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Philosophy & Data Collection Methods

Philosophy & Data Collection Methods

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Philosophy & Data Collection Methods

This Philosophy & Data Collection Methods chapter looks at the research methodology and any limitations or potential problems in context to the researcher’s investigation of the leadership styles and their effects in influencing military divers’ safety perceptions, participation, and acceptance of safety change within the MOD. The relevant sub-sections will precisely detail the selected strategy subscribed to in pursuit of answers to the research questions and the way in which data was gathered, analyzed, and utilized, and will further:

  • Discuss the research strategic plan and considerations;
  • Explain the reasons for the data collection methods adopted;
  • Present the framework for data analysis and the techniques chosen to achieve the research goals.

Both Bryman and Bell (2010) and Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2009) provide clear direction and complete explanation of the layers connected with research strategy and design relating to research: philosophies, approaches, strategies, methods, time horizons, techniques, and procedures. Figure 3-1 gives a graphic representation of the ‘Research Onion’ presented by Saunders et al. (2009, p. 108). For a researcher, Saunders et al. (2009, p. 108) advocate that the philosophy adopted is an essential assumption about how the world is viewed and will underpin the research strategy and methods chosen. Saunders et al. (2009, p. 107) quantify, “The over-arching term research philosophy relates to the development of knowledge and the nature of that knowledge.”Philosophy & Data Collection Methods.  The researcher’s view for this study is subjectivist, adopting an interpretivism philosophy combined with an inductive approach.

Subjectivism is the interpretation of the meaning that individuals attach to group life occurrences; in context, the researcher understands the social interaction between diving supervisors and subordinates relating to maintenance and acceptance of diving safety (Saunders et al. 2009, p. 111).

Interpretivism is the appreciation of the differences between individuals as social players; the key to this will be the researcher adopting an empathetic position to enter the group world of the research subjects to fully experience and appreciate their viewpoint as far as he is able (Saunders et al. 2009, p. 116).



Philosophy & Data Collection Methods Inductive research approach (formulation of theory); adopting this approach allowed the researcher to gain a better understanding of people, and their attachment, in real-world situations whilst providing a greater degree of flexibility to allow changes to research emphasis as the project progressed (Saunders et al. 2009, p. 126).

The objectives for this study are set within the context of a military high-risk operational diving organization and are looking to:

  • Identify the leadership style that best influences military divers’ safety perceptions, participation, and acceptance of safety change.
  • Explore the military divers’ concepts of safety leadership and their understanding of the defense diving safety climate.
  • Examine the attitudes and perceptions of military divers’ to the organizational and technological safety changes and the leadership of these changes.

A key value aspect of this research is the opportunity, as identified during the literature review, to bridge a gap in existing research to associate an effective leadership style with improved safety: education, participation, and acceptance of change within a dynamic and diverse high-risk defense military diving environment. The people of the armed forces are the critical component from leadership to subordinate. The integration between the two will determine the success and achievement of the maritime fighting operational capability. The chosen research philosophy is proposed as effectively allowing the researcher to understand the social interaction between leadership and those they command, to gain an appreciation of the differences between individuals and the roles they perform, and to understand the values that individuals attach to safety events in the setting of a frontline operational FDG. This research is a conscious effort to assist the military command in analyzing and developing safety leadership skills and, equally importantly, educate and encourage others whilst gaining an understanding of subordinates’ perception and perspective of the military diving safety climate.

Research Strategy

In framing a clear overall research plan, due consideration has been given to the research project in terms of the objectives and research questions relative to the purpose of this study.

The research questions and objectives lead the research strategy choice, the amount of existing knowledge, time constraints, and the resources available, supported by the researchers’ philosophical foundation (Saunders et al. 2009, p. 141). This research involves serving military personnel within three operational units in the organizational structure of the FDG. The research purpose is a practical investigation emphasizing a situation to explain the association between effective leadership styles and subordinate participation, perception, and acceptance of safety change within a safety-focused organization. Philosophy & Data Collection Methods.

Within the context of this study, and linking the relevancy of the research methodology to the research project objectives and questions, the researcher justifies the selection of an explanatory case study strategy as the key research paradigm. A case study concentrating on the FDG as the organization and the three embedded FDUs within as the sub-units will provide an empirical investigation of present military diving safety leadership within its real-life operational context using multiple sources of evidence.

The researcher has identified the following reasons for selecting the chosen strategy as the most appropriate:

The emphasis is on studying a situation or problem to explain the relationships between variables (changeable military operational diving environment), Saunders et al. (2009, p. 140) explain “studies that establish causal relationships between variables are termed explanatory research.” Explanatory case studies center on trying to find out – explain – why something happens.

Biggam (2011, p. 118) cites Cohen and Manion (1995), who describe that the case study researcher typically observes the characteristics of an individual unit (single case study) or several units (multiple case study); the purpose of such observation is to probe deeply and to analyze intensely the different phenomena that constitute the life cycle of the unit or units. Saunders et al. (2009, p. 145) support a case study strategy by citing Robson (2002), who defines a case study as a strategy for doing research that involves an empirical investigation of a particular contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context using multiple sources of evidence. Saunders et al. (2009, p. 146) advocate that adopting a case study strategy will give a rich understanding of the research context, the processes being enacted, and the ability to generate answers to research questions that seek a range of different kinds of evidence. Philosophy & Data Collection Methods.

Ethical Review – A University of Portsmouth’s Ethics Approval Form – Students’ has been completed in Appendix 1. Ethical implications have been considered regarding this research strategy. The key ethical issues affecting participants regarding safety, harm, embarrassment, stress, privacy consent, and confidentiality have been carefully covered and fully documented within that document. The Information Sheet and Consent Form in Appendix 3 were utilized, which provides information regarding participant involvement and anonymity.

Philosophy & Data Collection Methods

Philosophy & Data Collection Methods Data Collection

Two data collection techniques commonly used within research are quantitative and qualitative. Bryman and Bell (2010, p. 26-27) outline that quantitative research is a strategy that emphasizes quantification in the collection and analysis of data (numeric). In contrast, qualitative research is a strategy that accentuates words (non-numeric). Saunders et al. (2009, p. 151) explain further that the research data collection technique chosen will be guided by the research questions, which, if formulated, will effectively determine the method used to answer them.

A military diving organization operating within a high-risk, complex environment has many data sources that can be drawn from to facilitate a better understanding of the people and their attachment in this real-world situation. Focusing on the keywords to identify, explore and examine, it was decided to use a mixed methods approach which allows for different data collection techniques to establish an outcome from more than one angle (thereby offering a measure of triangulation). The emphasis for data gathering concentrated on using questionnaires and researcher participant observation to collect primary data from a sample source of fifty-three personnel serving within the FDG units, giving a confidence level of 95% with a 1% margin of error. The rank range of the fifty-three personnel was CDR to AB; the RN rank hierarchy structure is presented in Figure 3-2. Secondary data was sourced from organizational documentation.

The literature search strategy was conducted via the University of Portsmouth Library intranet, using the databases Science Direct, Web of Knowledge, Emerald, Business Source Premier, and Ebrary e-book reference library. The key search words used and combinations are detailed in Table 3-1. Google Scholar Advance was also utilized using the exact keywords. The military Defence Intranet was used to source and review military reports, documents, and publications. The researchers of the articles all come from reliable academic and professional backgrounds; as research authors’ they have been attributed with academic articles in credible publications on the topic and related issues of leadership and management competency.

Key Search Words: Leadership, Safety, Military, Perception, Style(s), Climate, Effective, Indicators, Commitment, Transactional, Transformational, Training, Occupational, Workplace, Acceptance, Models, Health and Safety Executive, Commercial, Organisations, Passive, Participation, Change, Criteria

Framework for Data Analysis

Bryman and Bell (2010, p. 571) suggest that one of the major complications with qualitative research is that it very quickly generates a bulky, cumbersome database due to dependence on text in the form of field notes, interview transcripts, or documents. The task of framing research data for analysis is describing, analyzing, and interpreting the collected empirical data (Biggam, 2011, p. 113). Saunders et al. (2009, p. 490) put forward the use of qualitative analysis processes such as summarising (condensation), categorization (grouping), and structuring (ordering) of meanings from collected data, and that all of these can be used in isolation or in combination to support the interpretation of data. Saunders et al. (2009, p. 491) outline that the procedures for analyzing qualitative data can be highly structured, whereas others adopt a much lower level of structure. In contrast, quantitative data analysis in graphs, charts, and statistics allows data presentation, description, and examination to establish trends (Saunders et al., 2009, p. 414).

In support of an inductive research approach, primary quantitative data was analyzed using tabular and pie chart representation, and qualitative data by summarising and narrative, thematic analysis. The data-gathering process included using questionnaires to gather quantitative data, and field notes was taken as part of the participant observations to gather qualitative data. Figure 3-3 presents this research project’s adopted quantitative and qualitative analysis process. As research developed, related information and ideas were recorded using interim summaries and self-memo as analytical aids.

  1. Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis Process
  2. Compare Findings (Literature Review)
  3. Collect Data
  4. Analysis Process
  5. Group Themes and Issues
  6. Perform Analysis (Interpret what is happening

Limitations and Potential Problems

The selection of a particular research strategy is determined, as Saunders et al. (2009, p. 108) suggest, by the researcher’s view of the nature of reality or being (ontology), the view regarding what constitutes adequate knowledge (epistemology), and the view of the role of values in research (axiology). Philosophy & Data Collection Methods.

Philosophy & Data Collection Methods

In this research project, the adopted philosophy is interpretivism, the comprehension of the differences between individuals as group players (Saunders et al. (2009, p. 119). To support this rationale and provide clarification, this research focuses on an investigation amongst individuals within an organization and the importance of understanding the differences between the leadership and follower human factors and the roles these differences play. The emphasis on the use of an inductive (formulation of theory) approach and the link with adopting an interpretivism philosophy is based on the following key aspects:

The research is value bound, and the author is part of what is being researched and cannot be separated and so will be subjective (Saunders et al. (2009, p. 119)

The Philosophy & Data Collection Methods author’s view regarding acceptable knowledge is subjective, focusing on the details of the situation and the reality behind these details (Saunders et al. (2009, p. 119)

Research emphasis is on the mixed method (quantitative and qualitative) data collection from a small sample with the purpose of an in-depth investigation to gain an impression of what is ‘going on at the coalface’ to understand better the nature of the situation.

The Case Study is a research strategy researchers have employed to tackle and offer an understanding of real-life issues across various study areas. Saunders et al. (2009, p. 146) suggest as a strategy, the case study is considered apt in generating answers to ‘Why?’, ‘What?’ and ‘How?’ questions, as a strategy, will be of particular importance for this safety research, where the aim is to gain a deep understanding of the situation and the procedures being performed (Saunders et al. 2009, p. 146).

Contemplation of the rationale for this investigative project and the use of multiple method data collection and analysis techniques best fit the influences and aim of an investigative research project into real-life safety leadership and management in the context of a high-reliability military organization. Bryman and Bell (2010, p. 42) suggest that “a research method is simply a technique for collecting data”, and an essential criterion for business research is that the study is reliable (dependable), can be replicated (confirmability), and is valid (credible), therefore it is vital to ensure that data collection and analysis is relevant to ensure the study is focused and concise. The time frame associated with this research project will only permit a “snapshot” to be taken at a particular time. As Saunders et al. (2009, p. 155) suggested, a cross-sectional time horizon best suits academic research projects of this type. Consideration of the short time frame and small sample group, the key to this research project’s success, is therefore centered in the selection of multiple research methods with a focus on empirical data collection from questionnaires and participative observation techniques to collect primary data, supported by secondary data collection from organizational documentation. A mixed methods approach can yield better prospects to answer the research questions and evaluate the extent to which findings may be trusted and inferences made (Saunders et al., 2009, p. 160).

Saunders et al. (2009, p. 156) discuss the credibility of research findings with reference to reliability (that data collection and analysis produce consistent results) and validity (that results are actually about what they seem to be about). The selected research approach is considered reliable; the researcher was mindful of the threats, such as participant and observer error and bias, which could present threats to reliability. In an effort to combat participant prejudices and inaccuracy, anonymity was maintained throughout, and questionnaires were completed at a selected time that, as far as possible, prevented external influence. Accurate field notes were maintained during observations to mitigate observer partialities and mistakes. Embedded periods were spent with each FDG unit to gain a real sense of the situation, recording actual events rather than relying on memory. The researcher has delivered consistent and valid research investigating safety leadership and the concepts and perception of military divers as set out within this chapter in the context of actual military missions and rehearsals, where there has been risking of equipment failure, individual error, and environmental issues at all times. Philosophy & Data Collection Methods,

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