Assignment on Management Research Methods

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Assignment on Management Research Methods

Research Methods


Ontology is defined in terms of our views on the nature of reality whether objective (what really exists) or subjective (what is created mentally). Ontology deals with the question of what reality is; whether what we perceive really exists or is only what we think exists. Is reality an illusion or is it real? Hatch and Cunliffe (2006) highlight the complexity that is introduced when considering phenomena such as culture, power or control, and how individuals (and groups) determine these realities – does the reality exist only through experience of it (subjectivism), or does it exist independently of those who live it (objectivism).


Epistemology is the theory of the grounds of knowledge. It delves into what knowledge is; what is the source of knowledge and what are the limits. It is a set of claims or assumptions that considers ways of gaining the knowledge of reality; how can knowledge of what exists be known; what can be known, and what are the criteria to be satisfied in order to be described as knowledge. In short Chia (2002) describes epistemology as ‘how and what it is possible to know’ and the need to reflect on methods and standards through which reliable and verifiable knowledge is produced by asking how knowledge is generated, what criteria discriminate good knowledge from bad knowledge, and how should reality be represented or described.


Axiology is the science of human values. It enables us to identify the internal valuing systems that influence or perceives decisions and actions to clearly understand why we do what we do. Axiology studies mainly two kinds of values: ethics and aesthetics. Ethics investigates the concepts of "right" and "good" in individual and social conduct. Aesthetics studies the concepts of "beauty" and "harmony." Axiology is the study of value that is what makes good things good and bad things bad. The main point is to determine what things are intrinsically good or good for their own sake.

Define "management research paradigm"

Management Research Paradigm

Management paradigm is the highest level of management methodology that is based on the philosophical perspectives of science and management assuming that basic assumptions about general principles hold good. Theoretical research and practical solution to a problem are often along an established path. In management research, knowledge development in general, follows a certain path to form a theoretical paradigm. The existing business and its knowledge form the existing paradigm of knowledge. The search for changes and improvements are based on this either in terms of new business or new technology.


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Four Types of Management Research Paradigms:

The four management research paradigms are as follows:

  • Positivism
  • Interpretivism
  • Constructivism
  • Realism


Positivism tests a hypothesis that is derived from existing theory by measuring observable realities. The assumptions of positivism are:

  • The objective and external nature of the social world
  • Validity of knowledge is only if it is based on observations of external reality
  • Universal or general laws exist that can explain cause and effect relationships
  • Outcomes can be predicted from these laws.

Positivism is based upon values of reason, truth and validity. It focuses on facts that are gathered through direct observation and experience. The measurements are empirical such as quantitative methods of surveys, experiments and are statistically analyzed.


Interpretivism is described as a subjective anti-positivist or post-positivist paradigm. Its contention is that:

  • The social reality is different from scientific reality.
    • Situations are assessed and meaning is comprehended based on prior experiences, memories and expectations.
    • As experiences vary and are interpreted differently, they constitute a social reality based on which actions are determined.
  • There are multiple realities.
    • Understanding the meanings and interpretations of ‘social actors’
    • Understanding their world from their point of view.
    • Reality is highly contextual and hence is not widely generalizable (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2007).


Meaning is constructed and re-constructed through experience over a period of time. ‘All knowledge is relative to the knower’. Constructivists, aim to work alongside others and meaning is derived through realities constructed in accordance to their point of view. This meaning is in turn interpreted in the form of theories that are built intuitively based on prior experience (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2006). Hence constructionism is totally relativist to the observer (and hence inferences drawn are of a highly contextual nature).


Realism was born out of positivist and interpretivist positions with the following changes. It is independent of human consciousness. However the knowledge of reality is created socially there by making it a socially conditioned version of the reality (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2007). Reality exists in spite of observation or recognition. Hence things exist whether proven or not. According to realism,

  • natural and social sciences are different
  • social reality is pre-interpreted
  • science must be empirically-based, rational and objective
  • social objects may be studied ‘scientifically’.

Thus it is a cocktail of both positivist (3,4) and interpretivist (1,2) approaches.

Explain why management researchers who adopt a positivist research paradigm and those who adopt an interpretivist paradigm will research a subject such as "work motivation" in quite different ways.

Analysis of work motivation:

Positivist approach to work motivation

The positivist position towards work motivation is characterized by the scientific method where hypothesis was tested from existing theory. Observable social realities are measured. Hence, a subject such as work motivation will be researched by positivist in terms of testing hypothesis that define the end outcomes of a motivated worker. Measurable phenomena like employee performance, company growth, feedback, employee/ employer satisfaction etc will define the parameters of research. These theories will be tested on the population sample and based on these observations, generalizations will be derived. These generalizations will explain the cause and effect relationship with reference to the motivation strategy employed. Positivism gives importance to truth and validity. Information is gathered by observation and measurements are empirical. This is achieved by surveys and experiments that are statistically analyzed.

Interpretivist approach to work motivation

The interpretivist approach is opposite to the positivist approach. Individuals and groups make sense of situations based upon their individual experience, memories and expectations. Hence generalizations cannot be achieved as experience and meaning derived are unique to each person. Therefore a motivation strategy that can work for one person will not necessarily work for the next. Contextual factors are considered. Intepretivists consider that there are multiple realities hence it is vital to understand the meanings and interpretations of ‘social actors’ in this case the workers and to understand the working atmosphere from their point of view. Thinking, feelings, communication both verbal and non-verbal are considered important. Hence the study is mostly subjective and inferences are drawn as appropriate based on the insightfulness of the researcher.


Blaikie, N. (1993), Approaches to Social Enquiry, 1st ed, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Chia, R. (2002), The Production of Management Knowledge: Philosophical Underpinnings of Research Design, in Partington, D. (ed.) Essential Skills for Management Research, 1st ed, SAGE Publications Ltd., London, pp. 1-19.

Hatch, M. J., & Cunliffe, A. L., (2006), Organization Theory, 2nd ed, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2007), Research Methods for Business Students, 4th ed, Prentice Hall Financial Times, Harlow.


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