Phenomenology

Phenomenology is the main alternative to the positivist approach in social research and is an interpretive methodology. The ontological assumption here is that people are not passive in simply responding to structures but instead reality is itself socially constructed. The epistemological assumption is that the researcher interacts with the subjects of the research and that their role is to understand people's interpretation of events rather than the events themselves. The focus with this approach is to discover meaning rather than measurement. A pheno-menological approach is therefore inductive in nature, as the investigation will guide the construction of a theory.

To understand fully the traditions of each school of thought, and its theoretical basis, is a significant field of study in its own right and is beyond the scope of this

Marketing research and decision making book. (To gain a fuller appreciation of the theoretical foundations of each school of thought see: Allison et al;6 Bekesi;7 and Embree.8)

It is important that the research study and its findings are fully accepted by its target audience, if it is to have any actionable value. A positivist approach will help to overcome some of these reservations given that its approach is widely adopted in this environment as a means of research. Allison et al. argue that positivism and phenomenology are in fact complementary rather than incompatible and that there are many similarities between the two schools of thought. Hannabuss,9 citing the work of Gummesson,10 provides a useful summary of the differences between a positivistic and hermeneutic approach. The positivistic approach stresses rules by which we can explore and explain phenomena objectively, defining valid knowledge and inquiry in scientific terms. It focuses on description and explanation. There exist clear distinctions between facts and values, rationality and logic, statistical techniques and detachment, and explicit theories and hypotheses.

Academics agree that there is no one research method that is the most appropriate for all research problems. Each research study has its own distinctiveness, assumptions, bias and degrees of usefulness. It is generally argued that the choice of research design imposes intellectual and practical constraints on a researcher in terms of reliability, validity and generalisability.11

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Online Survey Champion

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