Thursday, 21 November 2013

(Re)opening a discussion about our methodological landscape (by Mary Anne Kennan, Charles Sturt University)

It is uncommon for published research to articulate the meta-theoretical assumptions which underpin different paradigms/approaches/traditions of research. Instead, methodological discussion tends to focus on research methods, techniques and tools. As researchers however, our methodological assumptions determine 
  • our choice of research paradigm; 
  • the formulation of, and the way in which we consider and address our research questions; 
  • and also our selection of methods and techniques.

In this discussion we will consider the pros and cons of adopting a broader view of research methodology.  This includes being specific about meta-theoretical assumptions and their importance for achieving greater reflexive awareness of the “unconscious metaphysics” that underlie and influence how we see and research the world.  To do this we need to make a clear distinction between the concept of methodology as an overall logic of inquiry, and research method as a much narrower concept that defines processes, procedures and techniques that can be used to conduct empirical studies and collect and analyse data (Cecez-Kecmanovic, 2011).  To achieve this clear distinction, it is necessary to make explicit the assumptions and paradigms on which different methodologies are founded.

Methodological issues are discussed therefore, within a broader landscape which includes more than just research methods and techniques, but also addresses what lies behind them.  By discussing the issues in this context, we can ask questions such as:

How does our view of the world and meta-theoretical foundation influence the type of questions we will ask (and answers we will find) as researchers?

How does our world view open (and/or limit) the potential methodological paths that we will choose from?

How does being methodologically explicit help us to select and justify the research methods we choose to answer our questions?


Cecez-Kecmanovic, D. & Kennan, M.A. (2013) Chapter 5. The methodological landscape: Information systems and knowledge management in Research Methods: Information, Systems, and Contexts Williamson, K. & Johanson, G. (eds.). Tilde Publishing, Prahran, Victoria. pp113-138 ISBN 978-0-7346-1148-2