A Methodological Blueprint for Social Sciences Research ? The Social Sciences Research Methodology Framework

AuthorNorbert E Haydam, Pieter Steenkamp
PositionSenior Lecturer, PhD, Marketing Department, Faculty of Business and Management Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa/Senior Lecturer, PhD, Marketing Department, Faculty of Business and Management Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa
Pages304-325
European Integration - Realities and Perspectives. Proceedings 2020
304
A Methodological Blueprint for Social Sciences Research
The Social Sciences Research Methodology Framework
Norbert E Haydam1, Pieter Steenkamp2
Abstract: Most research practice con structs in social sciences are predominantly well defined and constructed,
yet many authors hold different interpretations of certain key terms and concepts, causing a degree of
confusion, overlap and uncertainty. The ter m ‘qualitative research’ is such a case in point. Not only does this
concept show different interpretations by many authors, but there is also uncertainty about how this concept
relates to exploratory research or o ther contemporary social research practice concepts. It is also unclear
whether a longitudinal research approach can be applied to qualitative research or related concepts. In order to
provide a clear perspective on the above-mentioned dilemma, the authors recommend the application of the so -
called social sciences research methodology framework, which follows Saunders’ (2009) research ‘o nion’
approach. This proposed framework provides an uncluttered and unambiguous guide to social sciences research
methodology with relevant social sciences methodologies and constructs clearly positioned in a structured and
simplistic way. The research employed was fundamental in nature. Inductive rational philosophical reasoning
was used, and a theoretical analysis was applied through a systematic literature review of published text. In the
end, the framework provides a unified und erstanding of most social sciences research constructs and at the
same time acts as an aiding tool in the evaluation of all academic work, thereby enabling various examiners to
provide clear and unambiguous guidance to contributors and students alike.
Keywords: Social sciences research practice; research framework; research methods; sociological and
methodological dimension; research strategy; research ‘onion’ approach
Introduction
Social sciences research practice, as well as its accompanying terms and constructs, has evolved over
time. Although most terms and concepts in social sciences are predominantly well defined and
constructed, many authors hold different interpretations of these concepts, causing a degree of
confusion, overlap and uncertainty. To illustrate this ambiguity, the following example depicts the
various interpretations of the concept qualitative research as it relates to social sciences research
practice.
Starting with the concept itself, a number of sampled authors hold different interpretations of the term
‘qualitative research’. Firstly, Babin and Zikmund (2010, pp. 109-130) hold the widest view of
qualitative research by including phenomenology, ethnography, grounded theory and the case study
1 Senior Lecturer, PhD, Marketing Department, Faculty of Business and Management Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of
Technology, Cape Town, South Africa, Address: Symphony Way, Bellville, Cape Town, 7535, South Africa, Corresponding
author: haydamn@cput.ac.za.
2 Senior Lecturer, PhD, Marketing Department, Faculty of Business and Management Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of
Technology, Cape Town, South Africa, Address: Symphony Way, Bellville, Cape Town, 7535, South Africa, E-mail:
steenkampPi@cput.ac.za.
ISSN: 2067 9211 Interdisciplinary Dimensions of Communication Science
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method, as well as the common research techniques of focus groups, in-depth interviews, and
projective techniques. According to Welman et al. (2005, pp. 193-207) it comprises of
phenomenology, depth interviews, focus groups, observation, in addition to historical and
participatory research studies. In the third instance, the view held by de Vos et al. (2011, pp. :313-323)
on qualitative research is not restricted to phenomenology, ethnography, grounded theory and the case
study method alone, but also incorporates the biographical narrative method as an option. Taking a
different stance, Wilson (2019, p. 122) regards qualitative research in its narrow sense comprising of
focus groups, depth interviews, observation and projective techniques as data collection methods.
Finally, a mixed engagement is posited by Cooper and Schindler (2006, pp. 198-209) who not only
include individual depth interviews and group interviews, but also add the case study method and
action research as additional methods in their view of the qualitative research engagement. To limit the
confusion in this regard, an all-inclusive definition of qualitative research is sought.
Furthermore, the disagreement of what constitutes qualitative research has further implications for all
implied and related definitions of qualitative research. For example, holding different interpretations
of the concept qualitative research, various authors would indirectly define the mixed methods
approach as applying at least one qualitative and one quantitative component in a single research
project or programme differently (De Vos, et al. 2011, pp. 434-439). For Cooper and Schindler (2006),
for instance, it would be either, individual depth interviews or group interviews and a quantitative
method, whereas Babin and Zikmund (2010) would include phenomenology or even ethnography in
the qualitative component. Consequently, this adds to the confusion, and a singular definition is called
for.
There is uncertainty what actually constitutes qualitative research; likewise, there is uncertainty among
authors between qualitative and exploratory research as two related concepts. In its application,
exploratory research is seen as merely a preliminary study to both qualitative and quantitative research
(Babin & Zikmund, 2010, pp. 156-157); for another it is part of the qualitative research approach
(Wilson, 2019:122) or it is regarded as objectives of professional research from which qualitative
research flows (De Vos et al., 2012, pp. 95-96; pp. 312-323). A clear differentiation between
qualitative and exploratory research will contextualise these approaches.
In the fourth instance, other ambiguities arise with the limited application of defined concepts outside
the term qualitative research. It is about how non-related concepts are defined which thereby influence
the application of the term qualitative research. For instance, Bryman et al. (2011, pp. 109-111) and
Wilson (2010, p. 122) view longitudinal research as an extension of quantitative survey research
which is according to Welman et al. (2010, pp. 95-96) part of experimental design. Given the
restricted definition of longitudinal research, it disallows the inclusion of the qualitative Delphi
technique method as a longitudinal true panel study. Hence, another more open definition or
application for longitudinal research is sought in order to make the concept more inclusive.
Finally, although most authors show a thorough understanding and grasp of all quantitative and/or
qualitative constructs, the groupings and arrangement of these seem to be vague at times. It begs the
question for instance: how do pragmatically defined social research practice concepts, such as action
research, case study design, causal research, cohort design, cross sectional and longitudinal designs,
descriptive and experimental research, histography, exploratory research, meta-analysis, mix method
research design, triangulation approach, observational research, philosophical design, sequential
design, systematic review, inductive logic, etc. relate to qualitative research? Additionally, one would

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