Q: Which research paradigm should I use for a qualitative study?

Detailed Question -

I am planning a qualitative study to investigate fired employees’ experience of termination from the job. Which research paradigm should I use?

1 Answer to this question

Qualitative research involves the collection of non-numerical data through observational methods. Studies of human behaviour along with other types of research in the social sciences often use qualitative methodologies.

Unlike studies in the natural sciences, which employ a positivist research paradigm that relies on experimentation, manipulation, hypothesis generation and testing, and other quantitative methods, studies in the social sciences can follow either an interpretivist or critical realist paradigm.

The interpretivist paradigm relies on a dialogue between the researchers and their subjects to negotiate, collaborate, and develop a meaningful understanding of reality; this understanding is specific to a particular time and context and cannot be generalized. Interpretivist approaches include interviews, observation, and textual analysis.

The critical realist paradigm posits that any understanding of reality is imperfect and thus, a critical examination is necessary to develop the best possible understanding of reality. This critical examination focuses on evaluating the extent of objectivity in the study, both on the part of those conducting the study (the researchers) and on the part of the community being studied. Critical realist approaches include both qualitative and quantitative methods in order to produce more credible qualitative research; some of these methods include purposive sampling, peer review, external audits, reflexivity, and negative/deviant case analysis.

The specific research paradigm that you pick for your qualitative study will depend on the aims of the study and how you intend to address questions of objectivity and criticality. For further reading on qualitative research, you may find these resources are useful:

Hope that helps. All the best for your research!