Non-experimental Research Designs – continued

Grounded Theory Research Design

According to Creswell (2003), in grounded theory research a researcher attempts to derive a general, abstract theory of a process, action, or interaction grounded in the views of participants in a study” (p. 14). Leedy and Ormrod (2001) further observes that grounded theory research begins with data that develops into a theory. The term grounded provides the context of this method while the research requires that the theory must emerge from the data collected in the field rather than taken from the research literature (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001). Grounded theory has been used primarily in the sociology since the design examines people’s actions and interactions.


Phenomenological Research Design

The purpose of phenomenological study is “to understand an experience from the participant’s point of view” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001, p. 157). The focus is on the participant’s perceptions of the event or situation and the study tries to answer the question of the experience. According to Creswell (1998), the essence of phenomenological study is the search for “the central underlying meaning of the experience and the intentionality of consciousness where experiences contain both the outward appearance and inward consciousness based on the memory, image, and meaning” (p. 52).


The difficulty of this study is that the researcher usually has some connection, experience, or stake in the situation so bracketing (setting aside all prejudgments) is required. Phenomenological research design makes use of in depth interview. The method of collecting data is through lengthy (1-2 hours) interviews in order to understand and interpret a participant’s perception on the meaning of an event. Creswell (1998) suggests the procedural format is writing the research questions that explore the meaning of the experience, conducting the interviews, analyzing the data to find the clusters of meanings, and ending with a report that furthers the readers’ understanding of the essential structure of the experience. The study collects data that leads to identifying common themes in people’s perceptions of their experiences. Ideograms are preferably used to report the findings of the study.


Philosophical Research Design

According to Labaree and Scimeca (2008), philosophical research design is a broad approach to examining a research problem; the design is intended to challenge deeply embedded, often intractable, assumptions underpinning an area of study. This design uses the tools of argumentation derived from philosophical traditions, concepts, models, and theories to critically explore and challenge. For instance, the design may be used to challenge the relevance of logic and evidence in academic debates, to analyze arguments about fundamental issues, or to discuss the root of existing discourse about a research problem.


Philosophical research design may take ontological, epistemological or axiological approach. Ontology describes the nature of reality. For example, what is real and what is not, what is fundamental and what is derivative?; Epistemology explores the nature of knowledge. For example, on what does knowledge and understanding depend upon and how can we be certain of what we know? and Axiology explores values. For example, what values does an individual or group hold and why? How are values related to interest, desire, will, experience, and means-to-end? And, what is the difference between a matter of fact and a matter of value?


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Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Labaree, R.V., & Scimeca, R. (2008). The Philosophical Problem of Truth in Librarianship. The Library Quarterly 78, 43-70.

Leedy, P., & Ormrod, J. (2001). Practical research: Planning and design (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall, Thousand Oaks.