Friday, 1 March 2013

First Session: The Research Paradox

Research Methodology Introduction Session

-                  Why Research?
               Research Philosophies
          Positive Versus Interpretive

Why research?
Unfortunately, most of researchers do a research only for doing a masters or a PhD or even for publishing a paper.  This should not be your main motivation. So what should be your main motivation in research? The answer of this question should depend on the way you look at the world. Let’s see what the types of researchers are.
 Traditional researchers, sometimes they are called theoretical or academic researchers, focus on only fulfilling knowledge gap without any consideration to applications of it. These researchers focus mainly on reading books, journal review, and conferences. In fact, they try to find a research gap.  Even if this research gap is very trivial and there is no added value to the world. Those researchers are thinkers but they may not have any practical experience and they do not seek to have it. They want to look from outside and give their opinions. Sometimes this extreme called “sky research”. 

On the other hand, practical researchers, sometimes they are called consultants, focus only on the problem and how to solve the problem. They are not interested in reading many books to solve it. They try to solve it from their experience. May be they read a book or two but reading just books. They do not seek to collect as much as they can from literature (journal papers and conferences). As a result they may finish their research, or problem solving, and discover that others have done that before. And even they did not take into consideration others improvements in this area. You may find yourself all in the “re-inventing the wheel” trap.

So, What should be the objective??
Actual research should be in-between the two extremes. For example, you have to find a real problem in the world. After that, read books and papers to know if someone solved it or not and if it is solved, do you think it is the optimal solution (criticize them). Finally, you could find a research gap or knowledge gap in solving this actual/real problem. Therefore, your way of doing your research will be very different from the one who tries to just do a PhD.

Do you think all people should follow the same way of research philosophy?
No, they should not. Based on research objective and research philosophy, researcher should design his research. Now we know what the research objective (from high level) is. So, what are the research philosophies?

What is research philosophy?
Researcher is the seeker of reality. He/she wants to solve a problem, discover a phenomenon, or developing a theory. In order to achieve his/her objectives, he should seek for the reality. Some people argue that there is a single reality. Others claim no single reality in the same point. For instance, what is your opinion about death? Of course, death as a fact is known but the interpretation on it is different from one to one. Based on this example, there is no single reality. Others believe that there is a reality. For example, the higher the price, the lower the demand. Therefore, there are two schools of thoughts (or even two different religions in research philosophies).  In research world, you always see the two schools are in war. Each school thinks it is the best. From my opinion, based on your personality and your philosophy, you could adapt only one of those schools of philosophies.

What are different research philosophies?
My comparison is based on my observations to researchers and books that I have read
Positivism (Objectivism)
Interpretive (Subjectivism)
One single reality
No single reality – reality is constructed in the minds of people based on the context
They only use sampling and statistics to know what is the reality in the eyes of the people
They prefer to look, observe, and analysis.
Their research is based on hypothesis and testing hypotheses using statistical relationships
Their research is based research objectives and research questions to solve a problem
Output is mainly conceptual models (Relationships between concepts in the mind of people)
Output is mainly models that are based on work process or activities or methodologies.
Main interest is to discover and find research gaps
Main interest is to solve a problem
They prefer extensive literature review with a lot of criticizing to find a research gap
They do not do an intensive literature review.
They use only statistics, that is why they called quantitative researchers
They observe and describe the problem. They may use statists as a tool to solve a problem but not a way of testing relationships because they do not use relationships
It is mainly suitable for academics
It is mainly suitable for consultant

Which is better?
Of course, it is based on your way of thinking, your philosophy, your personality. Some people prefer to contact with people through questionnaires (Positivism). Others prefer to work with, participate with, and engage with people (Interpretive). I noticed really many universities such as MIT push their students to do PhD using interpretive in order to help researcher to understand the actual life. And also push people to publish papers using positive approach. In fact, case study research (interpretive) could not publish easily worldwide because your research comes to solve a specific problem for specific organization. In contrast, the survey research could publish in international journals because your survey considers thousands of people from worldwide.

Now, the question is what is more suitable for our countries and our economics?
As a researcher, publishing international papers without solving real life problems for organization. Or solving the problems of organization and you could not be able to publish internationally??? This is the paradox!!!
My advice is to learn the both philosophies, to publish paper to increase your university international rank, you have to be positivist. Additionally, work with organizations to solve their problems, or to be interpretive.  You have to believe in the both religions to live!!!

Do not forget to write your feedback.

Suggested Reading

1- "Choosing the appropriate methodology: understanding research philosophy" for Holden, Corck, and Waterford.  It is a white paper, you could download it from the Facebook group. 
2- Others suggested reading will be written and you can download it from the Facebook group. 

The lesson will be recorded Friday night. Then, it will be published Saturday or Sunday via YouTube on this channel 

Additionally, supplementary materials will be published on the facebook group which is

You could also subscribe to this blog to follow up my notes and uploads. 


  1. Thank you dr Amjad. very simple and understandable. i think you will make it easy for especially new researchers who can't understand research methodology from the current complicated books.
    Mohammed Montash

    1. Thank you for your words. This is my aim, all what I want is to simplify the research methodologies. Step by step, everyone can learn.
      Thank you, and I want to listen to your feedback regarding the new videos

  2. I've found your videos and this detailed explanation to be VERY helpful. Thanks!

    1. Thank you. I always want to listen to your feedback

  3. Thank you for the insightful and helpful video Amjad:-)

    1. Thank you Max, I wish to hear your opinion regarding the new video

  4. Thanks a lot Dr Badewi. THis is very simple, clear and helpful. Really appreciate.