with regard to evidence-based writing and reasoning (Monte-Sano, 2008).
How do teachers prepare students to write evidence-based historical essays? What messages about history, evidence, and writing do teachers’ practices convey? What opportunities to think and write historically do these teachers provide? How do teachers think about their subject matter, students, and pedagogy? In what ways do teachers’ practices coincide with improvements in students’ evidence-based historical writing?
Sample and sample selection process
Two teachers were selected in two urban high schools in Northern California. One class period per teacher – selection was based on class size in U.S history course. A total of 42 students from these classes participated in pre and post assessments of their historical learning. Over 7 months the researcher identified patterns of growth (or lack thereof).
Data Collection Methods
Data were collected from four sources: interviews, observations, feedback, and classroom artifacts (assignments and materials). Interview questions asked teachers their view of students’ progress and needs, and the reasoning behind their instructional decisions. Observations focused on what students did during class, how the teacher represented history and what opportunities there were to learn evidence-based reasoning, argumentation and writing. Field notes and data summary charts where completed during and after every observation. Feedback included teachers’ oral assessment on homework and essays.
Data Analysis Method
The author used mixed methods in an embedded multiple-case design that included teacher and student data analysis. Regarding teacher data, she organized field notes and interview data chronologically, transcribed them into codes, and used memos to track key ideas, to highlight illustrative excerpts of class, and to note what to look for in future observations. Data showed the amount of time that each teacher devoted to a particular topic, the agreement in the number of assignments and the number of readings per topics and key components of assignments. With respect to student data, the author measured, through pre and post test instruments, how students composed arguments that recognize historical perspectives from multiple documents.
The reduced number of teachers and students was one of the limitations. The researcher had to create a matrix of questions and possible answers and to ensure that both instruments were appropriate (in terms of age of participants). Each instrument presented several points of agreement between sources and so allowed for multiple responses to the questions. Each one asked a why question that prompts students to make a supporting argument explaining why an action was taken in the past.
The author created specific instruments to study historical reasoning and writing in history. In terms of content validity, the pre- and post-test instruments were consistent with the following variables: the notions of historical reasoning as analysis of evidence, the use of evidence to construct interpretations of the past, and communication of arguments in writing. According to the author, the strength of these instruments lied in their ecological validity (Monte-Sano, 2008, p. 1051). Even so, the author noticed that contextual changes over the course of multiple administrations of the tests can influence results. For example, the constraints of working in the classrooms led to certain agreement on the essay topics.
Comparing two teachers with different approaches (one teacher worked in groups, the other worked with lectures in which students listened to lectures and worked independently), “was not entirely fair” (Monte-Sano, 2008, p.1079); however, the author explains that comparison is instructive when considering how to develop students’ historical thinking and writing.
The report is a comparative case study of teaching and it uses student performance as a backdrop for claims of teaching effectiveness. The target was to examine two teachers’ practices with regard to the learning outcome of writing evidence-based essays. The strength of the body of the article lies in four main aspects, (1) the notions of historical reasoning as analysis of evidence; use of evidence to construct interpretations of the past, and communication of arguments in writing, (2) the list of qualities of instruction that support students’ growth in writing evidence-based historical essays, (3) the list of questions that teachers of history can ask of research, and (4) the use of multiple research methods to optimize the data collection and the analysis process. The results show the usefulness of qualitative and quantitative comparisons of students’ work to determine how each class improves in writing evidence-based history essays.
Traditionally, teachers and students tend to view history as established fact (literal meaning of documents), not analysis or interpretation. Monte-Sano shows that there are creative ways that teachers implement approaches to history writing. This entails synthesizing and organizing information to suit the writer’s purposes; problem-based writing tasks, encouraging historical thinking, and transformation of knowledge already in the mind.
This article is an excellent example of how to work with both quantitative and qualitative research methods toward the goal of generating a new way to teach and learn History writing. To explore further, I read other articles and books, which expand the basic theme and I came to the conclusion that teachers that embark on such a study of History must feel the passion of teaching and be prepared to devote time and energy to the endeavor. In my future endeavor, I will be teaching Law History in Venezuela through Court cases, using high Court precedents. I think it affords creative alternatives such as reading historical texts and considering them as interpretations; asking students to develop interpretations and support them with evidence, etc.