Social Science Research Philosophy for PhD Project

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Introduction

The research area that needs to be investigated is understanding the characteristics of a hoffice and the underlying conditions that led to its growth. The essay also provides a rationale and critical debate on why interpretivism and social constructivists are chosen as the research paradigm for the study.

Reasons to Select Interpretivism

There are many reasons due to which interpretivism research philosophy is adopted. The first reason is that the use of interpretivism allows researchers to interpret different elements used in the study, for instance, the underlying conditions that formed Hoffice and the characteristics of an office. This study has also used the interpretation idea by integrating human interest in completing research objectives. This philosophy has been successfully integrated into the study because the interpretation method is based on criticism of positive social sciences (Fraser & Pechenkina, 2016). The interpretivism concepts in research are also focused on analysing and evaluating the differences between respondents’ views. The interpretivism research idea is used in the current study for the importance of the research related to the research question and questions related to the research problem, rather than focusing on the research method. Therefore, there have been many aspects of how interpretivism’s research concept has created the design of this research. One of the most important reasons for using this research philosophy is that method is dedicated to objective and quantifiable philosophical reality, as the scholar has the freedom to choose from a variety of qualitative methods and learning methods that best meet the needs of research.

Another reason for using interpretivism ideology is that the world is not seen in a unilateral way or pure reality (Walliman, 2015). Instead, interpretivism research philosophy sees to select the subjective aspects of research methods that can best answer the study needs.  Therefore, research in this study sought interpretivism research philosophy for collecting and analysing data in its nature. On the other hand, the research idea results are suitable for current research, as the use of this philosophy makes a report of the truth that works on a particular example, instead of emphasising the reality that is independent of the mind. The use of interpretivism research philosophy to study the research phenomenon allows the researcher to discover how and what aspects of research, rather than doing research based on the proposed results. For the current research, the interpretivism research philosophy aims to interpret the various elements of the research where the researcher emphasises integrating the human aspect in the study (Creswell and Poth, 2017). Based on this research philosophy, the researchers assume that access to social reality could only be achieved through social constructions, such as consciousness, language, instruments, and shared meanings.

According to the interpretivism policy, it is important that the researcher, as a social player, can assess the difference between people. Also, interpretive studies are usually focused on meaning and can use many methods to reflect on different aspects. Therefore, the researcher will adopt interpretivism research philosophy because this approach is most appropriate for the research issue under investigation that aims to understand what led to the success of Hoffice(s) in the United Kingdom. This interpretivism research philosophy is greatly helpful in social science research, where studies are conducted on complex situations focusing on reality. For instance, in the current study where reasons for Hoffices are to be determined, the data would be collected in the complex situation inside the Hoffices where members would be encouraged to provide relevant causes that lead to its growth.

On the other hand, interpretivism research philosophy is deemed to be most appropriate to analyse and understand the reasons which cause the growth of Hoffices in the U.K. because the researcher would identify specific issues regarding the evolution of work in office spaces. These issues would be determined with the help of already established literature research through which the researcher would look into Coworking spaces. Using the interpretive research approach, the researcher would use the inductive research approach because the researcher aims to analyse the data utilising empirical observation and then to apply these observations to establish the specific theory that leads to the development and emergence of Hoffices. These would then be interpreted where the interpretivism research approach plays an important role.

The roots of interpretivism research philosophy could be traced back to the history of philosophy, where Weber has constructed an ideal type to help to explore the social world. In this regards, the philosophy of interpretivism is chosen because its various constructs have impacted the development of the research phenomenon and helped understand the researcher of the underlying reasons for Hoffices. The thoughts of Boas are reflected in interpretivism and anti-positivism to understand the verstehen sociology in the study of social sciences, which is also supported by Georg Simmel and Marx Weber (Chowdhury, 2014, p. 432). In this regards, interpretivism research philosophy is chosen because it has combined both causal analysis and verstehen in the realm of interpretive sociology of Weber, where the history of using this approach to understand the social world has gained immense interest. The verstehen depicts a complex process through which individuals interpret meanings of their actions in routine life and interpret the meanings of those with whom they interact (Chepp and Gray, 2014, p. 10).

On the other hand, hermeneutic phenomenology focuses on the subjective experience of groups and individuals. It attempts to uncover the real-world experience of the subjects through their stories. At the same time, hermeneutics is known as the study of experiences. However, Anney (2014, p. 3) argued that phenomenology might not be effective in understanding the processes and importance that people attach to actions while it also makes it difficult for policymakers to decide what actions must be taken in the future focuses on what has been recent. For instance, using phenomenology to discuss Hoffices would only involve the current developments and existing reasons to adopt this approach, and it will not involve future directions of its development.

As hermeneutics is the study of experiences, the observer’s weakness is limited by bounded rationality despite how hard the researcher attempts to become unbiased. His ability limits him to understand the reasons for Hoffices from those who were observed (hosts). Hence it could lead to subconscious bias as the researcher would find it difficult to put aside his own experiences. On the other hand, the symbolic interaction within the interpretivism research is mostly used by researchers in participant observations for studying the individual actions and their social interactions (Ragab and Arisha, 2017, p. 1). By looking at the meaning and symbols, the goal is more than linking what took place to determine the cause of the research issue.

Hence, this interpretivism approach aims to determine the types of interactions that take place within Hoffices as the researcher focuses on interpreting the symbolic meaning of words, both spoken and written. However, Lindlof and Taylor (2017, p. 45) argued that using symbolic interaction is the researcher’s ability to communicate the precise meaning. The exact potential meanings might be claimed by the other member studying a similar research phenomenon. Hence, it is analysed that every symbol that appears when communicating with the hosts of Hoffices would have several different meanings where these symbols could be more likely interpreted in different ways by different people.

Reasons to select Social Constructivism.

The study utilised social constructivism research on a specific set of circumstances that lead to Hoffices’ growth and development. Most social science researchers would argue about the generalizability of research that focuses on capturing the rich social situations (Moon and Blackman, 2014; Kukla, 2000). But, in the current case, the researcher believes that generalizability is not of significant importance as the world is constantly changing due to the evolving nature of the business world. Therefore, if one accepts that today’s situations might not be implemented within the time of three months, then some of the value of the study is lost relating to generalisation. In a similar stance, if one accepts that all entities are unique, this would also reduce generalisation to be less valuable.

As stated earlier, the social constructivism research paradigm is derived from interpretivism research philosophy, which is also considered more effective in understanding the boom of Hoffice from its members as this is the most nascent, personalised and individualised form of workspace.  Therefore, the reason to choose constructivism is to keep up with relativism, which allows for many different, distinctive and valid realities (Ponterotto, 2005, p. 29). Also, constructivists maintain the notion that reality is built in an individual’s mind rather than being an external unit. Ponterotto (2005) argues that the meaning is hidden and will be moved to the surface with profound thinking that can be encouraged by the interaction between the participant and the investigator. Therefore, constructivist takes on reality as the construction of the human mind because reality is considered subjective.

Another reason to use social constructivism research philosophy is that the researcher preferred to intervene with both the convenor and the members of Hoffice regarding understanding the underlying conditions that formed Hoffice. The researcher wishes to understand the reason behind the boom of the office from its members. Considering all of these research issues, the constructivism research philosophy asserts that where reality is mind-based, subject-sensitive and knowledgeable, social demand is worthwhile and value-added. People and individuals are inevitably affected by their values, which describes what idea the researcher choose for the query, the choice of content which needs to be learnt, the methods which can be chosen to collect and analyse data, how the researcher interpret the results, and how the researcher reported the results (Kukla, 2000, p. 56).

Therefore, as a constructivist, the researcher in the current context acknowledges the study’s value-laden nature and explains the proposed connection to the substance being investigated that may affect neutrality. Another reason for selecting this research approach is that the researcher is a social constructivist in perspective, so it is believed that qualitative researchers are inevitably subjective. Research results are synced between investigators and respondents. The researcher also has to subscribe to the Achilles heel of constructivism, the interpretation problem, also known as ‘Why should I believe in the version of events over someone else’. However, social constructivism has got an available capture card where the researcher prefers a very socially stimulating learning environment. Based on the research issue under consideration, the researcher prefers learning about the causes of Hoffice’s development using dialogue between the Hoffice members and the researcher.

One of the significant reasons to use social constructivism is related to consideration of data quality which works hand-in-hand with this research paradigm. It leads to the development of useful research outcomes, as well. From the constructionist mindset, qualitative research design leads to new and improved inquiry methods while emphasising greatly on storytelling as well as the relationship between the participant and the researcher while carrying out narrative research (Berger and Luckmann, 1991, p. 48). As one of the research questions relates to determining the kind of interaction within a hoffice, this could be best determined when the relationship between researcher and participant is good where participants would greatly focus on depicting responses in a storytelling form. Hence, social constructivism in this research is not just considered as one thing, nor a single approach or theory. Still, it is perceived as creative research that allows expanded and new ways of thinking and talking relating to the concepts.

Therefore, the use of social constructivism theory helped in uncovering the perception of hosts in Hoffices about what attracts members to join a particular office, what are the antecedents and consequences of social interaction within offices, and what are their reasons behind working in an office. The social constructivists also focus on the notion that knowledge is built as a result of understanding that evolved from the process of the shared agreement, which is connected with language, traditions, and community culture (Lin, 2015; Vall Castelló, 2016). Therefore, it is believed that members find hoffices based on their culture and researcher, using this approach, helped to gain a better understanding of the hosts’ experiences. On the other hand, the social constructivism approach is chosen because it served as a vehicle to help the researcher maintain a sense of self-awareness when interacting with the members of Hoffices. Therefore, using this approach was helpful to understand how the creation of Hoffices has become a social construct for both members and the society.

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Debate on Selection of Research Philosophy

Why not Positivism but Interpretivism?

In the current research issue, using positivism research philosophy is considered to be less suitable for many reasons. The first reason lies in the weaknesses where it is believed that focusing on objectivity and empiricism does not suit the social phenomenon through which human behaviour could be tested as the current research issue focuses on understanding the various reasons that lead to the development of Hoffices in the United Kingdom, involving and integrating the perspectives and experiences of those involved in Hoffice forms an important part of the study. Houghton et al. (2013, p. 13) also argued that positivism research philosophy relies on increased confidence regarding its claims to empiricism and objectivity, which more likely fails standing up when using in both natural and social sciences. Another reason to use interpretive research philosophy as compared to positivism is that positivists believe in gaining a general understanding that cannot help understand the specific context, such as considering the reasons for the development of Hoffices. If positivist research philosophy has been used, it might have been possible that research would produce too abstract knowledge for directly applying in the specific local situation of the U.K.

Also, it is debated that using positivism research philosophy mainly involves the development of a hypothesis. In the current research issue, the hypothesis is not developed because the researcher does not aim to find the impact or relationship, or either the consequence of a situation. It aims to investigate and understand the research issue where reasons are required to be identified that cause the increased development of Hoffices in the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is critically analysed that positivism research philosophy would not offer researchers flexibility due to its increased emphasis on quantifiable measurements and calculations.

Why not Critical Realism but Interpretivism?

The realism research philosophy is also less suitable in the current research issue because this research philosophy places high emphasis on the physical world. Also, it is debated that realism only addresses real needs and real feelings. It does not believe in imagination and attitude. Realism emphasises those scientific subjects in nature, and it effectively neglected art and literature, which creates an uneven prospectus. Also, it is debated based on the study of Brown (2014, p. 113) that using the realism research philosophy has no significance for ideals and values. As the research issue focuses on identifying the reasons in the form of individual values that lead to increased development of Hoffices in the United Kingdom, using realism research philosophy is deemed inappropriate because critical realism believes that the real world works independently of individual perceptions and constructions. Therefore, the researcher adopted social constructionism as it is not believed that the social world is not avoidably construction from their own standpoint and perspectives of individuals. Instead, it is debated that the social world’s meanings are constructed based on recurring changes that cause these shifts to happen over time.

Another reason why critical realism is not selected is that Eriksson and Kovalainen (2015) also argued that this research philosophy believes that reality is independent of the human mind. Based on the research question to identify the underlying conditions that formed Hoffice in the U.K., it would be directed mainly to the hosts or members of the Hoffice, which depicts that these conditions are dependent on the human mind, leading to the development of Hoffices.  Also, realism research philosophy relies on the assumption of using a scientific approach to develop knowledge. In this regards, the current research area does not focus on using a scientific or technical approach to reach conclusions. Instead, it focuses on using how humans interpret the varying reasons to develop Hoffices. Another reason to reject critical realism is that constructivism did not agree that mental attributes and states are part of the real world even if they are not observed directly. Hence, observing who works in Hoffices and how do members find an office form an important part of the real world that should be adequately observed to find the research issue’s clear and implicit meanings.

Conclusion

Robson & McCartan’s study (2016) argued that selecting the wrong research philosophy affects a certain philosophy to be performed within the research as the desired results cannot be obtained through the wrong choice of method. For instance, if a quantitative researcher selects interpretivism philosophy, then using this approach would not result in scientific and accurate findings as it focuses on an individual’s subjective experiences instead of quantifiable numbers.  To study offices, the researcher will use interpretivism, and social constructionism research philosophy was. They are using these philosophies allowed to combine diverse approaches, including social structure, phenomenon, and hermeneutics, an approach that rejects impartial views that the meaning lives in the world regardless of consciousness.

References

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Brown, A., 2014. Critical realism in social research: approach with caution. Work, employment and society28(1), pp.112-123.

Chepp, V. and Gray, C., 2014. Foundations and new directions. Cognitive interviewing methodology, pp.7-14.

Chowdhury, M.F., 2014. Interpretivism in aiding our understanding of the contemporary social world. Open Journal of Philosophy4(03), p.432.

Creswell, J.W. and Poth, C.N., 2017. Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Sage publications.

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Kukla, A., 2000. Social constructivism and the philosophy of science. Psychology Press.

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Lindlof, T.R. and Taylor, B.C., 2017. Qualitative communication research methods. Sage publications.

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Morgan, D.L., 2014. Pragmatism as a paradigm for social research. Qualitative Inquiry20(8), pp.1045-1053.

Ragab, M.A. and Arisha, A., 2017. Research Methodology in Business: A Starter’s Guide. Management and Organizational Studies5(1), p.1.

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Vall Castelló, B., 2016. Bridging constructivism and social constructionism: The journey from narrative to dialogical approaches and towards synchrony. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration26(2), p.129.

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