EDEV_507 Week 5_4

I fully concur with your rationale supporting a more modern methodology. After all, why else would we be studying for a doctorate if not to learn about cutting edge thinking? And I could not agree more with your assertion that the driver of methodology should be the research question itself, a view that is echoed in Bazeley’s pragmatic approach of “us[ing] whichever method suits the question and the kind of data … available” (SAGE, 2015). Bazeley (SAGE, 2015) also enumerates a few other limitations on research, including time, word limits, costs and expertise, which speak well to your concerns about the need to simplify at some point. Ours is, at the end of the day, a practitioner doctorate that does not include a lengthy philosophical element.

Yet that said, I do believe that a couple of caveats can be introduced at this stage. Gray (2004) advises that in a methodology section of a thesis, the researcher should explain other possible methods of analysing qualitative data. This should be done briefly before explaining why the researcher settled on their chosen method. In this way, readers can derive a sense of purpose in the project and place their interpretation inside the given conceptual framework. So many articles omit this step as, presumably, their function is not strictly a pedagogic device to demonstrate learning as is an EdD thesis. One of the main purposes of Module 4 was to learn how to reverse engineer articles to uncover their epistemological and methodological stances. That training should be demonstrated in our thesis as well as in these forum posts, even if the articles we bring to the forum are not so explicit.

As Module 4 showed amply, epistemological stances underpin every academic article (Gray, 2004; Moses & Knutsen, 2012). And every article stands on the shoulders of knowledge makers who came before. Rather than risk shortcuts in research, it seems more reasonable to acknowledge the epistemological tradition within which a research project is placed. One or two well-placed phrases can serve this purpose very well. I would highly recommend Cunningham and Fitzgerald’s (1996) outline of epistemological stances (p. 40) and the seven basic issues that every stance needs to address. They are;

  1. Can we have knowledge of a single reality that is independent of the knower?
  2. Is there such a thing as truth?
  3. What primary test must proposed knowledge pass in order to be true?
  4. Is knowledge primarily universal or particular?
  5. Where is knowledge located relative to the knower?
  6. What are the relative contributions of sense data and mental activity to knowing?
  7. To what degree is knowledge discovered versus created?

Cunningham and Fitzgerald (1996) discuss five clusters, i.e. epistemological positions, and how these positions answer the seven questions. For qualitative research, Cunningham and Fitzgerald’s framework offers a method of comparison between how different articles position themselves in relation to knowledge and truth. Sure, there needs to be limitations in the publication of research, but much space could be saved by judiciously placing keywords that point the reader to the researcher’s underpinning belief system.


Cunningham, J. W., & Fitzgerald, J. (1996). Epistemology and Reading. Reading Research Quality, 31(1), 36–60. http://doi.org/10.1598/RRQ.31.1.3

Gray, D. (2004). Doing research in the real world. London: Sage Publications.

Moses, J. W., & Knutsen, T. L. (2012). Ways of knowing: Competing methodologies in social and political research (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

SAGE. (2015). Choosing Which Method to Use: SAGE Research Methods [Online video]. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from http://srmo.sagepub.com.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/view/choosing-which-method-to-use/SAGE.xml?rskey=jAlif0&row=1

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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