The Pathways of Design and Research Conceptualization

Are you planning to set up a scheme for a research undertaking? Designing can be the most difficult aspect of research conceptualization. Do you agree? Confusion belies every aspect of the planning stages if you do not have a clear understanding of where you are situated in that vast spectra of knowledge base, where every spectrum is a perspective to contend with.

Consider for instance a difference in the meaning of the concept of research design and design research.As a neophyte you may think they have the same meaning, the only difference is the position of the word design i.e., whether it comes ahead of the word research or that it comes after. But mind you, the difference is deeper than their word ordering. There are philosophical differences, a discourse traceable to the antagonistic views held by contenders of pure versus applied sciences, in issues of relevance versus theory arguments. Examples of these discourses are found in Owen (2007); Kennedy-Clark (2013);Govier (2010);Friedman (2014).

Thresh out the strand of your philosophical position; identify the type of logic that you may use and understand the essential elements of the research process. These are the major components that I believe can help you conceptualize the design of your research.

Setting the Philosophical Position
What are the universal characteristics of things that exist? Are these characteristics believed to lie outside human consciousness (out there) waiting to be explored or verified from experiences, or verified through actual counts of presence/existence, empirically matched with group or community members’ experiences? What are the means or strategies that bring a better or greater understanding of the phenomenon? In short, how is the phenomenon understood and what tools are used to achieve that understanding?

Do you believe in the idea that there is nothing that lie outside human consciousness? Reality is an illusion, a simple product of creativity of human consciousness? Are you a realist, an interpretivist, a pragmatist, a postmodernist? For further discussions on the major research paradigms, you can visit this link:

So you see you can share your view on reality through the different paradigms. Each paradigm is built through a long history of discourses, reality testing and evaluation. Which paradigmatic lens do you think can capture reality? If you would rather be an inclusivist rather than an exclusivist, you may find yourself adopting combinations of paradigms and methods of research. For example, some positivist/objectivist researchers adopt mixed-method types ( ).

The paradigmatic orientation of the researcher is usually placed in sync with the research method adopted, for example interpretivists often employ narrative, phenomenological or qualitative methods (as expected),and positivists take the ontological and epistemological (philosophical) position of an objectivist paradigm. However, in some instances the objectives and the design of the study do not follow the expected design strategy as it usually does for the topic. In other instances, the strategy of other paradigms is adapted to a field quite different from the researcher’s paradigmatic orientation. The researcher justifies the crossing of methodology on topics that may or may not be normally seen with his field of orientation. For example, a positivist oriented researcher decides to examine a theory on psychokinesis. Psychokinesis is normally conducted within the purview of interpretivism but the authors whose epistemological position is positivist want to observe the truth of the phenomenon by gathering evidences, not over the explicit and implicit experiences of people, but from the physical reality. In an experimental (exploratory) investigation, Dr. Robert Jahn and Brenda J. Dunne (2010) investigated the possibility of obtaining substance in the psychokinetic phenomenon. The objective was to conduct a rigorous test on the null hypothesis by controlling every possible known variable that may possibly influence the physical random activities generated by the machine. The question was: After ruling out all other known variables that may otherwise affect chance variations in the machine, would there be deviations from this random activity from the machine if there is the presence of a human consciousness watching the machine? The experiment is published in “Margins of Reality, The role of Consciousness in the Physical World”. The experiment was conducted in the scientific laboratory of Dr. R. Jahn of Princeton University whose expertise is on rocket-science engineering. The positivist or objectivist epistemological stance of Dr. R. Jahn informed the type of research design that he structured in his experiments. Another case in point is illustrated in Godkuhl (2012)study who pointed out that he picked out pragmatism and interpretivism as two possible important paradigms for qualitative research in information systems. (it must be noted that the field of information systems is identified with quantitative figures.)

The paradigmatic orientation of the researcher usually informs which types of method/ methodology to be adopted for the research but may veer towards other paradigms in quest for truth and over the interest of obtaining valid data. The ontological and epistemological position of the researcher is shown or expressed in the schematic design of the study. For example, the researcher lays down the operatives of the constructs then describes the strategies to be employed in obtaining data for the research problems raised. Does the researcher aim to collect universal characteristics of a thing/object? He designs valid and reliable tools to provide evidence for confirmation or rejection of the premised hypothesis. Does the researcher aim to discover patterns within the realm of human experiences? or realm of outside physical characteristics. Addressing ontological and epistemological issues for the study can guide what questions must be asked as research problems, what logical reasoning can serve as conduit for the design, what instruments will be devised and other requirements that ensure validity and soundness of data– i.e. a way of assuring that rigorous and practical quality standards for research are being met.