Posted: April 14th, 2021
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In Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches, Creswell and Poth (2018) discuss four interpretive frameworks (or worldviews) that serve as a kind of lens through which researchers approach their research. Those four worldviews are postpositivism, social constructivism, transformation, and postmodern (Creswell & Poth, 2018). In all candor, none of these worldviews seem, on their surface, to align very closely with my personal perspective. Attempting to select one initially seemed to be an exercise in identifying the worldview with which I am least at odds, as there are elements of each philosophical worldview that I both agree with and disagree with. By first eliminating those interpretive frameworks that are most anathema to my personal worldview, process of elimination left me with the postpositivist position.
In matters religious, personal, and political, my natural inclination has always been to view things as being black and white. I was taught from a young age that every effect has a cause, actions begat consequences, and facts exist independent of the feelings of those involved. Creswell and Poth (2018) would likely describe this less-nuanced perspective as being rather positivist, since a postpositivist perspective would be uncomfortable with my belief in absolute truth. Postpositivists view cause and effect through a social science theoretical lens that injects probability into the research equation (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Postpositivists attempt to parse the concept of reality as being not one standard overarching reality, but as a series of different realities constructed by individuals based on their unique perspective (Crossen, 2003). An example of this type of thinking in popular culture can be found in the movie The Return of the Jedi. In this movie, the protagonist confronts his former mentor who was found to have lied to him about his true parentage. The mentor tells the young protagonist that what he had originally told him was true – “from a certain point of view” (Marquand, Kasdan, Lucas, Kazanjian, Hume, Hamill, Ford, 2004). This postpositivist perspective of relative truth, considered in the context of a conservative understanding of a Biblical worldview, can cause some potential problems for the Christian researcher. On the one hand, a postpositivist approach to Biblical scholarship would encourage researchers to seek social confirmation for their theories in the community of researchers rather than in the work of any one scholar in isolation (Crawford, 2007). On the other hand however, the required acceptance of truth as subjective to the whims of each individual’s perspective could lead a strict adherent of postpositivism to allow heretical ideas to be given equal voice in a way that distorts Biblical truth. This interpretation of strict postpositivism as it relates to a Biblical worldview may be a bit overwrought. A postpositivist approach to secular research is arguably less about making moral judgements and more about understanding cause and effect at a particular moment in time. Ultimately, postpositivism’s use of social science as a lens for understanding cause and effect make it the worldview that most closely aligns with my perspective.
A cursory look at these four interpretive frameworks reveals issues (or opportunities) within each that could be exploited in a way that is antithetical to a conservative Christian worldview. One example of this is that all four of these interpretive frameworks feature the concept that consensus and personal perspective very well might trump objective truth. This perspective might not stand in contrast to a Christian worldview when considering economic or education policies or any range of other secular concerns. Use those frameworks to analyze Christianity itself, however, and I begin to see problems with all four. A Christian worldview is certainly not devoid of a wide array of perspectives, but consensus without limits could mean allowing every perspective to have more or less equal consideration. This is simply untenable within a Christian worldview. There are many different perspectives on how the sacrament of communion is done within Protestant churches, and well-meaning people can disagree and still more or less get along. Add a Muslim, Satanist, or Scientologist to the data set, and the research becomes effectively useless. For this reason, I believe that these four interpretive frameworks certainly have their uses, but a Christian researcher should approach each with caution lest we become so open minded that our “brains fall out” (Sagan, 1996, pg. 187).
As far as their value to the qualitative researcher, it seems that all four of the interpretive frameworks developed by Creswell and Poth (2018) could be used effectively in qualitative research. Even postpositivism, which is said to be a common choice for researchers that come from a quantitative background, has a qualitative element as cause and effect is considered through the lens of different unique perspectives (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Social constructivism is certainly aligned with qualitative study, as researchers using this method attempt to understand their subject through a multitude of perspectives elicited from open-ended questions (Creswell & Poth, 2018). A transformative framework likewise seeks to utilize the unique and diverse perspectives of any number of marginalized groups, while postmodern frameworks seeks to do much the same by considering the class (race, age, gender, class, etc.) to which each subject belongs (Creswell & Poth, 2018).
As mentioned earlier, I find that a postpositivist approach most closely aligns with my personal worldview, but that the research methodologies associated with postpositivism are not really well suited to the topic I hope to study. While certainly still open to much refinement, I hope to study the impact of employee engagement with organizational social media on job satisfaction and customer engagement. A study such as this certainly could have a quantitative aspect, with social media analytics and employee satisfaction survey scores being an important part of understanding the cases. The subject of job satisfaction and the individual motivations for choosing (or not) to engage with organizational social media however, seem to lend themselves to a more social constructivist framework. This type of qualitative study could take advantage of an inductive and literary methodology that could prove valuable to the research. I am beginning to suspect that a mixed method research study with quantitative assessment of social media analytics and a social constructivist qualitative study of employee satisfaction and engagement might end up being the best approach to obtain the results I am looking for.
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