Theory Building and Paradigms in Research

Subject: Sciences
Pages: 52
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Study level: PhD

Introduction

Theories often play a crucial role in developing academic research. The importance of theories in research is especially profound in the conceptualization and guidance of research findings. Ironically, Henderikus (2010) reports the lack of a common conception of theory among researchers. However, since doctoral research greatly relies on theoretical constructs, this paper analyzes several conceptions of theory, types of theory, and the contribution of research to theoretical development. This analogy mirrors the relationship between theory and research.

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Literature Review

In the 19th century, Darwin presented a set of scientific explanations to explain initial scientific evidence naturalists had gathered regarding evolution (Jay, 2002). Darwin’s contribution to science is widely used in natural sciences, but generally, it highlights the nature of theory in most scientific disciplines. Darwin’s explanation is therefore widely used to explain most scientific theories because he demonstrated that guessing or formulating ideas do not inform theory (only scientific evidence does so) (Jay, 2002).

According to Gelso (2006), theories can describe scientific phenomena, delimit scientific observations, generate new scientific ideas and frameworks or integrate new and existing theories (p. 2). The descriptive function is centered on causal factors which explain why things happen the way they do. The delimiting function analyzes the boundaries of examining a specific phenomenon while the generative function analyzes existing research as a process to develop new knowledge (heuristic value) (Gelso, 2006). This latter function usually strives to inspire the development of new research. Gelso (2006) also defines the integrative function of theories as a system, which provides a platform where new and old ideas merge to form new ones.

Theories are often commonly confused with other concepts such as hypotheses, models, paradigms and concepts. Dubin (1978) explains the difference between theories and concepts by defining a concept as a phenomenon that scientific knowledge tries to explain. Theories are therefore antecedents of concepts because through concepts, theories are developed. Stated differently, Gay (2011) defines a concept as “a mental image that summarizes a set of similar observations” (p. 26). Concepts are unique because of their associated values (through observation, it is easy to determine their values and associated forms in different variables).

Apart from the confusion with concepts, theories have also been confused with propositions. Cozby (2009) believes propositions explain the relationship between two concepts (this assertion shows the relationship between propositions and concepts). Gelso (2006) also sights another relationship between propositions and hypotheses by explaining the dependence of hypotheses on propositions. In other words, propositions are similar to hypotheses, except for the ability of hypotheses to be tested. Indeed, hypotheses normally predict a measurable value (using dependent and independent variables) and exceptionally, they present a null form (where there is no relationship between variables) which tests in research.

Gay (2011) also presents the relationship between hypotheses and theories as an explanation for the way hypotheses bridge theories and data. However, drawing on the understanding of hypotheses, at one time, theories were mere hypotheses because they based their validity on tentative and testable observations (which are free from scientific evidence). However, Stam (2007) shows that when hypotheses receive a substantial level of support among the people and they provide a consistent way of explaining a given phenomenon, they are elevated to the level of a theory (but even at this point, they are not considered to be proven theories). Instead, these hypotheses provide the best scientific explanation regarding a specific phenomenon (using consistent integrative and predictive validity). For example, the global warming and evolution theories are peer-reviewed and tested using scientific methodologies and this is why they have garnered enough support in science (thereby graduating both theories above mere hypotheses to credible scientific theories). Therefore, as opposed to hypotheses, scientific research validates scientific theories.

Models, diagrams, and paradigms are also often confused with theories but as Gay (2011) posits, they complement the nature of theories. Gay (2011) also elaborates that

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“While diagrams and models build theory and visualize the inter-relatedness of variables showing their causal direction and strength of relationship, theory must be used to explain what the diagram shows as opposed to the diagrams explaining the theory (theories inform why these relationships were observed)” (p. 26).

From the above assertion, models and diagrams stand to explain the existing relationship between theories, but in their own right, they do not signify theories. Harlow (2009) explains that different phenomenal aspects of the social world find their roots in paradigms but theories flesh out and explain these phenomenal aspects of the social world. In other words, theories flesh out paradigms. Kerlinger (1986) explains that systematic statements that explain social issues constitute theories. Indeed, theories play a pivotal role in bridging natural systems with human experience so that it is easier to understand what happens around us. Contrary to common usage, the nature of theory finds its support from scientific evidence, as opposed to individual interpretations or explanations (Harlow, 2009). Common perceptions of theories therefore characterize widespread speculation without any scientific support (Harlow, 2009). For example, under the scientific perception of theory, it is incorrect to portray global warming and evolution as mere theories because they find their basis on scientific evidence. Through these definitions, it is easier to understand the relationship between theories, paradigms, models, hypotheses, and concepts.

Discussion

Views Regarding What Constitutes a Theory

First View

According to Wacker (1998), a theory must have at least four basic criteria, which characterize the definition of concepts, the constriction of domains, the development of new relationships and the ability to predict new scientific relationships (p. 1). Concerning conceptual definitions, Wacker (1998) explains the importance of theories to outline what constitutes their scope and what they specifically exclude. Using the same philosophy, Gay & Weaver (2011) explain that unique theories exclude many issues while common theories include many conceptual definitions. Wacker (1998) also contends that conceptual definitions used in a theory should mirror the definitions used in the same empirical studies. Therefore, there should not be any significant differences between the analytical methodologies and the operating methodologies in the empirical studies. From the same understanding, Wacker (1998) insists, “it does not seem logical for analytical methods to use conceptual definitions for their mathematical convenience if these definitions have no hope of ever being operational while measuring empirical studies” (Wacker, 1998, p. 377).

According to Wacker (1998) second basic criterion for theories (domain limitations), theories should be mathematically and logically developed. The mathematical development may include the use of statistical inferences to support the theory’s structure (Wacker, 1998). These theories should find their basis on empirical evidence, which may also base their structures on experimental designs that narrowly control domains (statistical sampling methodologies may also support experimental research). Finally, case studies constitute theoretical domain limitations. Comprehensively, the above attributes define Wacker (1998, p. 378) assertion of the importance of theories to have a domain limitation. Domain limitations are mainly useful in enabling theories’ statistical testing. Wacker (1998) third theoretical component is the need for theories to have a “relationship-building” attribute. This attribute establishes if the variables have a conspicuous relationship. The importance of establishing this relationship is an important research fact for empirical researchers. Indeed, this process ensures that all the empirical models have a coherent understanding of “why” and “how” such variables are related. Finally, Wacker (1998) assertion of the need for theories to be predictive highlights the importance of testing the theories in the external and empirical worlds. In other words, Wacker (1998) encourages the need for theories to be predictive to ease their support in empirical research.

Second View

Kaufman (1954) proposes a second view regarding the components of a theory. His view is the instrumental view because he highlights the importance of theories to have an instrumental conception. The instrumental conception view stipulates the importance of theories to provide a guide to action. This view supports the provision of tools and mechanisms for people to cope with everyday issues. Kaufman (1954) also explains the need for theories, which have an instrumental conception view to exhibit two components – ultimate ideals and intermediate ideals. In political philosophies, ultimate ideals may denote freedom, social cohesion, or growth but they may also conceal real demands (Grant, 2002). Kaufman (1954) explains that ultimate ideals have often played an ornamental value in research but they are very important in advancing an instrumental character to scientific theories. Kaufman’s second view is the intermediate ideal because it informs policy recommendations (in political philosophies) to support a specific action. Considering the above theoretical insights, Kaufman (1954) theoretical view emphasizes the importance of theories to play an instrumental role to guide actions.

Third View

Sutton and Staw (1995) propose the main constituent of a theory to be its ability to answer fundamental disciplinary questions. In this regard, Sutton and Staw (1995) explain the importance of theories to demonstrate and disseminate causal relationships (and the order or timing of the events that cause this causal relationship). Sutton and Staw (1995) view receives support from Stam (2010) who believes in the need for theories to provide an explanation for the existence of causal relationships in most disciplinary dilemmas.

Comparison of the Three Views

The theoretical views of Sutton and Staw (1995) mirror Wacker (1998) view of the same. Indeed, this paper shows that Wacker (1998) explains the need for theories to have a relationship-building attribute to explain the coherence of variables. Sutton and Staw (1995) also emphasize the need for theories to demonstrate causal relationships (through an explanation of the relationship between different variables). To this extent, Sutton and Staw (1995) view augur well with Wacker (1998). However, based on the three views discussed above, Wacker (1998) view of theories exposes more detail because it is expansive in scope. Indeed, Wacker (1998) suggests the need for theories to demonstrate “conceptual definitions, domain limitations, relationship-building, and predictions” (p. 378). In the third view (described above), Sutton and Staw (1995) only emphasize the need for theories to explain causal relationships. They do not divulge any other theoretical components. Under the second view, Grant (2002) only focuses on the importance of theories to have a meaning. In other words, she emphasizes the need for theories to demonstrate a guide to action. In this respect, Grant’s view is similar to the first and third views because Sutton and Staw (1995) and Wacker (1998) all advance the importance of theories to advance causal relationships as a guide to action. Notably, all the three views discussed above emphasize the importance of incorporating scientific research as a basis for comprehending theories. Wacker (1998) however shows more emphasis to this issue because he stresses the need for theories to have a basis of comparison to empirical studies. Nonetheless, the three views discussed above highlight the reliance on scientific evidence and the incorporation of empirical evidence to support theories.

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Relationship between Theory and Research

Harlow (2009) explains that the diversity witnessed in defining a theory also characterizes the diversity witnessed in explaining the relationship between theories and research. Despite this diversity, there is a wide consensus among researchers of the need for theories to form the main framework for scholarly research (Harlow, 2009). The main discussion arising in this analysis is the importance of contributing new knowledge into existing bodies of research. This statement births another discussion regarding what constitutes “contribution” to research but still, the contribution of theory to research highlights the relationship between both concepts. Many issues define this relationship. Some of them are:

Originality and Utility

The main idea surrounding the relationship between theory, and research is based on the premise that quantitative and qualitative research always informs existing theories (albeit dimensionally). Ellis & Levy (2008) explain that the multidimensional way that theory contributes to research is hinged on originality (incremental or revelatory) and utility (scientific or practical). The contributions of research to theories on originality and utility levels explain the power of research to improve the explanatory power of theories. Through the increase of explanatory power, theories become highly relevant to the point that they can cause a paradigm shift (Ellis & Levy, 2008). However, the original and utility contributions of research to theory occurs incrementally (building upon previous facts). Despite the nature of theoretical contributions to research (originality or utility), the contribution of quantitative research to theoretical development is easily generalized because of the multidimensional hypothesis testing. Through these multidimensional hypothesis tests, theories and research develop stronger explanatory power and predictability (Ellis & Levy, 2008).

Qualitative Contribution to Research

The qualitative contribution to research is equally significant to the quantitative contribution to research. However, compared to the quantitative contribution to research, the qualitative contribution to research is narrow in scope. Its importance is also more profound when exploring difficult topics (normally, these difficult topics are closed to external observations) (Gay, 2011). Furthermore, complex topics (and other topics, which are difficult to quantify) easily merge with the qualitative contribution to research. Ellis & Levy (2008) explain that the qualitative research firmly grounds in social reality but some critics say that it is often idiographic. This contribution notwithstanding, Gay (2011) explains that:

“Qualitative methods have the potential to make fundamental contributions to the development of basic science in behavioral and social domains … in elucidating changes to existing constructs, the relationship among constructs, and the direction of causation between predictors and outcomes” (p. 7).

Best Practice

Kurt Lewin‘s (cited in Gay, 2011, p. 29) best assertion centers on his depiction that good theories are practical theories because they are defined by best practices. This assertion bases its validity from the fact that “good” theories base their structures on empirical research and experiences. This way, good theories depend on practical research (which forms the framework for developing best practices in theory development). In this regard, there is a conspicuous agreement among researchers of the importance of theories to not only advance the truth but also demonstrate a practical understanding (or usefulness) to scientific practice (Gay, 2011). Therefore, if theories develop without practical usefulness, they are insufficient. Whetten (1989) explains this fact in another dimension and explains the importance of theories to “improve the current research practice of informed scholars” (p. 581). The contribution of best practice (by research studies to theories) also highlights an important function of theories (which is to expound on the practice and understanding of practitioners).

How the Instrumental View Adds to the Understanding of Political Theories

The instrumental view of theoretical construction stands in this section of the paper as an illustrative theory for improving the understanding of political theories. This view highlights an earlier section of this paper (“second view” of what constitutes a theory) and it plays an important role in political science because it supports the understanding of political theories. The instrumental view adds to the understanding of political theory because it charts the course for action in solving political issues. The most celebrated theories in political science have included important information that was present at the time of formulating the theories. For example, Gay (2011) contends that, “facts, inferences, natural laws, and appropriate well-tested hypotheses are all part of the construction of a strong political theory” (p. 30). In this regard, political theories differentiate themselves from other forms of intuition like beliefs and guesses. Indeed, it is undoubted that political theories develop from social frictions and empirical evidence gathered from the same. However, there has been an intense debate regarding what constitutes these theories. Some researchers claim that some of these theories merely base their structures on sheer rhetoric, while others insist that such theories propagate to support an existing power structure (Morgenthau, 2004). A different group of critics proposes that these theories advance an unknown eternal and objective order (Morgenthau, 2004). These views have questioned the credibility of political theories but the instrumental view expounds on the importance of using these views to serve an instrumental function. In this regard, the instrumental view adds to the understanding of the functions of political theories.

Controversies and Unanswered Questions Regarding Instrumentalism

As explained in this paper, instrumentalism focuses on presenting theories as a tool for understanding the environment. The instrumentalist view therefore focuses on how to analyze and predict the relationship among different social, political or economic issues as opposed to how these relationships manifest. Therefore, the objective of instrumentalism is not to explain why a phenomenon exists but rather, explain if associated results or observations fit the description of these phenomena. Despite the articulate explanation of how instrumentalism operates, there are some unanswered questions and controversies surrounding its application.

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For example, Charles Sanders Peirce (a renowned researcher who introduced the concept of pragmatism) criticized the instrumentalist view by explaining that the supposition of truth is the only way that scientific progress can be achieved (Stewart, 1991). Through the supposition of reality and truth, an explanation of reality and good theories suffice. This view contradicts the instrumentalist view because the instrumentalist view does not consider unobservable objects to have a significant outcome on empirical studies, while Pierce claims that they do (Stewart, 1991). In fact, Peirce adds that unobservable objects in science are testable in practice and therefore, theory developers should consider them.

Popper (2003) (another philosopher of science also disputes assertions made by proponents of the instrumentalist view because he claims that the instrumentalist view is too mechanical. Concerning his reservations about the instrumentalist view, Popper (2003) insists that

“Instrumentalism can be formulated as the thesis that scientific theories – the theories of the so-called pure sciences – are nothing but computational rules (or inference rules); of the same character, fundamentally, as the computation rules of the so-called applied sciences (one might even formulate it as the thesis that pure science is a misnomer, and that all science is applied). Now my reply to instrumentalism consists in showing that there are profound differences between pure theories and technological computation rules, and that instrumentalism can give a perfect description of these rules but is unable to account for the difference between them and the theories” (p. 56).

Popper (2003) also explains that another controversy surrounding instrumentalism is the concept’s failure to evaluate theories. Instead, instrumentalism implies the need for theories to receive the same treatment as models (where information provides observable predictions). Through this representation, there is a need to explain the difference between theories and observations because instrumentalism confuses the two concepts. Popper (2003) elaborates that this confusion also stretches to the mix between non-theoretical terms and observable terms, plus the mix between non-observable terms and theoretical terms. Instrumentalism therefore contends that there is no difference between theoretical and semantic issues because it suggests, people can be able to know anything only if they are able to understand it. This view is highly contentious.

Recommendations

Understanding the nature and type of a theory is the first step to ensure the right modeling of future research processes. For researchers, theories stand as the first line of understanding scientific research. Therefore, to test and predict different variables of the research process, consultations about existing theories need to occur. Through the confirmation and understanding of these variables, the development of new theories is achievable and an improvement of scientific practice on the related subject is equally achievable. Through this understanding, it is always important to establish how our research influences theory and justifies the same contribution.

Conclusion

After weighing the findings of this paper, theories provide a logical explanation of how things work. Its contribution to practice is not only important for knowledge development but also in the development of scientific solutions regarding different scientific phenomena. The findings of this paper therefore demonstrate the importance of theoretical contributions to research processes (despite the complexities that occur from the same processes).

References

Cozby, P. (2009). Methods in behavioral research. Boston: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Dubin, R. (1978). Theory building (Rev. ed.). New York: Free Press.

Ellis, T. & Levy, Y. (2008). Framework of problem-based research: A guide for novice researchers on the development of a research-worthy problem. Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 11, 17-33.

Gay, B. (2011). Theory Building and Paradigms: A Primer on the Nuances of Theory Construction. American International Journal of Contemporary Research, 1(2), 24-29.

Gay, B. & Weaver, S. (2011). Theory Building and Paradigms: A Primer on the Nuances of Theory Construction. American International Journal of Contemporary Research, 1(2), 24-30.

Gelso, C. (2006). Applying theories to research: The interplay of theory and research in science (In F.T. Leong & J.T. Austin The psychology research handbook). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Grant, R. (2002). Political Theory, Political Science, and Politics. Political Theory30(4), 577-595.

Harlow, E. (2009). Contribution, theoretical. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. New York: Sage.

Henderikus, S. (2007). Theoretical psychology. The International Handbook of Psychology. London: SAGE Publications.

Henderikus S. (2010). Theory (Encyclopedia of Research Design). New York: SAGE Publications.

Jay, S. (2002). The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Kaufman, A. (1954). The nature and function of political theory. The Journal of Philosophy, 51(1), 5.

Kerlinger, R. (1986). Foundations of behavioral research. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

Morgenthau, H. (2004). Political Theory And International Affairs: Hans J. Morgenthau On Aristotle’s The Politics. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Popper, K. (2003). Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. London: Routledge.

Stam, H. (2007). Theoretical psychology. The International Handbook of Psychology. New York: SAGE Publications.

Stam, H. (2010). Theory. Encyclopedia of Research Design. New York: SAGE Publications.

Stewart, K. (1991). Social and Economic Aspects of Peirce’s Conception of Science. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 27(4), 501–526.

Sutton, R. & Staw, B. M. (1995). What theory is not. ASQ, 40, 371-384.

Wacker, J. (1998). A definition of theory: Research guidelines for different theory-building research methods in operations management. Journal of Operations Management, 16(4), 361–385.

Whetten, D. (1989). What constitutes a theoretical contribution? Academy of Management Review, 14, 490-495.

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Introduction

Investigations into the relationship between theory and practice have gone on for a long time. This relationship influences professional training programs and how the knowledge presented in this training program is applicable in practice. Indeed, recently there have been many debates, which have strived to investigate ways to improve the integration of research and practice. Tenkasi (2011) emphasizes the importance of theories to improve practice (and most importantly, the importance of theories to improve the application of science). To this extent, there has been a conspicuous attempt among researchers to investigate the extent that theory influences practice. This understanding highlights the importance of aligning theory with practice. This section of the paper investigates the relationship between theory and practice by exploring the relationship between theory and practice. Finally, to have a practical understanding of this relationship, the application of the international relations theory forms an integral part of the findings.

Literature Review

Jones (1979) explained that undoubtedly, theories play a critical role in the development of practice but recent concerns raised by practitioners (regarding the value of theories) pose serious questions regarding the development of these theories and their approach. The divide between theory and practice is a sensitive issue in the analysis of research competencies and the entire understanding of postmodernism. Zontanos (2004) views the divide between theory and practice to emanate from training programs. However, he posits that the same practitioners who voice the disconnection between theory and practice become experienced at their profession and become practical theorists (Zontanos, 2004). Eikeland (2011) contends that practice is improvisatory and within this understanding, theories refine the understanding of practice. Similarly, critical thinking and reflective practice informs how practice shapes in different disciplines. However, because of the tardiness and irrelevance of some theories, Eikeland (2011) exhibits the importance of practitioners to undertake their own research to further bridge the gap between the two concepts. An adoption of this strategy may however have significant implications on the training, development and relationship between researchers and practitioners (Brennan, 2008).

The disconnect between theory and practice, was best represented in a research documented in the British Journal of Social Development where Brian Sheldon (the author) articulated some of the main differences between theories and practice and tried to devise ways to solve some of these challenges (Parton, 2000). Sheldon claimed that the relationship between theory and practice proved to be inconsistent and he emphasized the need for more improvements from the two ends (theory and practice) to improve their relationship (Parton, 2000). However, at the time of his publication, Sheldon found little support for his proposal because there was a widespread negative attitude among practitioners towards scientific theories at the time (Parton, 2000). However, drawing on the comparisons between Sheldon and other researchers from other disciplines, there was a strong need to borrow some models to improve the relationship between theory and practice. This was among the first attempt to bridge theory and practice. However, based on the conspicuous differences between the scientific models in various disciplines, it was difficult to borrow (seamlessly) interdisciplinary scientific models for the improvement of the relationship between theory and practice. Since then, many researchers have developed different views regarding the relationship between theory and practice. Below are discussions of some of these views.

Discussion

Part 1

Views on the Relationship between Theory and Practice

Brennan (2008) views the relationship between theory and practice to be cyclic. In his definition, he explains that theory informs practice and practice tests the theory. Many researchers have had different views about the relationship between theory and practice but a majority believes practitioners fail to include published theory and their associated findings in their practice (Gray & Watson, 2011). This way, practitioners fail to utilize some of the most effective theoretical models that are useful in their practice. On one hand, practitioners emphasize the weakness of theorists to provide clear and consistent information in their theories (and this is why they fail to utilize these theories in their work) but on the other hand, theorists also emphasize the failure of practitioners to consider useful theoretical findings because of psychological, academic, or institutional reasons. This divide has created an inconsistency between theory and practice (Gray & Watson, 2011).

How theory Informs Practice

Tenkasi (2011) contends that in the past, the role of integrating theory with practice was conceptually an exclusive responsibility of academicians. However, after the establishment of a significant divide between practice and theory, researchers were often encouraged to contextualize their findings to suit everyday application (Kasabov, 2007). One way of doing so was to use practical research in theoretical development so that it was easier for practitioners to relate with theories. This strategy traces its application alongside the goal of providing an evidence-based management structure to improve the credibility and validity of findings (Kasabov, 2007). Apart from developing theoretical developments on practical applications, researchers were also encouraged to present their findings in an interesting and captivating way for readers to relate better with their findings (this was among the earliest ways researchers tried to bridge the gap between theory and practice). The adoption of interesting and practical presentations happened when integrating academic and professional knowledge (in academic programs such as doctorate degree programs). Here, the goal of the researcher was to empower upcoming scholars and practitioners to better integrate theory and practice.

Tenkasi (2011) introduces a new twist to the debate regarding how theory informs practice by highlighting the ability of theories to inform practice (a guide for initiating action – a concept that closely resembles the instrumentalist theory, which provides a guide to action). Tenkasi (2011) view also manifests the potential of theories to provide a rationale for decision-making (as another model which theory informs practice) (Tenkasi, 2011). For example, in psychotherapy, the accountability of actions is highly encouraged as a way for practitioners to merge theory and practice. Nonetheless, Tenkasi (2011) explains that even though theory informs practice, the reverse can also be true because his research demonstrates that practice can also inform theory. For example, in psychotherapy, a person’s actions or behaviors may inform a practitioner’s decision regarding which theory suits the patient’s treatment plan (Henderikus, 2007). From this observation, Tenkasi (2011) claims that theory and practice share a reciprocal relationship (and from this relationship, the practitioner becomes the researcher).

Issues Involved in Translating Theory to Practice

Ideally, there should be a seamless relationship between theory and practice (characterized by consistency between the two concepts) but as Barclay (2005) observes in practice, theory and practice are seldom consistent. Issues surrounding theory and practice have obscured the goal of realizing a smooth transition between theory and practice. Barclay (2005) assertion can be contrasted with Kurt Lewin’s (cited in Gay, 2011) view, which suggests that there is nothing as practical as a good theory (however, in practice, not all theories are good theories). Many people understand the portrayal of consistency between theory and practice to be “walking the talk” (p. 29). In other words, people are often required to align their actions with what they say (congruency manifests in this regard). According to a sociology researcher called Carl Rodgers (cited in Tenkasi, 2011), congruency is not only important in bridging the gap between theory and practice but also crucial in demonstrating the strength of human relationships. For example, people often trust honest and trustworthy people because they are the most consistent. When stated differently, reliable people are more desirable. However, the relationship between theory and practice demonstrate inconsistencies.

For example, this paper identifies that one way researchers have tried to narrow the gap between theory and practice is making their research more interesting and captivating for practitioners to better relate with their findings. However, within this framework, there have been many debates regarding the effectiveness of practitioners and scholars in bridging the gap between theory and practice. Similarly, many debates have questioned the viability of merging the work of practitioners and scholars with academicians to integrate theory and practice (Tenkasi, 2011). In this regard, there have been several questions posed regarding what academicians can truly learn from traditional practitioners and scholars in today’s fast-paced world. Tenkasi (2011) has effectively captured these questions in his article titled, Integrating Theory to inform Practice

Another issue surrounding the application of theories and practice is the failure for researchers to incorporate practical data in theoretical developments. Llewelyn (2003) explains that if people tend to follow theories without incorporating practical data (regarding the same theory) there is going to be a significant discrepancy in the conversion of theory to practice. This discrepancy arises because there is insufficient awareness created when merging theories and practice in this regard. When stated differently, Llewelyn (2003) explains the potential to perceive theories as maps for offering direction, but these maps do not define the territory in their own right. Therefore, there is a strong need to compare internal representations of theories with external motivations because both concepts differ.

Another issue involved in translating theory to practice lies in the failure to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of the theories in practice. Bourne (2008) explains that it is possible to compare theories with lenses, which have their strong and weak points. The presence of weaknesses implies that there are specific areas of distortion, which may inhibit the direct application of these theories in practice. Nonetheless, the recognition of theoretical strengths and weaknesses has brought a new movement, which skews towards encouraging integrative theoretical developments. This movement has also birthed the multi-theoretical perception of practical issues facing different disciplines.

Therefore, there is no guarantee that a theoretical orientation always provides the same desired practical alignment. Indeed, Brownlie & Svensson (2008) explain the differences professionals with the same theoretical orientations have shown in practice. Similarly, Brownlie & Svensson (2008) observes the similarity of practice, which professionals with different theoretical backgrounds show. Therefore, there is no direct relationship between theoretical developments and practical applications. Instead, theoretical developments are subject to individual interpretations, which may cause significant differences in practical application.

Part 2 – Description and a Current view of the International Relations Theory

To understand the relationship between theory and practice, this section of the paper explores the application of the international relations theory. The international relations theory is one theory, which has been widely used in political science. Its use has been widely accepted by many scholars because the theory provides a conceptual framework for analyzing how different countries relate. Some people have used the international relations theory poetically, to refer to a pair of colored glasses, which only allow the wearer to consider important features in international relations (which are crucial to the theory) (Ghosh, 1995). The international relations theory comprises three main branches: realism, liberalism and constructivism (but realism and liberalism are the most prevalent).

The realist view is the most dominant international relations view among all other views (liberalist and constructivist). The realist view differentiates itself from the liberalist and constructivist view by acknowledging the role of state actors as the most important determinants of world politics (Chen, 2011). This view bases its philosophies on a state-centric system, which view nations as billiard balls that control world politics. The realist view bases its ideologies on a few assumptions that perceive nation-states as unitary actors with tremendous geographic dominance (giving them the power to control world politics). The realist view also assumes that nation-states are always competing against one another (Osuagwu, 2008).

As opposed to the realist view, the liberalist view considers the view of non-state actors in international politics. Non-state actors may include non-governmental organizations, corporations (and the likes). The liberalist view also emphasizes those preferential views among state actors are the single-most influential tools for changing world politics (as opposed to the power or capability of nation-states in realizing the same results). According to the liberal view, dominant cultural, economic, and political factors (which may vary state preferences when interacting in the world stage) affect the preferences of nation-states.

Finally, the constructivist view bases its ideals on a systematic structure, which finds its footing in ideas that affect interests and identities (Huang, 2012). The constructivist view also explores how these interests are later, advocated to produce political structures that support the initial ideas that created them (Huang, 2012). The main tenet of the constructivist view describes, “collective values, culture, social identities and persuasive ideas” (Duvall & Varadarajan, 2003, p. 75), which create a social construction of influence in world politics. The application of the constructivist view traces its support from the past failure of existing branches of the international relations theory to describe the outcome of the cold war.

Comprehensively, the current view of the international relations theory hinges on explaining today’s power structures (Duvall & Varadarajan, 2003, p. 75). This theory also bases its understanding in the comprehension of various perspectives that affect how nations relate. The understanding of the world order and the challenges of existing administrative frameworks (such as authoritarian rule, democratic governance and the likes) also describe the international relations theory. The international relations theory therefore explains the effect of power structures on people (Duvall & Varadarajan, 2003, p. 75). Its importance does not only remain confined within the theoretical understanding of power structures because its application stretches to its ability to motivate people and initiative political actions to confront existing power relations.

However, people who practice foreign policies sometimes dismiss the international relations theory because they see a big difference or lack of understanding between the way the international relations theory is developed and the real-world application of foreign policies (Duvall & Varadarajan, 2003). This divide highlights the wide difference between theory and practice but it also expresses the frustration practitioners experience when they implement theoretical contributions. Duvall & Varadarajan (2003) explains that despite the continual ignorance of international theory application, foreign policy practitioners still have to rely on some theoretical models to inform their decision-making processes. Concerning this observation, Duvall & Varadarajan (2003) explain that “everyone uses theories-whether they know it or not-and disagreements about policy usually rest on more fundamental disagreements about the basic forces that shape international outcomes” (p. 198). Nonetheless, from the objection of international theories (by some researchers), the divide between the abstract world of theory and the real-world applications of these theories persist.

Part 3 – Application of International Relations Theory to Political Science

This paper emphasizes the need for theories to build on existing literature and improve existing bodies of knowledge. The international relations theory has been able to do so effectively. Moreover, the international relations theory has been able to re-invent itself and remain relevant in solving current world problems. Its ability to do so emphasizes the importance of theories to relate to practice (as explained in part one of this paper). Even though there have been some resistance from certain foreign policy practitioners to embrace the international relations theory, there is a significant application of the theory in explaining some of the world’s most notable political problems. In addition, the application of the international relations theory emphasizes another important function of theories, which is to predict future events. As will be explained in subsequent paragraphs of this paper, the international relations theory predicts the behavior of international world powers (viz-a-viz foreseen or unforeseen forces) which influence global dynamics of world politics.

For example, the international relations theory explains today’s global world power structures (like the new world order, which is characterized by the growing dominance of emerging world powers such as China) and how their influence affects the current power structure in world politics. For example, the international relations theory demonstrates how emerging world powers could rise to power, in a potentially dangerous way. More so, this discussion arises because emerging economies such as China or Iran do not embrace democratic governance and such uniqueness threatens the dominance of existing democracies in world politics. The international relations theory also explores if China will demand a different treatment in the world stage as it interacts with other global world powers, or if it will modify its behavior to suit the conventional world political system. The international relations theory also explains the dominance of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in world politics and its subsequent impact in influencing global policies. Indeed, the international relations theory (through the realist view) shows that NATO’s expansion in world politics is a way to increase the dominance of western influence beyond the traditional borders of the US. This theory also demonstrates that NATOs expansion was a way to increase the dominance of western influence in world politics at a period of Russian expansion. Therefore, the international relations theory would demonstrate that the expansion of NATO’s influence would evoke protest from Russia. Such issues affect our present-day understanding of world politics and it demonstrates the usefulness of the international relations theory in political science.

Evaluating the Application of International Relations Theory

Widely, the application of the international relations theory denotes the existing relationships existing among many states today. Its application explores the underlying bonds among these relationships and it gives a comprehensive insight into the outcomes of these relationships. The above application of the international relations theory to explain the existence of world bodies like NATO is premised on a factual understanding of the theory because the international relations theory defines such unions as a transnational bond that is held together by national interests (this is the true picture characterizing NATO’s existence) (Huang, 2012). Other spheres of political science that the international relations theory applies base their philosophies on a factual representation of the theory. For example, the international relations theory explains the development of foreign policies in many nations today because the theory provides a conceptual framework for the development of these policies. Through the understanding of international relations theory, we can therefore compare and contrast the differences and similarities between the foreign policies of different world powers (and why this is so). The sheer numbers of sub-theories that explain the international relations theory outline the expansive scope of the theory (Ellis & Levy, 2008). Through this expansive scope, the international relations theory explains many political issues – especially concerning international collaboration in security, finance, fighting terrorism (and similar global concerns). The application of the international relations theory (in the context of the examples made in this paper) therefore does not go beyond the scope of the paper. Instead, the examples highlighted in this paper show a precise link between the theory and practice.

Recommendations

Based on the existing gap between theory and practice, it is crucial for researchers to understand that good theories premise on facts, which also stem from real practice (similarly, good practice bases its philosophies on sound theories). Researchers should therefore understand that theory and practice are interdependent. Therefore, when trying to merge theory and practice, the relationship between both concepts (theory and practice) should demonstrate accuracy, natural relation and easy communication.

Conclusion

The relationship between theory and practice has been elusive for most researchers and practitioners. Indeed, this section of the paper shows different views regarding why this disconnect exists. However, ideally, theories should be able to build on practice and practice should similarly inform these theories. Several ideas surface in this paper to show how researchers can narrow the divide between theory and practice and most of these strategies can be useful for researchers who wish to improve their practice. Some of these strategies include presenting theoretical findings in attractive ways so practitioners can find them appealing, using practical data to inform the theories and establishing congruence and consistency between theory and practice. To improve the usability of our research findings, researchers should therefore strive to use the above tools to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

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Running Head: Research Critique

Research Critique

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3, October, 2012

Introduction

A critical part of doctoral studies is the ability to scrutinize and evaluate academic literature. This paper demonstrates this ability by analyzing five empirical studies that are crucial to the understanding of international security (both in the local and international context). Similarly, by identifying the strengths and weaknesses in these studies, this paper demonstrates a study sketch of how to address these weaknesses.

Literature Review

First Article

First Question

Engel & Burruss (2004) authored a research study to investigate if human right training formed part of the police-training curriculum for Northern Ireland. This research aim merged with the quest to investigate if Northern Ireland police reform adopted a holistic perspective to human right training and its principles integrated into North Ireland’s police training modules. The above research questions characterized the research purpose, which was to investigate how Northern Ireland adopted dimensions of democratic police reform. This research question informed the shift in police training paradigm from a divided society to a democratic policing model (Engel & Burruss, 2004).

The research methodology adopted by Engel & Burruss (2004) was observational research. The methodology strived to observe the police-training program for new police trainees during their first 20 weeks of training. Recorded observations traced to the second, 12th, and 17th weeks of training. Moreover, the trainees provided their views regarding the incorporation of human rights principles in the police-training program through informal interviews. There were no identifiable methods of data analysis explained in the paper but in my view, the limited scope of observations and interviews weakened the validity of the research. However, the study established that there was a holistic adoption human rights principle in the police-training program (Engel & Burruss, 2004).

Second Question – Meaning and Significance of the Findings

Engel & Burruss (2004) made a compelling case for the meaning and significance of their findings because they drew the link between human right approaches and police training as part of democratic reforms that swept throughout Europe in the mid nineties. They also highlighted the importance of human rights training as part of modern-day democratic gains by investigating if the police respected this virtue. The implications of their findings improve the understanding of modern-day governance structures and its advancement of human rights in a democratic society (Engel & Burruss, 2004).

Second Article

First Question

Mohammad & Conway (2005) authored a research paper titled Political culture, hegemony, and inequality before the law: law enforcement in Pakistan to investigate the role and perception of the police in Pakistan’s criminal justice system. The purpose of the study was to report the patterns of behavior and attitudes that have existed in Pakistan’s criminal justice system for the past three decades. The research problem premises on the change of governments as an influencer for pattern and behavioral change in Pakistan’s criminal justice system (Mohammad & Conway, 2005). The findings of the study however showed that there has not been adequate change of behavioral patterns or attitudes within Pakistan’s criminal justice system (despite the change of governments over the past three decades). The study also established that there is widespread cynicism among Pakistanis regarding the effectiveness of law enforcement (Mohammad & Conway, 2005). Therefore, Mohammad & Conway (2005) established that many crimes were unreported in Pakistan because of the cynicism directed at the police. In fact, the authors quoted one respondent saying, “stay away from police friendship as well as police enmity (Hallaj)” (Mohammad & Conway, 2005, p. 1). Overall, the research problem tried to investigate if the change of political leadership had influenced a change in behavioral patterns or attitudes over the past three decades.

The paper’s research design based its structures on a conceptual discussion and approach that stemmed on extensive interviews carried out on important members of Pakistan’s justice system (such as the judges, bureaucrats, criminal justice victims, political prisoners and even thugs) (Mohammad & Conway, 2005). Interviewing these members of the criminal justice system took ten months (a period that stretched between 1992 and 1993) (Mohammad & Conway, 2005). The interviews occurred in the North Western Frontier province where interviews for the elite and rank-and-file members (police, judges, and prosecutors) occurred in one shift and interviews for political victims, torture victims and other recipients of Pakistan’s criminal justice system occurred in another shift. In-depth interviews and observations comprised the main data gathering tools, but the administration of a multi-faceted study approach occurred to handle ethical, ideological and hegemonic issues. The research also used the qualitative analysis technique to comprehend the nature of the sample population and the institutional behaviors characterizing Pakistan’s criminal justice system (Mohammad & Conway, 2005).

One author (Fida Mohammad) was also keen to analyze Pakistan’s police training program and its effect on the criminal justice system. Concerning the originality and validity of the research study, different aspects of the country’s criminal justice system took a theoretical description, with particular references to the hegemony witnessed in the country’s political system. The study did not cite any validity concerns, but in my view, the nature of the methodology (reliance on observations and interviews) posed several validity concerns (like interview bias). The paper did not address these concerns.

Second Question – Meaning and Significance of the Findings

Mohammad & Conway (2005) made a compelling argument for the meaning and significance of their findings because they drew a very close relationship between their findings and practice. The distinction between theory and practice forms a critical part of this paper because this paper establishes that there is a significant divide between the two concepts. However, Mohammad & Conway (2005) bridge this gap by explaining how their findings reflect the underpinnings of Pakistan’s criminal justice system. The significance of the study elaborates how the political reality of the society manifests national hegemony to impose the dominant rule of the political class on the people. To advance their arguments, Mohammad and Conway explain how police use torture and other coercive means to impose the rule of law on the poor while niceties characterize the treatment of the rich. This description shows how certain political realities promote inequality. Mohammad & Conway (2005) portray this political reality as unfair and repressive because they quote an excerpt from Brogden (1982) which states that “Police management decisions are only legitimate in so far as they uphold the rule of law and the maxims of equality of subjects before it” (p. 4).

Third Article

First Question

From the understanding of the importance of human security as a critical factor in political and social systems, Djuric (2009) authored a research paper titled, Qualitative approach to the research into the parameters of human security in the community. The purpose of the study was to suggest a reliable qualitative framework for understanding human security in the community setting. This approach conceives as part of a larger community-based approach to understand human security. The study’s methodology involved a synthesis of four empirical studies, which investigated the main indicators of community security in Serbia. The paper demonstrated how to apply qualitative methodological approaches to understand community security and the potential that exists from the same approach. The paper also demonstrated how to present, design, and analyze data within the methodology approach (Djuric, 2009).

The research findings showed that it was important to adopt a complementary approach to understand human security because different community dynamics posed a complex understanding of security perception (Djuric, 2009). In other words, the study proposed the adoption of qualitative and quantitative approaches to comprehend the perception of community members regarding their individual and collective security. The implications of the findings showed that through a combination of the qualitative and quantitative approaches to understanding human security, it was easier to establish the causes and nature of security factors in the community. Through the same approach, it is easier to get a comparable and representative analysis of security issues in the community (and the adoption of any proposed model to improve the security situation of a given nation). The authors omitted an explanation of the paper’s validity, but a general analysis of the research limitations acknowledged that the four models studied in the paper only provided an initial insight into the framework for understanding human security in the community setting (a need to explore other models of human security surfaced in this regard).

Second Question – Meaning and Significance of the Findings

Djuric (2009) makes a compelling case for the significance and understanding of his findings because he presents the factual nature of human security in the community setting. He presents the real-life multiple perceptions that human security manifests (by explaining the importance of understanding human security as a complex phenomenon that requires comprehension through the qualitative and quantitative approaches). Indeed, Djuric (2009) presents human security as a sophisticated interaction of economic, political, and micro-social factors, which represent real-life dynamics of the human environment. The meaning and significance of Djuric (2009) findings therefore manifest an understanding of human security through a multifaceted approach, which mirrors in policy frameworks and concepts.

Fourth Article

First Question

Nalla & Hwang (2006) authored a research paper to investigate the relationship between law enforcement officers and private security officers in South Korea (as a way to investigate the best way private and public securities merge to improve national security). The purpose of the study was therefore to investigate the nature of the relationship between private security and public security. However, the researchers made more focus to investigate the attitude and perceptions of the working relationship between the centres of security. Members of these security agencies also sought views regarding how this relationship improves and what the future of this relationship contends.

Increased security firms in South Korea (just like any other developing country) informed the methodology of the paper. The authors interviewed 258 police officers (134 officers were from private security firms and others were national police officers) (Nalla & Hwang, 2006). The interviews were administered using Korean-translated questionnaires. To check for the validity of the findings obtained, the researchers translated the responses to English and their validity checked. The paper’s findings showed that the officers were generally satisfied with the relationship they shared with each other and they looked forward to a more fruitful cooperation in the future. However, each group of officers believed that they could do more to improve their working relationship further. Even though the researchers made significant strides in understanding the level of commitment that street-level officers had towards public and private security cooperation, the authors emphasized the need to investigate the perception and attitudes that the administrative bodies of both security agencies have towards each other (Nalla & Hwang, 2006).

Second Question – Meaning and Significance of the Findings

Nalla & Hwang (2006) made a compelling case for the understanding and significance of their findings because both authors explain the difference of the security structures between developed and developing nations and show how their findings are important to the understanding of other security relationships in third world countries. Regarding the significance of the study’s findings, it is crucial to highlight the fact that both authors demonstrated the significance of their findings to understand the private and public security cooperation in South Korea. For example, the authors noted that since there was more optimism among private security officers regarding their relationship with the national police, there was an opportunity to encourage national security officers to improve their willingness to forge a better working relationship with private security officers (Nalla & Hwang, 2006). This way, the study’s findings were important to understand how private-public security collaboration improves. The ability to generalize the study’s findings across the security structures in most developing countries emphasized the validity of the findings because the South Korean study initiated further investigations into the security aspects that are inherent in other developing nations.

Fifth Article

First Question

In an article titled the thinking eye – Pros and cons of second generation CCTV surveillance systems, Surette (2005) explores the social implications for adopting second generation security cameras in public places as a way to improve national security (this statement defines the purpose of the study). The research problem investigates if it is correct to use any type of technology to improve security. The researchers used CCTV surveillance to explain modern-day technology, which improves security. The research methodology was simplistic because it only evaluated the research literature from the pros and cons of CCTV cameras (without analyzing other ethical or security issues posed by other technological gadgets). The paper’s findings explained the difference between first and second-generation CCTV cameras by exposing the main difference between the two cameras and their capability to analyze images independently. In other words, the researchers showed that first generation cameras could not operate without human input, while second generation cameras could (Surette, 2005). Therefore, the perception of second-generation camera was its independence from human-errors because its design addresses the weaknesses of the first generation cameras. Surette (2005) also revealed that the increased efficiency of the second generation cameras brought new ethical and social concerns regarding privacy because the second generation camera was more intrusive (from the increased expansion of surveillance). The researcher acknowledged that one limitation of his finding was the paper’s failure to assess CCTV surveillance on more rigorous social dynamics (like informal guardianship). The implication of the study centres on developing effective strategies for the deployment of security measures in the community. Here, the paper explained that the easy availability and low costs of technology is not the only consideration for adopting new technology in improving security. The main threat to the validity of the study’s findings was the changing nature of technology. In other words, the findings of the paper base their structures on existing technology, which may change in the future (therefore, posing new dynamics to the research topic).

Second Question – Meaning and Significance of the Findings

Surette (2005) makes a compelling case for the meaning and significance of his findings because he highlights the serious ethical and social issues that new technology poses. For example, privacy debates have characterized most political and social issues because it infringes on peoples’ rights. Therefore, there has been a significant divide between proponents of improved security and personal rights (where there has been a tilt of balance between national security issues and personal rights issues). Surette (2005) demonstrates that his findings can be able to improve the understanding of these issues by exploring different dynamics regarding these political and social issues. The author therefore draws the line between where the roles of the police begin and where the role of new technology ends. His approach is therefore of high significance in trying to understand the relationship between human and technology in security enforcement.

Discussion

After analyzing the five papers discussed above, there is a concrete effort among all the researchers to address different aspects of national security from varied perspectives. For example, Surette (2005) explores the contribution of technology in improving national security, while Nalla & Hwang (2006) explore the relationship between private security and public security in improving law and order in South Korea. The contributions of these two authors are not different from the contribution made by Djuric (2009) (in the third analysis), Mohammad & Conway (2005) (in the second analysis) or Engel and Burruss (2004) contribution (in the first analysis). Through the contribution of these researchers, investigations of crucial elements of national security implementation like human security, models for understanding human security in the community setting and the perception of the police in the community setting occur.

The contributions of these five studies explore known issues regarding national security and more importantly, the crucial elements of national security implementation in the community setting. Indeed, the papers show that it is crucial to understand national security issues from a holistic approach by analyzing the community and private sector approach to national security. These security issues are crucial in comprehending the main topic of my dissertation project (which is to understand the Impact of International Police Advisors’ Training on the Reformation of Afghan). Through the presentation of private and public sector security perception and the analysis of different models in the understanding of national security, the five studies discussed above therefore highlight the holistic approach to understanding national security. The studies also draw the link between the effectiveness of security training and the eventual outcome of national security implementation. The studies therefore present the idea that poor security training (in human rights approaches, or otherwise) lead to poor outcomes in national security implementation. Moreover, these studies also show that such outcomes present a negative perception of security agents within the community and in this regard, they lose the public goodwill to enforce law and order. Mohammad & Conway (2005) highlight the situation in Pakistan where there is very little public confidence in the security agents and a low national goodwill about police actions. Indeed, Mohammad & Conway (2005) explain that public goodwill is lost when security agents do not demonstrate fairness and equity in the implementation of national laws. Their assertion traces its support from the biased implementation of national laws by the Pakistani police (on socioeconomic lines). The authors explain that the Pakistani police are more lenient on the rich and are ruthless on the poor (Mohammad & Conway, 2005). Through this double-faced application of the law, there is a strong perception among the public that the security agencies are serving the interests of a small elite minority as opposed to the interest of the majority. Comprehensively, most of the articles described above emphasize the importance of ensuring fairness and equality in implementing national security laws because they recognize the need for positive public perception in implementing national security laws.

Albeit the five studies discussed above have highlighted important aspects of national security and national policy implementation, the globalized nature of security issues define an important omission in their findings. In detail, Mandel (1999) explains that there are four types of security platforms national, international, transnational, and regional. In today’s global world, these four platforms of security cross one another. Engel and Burruss (2004) analyses explore the respect of human rights as one phenomenon, which shows the interaction among the four security platforms (Engel & Burruss, 2004). Indeed, until the onset of globalization, there was little respect for international security issues (such as human rights) across most third world countries. Concisely, several human rights violations occurred in most third world countries but now, the trend is slowly changing as law enforcement agencies train to respect these rights (Mandel, 1999). This analogy presents one way that international security factors are slowly creeping into domestic security structures. Therefore, from this understanding, there is a common perception that it is quickly becoming difficult to disassociate transnational, international, national or even regional security. Apart from the mention of human rights issues, the five papers discussed above do not address this new development. In other words, the structures that would demonstrate how international, transnational and regional security forces merge to form one standard security platform are unexplored.

Recommendations

Study Sketch – How I will Conduct the study

Based on the lack of understanding regarding how international, national, transnational, and regional security issues merge, this section of the paper proposes a qualitative study to address the failure of the five studies analyzed above). This sketched study contributes to a growing body of theory that seeks to understand how international security forces affect the national policy development structures of different countries. Similar to the nature of the knowledge gap, the purpose of the research will be to understand how national, transnational, international, and regional security merges to improve national security.

Research Design

As mentioned above, the intended study will be a qualitative study. On one hand, this qualitative study will be designed to investigate how different components of the four security platforms merge to improve overall national security. On the other hand, the qualitative study will be designed to identify possible areas of disconnect that the four security platforms have (and how they can be eliminated to improve national security or the general effectiveness of local security agencies). Since Marshall and Rossman (2010) posit that qualitative research designs effectively accommodate case study research; the intended research is also going to encompass case study information to investigate how other countries have merged the four security platforms to improve the overall effectiveness of their homeland security. The use of the qualitative research design therefore accommodates the ambiguous scope of the research topic and its broad nature. Indeed, Marshall and Rossman (2010) contend that qualitative research designs are conveniently used when the scope and nature of the research topic is unclear. However, the use of the qualitative research design bases its approval on the fact that this research design forms the framework for the development of future research studies, which further investigate the research topic. The qualitative research design therefore stands as a precursor for future research, which may depend on quantitative research design (to investigate (in detail) the findings of the qualitative research) (Marshall and Rossman, 2010).

Data

The use of secondary data and primary data inform the findings of the sketched study. The broad nature of the research topic informs the adoption of the two data collection methods because the topic covers a multicultural and international law understanding. Peer-reviewed articles comprise the secondary information but questionnaires (sent to international security experts) will provide primary data. To have a fair representation of the international experts’ view, a sampling of 20 respondents suits the study. This number eases the technicalities of gathering information from a large sample of respondents. Sampling 20 respondents will therefore be manageable using minimal resources. Online questionnaires comprise the main data collection tool (for primary data) because mailed questionnaires capture the views of each participant to sample their understanding of different dynamics of the research topic. The dual approach for data collection (secondary and primary) will represent a holistic approach to data collection. Furthermore, these data collection strategies will capture the varied dynamics of transnational, national, international, and regional security issues.

Data Analysis

For purposes of data analysis, two data analysis tools will be used (coding and member-check technique). Klenke (2008) confirms that these tools have a high reliability in evaluating primary and secondary research data. Since the secondary research is expansive, the coding technique (as an interpretive tool) structures the gathered data. This data analysis method therefore provides a structured impression of the overall outcomes because it produces a structured impression of the gathered data (Jones, 2008). The coding technique is a simplistic data analysis tool that assigns specific codes to organized data. The technique organizes data according to related subjects. Therefore, each related subject denotes a specific code that allows for the easy analysis of such information.

The member-check technique plays a complementary role to the coding technique by evaluating the credibility, transferability, and accuracy of the research data gathered. The member check technique works by establishing the disparities between the source of information and the eventual quality of reporting. For example, the member check technique ensures that there is no significant difference between the quality of reporting and the actual source of information. This technique analyzes both the primary and secondary sources of information. When analyzing the primary information sources, the member-check technique ensures that the outcomes of the study express the perspectives, feelings, and context of the respondents. The same mechanism will represent information from published authors.

Threats to Validity

The main threat to the validity of the finding is the applicability of the study’s findings across different social, economic, and political environments. This paper already acknowledges that the nature of the research topic is broad and therefore, the findings of this paper can possibly pose a problem for its applicability in different settings.

Quality of Findings

Since the premise of the intended research will be the qualitative research design, there may be significant questions asked regarding the quality of the findings. However, the adoption of the dual data collection and data analysis strategies ensure the quality of the findings obtained is high. For example, the use of secondary and primary data guarantee that the information obtained from both sources of data crosschecks against each other. Therefore, a warrant of further research is possible when there are great discrepancies between the findings and their sources. Therefore, the responses obtained from the respondents need not be very different from the insights gathered from the secondary research analysis. The use of the member check technique and the coding technique also works in the same manner.

Conclusion

The data collected in the research question will be crucial in answering the research question because it will show the potential opportunities for merging transnational, national, international, and regional security issues to form one strong and formidable force in the protection of homeland security. The data obtained will also show the possible obstacles that obscure the achievement of this purpose. Through this revelation, it will be easier to point out the possible areas of conflict in creating a ‘global’ security model that seeks to uphold national security and eliminate the hurdles.

References

Brogden, M. (1982). The Police: Autonomy and Consent. London: Academic Press Inc.

Djuric, S. (2009). Qualitative approach to the research into the parameters of human security in the community. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 32(3), 541 – 559.

Engel, S. & Burruss, G. (2004). Human rights in the new training curriculum of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 27(4), 498 – 511.

Jones, P. (2008). Day Treatment Center: An Effective Educational Setting? New York: ProQuest.

Klenke, K. (2008). Qualitative Research In The Study Of Leadership. New York: Emerald Group Publishing.

Mandel, R. (1999). Deadly Transfers and the Global Playground: Transnational Security Threats in a Disorderly World. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Marshall, C. & Rossman, G. (2010). Designing Qualitative Research. New York: SAGE.

Mohammad, F. & Conway, P. (2005). Political culture, hegemony, and inequality before the law: law enforcement in Pakistan. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 28(4) 631 – 641.

Nalla, M. & Hwang, E. (2006). Relations between police and private security officers in South Korea. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 29(3), 482 – 497.

Surette, R. (2005). The thinking eye: Pros and cons of second generation CCTV surveillance systems. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 28(1), 152 – 173.

Running Head

  • Ethics Ethics
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Introduction

Research ethics is perhaps among the most important guidelines for undertaking research. Indeed, researchers are required to concentrate on all issues that arise in the research process and the diverse ways that their research affects all those involved (Bakewell, 2007, p. 217). Most ethical guidelines ensure researchers do not engage in unsafe, unreasonable or thoughtless practices that may cause harm to themselves or other parties (Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, 2009). This section of the paper emphasizes the importance of ethics in research by explaining how to uphold ethical principles. An exploration of important ethical issues such as plagiarism, informed consent, risk assessment and privacy issues also forms an integral part of this study.

Literature Review

Ordinarily, people perceive ethics to be the distinction between right and wrong. However, Berry (2004) defines ethics to be “an honest exchange of arguments, ideas, and information among writers and readers who share an interest in an issue” (p. 323). The importance of ethics in research is crucial because it is vital for researchers to operate in an honest manner. This way, researchers can avoid serious academic and professional mistakes like plagiarism, negligence, privacy, confidentiality errors (and the likes).

The application of ethics normally varies across individuals, societies, countries and even institutions. For example, based on the importance of observing ethical conduct in research practice, different societies, institutions and governments have developed their ethical codes of conduct. The diversity in implementing ethical guidelines has introduced serious credibility debates regarding scientific studies and the importance of scientific findings to address relevant issues in the society (Langlois & Lapointe, 2010). In this regard, critics have similarly questioned the benefits of innovation technology and the social or academic responsibility of science. These issues have increased the profile and importance of observing ethical practice because in today’s digital era and the domination of modern technology, technology has become both a tool and a subject of research. Berry (2004) explains that the lack of awareness of existing ethical principles is among the top reasons why there is still a lot of misunderstanding and unprofessionalism in research. In other words, there needs to be a widespread understanding of the importance of ethical practice and conduct to oversee everyday research.

Discussion

Plagiarism

Writing in modern age can be difficult because of the conveniences created by modern-day technologies. Lilley (2003) affirms that modern age writing is prone to many challenges, which have been created by easy access to technology, which threatens the professionalism of writing. She cites tight deadlines and other work commitments as contributions to the increased instances of plagiarism and other academic offences. Indeed, increased pressures and heavy workloads may cause sloppiness in writing research papers and this weakness may further lead to the improper acknowledgement of sources, thereby leading to plagiarism.

Plagiarism is a serious academic offence because it amounts to intellectual dishonesty. Plagiarism occurs when writers intentionally (or unintentionally) use someone else’s work and present them as theirs. Risquez & Ledwith (2011) explains that in plagiarized papers, it is often difficult for readers to distinguish the writer’s original work and the contribution of other authors. The concept of copyright infringement normally surfaces in plagiarism cases because plagiarized documents infringe on other people’s ownership of ideas. The understanding of patents and copyrights is important in understanding plagiarism but sometimes, these two concepts can be confused. Fine & Castagnera (2003) explain the distinction between patents and copyrights by associating the protection of inventions to patents and the protection of authors’ ideas and concepts to copyrights. Copyright laws therefore work to guarantee the protection of authentic works and the imposition of penalties if copyright infringement occurs. Through copyright protection, a strong sense of accountability is therefore established. To prevent plagiarism in my future papers, I will always quote borrowed materials by citing the original authors. This measure applies for direct quotations and borrowed ideas.

Privacy and Confidentiality

The increased dominance of internet research has led to a growing need to protect data because online information has become increasingly available to users. The American Psychological Association (2012) posits that protecting data involves strict adherence to privacy and confidentiality rules. Loue (2000) explains, “Privacy is defined in terms of a person having control over the extent, timing, and circumstances of sharing oneself (physically, behaviorally, or intellectually) with others” (p. 147). Through this assertion, privacy stands out to be the limitation of personal information from public scrutiny. Here, the limitation of personal information involves the limitation of thoughts, identities or even location of individuals. The importance of upholding privacy is especially important when using people as sources of information. Their names, addresses, professions, or locations may be limited in this regard. Even though the comprehension of concept of privacy is different in many countries, the US constitution recognizes privacy as a fundamental human right. However, the perception of confidentiality is different because the American Psychological Association (2012) suggests that confidentiality is not a right but a professional obligation.

In my research papers, I will uphold the principles of privacy and confidentiality by adhering to the general principles of privacy and confidentiality discussed above. The outline of these principles is also in the ethics code. However, adhering to these principles is shallow because I will also adopt study-specific protection strategies to improve my structures for ensuring privacy and confidentiality. These study-specific protection strategies will involve the development of data protection plans (Loue, 2000). This plan includes important concepts of research, advanced by the American Psychological Association (2012). Within this plan, the identification of people who gain access to the data and protect the data surfaces (this data protection plan also includes the introduction of data encryption, firewall installation and password protection tools). Finally, developing a contingency plan for any data breach will also ensure that I am able to control any damage if there is a security breach.

The above strategies are insufficient for my data protection plan because I will adopt auxiliary strategies aimed at enforcing the existing security measures. These auxiliary strategies center on ensuring the data obtained is anonymous, coded and delinked. Zorkadis & Donos (2004) explain the involvement of data coding in the assignment of a letter or number to a specific group of data. He further emphasizes that, “A key that deciphers the code allows re-associating or linking the coded information with the identity of the participant” (Zorkadis & Donos, 2004, p. 145). It is also common to see researchers seeking the services of third parties to secure coded information. However, Zorkadis & Donos (2004) warns that the introduction of a policy for re-identifying data when a third party agency secures coded data is crucial. The argument advanced here centers on the importance of limiting a researchers’ ability to re-identify the data. This security measure closely resembles the concept of delinking data to their sources because this measure will also be useful in protecting my respondents’ identities in future research. Finally, I will also uphold the collection of anonymous data to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of the research participants. This way, there will be no identifiers to link participant identities with the collected data. Collectively, the above strategies will uphold the privacy and security of my future research.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is often important in research because it defines a participant’s consent to participate in a research after understanding the risks, benefits and procedures of doing so. Cambridge (2001) explains that informed consent is a central concern for research ethics as set out in the 1947 Nuremberg Code. The importance of observing informed consent in similarly highlighted in the 1964 Helsinki Declaration, which stipulates the need for researchers to obtain consent without any form of coercion or threats. In other words, Cambridge (2001) explains that research participants need to give informed consent freely. From the contribution of the Nuremberg Code and the Helsinki Declaration, both frameworks have played an important role in the understanding of informed consent.

Upholding informed consent for researchers is however marred with problematic issues like language barrier, religious influence, and false expectations (Escobedo & Guerrero, 2007). Given the importance of informed consent in developing professional research papers, it is important to devise ways to ensure that my future studies receive the full consent from the participants. To do so, I will adopt a four-tier strategy to ensure strict adherence to informed consent rules at all points of the research. This strategy premises on undertaking a demographic survey of the respondents living in the geographic areas of study and hiring a translator to facilitate communication with research respondents who speak foreign languages. Furthermore, taking more caution to elaborate all the details in the informed consent form and asking relevant questions (to ensure the participants understand all the details about research consent) will also improve the compliance with informed consent guidelines.

Risk Assessment

The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (2009) explains that risk assessment is crucial when undertaking research studies because researchers expose themselves to selective risks, which may affect their research process. Smith (2005) defines risk assessment as the potential harm or discomfort that occurs in the research process. He also categorizes these risks into “low” and “high” risks. Low risks are those that only cause discomfort while high risks may cause harm to the participants. Broadly, failing to protect participants from research risks may cause physical harm, psychological stress, social disadvantage, financial disadvantages and invasion of privacy and confidentiality to the participants.

Smith (2005) explains that a researcher does not often intentionally cause harm because some of the risks defined above are accidental (and often unavoidable). Therefore, the best way to remedy such a risk is by minimizing their probability of occurrence. By minimizing such risks, the research participants protect themselves from research extremes. Based on this importance, as I undertake future studies I will first get informed consent from participants before approving their participation in the research and protecting the anonymity of the participants throughout the research process. By observing these two principles, the probability of experiencing research risks reduces (American Psychology Association, 2012). However, based on the diverse nature of research risks, I will also avoid deceptive practices when designing my research process and provide an opportunity for the researchers to withdraw from the research process at any time so that they are shielded from any harm or discomfort that may be realized in the research process. Finally, I will also inform a third party of my movements throughout the research process so that I can get help whenever there is a physical danger to my security. Overall, these measures will help in reducing research risks.

Data Handling and Reporting

Researcher’s ethical obligations do not end at the production and compilation of data. Mohamed & Hussein (2012) explain the need for researchers to uphold ethical practice when handling data and reporting it. Data handling normally occurs during the analysis stage of the research process. Here, Mohamed & Hussein (2012) explain that the applicable ethical principles are very specific to the chosen methodology of research. For example, different ethical implications apply when human participants are involved or when the research merely relies on secondary data. Similarly, a different ethical profile applies when the research is a review.

However, regardless of the research methodology, Mohamed & Hussein (2012) explain that some of the key ethical issues to be observed include how the participants are identified, how the identities of the participants are made anonymous, and if the participants have the right to be named. For research studies that use secondary data, strong ethical dilemmas that may arise include, whether the researcher enjoys the consent to use the data and if there is a possibility of identifying individual cases. Finally, Mohamed & Hussein (2012) explain the need for researchers to ask what responsibility they owe those who undertook the ethical research on their behalf (for secondary research and reviews).

To overcome some of the ethical problems caused by the failure to observe ethical principles in data handling and reporting, I will ensure that I have a balanced approach to data presentation and handling. One issue that the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (2009) perceives as a contribution to the failure to observe ethical principles in data presentation and handling is the failure to include the views or contributions of vulnerable groups. Today, many researchers tackle research topics that are sensitive to the society but more importantly, they affect minorities and vulnerable groups in the society. Since it is important to reflect these dynamics in research, I will present a fair and impartial presentation of the research dynamics. This strategy includes presenting both the “positives” and “negatives” of the research topic and ensuring there is a balanced approach when presenting the study’s findings.

Some of the ethical issues present in data analysis also mirror other ethical issues that manifest during the presentation of research findings – reporting. For example, The Institute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics (1997) explains that it is vital to understand the impact of the research findings once the research is complete (p. 100). Here, researchers need to evaluate how their findings will be interpreted, how their findings could be used (or misused) and what information needs to be availed to the readers regarding the methodologies used in formulating the research (like the approach to ethics). Institute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics (1997) cautions researchers to pay close attention to the responses given by the readers because this is a strong indication of the readers’ interpretation of the research.

To prevent negative outcomes in data reporting and presentation, I will pay close attention to how misunderstandings may arise and consequently reschedule the data analysis process to avoid such occurrences. This approach will be highly crucial to the comprehension of the research findings because upon presentation of the research findings, it is almost impossible to control its interpretation. If misunderstandings occur, there may be a ripple effect on the sample population presented in the paper or any other research group included in the research. To better shape the outcomes of the research, I will provide a description of my research ethics approach and provide a link between the research findings and practice.

Another area of possible ethical attention is the dissemination of research outcomes. Oliver (2010) points out that the design of most research papers affects or change policies and in this manner, research studies may affect people’s beliefs, feelings, and values. Similarly, since research affects people, it may upset or challenge them and therefore elicit negative responses (American Psychology Association, 2012). Albeit dissemination creates complex dynamics, the expectation of researchers is to uphold an ethical virtue to ensure their research is widely accepted and applied in practice. Oliver (2010) insists that this practice is especially important for social scientists because the nature of their research requires widespread application.

Mistakes and Negligence

According to the American Psychology Association (2012), researchers are discouraged from presenting false and fabricated information in their research works. However, Oliver (2010) defends researchers and explains that they are prone to human error and considering the pressures that today’s researchers are faced with, many research papers may contain mistakes unknowingly. Some of these mistakes may occur from differences in opinion or misinterpretations among researchers and even readers. However, according to the American Psychological Association (2012), the above intrigues do not provide an excuse to harbor mistakes in research studies. Instead, the association proposes that research works need to demonstrate high quality standards of ethics while acknowledging any mistakes that may occur in the research process. Therefore, there is a strict requirement demanding the presentation of factual research information (which is free from mistakes and errors).

To avoid negligence and mistakes in my research process, I will ensure that I read and understand the university’s ethical policies and guidelines regarding research processes. This way, I will have a detailed understanding of my obligations as a researcher and the duties I owe to all stakeholder groups that depend on my research. Similarly, I will ensure that an independent source reviews my work to identify some of the mistakes that I will not be able to detect easily. The independent source may be my supervisor, a colleague (or any other dependable party).

Working with a Mentor

“If we are to believe that people will survive and thrive on the face of the earth, we must believe that each succeeding generation will be wiser than its progenitors” (Gaither, 2012, p. 1225). Nobel Banquet, prizewinner Rosalyn Yalow made this statement in 1977 when she emphasized the importance of transferring knowledge to scientists as part of a widening cycle of learning. Several accredited institutions have advanced the importance of mentorship programs (such as the Institute of medicine, which supports the introduction of strict mentorship programs) (Shamoo, 2009). Shamoo (2009) re-emphasizes the importance of mentorship by explaining that it is a crucial tool for transferring knowledge to new scientists. However, like other research practices, mentorship programs pose some serious ethical concerns. Shamoo (2009) explains that the main aim of introducing mentorship programs (in education and training programs) is to ensure trainees understand the ethical codes of conduct surrounding their practice. However, because of the expanding number of learning groups, there has been little regard for ethical conduct in mentorship programs.

Most of the ethical issues that arise from mentorship programs stem from the imbalance of power between mentors and their subjects. Since mentors are equipped with a strong body of knowledge and authority over their subjects, their students are often vulnerable to their power. In fact, Shamoo (2009) cautions that even mentors who are not in senior positions still wield a lot of power over their subjects. The intimidation that is likely to occur in such circumstances and the quest for the students to gain from the mentors’ contribution increasingly dramatizes the power imbalance between the two groups. Shamoo (2009) explains that the greatest power imbalance occurs when the student hails from a foreign country.

Cases of mentors using their dominant positions to exploit their subjects by demanding sexual favors, or even soliciting personal favors from their students are common. Shamoo (2009) also cites the insufficient time students get to attend to personal issues as an ethical concern for mentorship programs.

Another ethical issue that arises in a mentorship program is the distinction between the trainee’s responsibility and the mentor’s responsibility. Stated differently, it is difficult to establish the distinction of student and mentor responsibilities. Another area of ethical concern any mentorship program is the extent that faculty members have on influencing their student’s research and the extent they have on guiding their students to produce the best research outcomes. For example, this dilemma exists during the selection of the research topic.

These dilemmas pose serious ethical concerns in mentorship and it is therefore vital to ensure the research process is free from unethical behavior. As part of my personal responsibility (as a researcher) to prevent the occurrence of unethical conduct in research studies, I will ensure that emphasis is made to promote my interest as a researcher as opposed to merging my interest with my mentor’s. Secondly, I will be clearer about my needs and expectations as a researcher because Shamoo (2009) identifies the lack of clarity in researchers’ needs and expectations as one reason unethical conduct arises in mentorship programs. Indeed, Shamoo (2009) elaborates that mentorship programs need not be a passive process for any of the participants. All stakeholders (especially the students and the mentor) need to be actively involved in the mentorship exercise. In this regard, it is crucial to outline the objectives of the mentorship program to avoid any misunderstanding among the parties involved. Through a direct communication of my needs and expectations, there will be more clarity in the mentorship exercise and subsequently, the entire exercise will be undertaken ethically.

North Central University (NCU) Requirements for IRB Approval

Dissertation research involving human subjects at the North Central University requirements require IRB approval. This requirement is in accordance to title 45 of the code of federal regulations. North central University’s requirement for IRB approval includes approved sponsorship by NCU, supervision by NCU, and the use of NCU’s non-public information. The purpose of seeking an IRB approval is to protect all the stakeholders involved in the research from undue risk. Another purpose for seeking IRB approval is to ensure the research process complies with the laid down standards of research (this way, compliance to ethical guidelines improves). Indeed, NCU emphasizes the need for researchers to comply with not only the federal guidelines for conducting research but also the ethical and professional principles of research. Some of these ethical and professional standards include gaining informed consent from the research participants, protecting the participants from physical and mental discomfort, designing the research process in a way that benefits the participants and conducting the research fairly. However, another principle that is often encouraged by NCU is honoring the commitments made to the research participants. Collectively, the above principles inform NCU’s approval requirements for IRB approval.

Recommendations

Based on the findings of this paper, research ethics outline a serious responsibility for researchers. It is therefore crucial for researchers to ensure that they comply with all ethical principles that outline their research. More importantly, they should ensure their research meets the ethical guidelines of their disciplines. However, since this paper already shows the need for researchers to uphold fundamental principles of ethics, future research needs to explain if these ethical guidelines apply to all types of research. For example, there is already a consensus among most institutions of higher learning to uphold common ethical principles for studies that involve human participants. However, is it correct to uphold the same ethical principles for all disciplines? If this is the case, at what point do these ethical principles merge (across various disciplines), or at what point do they disperse? These questions need more clarification in future research.

Conclusion

Shamoo (2009) explains that it is crucial for researchers to write a statement of ethics in their research papers to outline what ethical guidelines are in their research papers. Alternatively, Shamoo (2009) encourages researchers to provide external links to readers where additional information regarding their ethical framework is available (such practices mirror the high standards of research writing such as the ones witnessed in the development of journal articles). For example, journal editors do not condone unethical writing in their publications. After weighing the findings of this paper, three distinct roles surface for researchers. These responsibilities benefit the participants, funders and the sponsoring institutions. Researchers owe an ethical duty to their participants by living up to the expectations of the consent form. Here, resolutions of issues like participant anonymity and research use occur. Funders equally demand an ethical duty from the researchers because researchers need to establish if they can disseminate the findings without the consent of the funders, or if the publication of the findings will have a negative impact on the reputation of the funders. Furthermore, issues like the intellectual property of the funders are also resolved here. Lastly, this paper also highlights the importance of owing a duty of care to the sponsoring institutions and to the colleagues who are involved in the research process. Here, issues like co-authorship and the permission for the production of the research findings are processed. Comprehensively, researchers owe an ethical duty to all the stakeholders of the research process.

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