The research frame

I’ve spent the past few weeks connecting all the dots in terms of research design. Words like paradigm, ontology, epistemology that I’ve read about for years took on a new meaning when I had to identify exactly what my stance was.

First, of course, was quantitative or qualitative. One thing I have always known since I started my undergraduate degree was that a quantitative, realist stance wasn’t for me. I don’t get numbers, statistics or all those formulas. While I understand the value and necessity of data I also know it’s only part of the equation when it comes to problem-solving and sense-making. And, while working in universities, I saw too many flawed forecasts because of an implicit faith in the truth of the data in the misguided search for certainty.

Through my foresight work though, I have seen the power of people coming together to discuss, challenge worldviews, and reframe difficult and challenging issues. I have seen what happens when beliefs about the future that were grounded in the past are shattered by the reality of what ‘the future’ means once it’s opened up beyond today’s cognitive constraints. It’s people who create the future, not data. It’s not either/or but for me, I know that people matter more. And that means a qualitative approach in my research.

Now I have put a name to all this. Interpretive inquiry, poststructuralism as paradigm, foresight ontology, social constructionist epistemology. Relativism and meaning in context, no absolutes, and valuing diversity. What it’s also thrown up for me is the need to understand the power of worldviews as individuals, organisations and societies.  And you can’t measure worldviews because they are personal or tacit, culturally constructed, so I’m in the right space.

Here is the research frame as it stands now.

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As with all things qualitative, this will undoubtedly shift as the research continues to take shape.

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