Understanding Positivism and Causal Research

Understanding Positivism and Causal Research is essential for anyone engaged in scientific inquiry and research endeavors. However, Positivism, characterized by its emphasis on empirical observation and the systematic testing of hypotheses, provides a framework for objective analysis and the accumulation of reliable data. On the other hand, causal research explores the intricate cause-and-effect relationships that underpin various phenomena, helping researchers uncover the fundamental drivers behind observed outcomes.

What is Positivism? Understanding Positivism and Causal Research:

Positivism is a research philosophy that uses quantitative data and a rigid approach to understand a process or phenomenon. Positivism is an objective approach to studying population. Furthermore, by using this approach quantitative data to investigate and analyze relationship between different variables. Positivism is used in quantitative research for testing existing theories. Research philosophy known as interpretivism is opposite to positivism. Unlike positivism, interpretivism uses qualitative study to understand a process or phenomenon. Positivism assumes that human behavior is affected by external factors. On the contrary, interpretivism assumes that human behavior shapes the overall behavior of a society. Indeed, Positivism does not allow researcher to interact with samples and collect data related to opinions, views, and emotions. Positivist study uses responses collected from participants without focusing on the context or background of the respondents.

What is Positivism in Research?

Causal Research: Understanding Positivism and Causal Research

As the name suggests, the term “causal” has been derived from the word “cause”. Causal research is also known as cause-and-effect study. It is also known as cause-and-consequence study. The purpose of causal research is to investigate relationship between variables using quantitative data. However, the cause-and-effect research methodology is based on the guidelines provided the research philosophy of positivism.

Causal research is quantitative research. There are different statistical techniques that can be used to analyze the cause-and-effect relationship between variables. For example, linear regression analysis can be used to investigate the relationship between speed and time. There is a negative or inverse relationship between speed and time. If the speed is increased, it will take lesser time to reach the destination and vice versa. In this case, speed is the cause and time taken to reach the destination is the effect. An increase in speed will reduce the time taken to reach the destination. It is also important to note that there is a sequential flow between cause and effect. In the context of given example, speed can affect the time taken to reach destination. However, time cannot affect speed. It means that speed is the independent variable and time is the dependent variable.

By Using the coefficient of regression and the p-value for the coefficient, the negative relationship between speed and time can be investigated using quantitative data. 

Hypothetic-Deductive Method

Causal research design is based on the deductive reasoning approach. It implies that causal research is actually a theory testing approach. Because it is quantitative research, the research method used by a researcher to address the research hypothesis is quite rigid and organized. This research begins with identifying a broad problem area and then narrowing down the broad problem areas to a specific research problem. After developing research question, researcher needs to develop a hypothesis derived from existing theories. Once research hypothesis has been developed, the next step is to collect data from relevant and reliable sources. Finally, data gathered from different sources is analyzed using statistical techniques and conclusion is written. Conclusion of causal research is in the form of either accepting a hypothesis or rejecting a hypothesis. The following steps are used to conduct causal research.

  1. Analyze broad problem area
  2. Norrow down broad problem area to specific problem
  3. Develop hypotheses to be tested
  4. Collect relevant data from reliable sources
  5. Process, analyze, and interpret using appropriate statistical techniques
  6. Provide a conclusion in form of accepting or rejecting the alternate hypothesis

Examples of Causal Research

Following are some examples of causal research to illustrate the concept

  1. Culture of an organization affects motivation of an employee. In this case, culture is the cause and effect take place in form of change in the motivation level of employees
  2. Effect on sales discount on quantity demanded for the discounted product. In this example, sales discount is the cause and effect take place in form of changes in the quantity demanded for the discounted product
Advantages of Causal Research Disadvantages of Causal Research
It helps to investigate relationship between two or more variables using quantitative dataCausal research can be applied to cause-and effect model only. It cannot be used to understand the emotions, views, and behavior of respondents using qualitative data
Causal research provides empirical evidence to support an existing theory or providing evidence against the theoryCausal research is often quite expensive. Being a quantitative research, causal research requires sufficient number of observations for each variable to produce valid and reliable results. Such research consumes considerable amount of time, efforts, and resources.
Causal research has a greater level of internal validity as compared to qualitative research

It is difficult for researcher to administer causal research. Collection of data from a large number of respondents may require field work, or sending survey through mail, or any other electronic channel. It can experience difficulties in form of low response rate by respondents.
Research methodology of causal research is quite rigid, defined, and organized that makes replication of research in different environments easier for another researcher

References: Understanding Positivism and Causal Research

Creswell, 2007. Research Design- Qualitative and mixed methods approaches. London: Sage Publishers.

Saunders, M. L. P. &. T., 2012. Research Methods for Business Students. 6th ed. s.l.:Pearson Education Limited.

Seakran, U., 2003. Research Methods for Business. United States: John Wiley and Sons.