Saunders' Research Onion and Research Methodology

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Saunders’ research onion is a generic research procedure which helps the analyst, depict issues underpinning the selection of data collection and research methods. Saunders made an important contribution in terms of his research onion. According to his research onion, there are six stages in the onion- namely philosophies, approaches, strategies, choices, time horizons, techniques and procedures.

The essence of the research onion approach is to peel away the various layers of the onions to arrive at the core. In order to reach the core, you are required to follow a step by step method. A lot of students often tend to think about research methodology in the beginning itself, for instance if they should use a questionnaire to conduct their interviews. However, if one goes by Saunders’ research onion, research methodology is one of the later steps to be followed to arrive at the core. Thus other important layers of the core need to be peeled away.

The first step is research philosophy. Since this is the first, it is also the most crucial. Research philosophy refers to the formation of knowledge and the character of the knowledge which is developed. Research philosophy refers to your opinion and views and the manner in why you understand the world. This will greatly impact and influence your research strategy which refers to the plan or method you adopt for your research. As scholars you need to be aware of the manner in which your commitments to a research philosophy will impact your research study. Further, your own research philosophy will also bear the weight of practical considerations. Still, the major influence will most probably be a certain perspective of relationship between the knowledge and procedure by means of which it is nurtured. Two important elements of research philosophy are ontology and epistemology.

Research approach refers to a method of creating new knowledge or enhancing your own understanding of a subject or issue. The four main approaches are quantitative, qualitative, pragmatic and participatory approach

A research strategy refers to a certain plan of action which shapes the way your research should proceed. Research strategy is a crucial component of your research. Simply put, it is the strategy you will adopt to give a certain structure to your research. This involves clearly mentioning or indicating the techniques and methods of data gathering that you intend to use. For instance, if you are planning to make use of questionnaires, then it must be stated thus in the research strategy. List the kind of measurements you will be using for the validation of your techniques. Also indicate if you are outsourcing the process of data collection to field workers (who must be credited) or if you will use computer techniques in order to study the information.

Research choice refers to your particular defence of why you have chosen to research a particular subject or the manner in which you choose to research it. You will also be required to provide some detail about your time horizon as well as your techniques and strategies Saunders’ research onion is an important part of your research methodology, and it is usually a good idea to mention it.