Research Philosophy


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Research philosophy, refers to the development of knowledge adopted by the researchers in their research (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). In other words, it is the theory that used to direct the researcher for conducting the procedure of research design, research strategy, questionnaire design and sampling (Malhotra, 2009). It is very important to have a clear understanding of the research philosophy so that we could examine the assumptions about the way we view the world, which are contained in the research philosophy we choose, knowing that whether they are appropriate or not (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009), three major ways of thinking about research philosophy are examined: ontology, epistemology and axiology. Each of them carries significant differences which will have an impact on the way we consider the research procedures. Ontology, “is concerned with nature of reality”, while epistemology “concerns what constitutes acceptable knowledge in a field of study and axiology “studies judgements about value” (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009, p110, p112, p116). This study is intent on creating some “facts” from objective evaluations which are made by the subjects. Therefore, epistemology will be chosen for this study as the way of thinking about the research philosophy.
More specifically, epistemology also contains three philosophical positions: positivism, realism and interpretivism (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). Positivism stance usually supports investigating or studying an observable social reality and the final production could be “law-like generalisations similar to those produced by the physical and natural scientists” (Remenyi et al. cited in Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009, p113). It is effective to generate a research strategy to collect the creditable data which comes from observable reality therefore contributing to developing hypotheses (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). In this study, we aim at exploring the creditable and measurable results from individuals in order to understand the influence of surprise on viral marketing via social media in perspectives of message characteristics. Thus, the philosophy of positivism will be adopted in this study for collecting creditable data from the subjects to produce some “law-like generalisations”. However, it is always difficult to decide whether interpretivism should be applied to conduct a deeper analysis relating to subjects’ attitude for the sake of enhancing the precision. More complicated, such a dilemma would often lead to the reflection of realism, which is divided into direct realism and critical realism (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009).

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The former concerns that what we experience through our senses portrays the world accurately while the latter concerns that what we experience are sensations, the images of the things in the real world, not the things directly (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). Since our study concentrates on examining the phenomena of the influence of surprise on viral marketing, it is too early to carry a deeper exploration of the subjects’ attitude. As a result, this research will be only based on the philosophy of positivism.

4.5 Research approach (258)
Even though the philosophy is applied in the research, they may or may not be made explicit in the design of the research (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). Thus, it is practical to attach a research approach to the philosophy we chose for indicating the research design more specifically. Sauders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) explain that there are two approaches which could be utilized for extending the different research philosophies: deduction and induction. Deductive approach is usually adopted when “you develop a theory and hypothesis (or hypotheses) and design a research strategy to test the hypothesis” while inductive approach is used when “you would collect data and develop theory as a result of your data analysis” (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009, p124). Sometimes, it is suggested combining these two research approach for the purpose of making the research more perfectly. Each approach has its own emphasises, therefore, which approach to choose often depends on the need and nature of the research topic.
This study formulates a theory of the influence of surprise on viral marketing via social media and some hypothesises about the relationship between message characteristics and surprise, surprise and viral marketing, trying to design a research strategy to test these hypothesises. Accordingly, the deductive approach emphasises on moving from theory to data (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). Consequently, a deductive approach would be more suitable in this study for developing a research strategy. The formulation of literature review and the development of conceptual model have been illustrated in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 respectively.



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