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Discuss the arguments put forward by Shah and Corley. How compelling is the case that they make? What forms of qualitative research are implied in this article? Consider whether there are any flaws in their argument as you perceive it. Compare and contrast these using appropriate literature.
A: Shah and Corley (2006) attempt to present a case for the reliability of the qualitative research based data analysis. At the same time, their claim of the qualitative research’s unique theory generation capacity is compromised by the authors’ recognition of superiority of mixed research designs and methods. Therefore, while their case for the necessity of combining the quantitative and qualitative research methods may be compelling, their assertion of the primacy of the grounded theory as a theory-building framework is not. This would require a more detailed comparative analysis of their arguments in conjunction with similar perspectives from the professional literature.
Shah and Corley’s main preoccupation is with a unit of an organizational science’s analysis, which is defined as “a phenomenon of interest” (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1822). While the authors affirm the desirability of combining quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis methods, they evidently ascribe a privileged theoretical position to the qualitative research designs, in turn, limiting them to those connected with classical forms of the grounded theory (Shah & Corley 2006, pp.1826-1828). At the same time, the authors recognize the specificity of the ontological and epistemological distinctions between the two science paradigms associated with qualitative and quantitative research. These would be functionalism and interpretivism, respectively. Both paradigms are characterized by their specific analytical objectives; for the functionalists, “the goal is replication in the service of theory testing and refinement” (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1823) so that the universal applicability of the prior theory may be ascertained. On the other hand, the interpretivists (or, as noted in Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004, p.14), “constructivists”) appear to seek the understanding of “the interpretations of [the research] phenomenon from those experiencing it” (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1823). Thus, the goals of qualitative and quantitative research are posited to be in certain opposition to one another. At the same time, the authors seem to be asserting that “both [perspectives] are critical for the development of simple, accurate, and generalizable theory” (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1824). Given the further discussion of the grounded theory as ‘the’ theory of organizational research, the previous claim on the complementary relationship between the quantitative and qualitative research based theoretical frameworks stands in contrast with the subsequent arguments advanced by Shah and Corley.
The authors describe qualitative research methods as stressing the values of “the fine grained, the process oriented, and the experiential” (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1824) in the research of complicated phenomena of social and behavioral activities. They briefly describe some of the methods commonly utilized in qualitative research while focusing a more systemic attention on the grounded theory generation as the main analytical instrument that may lead to “the creation of novel and illuminating theoretical concepts” (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1826), which is contrasted with alleged theory testing character of the survey-based quantitative research. The authors regard the ex-post theorizing, which is implied in the grounded theory, to be immensely superior to the a priori theorizing ascribed to the quantitative research based theoretical frameworks. At the same time, they question if “a rejection of a priori theorizing” does not mean the neglect of an extant professional literature (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1827).
The authors meticulously describe various stages of the grounded theory based research, including the formulation of the research questions, the selection of data context (i.e. theoretical sampling), and the constant comparison as this framework’s core method (Shah & Corley 2006, pp.1827-1828). Finally, the issues of ensuring scientific rigor in the grounded theory based research are amply addressed with two main sets of criteria adopted from the previous literature. In particular, the trustworthiness criteria, such as credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability, are proposed as alternatives to various validity and reliability criteria utilized in the quantitative-based research (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1830). The issue of triangulation of data types, with the latter defined to consist in “convergent validation” of the same datasets by the use of alternative methods (Jick 1979, p.602), may have been used to draw a link between the discussion of the grounded theory and the mixed methods research. However, the authors appear to have failed to follow on it.
In total, it appears that the article suffers from the lack of coherence between the principal claims proffered by the authors. For instance, the starting claim on the impossibility of using purely quantitative research designs for the purposes of theory building is disproved by the authors’ own admission, whereby “large-sample quantitative studies” may be “generalizable” in a theoretical context but “lacking in accuracy” (Shah & Corley 2006, p.1831). The final discussion of the uses of mixed research approaches is both unsystematic (i.e. anecdotal) and disconnected with the previous part of the article, making it less relevant for the evaluation of its content.
Finally, the excessively optimistic account of the qualitative research based approaches may be checked by the observations found in Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004). In particular, these authors point out that a tendency on behalf of certain qualitative researchers to view individual and/or group perspectives of social reality as tantamount to independent “multiple realities” (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie 2004, p.16) may hamper the systematization of the research findings and the formation of a generalizable grand theory. Johnson and Onwuegbuzie advocate the Pragmatism-influenced epistemological framework implying the conditioning of validity of the respective research methods by their “practical consequences” (2004, p.16). Thus, their emphasis on the mixed methods research appears to be better validated than the respective discussion by Shah and Corley (2006).
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