ERIC Number: EJ1114310
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Abstractor: As Provided
Opening the Black Box and Searching for Smoking Guns: Process Causality in Qualitative Research
Bennett, Elisabeth E.; McWhorter, Rochell R.
European Journal of Training and Development, v40 n8-9 p691-718 2016
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of qualitative research in causality, with particular emphasis on process causality. In one paper, it is not possible to discuss all the issues of causality, but the aim is to provide useful ways of thinking about causality and qualitative research. Specifically, a brief overview of the regularity theory of causation is provided, qualitative research characteristics and ontological and epistemological views that serve as a potential conceptual frame to resolve some tensions between quantitative and qualitative work are discussed and causal processes are explored. This paper offers a definition and a model of process causality and then presents findings from an exploratory study that advanced the discussion beyond the conceptual frame. Design/methodology/approach: This paper first conceptually frames process causality within qualitative research and then discusses results from an exploratory study that involved reviewing literature and interviewing expert researchers. The exploratory study conducted involved analyzing multiple years of literature in two top human resource development (HRD) journals and also exploratory expert interviews. The study was guided by the research question: How might qualitative research inform causal inferences in HRD? This study used a basic qualitative approach that sought insight through inductive analysis within the focus of this study. Findings: The exploratory study found that triangulation, context, thick description and process research questions are important elements of qualitative studies that can improve research that involves causal relationships. Specifically, qualitative studies provide both depth of data collection and descriptive write-up that provide clues to cause-and-effect relationships that support or refute theory. Research limitations/implications: A major conclusion of this study is that qualitative research plays a critical role in causal inference, albeit an understated one, when one takes an enlarged philosophical view of causality. Equating causality solely with variance theory associated with quantitative research leaves causal processes locked in a metaphoric black box between cause and effect, whereas qualitative research opens up the processes and mechanisms contained within the box. Originality/value: This paper reframed the discussion about causality to include both the logic of quantitative studies and qualitative studies to demonstrate a more holistic view of causality and to demonstrate the value of qualitative research for causal inference. Process causality in qualitative research is added to the mix of techniques and theories found in the larger discussion of causality in HRD.
Descriptors: Qualitative Research, Causal Models, Statistical Inference, Definitions, Discovery Processes, Literature Reviews, Semi Structured Interviews, Human Resources, Research Methodology, Data Collection, Holistic Approach, Strategic Planning, Usability
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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