The ontology may have various explanations and definitions (Bhattacherjee 2012). Social science researchers could explain ontology as a branch of metaphysics that aims at identifying the things that exist in this world. It is the philosophical assumption that helps to comprehend how people see the world, accept changes, and live by the rules and norms established. Ontology focuses on the independent things that are usually free from any further considerations (Bhattacherjee 2012) and deals with the nature of reality (Sarantakos 2012). Ontological considerations help to define the nature of social phenomena in the way they exist in the world. There are two types of ontological considerations: objectivism and constructionism (Bryman 2012).
Objective ontology is the position that identifies social phenomena as independent social factors that are beyond researchers’ influence. Constructionist ontology is an alternative position that determines the way of how the world is perceived by people. It predicts the possible effects of the chosen social phenomenon and discusses the outcomes of organizational members. Constructionist ontology explains that social categories could be the result of social interactions and stay in a constant state of revision (Bryman 2012). Therefore, according to the constructionist ontological position, all categories used by researchers to understand the natural and social worlds could be regarded as social products.
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that focuses on the nature of knowledge available, its scope, and its general bases (Bhattacherjee 2012). Epistemology helps to clarify the assumptions of the participants in regards to the issues chosen for consideration. It deals with the nature of knowledge (Sarantakos 2012). According to Gialdino (2009), epistemology aims at raising such questions as to how the required portion of knowledge could be gained, what the relation between what is known and what should be known is, and how the chosen group of people could find a practical application to their theoretical knowledge. Epistemology helps to analyze and comprehend the worth of knowledge and its relation to the identified health problem. Epistemological considerations identify acceptable knowledge in a discipline (Bryman 2012) and clarify if the chosen issue should be investigated in a particular context. This position aims at answering the main question that is if the social world has to be investigated according to the same principles and procedures or not. It underlines the importance of natural sciences’ imitation to reach the required outcomes. For example, positivism is an epistemological position that aims at supporting the chosen methods to study social reality (Bryman 2012).
Methodology deals with the nature of research methods and design to identify what kind of activities should be taken to gain the required portion of knowledge about the world (Sarantakos 2012). The investigation of human behavior in a certain environment is a challenging task because much work should be done and several decisions should be made. On the one hand, it is necessary to gather enough material by a variety of means and make sure it is credible and appropriate. The methodology should identify how research could be conducted (Sarantakos 2012). On the other hand, it is also important to analyze and interpret the material clearly and effectively. It is
important to comprehend that the study of social world could require a different logic of research procedure that deals with the differences between the natural order and human perceptions of the world (Bryman 2012). Interpretive methodology is one of the possible approaches researchers can use to investigate the peculiarities of human behaviour. This research is also called qualitative (Risjord 2014) and based on the ideas of naturalistic observations and communication. The peculiar feature of interpretivism is the ability to base the interpretations of human thoughts and actions within a particular context in a particular moment. Interpretive research methodology is not new, but it shows some new aspects of meaning-making practices and generates the outcomes that are observed (Schwartz-Shea & Yanow 2013). According to Bryman (2012), interpretivism is the term that is used to identify the differences between people and various objects of the natural science and grasp a subjective meaning of social actions. Interpretive methodology should be determined by clear attitudes supported by facts. It is the strategy that aims at understanding a chosen issue/phenomenon/study from a researcher’s point of view after certain investigations of interactions and contexts chosen for the study.
One of the main principals of knowledge is to provide theoretical underpinnings to various research methods (Bhattacherjee 2012). Research methods cover various aspects of human experience. They help to reveal different levels of knowledge about the chosen groups of people, their needs, and abilities and to analyse the ways of how people accept the world, understand the chosen concept, and apply new interventions and developments that could help to change human behaviour in a particular context. A research method can be defined as a means to explore various research questions posed by a researcher at the beginning of the study and address the approach that could be used to challenge the belief and turn it into truth (Sarantakos 2012). Social research methods could operate in different contexts, and a number of factors should be taken into consideration (Bryman 2012).
For example, theories could help to comprehend the social world and its impact on what should be investigated. Therefore, research methods depend on theoretical positions that could be discovered (Bryman 2012). The background knowledge plays an important role in social research. Therefore, literature may be defined as another factor that forms part of the context within which research methods could operate (Bryman 2012). Taking into consideration the above-mentioned factors, Bhattacherjee (2012) and many other sociologists and researchers suggest identifying several groups of research methods: quantitative methods that include experiments and surveys, qualitative methods that include case or action research, and mixed methods that implies the combination of both methods.
Ethnographic research was introduced in the late 19th century by a group of investigators, who wanted to understand the way real people actually lived (Angrosino 2007). Ethnography is the research method that is used to observe people, their styles of lives, and reactions to different disturbances with limited interaction. Therefore, in many studies and books, ethnography is also called as participant observation (Bryman 2012). In this method of gathering information, a researcher performs the role of an independent and even invisible observer, who has to get involved in the social life of the participants of research (Bryman 2012). Some people raise a number of ethical concerns about the appropriateness of the chosen methods and the interpretation of the information that becomes available to a reader of the study. To gain access to a social setting that could be relevant to research questions is one of the most complicated tasks (Bryman 2012).
Therefore, the researcher should clarify the boundaries of their work and discuss the peculiarities of the work with potential participants in cases of emergency. There are four main forms of ethnography that include an overt role in public setting, an overt role in closed setting, a covert role in public setting, and a covert role in closed setting (Bryman 2012). Different roles have their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, covert roles help to observe the natural behaviour of people chosen for research. At the same time, it is necessary to explain people, who could be interested in the chosen activities, why a researcher interfere into human lives and choose them as the objects of the study. Overt roles help to avoid numerous ethical concerns, but the participants are aware of the presence of ethnographer (Bryman 2012) and could change their routine behaviour unintentionally. Closed settings could be accessed through friends, colleagues, family members, and managers.
Open settings may seem to have easy access. Still, a number of problems could be observed (Bryman 2012) because not all people are always easy to contact with strangers, some people may not have time, and some people do not want to be involved in social research. Therefore, should be careful with the choice of social settings and participants for observations before start making notes on their observations. Ethnographies should be supported with detailed summaries of events and behaviours demonstrated by the participants. It is not enough to note what is observed. It is also necessary to pay attention to what is heard (Bryman 2012). All notes have to be clear and vivid. Some researchers prefer digital recorders, and some researchers find writing as the best option. Sometimes, personal reflections could be helpful in ethnographic observations, but they have to be clearly identified and presented (Bryman 2012).
In general, the main advantage of ethnographic observations is the possibility to investigate various cultural behaviours and phenomena without interfering human lives. Besides, researchers could gain a deep understanding of what is done and said by people in a certain context and describe the setting on the basis of what is seen and what is gathered about the group (Bryman 2012). At the same time, there are several challenges for researchers, who choose ethnographic observations as their main type of research. Researchers should spend a lot of time on conducting such observations, and they cannot enlarge the breadth of research. In other words, information about one particular culture and a group of people is gathered.
Interviews are common occurrence in social life due to the existing variety of forms and approaches (Bryman 2012). An interview is one of the most commonly used social research methods of data collection in qualitative social science research (Gill et al. 2008). As a rule, interviews help to explore the opinions of people on a particular research question or issue under consideration, the experiences people can describe with their own words, and even motivation that plays an important role in a decision-making process. Interviews could be of different types such as structured, unstructured, qualitative, in-depth, focused, etc. (Bryman 2012).
Unstructured interviews can begin with an opening question and be developed in regards to the answers given by the participants. The interviewer should have a list of topic for consideration that should be covered. An informal style of questioning is preferable in such type of interviews. A structured interview is one of the possible ways to administrate a survey research instrument (Bryman 2012). The aim of this type is to ensure that all replies could be aggregated and gathered in regards to identical cues. Interviews could be organised in person and via telephones. It is necessary to create clear questions and explanations if telephone interviews are preferred to make sure a person could talk and answer the questions. Nowadays, there are also computer-assisted interviews and Internet surveys that could save people’s time and get clear answers (Bryman 2012).
Regardless the type of interview chosen for the study, this research method is beneficial because of the possibility to clarify the points with a participant directly, investigate certain groups of people, and gather in-depth information that could be introduced in the study with the help of a personalised approach. Still, researchers should also get ready to make certain preparations before interviews, create questions (Bryman 2012), and think about the details that could make interviews safe and effective. Researchers should develop their best interviewing skills even if there is a necessity to investigate a small group of people. In comparison to other research methods, it is not always easy to analyse the data obtained from interviews.
Habituated Actions and Habituated Expectations
Qualitative research is usually focused on human actions and the ways people react on the standards and tasks they are provided with. In other words, social science research and the majority of methods chosen by the investigators are all about the practice that is both “a reaction as well as action” during which the participants should not only respond to something but also manipulate the environment (Smith 2010, p. 20). It is expected that people get used to certain standards and norms and live in regards to certain actions and expectations that could be called habituated. The concept of habituation is defined by Smith and his predecessors as “vital to the psychological mechanisms whereby a sense of trust or ontological security is sustained in the daily activities of social life” (Smith 2010, p. 21). Habituated actions and expectations are the information that can be obtained from the interviews with people of the chosen group. There are the routine actions that people find necessary to do. Still, the interviews prove that people have rather different habituated actions and expectations. Much depends on how much information people have on the chosen issue and what they can do with the information.
The focus group method is a form of qualitative research within the frames of which a group of people “in terms of purpose, size, composition, and procedures” (Krueger and Casey 2014, p. 4) are asked about their opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a particular issue or concept. Focus groups should not be too large. It is enough to find from five to ten people that meet certain criteria and think about the type of information that is expected to be found. As a rule, the majority of questions and discussions are spontaneous. The focus group has the elements of a group interview within the frames of which several topics could be discussed at the same time and a focused interview within the frames of which interviewees are selected due to the fact that they could be involved in a particular situation (Bryman 2012).
The requirements that have to be met and taken into consideration are an appropriate place for people to be gathered, the identification of time frames and the purposes of discussions so that people could comprehend what to expect from such focus groups, and the explanation of what people can and cannot do. Focus groups provide the researcher with an opportunity to study different ways and approaches that could be chosen by individuals to understand a phenomenon and create a meaning around it (Bryman 2012). Focus groups should be recorded and transcribed to identify a number of helpful facts to answer research questions. A researcher should pay attention to the ways of how the participants express themselves in groups and how they can distribute the roles (Bryman 2012). The number of people in focus groups could vary from 5 to 50. Still, the majority of researchers admit that large groups are challenges for moderators to identify all responds of the participants and prefer to gather the groups of 5-9 people, ask several open-ended questions, and make people involved into discussions.
In general, the main advantages of this research method are the possibilities to gather fresh ideas and clarify the points as soon as some uncertainties occur. Besides, researchers could find much information on a particular topic from a number of people where the participants could stimulate each other (Bryman 2012). The disadvantages of this method are the necessity to spend much time on dealing with organisational details, providing the participants with information about the ethical aspects of cooperation, and the obligation to work with biased and subjective information.
Today, many researchers have their own positions and opinions about the concept of masculinity. Some people find it unstable and unclear due to the necessity to clarify a number of human traits and behaviours. Some people introduce it as a serious shortage of social science research because it promotes contradictions in realities. Still, some researchers, such as Raewyn (R.W.) Connell, develop the concept of masculinity in terms of hegemony and explain it as “the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women (Connell 2005, p. 77). According to constructivist ontological perception, masculinity could be treated as a social construction the meaning of which could be developed during interaction (Bryman 2012). In other words, masculinity can be defined as a set of characteristics and attributes that can be associated with males of any age. However, the current investigations and discussions show that even men are not sure of what masculinity can mean and have a number of doubts concerning the definition of the concept of masculinity (Genuske, Gray, & Vagianos 2015).
Components of Masculinity
According to Connell (2005), there is no particular masculinity, but there is a kind of association of masculinities based on different positions of power. Anyway, masculinity is the factor that makes men behave in a particular way and use their skills and attitudes to respond in the ways that are more appropriate for them. Connell (2005) teaches that true masculinity is closely connected to the idea of men’s bodies, i.e. express something about the body or create the standards of independence and courage. Besides, it is important to pay attention to such components as the evaluation of emotional control, the desire to gain victory, to achieve primacy at work, and even to use violence or other harsh methods to achieve their goals, take risks, and represent men in society. Still, despite the existing variety of what men “should” and should not” do and the comparison of male vs. female activities, at the end of the day, people are “just human beings” with their personal do’s and don’ts (Genuske, Gray, & Vagianos 2015). Such approach and understanding of the reality, the concept of masculinity may be closely connected to the human centred theory and its main approaches.
Human Centred Design Theory and Masculinity Concept
A human centred design aims at producing solutions and investigating issues in a particular context by taking into consideration the perspectives of people. The masculinity concept is another attempt to investigate a topic in terms of a particular context in regards to the opinions and opportunities based on men’s priorities. Both, the concept and the theory, help to understand the reasons for human behaviours, investigate the reactions of certain groups of people, and clarify if there are some adjustments that could be offered to change the behaviour and help people achieve good results.
Human behaviour is the topic for numerous discussions and evaluations in the sphere of psychology. There are two types of approaches of social research: nomothetic and idiographic. The idiographic approach is focused on the unique features of the study, and the nomothetic approach aims at generating statements that could be applied neglecting the questions of place and time (Bryman 2012). A number of attempts have been already made to clarify what approach is more effective and what steps should be taken to achieve the desirable results. The nomothetic approach is one of the opportunities for researchers to investigate groups of people to discover certain types of behaviour that are approved by law.
This type of research helps to create certain laws and generalisations and consider a number of people together as those, who could behave in the same way, share the same values, and take the same steps to solve the same questions and challenges. In opposition to this approach, there is also an idiographic method that aims at investigating individuals in their personal details and identifying their unique traits and understanding of behaviour. Freud was one of the supporters of this approach, who placed motivation at the centre of personality and argued that all human behaviours had to be motivated and grouped in regards to the motives (John, Robins, & Pervin 2010). Taking into consideration the definitions of both approaches, it is possible to admit that the nomothetic approach could create more opportunities for the study because it helps to gather the material from people, consider it in regards to certain standards, and identify the answers to the created research questions.
Operationalisation in Psychology
In general, operationalisation in psychology is a process that helps to define the measurements of a chosen topic and explain the ways of how a particular study could be organised. It is expected to gather as much information as possible and organise it in the most comprehensive way. Bhattacherjee (2012) identifies operationalisation as the process “of designing precise measures for abstract theoretical constructs” (p.22). The chosen study is based on the human centred theory that helps to cover the peculiarities of young males in a certain context. There are two main concepts that have to be considered by a researcher: the concept of masculinity and the ideas of how sun protection behaviour could be improved. The concepts could be investigated by means of such qualitative research methods as observations, interviews, and focus groups to identify young male behaviours, actions, and responds to certain questions/opinions/beliefs.
Angrosino, M 2007, Doing ethnographic and observational research, SAGE, Thousand Oaks.
Bhattacherjee, A 2012, Social science research: principles, methods, and practices, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Web.
Genuske, A, Gray, E, & Vagianos, A 2015, ‘This is what masculinity really means to men’, The Huffington Post, Web.
Gialdino, IV 2009, ‘Ontological and epistemological foundations of qualitative research’, Qualitative Social Research, vol. 10, no. 2, Web.
Gill, P, Steward, K, Treasure, E & Chadwick, B 2008, ‘Methods of data collection in qualitative research: interviews and focus groups’, British Dental Journal, vol. 204, pp. 291-295.
John, OP, Robins, RW, & Pervin, LA 2010, Handbook of personality: theory and research, Guilford Press, New York.
Krueger, RA & Casey, MA 2014, Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research, SAGE Publications, New Delhi.
Bryman, A 2012, Social research methods, Oxford University Press, New York.
Risjord, M 2014, Philosophy of social science: a contemporary introduction, Routledge, New York.
Sarantakos, S 2012, Social research, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Schwartz-Shea, P & Yanow, D 2013, Interpretive research design: concepts and processes, Routledge, New York.
Smith, ML 2010, A prehistory of ordinary people, University of Arizona Press, Tucson.