1 Philosophy of Science and Research Methods in IS Rudy Hirschheim E.J. Ourso College of Business Louisiana State University
2 Philosophy of Science Timeline Philosopher s Soccer Match
3 Key Question: What is knowledge and How do we acquire it?
4 Essential Problem in Science Two fundamental problems in the pursuit of knowledge: (1.) "how do we know what we know? and following on from that, (2.) "how do we acquire knowledge?"
5 What is Knowledge? Knowledge = Understanding Greeks classified knowledge into: doxa (believed to be true) episteme (known to be true) but is this ever possible?
6 Knowledge Assertoric (no absolute viewpoint) Conditional (not infallible) Societal convention (relative to time & space) Group achievement and a matter of group consensus (relies on an agreed set of conventions) Knowledge claims are accepted are those that stand the test of practical argument - force of the better argument (cf. Habermas) It is an agreed (generally) best understanding that has been produced at a particular point in time
7 Prof. Rudy Hirschheim, 2008
8 Prof. Rudy Hirschheim, 2008
9 What is Empirical? Definition: of or pertaining to the senses see, feel, smell, taste, hear In the West, empirical research leads to knowledge Empirical research Positivism
10 Five Pillars of Positivism Unity of the scientific method Search for Humean causal relationships Belief in empiricism Science (and its process) is value-free Foundation of science lies in logic and mathematics
11 Alternatives to Positivism Interpretivism and Critical Theory are two alternatives to Positivism Each has particular strengths and weaknesses Each is based on a conflicting set of underlying assumptions
12 Classification Criteria Positivist Interpretivist Critical Beliefs about physical and social reality Beliefs about the notion of knowledge There is a single, tangible, fragmentable phenomenon of interest and there is a unique best description of any aspect of that phenomenon. (Orlikowski & Baroudi, 1991) Deductive logic to discover unilateral, causal generalized relationships, predict patterns of behavior across situations (Orlikowski & Baroudi, 1991). Social world is not given. It is produced and reinforced through human actions and interactions. Interpretations of reality change with time, circumstances, objectives and constituencies. Involves getting inside the world of those generating the social process. The models are not unidirectional, but are circular or reciprocally interacting models of causality. No a priori researcherimposed formulations of structure, function and attribution are assumed. Humans become alienated from their potential by prevailing economic, political and cultural authority. Social reality is produced by humans, but also exists objectively and dominates human experience. What it has been, what it is becoming and what it is not (Chua, 1986). Interpretation of social world is not enough. Objective analysis of circumstances is possible through the lenses of theoretical framework. Beliefs about the relationship between knowledge and empirical world If the appropriate general laws are known and the relevant initial conditions can be manipulated, we can produce a desired state of affairs, natural or social. (McCarthy, 1978) Research is value free. Knowledge is never value-free. Weak constructionist view, the researcher merely describes the phenomenon in words of the actors. In the strong view, the researcher s interpretations intervene with the actual meaning of the world, thus the researcher is in part, enacting the social reality of the actors. Can transform both the actor and the researcher. Role of theory is to initiate change in social relations eliminating domination. Paradigm Classification Criteria adapted from Orlikowski and Baroudi (1991)
13 Philosophical Assumptions Ontological assumptions (beliefs about the nature of the world around us) realism vs. constructivism (nominalism) Epistemological assumptions (beliefs about how knowledge is acquired) positivism vs. anti-positivism Methodological assumptions (beliefs about appropriate mechanisms for acquiring knowledge) hypothetico-deductive vs. interpretive Axiological assumptions (beliefs about the role of values in research) value-free vs. value-laden
14 Ontological assumptions a potpourri of alternatives Critical Realism Direct Realism New realism Radical empiricism Idealism Pragmatism Relativism
15 The Emergence of Paradigms Kuhn defines paradigms as: universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners (Kuhn, 1970; p. viii) Burrell and Morgan use the term as a: commonality of perspective which binds the work of a group of theorists together (Burrell and Morgan, 1979; p. 23) Burrell and Morgan define four paradigms: functionalism, interpretivism, radical structuralism and radical humanism. Others, such as Chua (1986), prefer three primary alternatives: positivism (and its various forms neofuncitonalism, postpostivism, etc.), interpretivism (hermeneutics, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, etc.), and critical theory (Marxism, critical social theory, etc.)
16 The Debate Reformulated to yield the classic objectivist - subjectivist debate Has led to the so-called paradigms wars (Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998) and a possible solution pragmatism (cf. Goles and Hirschheim 1999) The differences in beliefs manifest themselves in the choice of a research method
17 Alternative Research Methods Constructivist Methods conceptual development and technical development Nomothetic Methods ( Confirmatory ) field research, surveys, lab experiments using the hypothetico-deductive method Idiographic Methods ( Exploratory ) case studies and action research
18 Methodological Comparison Minnesota Experiments clear objectives/goals clear, well understood research method objective in focus (ie. ahistorical and contextindependent) strong peer group, well recognized by the community validity through objective means explanation, prediction publishable!! Hirschheim Studies vague objectives/goals research method is hazy and soft subjective in focus (ie. historical and contextdependent) week peer group, not well recognized by the IS community validity through subjective means learning, understanding non-publishable!!
19 Orthodox Understandings #1 problems, thoughts, interests exploratory research confirmatory research
20 Orthodox Understandings #2 problems research knowledge, understanding practice
21 The Reality: The Vicious Cycle problems research knowledge, understanding practice
22 Four-Tiered Research Model Paradigms [meta-theoretic assumptions guiding the research] (Functionalism, Interpretivism, Radical Structuralism, Neohumanism) Approaches [generic or overarching way of going about research] (Language Analysis, Phenomenology, Action-Oriented, Historical, Conceptual, ) Methods [procedures for conducting research] (Ethnography, Case study, Action research, Field research, Lab. experiment, Model building, simulation,.) Techniques [tools used in the research] (COPE, parametric and non-parametric statistics, SEM, NVivo,.)
23 Research Methods: Empirical vs. Non-Empirical Empirical Empirical research may be defined as that based upon some type of empirical data, in its broadest sense (i.e. data emanating from one or more of the five human senses). There are four classic types of empirical research methods: (1) Survey, where data is collected in a large number of organizations through methods such as mail questionnaires, telephone interview, or from published statistics, and this data is analyzed using statistical methods; (2) Lab Experiments, where data are derived from the systematic manipulation of variables in a controlled setting typically involving two or more groups; (3) Case Study, which is an empirical inquiry that investigates contemporary phenomena within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident (Yin, 1999, p. 13). Data is collected from a small number of organizations through methods such as participant observations, in-depth interviews and longitudinal studies; (4) Action Research, which contributes both to the practical concerns of people in an immediate problematic situation and to the goals of social science by joint collaboration within a mutually acceptable ethical framework.
24 Three Types of Empirical Studies: Positivist, Interpretivist, Descriptive Empirical: Positivist These are studies (that) are premised on the existence of a priori fixed [hypothetical-deductive] relationships within phenomena which are typically investigated through structured instrumentation. Landry and Banville (1992) note four requirements of positivist research: (1) use of controlled observations; (2) use of controlled deductions; (3) striving for replicability; and (4) desire for generalizability. Positivism typically involves the application of nomothetic methods that include experimental methods (laboratory and field experiments) and non-experimental methods such as field studies and sur veys. According to Burrell and Morgan (1979, p.6) they are epitomized in the approach and methods employed in the natural sciences, which focus upon the process of testing hypotheses in accordance with the canons of scientific rigor.
25 Types of Empirical Studies (cont d) Empirical: Descriptive These are studies with no theoretical grounding or interpretation of the phenomenon; rather they present what they (the researchers) believed to be straightforward objective, factual accounts of events to illustrate some issue of interest (Orlikowski & Baroudi, 1991, p. 5). These are typically descriptive case studies which intend to tell a story and often have a normative component to them. Empirical: Interpretive These are studies that seek to understand the deeper structure of a phenomenon through different approaches such as trying to understand the meaning an act has for the actor himself, trying to understand the observed world reflected by written or spoken text, or trying to understand the meanings that a particular behavior signifies to the subjects (Lee, 1991). According to Orlikowski and Baroudi (1991), in interpretive studies researchers do not impose their outsiders a priori understanding of the situation. Instead, they adopt a non-deterministic perspective where the intent of the research is to increase understanding of the phenomenon, and the phenomenon of interest is studied in its natural setting from the perspective of the participants.
26 Non-Empirical Research Non-Empirical In contrast to empirical research, non-empirical research is not based on specific data; it is more abstract and intangible. It is the process of generating knowledge through conceptual or quantitative analytical reasoning, not directly contaminated by observed events. There are two types of non-empirical research: conceptual and mathematical. In terms of epistemology both types of non-empirical research papers are positivist in nature.
27 Non-Empirical Non-Empirical: Conceptual These are frameworks and arguments that sort out unstructured thoughts and concepts that circumscribe the phenomenon under study. Two different types of conceptual papers can be distinguished. The first group tries to develop frameworks that primarily serve as a basis for research by synthesizing existing knowledge and developing new concepts. The major aim of the second group is to provide guidelines for management on what factors to consider when deciding about a particular phenomenon, e.g. IS outsourcing. The purpose of the research is to give advice and guidelines for practice, often in the form of rules and recommendations, steps and procedures to be followed, hints and warnings. Non-Empirical: Mathematical Such studies involve mathematical models and analyses that are based on a set of restrictive assumptions about the nature of the world, and the rationality of the actors involved. The calculation of rationality is often based on minimizing costs or maximizing profits by changing certain parameters while holding others constant. These studies are typically highly analytical.
28 Interpretive Research Approaches Two main classes of approaches: Theory testing apply theory to read the data Theory emergent look for patterns, understanding emerges from the data Which do you think is better? i.e. more publishable?
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