I still remember a week before my proposal defense day, I was asked by someone (Amron Haron, Final Year PhD Candidate) from School of Management, USM regarding my PhD proposal. He was really challenge my patience due to his 'provocative' questions.
Amran : What is your approach? Does it qualitative or quantitative?
Azrin : It combines both qualitative and quantitative approach
Amran : Wow, it sounds ‘big’. Why don’t you focus either one?
Azrin : Well, the nature of my research requires me to combine both methods in order to produce the real findings from the Islamic perspective
Amran : What does it mean?
Azrin : Mine is Islamic-based research. So, the theoretical framework that I’m gonna use should be based on Islamic theories and models
Amran : Are you saying that we can’t use the available one that had been established over the years?
Azrin : Well, one should understand that there are many differences between Islamic theory and its counterpart. One of them is its tasawur and epistemology.
Amran : Hey buddy. Don’t be too ambitious. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with the existing theories and models especially the one which is referred by many researchers in all over the world. Moreover, it consists of many universal values that are considered as a neutral value. Then, who are you to say that this one cannot be used as our framework?
Azrin : As told by my Professor, both of them are based on different tasawur and epistemology. Different tasawur and epistemology may lead to different methods and different conclusions. Then, how can we conclude that there’s nothing wrong with the existing theories?
Amran : If that the case, you should develop your own model or theory and I don’t think you manage to complete your studies within 3 years.
(bla, bla, bla………..)
We finished our discussions without any one agreement. Blur……………….
Anyway, thanks to him for his valuable comments and most importantly, he revealed my low level of research strategies knowledge. And that’s the reason I registered myself as one of the participant of ‘Research Strategies Workshop’ that was conducted by Dr. Reevani and his wife, Dr. Ellie 4 days before my proposal defense day.
When I attended this workshop, I kept on thinking the discussion that I had with Amran. Then, I came to the conclusion that we both are on the right track. Why? Because Amran applied only deductive strategy. He shouldn’t say that my research was wrong by using his school of thought (mazhab) understanding. Specifically, I use inductive (to achieve my first objective of the study) and deductive strategies (to achieve my second objective of the study) in my research with certain justifications.
So, what are the 4 research strategies?
I quoted from Norman Blaikie (2000: 24-26) in his book entitled ‘Designing Social Research’.
In brief, the 4 strategies are inductive, deductive, retroductive and abductive.
The inductive research strategy starts with the collection of data and then proceeds to derive generalizations using so-called inductive logics. The aim is to determine the nature of the regularities, or networks of regularities in social life. Once these are established, they can be used to explain the occurrence of the specific events by locating them within the pattern of established regularities. This strategy is useful for answering ‘what’ questions but rather limited in its capacity to answer ‘why’ questions.
The deductive strategy begins with some regularity that has been discovered and which begs an explanation. The researcher has to find or formulate a possible explanation, a theoretical argument for the existence of the behavior or the social phenomenon under consideration. This task is then to test the theory by deducing one or more hypotheses from it, and then to collect appropriate data. Should the data match the theory, some support will be provided for its continuing use, particularly if further tests produce similar results. However, if the data do not match the theory, the theory must be either modified or rejected. Further testing of other candidate theories can then be undertaken. Therefore, according to this research strategy, knowledge of the social world is advanced by means of trial and error process.
The retroductive research strategy also starts with an observed regularity but seeks a different type of explanation. In this strategy, explanation is achieved by locating the real underlying structure or mechanism that is responsible for producing the observed regularity. To discover a structure or mechanism that has been previously known, the researcher has to first construct a hypothetical model of it, and then proceed to establish its existence.
The abductive strategy has a very different logic to other three. It is sometimes described as involving induction, but this grossly underestimates the complexity of the task involved. The starting point is the social world of the social actors being investigated: their construction of reality, their way of conceptualizing and giving meaning to their social world , their tacit knowledge. This can only be discovered from the accounts which social actors provide. Their reality, the way they have constructed and interpreted their activities together, is embedded in their language. Hence, the researcher has to enter their world in order to discover the motives and reasons that accompany the social activities. The task is then to redescribe these motives and actions, and the situations in which they occur, in the technical language of social scientific discourse. Individual motives and actions have to be abstracted into typical motives for typical actions in typical situations. These social scientific typifications provide an understanding of the activities, and may the become the ingredients in more systematic explanatory accounts
Last but not least, I would say that everyone of us especially PhD candidate should ‘master’ this knowledge in order to achieve every objective of our research.