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Social sciences requires a set of methods, theoretical approaches, and methods in the study of social phenomena


Social sciences require a set of methods, theoretical approaches, and methods in the study of social phenomena. According to Bhattacherjee (2012), theories and observations are the two pillars of science and therefore scientific research operates in two levels; the theoretical level and the empirical level. Theoretical revel is about construction of the theories involved and empirical level is concerned with testing the theoretical concepts and their relationships with the aim to determine how they reflect on the observable reality, with the goal being to build better theories. This papers therefore will classify and critique the methodology adopted in two same-niche papers; Victim, Risqué, Provocateur: Popular Cultural Narratives of Rihanna’s Experience of Intimate Partner Violence by Houlihan &Raynor (2014) and Women’s Wealth and Intimate Partner Violence: Insights from Ecuador and Ghana by Oduro, Deere &Cantanzarite, (2015).


Summary of the two papers

Houlihan &Raynor (2014) use the lenses of brown and black feminism to examine the 2009 assault of Rihanna by is then partner, Chris Brown. Since then, Rihanna’s identity has been continually represented as both inherently victimised and as being somehow responsible for the violence by provoking the instance. The authors draw attention to the black and brown woman and the constructions of them as being ‘at risk’ and ‘risky’ and how Rihanna’s risqué public image has been misinterpreted by some sectors of the community including the media as victim (‘at risk’) and as the propagator (‘risky’). These risqueness attributes are constructed around Rihanna’s gender, ethnicity, race, and her sexual placement. The papers draws argument from other authors to substantiate the arguments therein and generally analyses the events surrounding the event for example, hyper-surveillance by the media and Rihanna’s response to the events through song. The articles unpacks the scripts about Rihanna’s experiences through intimate violence with the aim of understanding similar issues that are experienced by black and brown women in intimate relationships.

On the other hand, Oduro et al., (2015) compares intimate partner violence (IPV) by men to their female partners in Ecuador and Ghana. The paper uses information from the 2010 Ecuador Household Asset Survey (EAFF) and the 2010 Ghana Household Asset Survey (GHAS). Oduro et al. objective is to determine the relationship between women’s ownership of assets and emotional and physical abuse by their male partners in an intimate relationship. The article uses the value of a woman’s total assets in relation to her partner’s as the proxy for the woman’s bargaining power. The study found that woman’s share of the couple’s wealth is significantly related with lower odds of emotional violence in Ghana and physical violence in Ecuador. In addition, the relation between the share of wealth by a woman and IPV is contingent on the household’s placement in the wealth distribution.


Research classification

Houlihan & Raynor article is classified to have an interpretivism approach. According to Chen, Shek and Bu (2011), interpretivism is a major anti-positivists stance as it is based on historically and culturally derived interpretations of the social life-world. This approach holds that there is no direct one-on-one relationship between subjects and objects and that the world is interpreted through schemas classification of the mind. Under epistemology, interpretivism is closely related to constructivism. Interpretivism holds that the natural reality and the social reality are different and therefore they require different methods. While natural sciences look for consistencies in data and therefore deduce ‘laws’, social sciences deal with individual actions (Chen et al., 2011). It is argued that, a Houlihan & Raynor article makes use of realism which is an example of the interpretivism approach. Realism approach is based on the position that the picture created by science on the world is true and accurate (Bhattacherjee, 2012). Therefore, the realist researcher holds that culture, corporate planning, and organization among others exist and act independently of the observer. Therese therefore are available for systematic analyses by the researcher as natural phenomena and knowledge of the same is advanced through a process of theory-building in which new discoveries add up to what is already known.

The article, Victim, Risqué, Provocateur: Popular Cultural Narratives of Rihanna’s Experience of Intimate Partner Violence, is considered to have an realism approach because first, the paper doesn’t have any empirical study done to further unravel the event, but rather relies on analytical deduction of the assault event and backs the argument up with already existing information from other independent studies. Through this approach, it would be argued that the authors are simply adding up to the body of knowledge available therefore, it is no wonder that the argument in the articles tends to take a racial, ethnic, and gender based perspective because the existing body of knowledge subscribed to the same attributes. Second, the article passes as an interpretivism because, even though the perpetrator, Chris Brown, admitted to the violence and apologised, the context didn’t shift from the victim, mainly not because of the scenario of the assault, but because of the subjectivity of realism and interpretivism. This mainly on the fact that, and as argued by Chen et al. (2011), the way we perceive the world is dependent partly on the beliefs we hold, and the expectation we have. Thirdly, even though there is the truth about the assault event out there, there is no specific way of measuring it.

Oduro et al. article is classified as having positivism approach. According to della Porta & Keating (2008), positivism was a dominant epistemological paradigm in social science and its core argument is that social world exists externally to the research, and the properties of positivism approach can be measured directly through observation. In essence, positivism holds that reality is what is available to the senses and therefore it can be smelt, seen, touched, etc, inquiry should be founded on science-based observation (Wynn and Williams, 2012), and the natural and human sciences share methodological principles and have a common logic when dealing with facts and not with mere values. As a result, ideas can only be incorporated into knowledge if they can be tested within an empirical experience (Bhattacherjee, 2012). Positivists hold the view that natural science is a progression under a gradual accumulation of facts about the social world and these produce generalizations referred to as scientific laws. To realize this, scientific enquiry is conducted with the collection of ‘brute data’ which includes size, motion, shape, etc.

Oduro et al. article is considered to adopt a positivists approach because first, it relies on empirically collected data from the real world. Even though the authors didn’t undertake a specific scientific enquiry for the project, they relied on secondary data, from highly credible government agencies from both the countries under study, Ecuador and Ghana (Oduro et al., 2015). The data has been collected through observation of the real and natural situation in the world with specific values of ‘brute data being collected, in particular, the percentage of couple wealth owned by the woman. The share of wealth/asset owned by the woman in a heterogeneous partnership in comparison to the partner is considered to be related to the susceptibility to violence of the woman by the intimate partner. The article further analyses physical and emotional violence. In addition to the reliance on empirical method to establish the truth, the article makes references to other empirical oriented articles in an effort to draw similarity to the findings as well as the epistemological process of this particular article.


Methodological critique

Houlihan & Raynor (2014) uses a phenomenological research methodology where the theoretical perspective utilises relatively unstructured methods of data collection. According to della Porta and Keating (2008), this method places emphasis on the inductive collection of large amounts of data and therefore, it runs the risk of picking factors there were not originally part of the research objective. According to Martin (2008), this type of research methodology doesn’t look for answers per se, but rather allows for data to emerge. Phonological research is about producing what has been referred to as thick descriptions of perspectives and peoples experiences within their natural settings. The research method includes what has been commonly referred to as qualitative research methods where the researcher seeks to understand the subject in its natural setting. The research is mainly not for the purpose of establishing a specific attributes for the research subject, but rather understanding the subject. It is based on small case studies and these are used to raise concerns about generalizations to other situations. One of the major cons of phenomenological research is the difficult of replicating it. The Rihanna assault case is used as the case study and it is then generalised on black and brown women. Even though the situation of the case doesn’t allow for planned observation, the article relies on only documented events and the aftermath of the assault in particular, hyper-surveillance by media, interview of Chris Brown, and Rihanna’s response song. This method is considered suitable for the realization of the research objective. Given case studies in qualitative research methods can be used to make generalization on similar cases, the method used is considered suited for the conclusion arrived at in the article.

On the other hand, Oduro et al (2015) uses an experimental and quasi-experimental research. this is a classical scientific experiment where the subjects are selected and assigned to the experiment or control group. The research involved determination of independent variable, share of woman’s couple wealth/assets, and it uses two cases; Ecuador and Ghana. Of the two, either is considered to be a typical representation of the control and the treatment in a classical scientific experiment. Even though the method relies on secondary data collected by credible state agencies, it is a quantitative research method as it involves the determination of quantitative data, which is used in data analysis for the determination of the research objective. As a result, it is considered that, the methodology used is suitable and enhanced the realization of the research objective and therefore, the conclusion made in the article.


Comment on the relative merits of the two research strategies

According to Wynn and Williams (2012) and Chen et al. (2011), positivism, which has been used by Oduro et al. (2015), is one of the heroic failures of modern philosophy. One of the fundamental mistakes of the method is some of the assumptions that are part of positivism’s landmark scientific inquiry. Science is all about producing theoretical explanation; this is not just on what can be observed. The experimental approach used in the article by Oduro et al. (2015), is suitable for the determination f the research objective and from the ‘evidence’ of the data analysis, the conclusion reached in the articles passes scientific measure of threshold – confidence level. However, it doesn’t mean that the share of couple assets owned by the wife is solely responsible for the physical violence in Ecuador and emotional violence of women in Ghana, but just that, because the research was limited to this research, then it qualifies. The research can be bettered by relying on primary data collected in the field as this will do away with any possible errors that might have been in the collected data in the event of using secondary data. Moreover, other aspects that could play a critical role in determining women violence and are worthy including in the research include education of couples, their culture, residential setup – urban or rural, etc. Nevertheless, the method used is considered sufficient for this specific research.

On the other hand, the method used by Houlihan &Raynor (2014), the qualitative research method is considered to be appropriate for the research setting. The assault case presented in the article presented a rather complex scenario because it happened and it cannot be re-played for researcher study and analysis. As a result, the research relies on post-event accounts by the two. The articles however seems to heavily rely on beliefs and perception rather than scientific analysis of the information/data available. To further substantiate the argument, the article uses findings by other similar research. The phenomenological approach used in the research passes the advantage of being flexible enough as to include aspects not part of the research object and serves to add on the body of knowledge on the matter.

It is therefore concluded that both methods used in the two articles, quantitative and qualitative on Oduro et al (2015) and Houlihan & Raynor (2014) respectively are suited for the specific researches and have successfully delivered on the research objective.



  1. Bhattacherjee, Anol, (2012). Social Science Research: Principles, Methods, and Practices. Textbooks Collection. Book 3
  2. Chen, Y.Y., Shek, D.T. and Bu, F.F. (2011). Applications of interpretive and constructionist research methods in adolescent research: Philosophy, principles and examples, International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 23(2): 129–139.
  3. della Porta, D. and Keating, M. (eds.) (2008). Approaches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from: Cambridge Books Online org/10.1017/CBO9780511801938
  4. Houlihan, A. & Raynor, S. (2014) Victim, Risqué, Provocateur: Popular Cultural Narratives of Rihanna’s Experience of Intimate Partner Violence. Australian Feminist Studies 29(81): 325- 341
  5. Martin, Andy J. (2008). Self-reflection on emergent research design. Graduate Journal of Social Science 5(1): 49—70.
  6. Oduro, A., Deere, C. &Cantanzarite, Z. (2015) Women’s Wealth and Intimate Partner Violence: Insights from Ecuador and Ghana. Feminist Economics 21(2): 1-29.
  7. Wynn, Jr. D. and Williams, C.K. (2012). Principles for conducting critical realist case study research in information systems, MIS Quarterly, 36(3): 787–810.

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