¶ … system of concepts, assumptions, expectations, etc. that supports and informs the research. So as I understand it, this section (F) is basically outlining and recapping the research done from the literature review. Section G. is the methods exploration. This is a discussion of some of the potential research methods that could be used, and perhaps coming to a final conclusion about the research method that will be used. There are several different research methods that might conceivably make sense for any given research paper, so it is a valuable exercise to run through these different options to make sure you are using the best method.
As to which I expect to be the most difficult, clearly F. I think that G, the research methods, is first and foremost a very important exercise. Even if it is difficult, you have to work through this. The research on this will be informative and will genuinely affect your work. Plus, we have done most of this already in discussing the differences between action research, affirmative inquiry, etc. F, the conceptual framework, on the other hand, I don't understand particularly well. It seems to me that we might be trying to think about the same thing in many different ways, which to me is just confusing. My write-up on the literature review will explain how things fit together; to me it makes no sense to think of these things independent of one another at any point.
The way my brain synthesizes information is to build one thing upon another, so to have a separate section for a vague "conceptual framework" that is independent of the other work I am doing does not make sense. I don't understand it, and I will probably have to choose between ignoring this section and producing good work, or spending time grinding out this section, producing poor work, and getting distracted from my research. Right now, this section F. will be difficult to do, and almost impossible to do well. I will need to be sold on the value of this exercise -- I like clean, straight-line thinking and this seems like dancing around the frilly edges of the research without adding any genuine value to my literature review.
Phase 3 Individual Project
Introduction: My client is a not-for-profit entity that has been struggling to attract sufficient funding in recent years, and has reported a perceived decline in relevance in the community over this time. The client is predominantly run by volunteers, many of whom have worked there a long time. This lends an interesting dynamic to the consulting, as there are many complex factors that must be addressed. Because of the complexity of the situation, action research has been chosen as the main methodology for working with the client, in a consulting relationship, over the course of multiple iterations to make adjustments to its operations and achieve better financing and better relevance.
The methodology will build on a number of literature threads, including those pertaining to organizational change, to not-for-profit management, and to action research. Within these many threads is a large body of knowledge that can be synthesized to provide advice to the client. The research itself will be focused on how to change the culture of a not-for-profit that relies on volunteer labor. Some of the differences between this context and the corporate context most common in the literature will be investigated, and by these means I hope to add to the body of literature on the subject of organizational change and not-for-profit management. Action research is viewed as the optimal methodology for this type of research because it functions well in real-world situations and allows the research the opportunity to observe in detail the different elements that contribute to the outcomes being measured.
Summary: There is an extensive amount of literature on issues such as organizational change -- entire journals even -- and some on not-for-profit management. But there is little known about Organizational Change in the non-profit context. This is a gap in the literature...
Case studies of some form are often used to study change, and action research has been selected as the optimal methodology here because of the value inherent in the researcher observing and working with the organization in a consulting role.
The prospectus has also highlighted some of the assumptions and biases that the researcher needs to be aware of, as they may influence the course of the research. In the real world, everybody has biases, and indeed some of the biases and assumptions are essential to the performance of the consulting role. But they should always be known to the researcher, and their roles in the literature review and the formulation of the research question understood. The prospectus covers some of these issues, and highlights the role of the literature in the selection of action research as the optimal methodology for this organization.
Phase 3 Discussion Board 2
Quantitative research is using numbers; qualitative is not. I guess that's the short answer, but it's also dead on correct. To elaborate, quantitative research will basically test hypotheses mathematically, so relies almost entirely on gathering data and running numbers on that data. It's pretty good for certain things, all but useless for others, but quantitative is fashionable these days. To me, quantitative research is powerful when used correctly, for example when the numbers you are using are directly related (and not fantasy proxies) to the subject at hand. An example is the study by Witell, Gustafsson & Johnson (2014) on customer information and its effect on profits. The researchers explain how they can obtain useful quantitative inputs, and of course profit is an output. Then they do their stats and proclaim their conclusion -- a classic quantitative paper. Quantitative research works when you have good numbers to work with. The authors of this study started with a concept that was difficult to operationalize into numbers, but they provided a lot of evidence from prior studies justifying the way that they operationalized their inputs.
Qualitative research is basically any other form of research. The first thing about qualitative is that it works best when one is developing concepts. It works when you aren't dealing with concrete numerical data. In something like action research, you are dealing with a lot of abstract concepts that are not easily operationalized into numbers. You can deal with concepts that are ambiguous or transient, or flexible. There are many forms of qualitative research. An example of action research is Kenny, et al. (2012), which is an action research study of nursing student employment in Australia. The authors of the study wanted to look at the sorts of part-time employment that nursing students did. This sort of study actually could have been quantitative in nature, and that is probably how I would have approached it. But they authors sought as an output policy recommendations, and wanted to be able to paint more complex pictures of the nursing students, not just focused on outputs but also on explanatory factors. Thus, the use of action research makes some sense here, as explanatory factors are not always covered in quantitative research models.
Phase 3, Discussion Board 3
As discussed in prior DB posts, action research is a methodology by which the researcher works with the client in a series of iterations, to constantly make adjustments towards an objective (McNiff, 2014). The theories are tested individually, at each stage of the action research. This allows multiple theories to be built on top of each other, and it allows for theories to be adjusted on the fly. Action research, in essence, is real life. It is taking research out of the narrow concept of laboratory-style study and controlled environments, and planting it in the dirty, earthy real world where there are infinite variables working upon it, but where adjustments made by both researcher and client can still affect the ultimate outcome.
Mixed methods research is that which uses more than one research method. Mixed methods has seemingly arisen in response to a competition between purists supporting either qualitative or quantitative research (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). It seems odd than in a world so obviously both qualitative and quantitative in nature that anybody would ever have been so binary in their conceptualizing our existence, but there you have it. Mixed methods is a reflection that there are merits to both quantitative and to qualitative research, and that the decision between them need not be binary. The reality is that most research is both -- quantitative research needs qualitative assumptions; qualitative research often incorporates numbers. I know my action research is still going to be evaluated in part on numerical outcomes. But mixed methods has evolved as a formal way of incorporating both quantitative and qualitative, an attempt to move away from ad hoc usage of multiple techniques.
Johnson, R. & Onwuegbuzie, A. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come.…
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