The Nature of Research Methods: Comparison and Contrast through Education Research Whether in objective or subjective social inquiry, the importance of the method used by the researcher cannot be overstated. In qualitative social research, the method is usually at the center of establishing a theoretical understanding of the issue being investigated by the researcher…
In this study, two pieces of research into issues in education are used to compare and contrast the approaches used in terms of establishment of a theoretical basis. Backgrounds on the Studies The first study is by Philips (2002, pp. 409-414) who investigated the underrepresentation of women in the engineering profession in the UK. The study identifies the imagery and cultural stereotyping affecting the educational decisions and choices made by girls and young women as being responsible for the issue. The researcher embeds his study in the social construction of gender as her theoretical framework and argues that domination of engineering practice by men results in the field becoming masculine out of societal perceptions. Citing criticism of positivist approaches to social research, the researcher uses a qualitative approach, undertaking an interview-based methodology to achieve inter-objective understanding. The study sampled 15 participants drawn from female engineers already training and working in the UK. The second study is by Archer, Halsall and Hollingworth (2007, pp. 165-180) investigating the disengagement from education of inner-city, ethnically diverse working class girls due to their construction of hetero-femininities. The researchers are of the opinion that construction of identity and values based on heterosexual femininities by girls contributes to their disengagement from education and schooling, and address the paradoxes that arise when such hetero-feminist constructions spill over to oppressive power relations. The study itself was qualitative, involving in-depth interviews, focus groups and some photo diaries. It sampled young people across 6 urban London secondary schools aged between 14 and 16. The interviews were undertaken 3-4 times in two years and involved interviews with the staff. Theoretical Frameworks of the Studies Gerring (2001, pp. 8-9) discusses the absolute importance of basing social research on sound theoretical frameworks. Social research without these bases is inconceivable as they provide the guidelines used by scholars to define and refine their studies. They specify interconnected questions and hypotheses that then guide the researcher in establishing his/her study. Philips (2002, p. 410) selects social construction of gender over feminist theories such as standpoint perspective in explaining that the predominance of males in the engineering profession as a main contributory factor to under-representation of females in engineering education and practice. A self perpetuating stereotypical perception is created among people that engineering is a masculine field due to the prominence of men in the engineering practice. The masculine orientation of the field and thus education is maintained by these prevailing social and sexual stereotypes, and confirm the views that science and technology are an essential aspect of masculinity in the modern day. Basing on this theoretical context, the under-representation of women in the engineering education is explained by the perceptions of young women that engineering is a masculine field and thus they chose not to study it. It is thus important to break the perception if at all gender balance is to be achieved in the engineering education and practice. In contrast, Archer, Halsall and Hollingworth (2007, p. 167) underpin their study on two ...
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