Social Realism Theory vs. Critical Rationalism - Essay in HRM

Published: 2017-10-13
Social Realism Theory vs. Critical Rationalism - Essay in HRM
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Human resources Sociology Philosophy
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 2170 words
19 min read

According to Blaikie (2007), theoretical framework informs logical thinking that forms the basis or foundation of the research. Further, a theoretical framework is developed around the research question with the intention of setting or designing a way of thinking that the research should be based. In other words, the theoretical framework is a method of thinking about the research question which then will determine how the researcher will approach the development of answers or solutions to the research problem with regard to answering research questions. In this paper, two paradigms of conducting research are discussed where a comparison and contrast of the two approaches in answering research questions are presented. Chiefly, the paper argues that two different paradigms have the implication of developing contrasting results of a study. Hence, the core argument of the paper is that when two different theoretical frameworks are used to determine the answers to a similar research question, differentiated answers are attained with respect to the paradigms assumed. The two paradigms compared are Social Realism (SR) and Critical Rationalism (CR). In that esteem, two studies are evaluated with respect to the SR and CR theories and include Baum, Serzing, and Alaca’s (2016) article dubbed Reaction towards diversity recruitment and the moderating influence of the recruiting firms’ country-of-origin. This article aligns with SR as the theoretical foundation of the paper. The second article used in the comparison is Newburry, Gardberg, and Sanchez’s (2014) investigation titled Employer attractiveness in Latin America: The association among foreignness, internationalization and talent recruitment. In that regard, Newburry et al.’s (2014) article is founded on the CR theoretical model. Essentially, the core argument of this comparison and contrast is that although Newburry et al., (2014) and Baum et al., (2016) both evaluate the same critical question regarding recruitment in the international context, both arrive at different conclusions based on the theoretical frameworks on which each study was established.

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Blaikie (2007) in Chapter 1 of his book does a good job in presenting the differences between epistemology and ontology as attributes that inform theoretical thinking during the research development process. Simply put, subjectivity and objectivity are attributes of ontological and epistemological thinking respectively. Whereas ontology is about what people know about issues or intelligent guess work, epistemology is particularly concerned with the factual analysis of what things are and why they are that way. In that esteem, an evaluation of the two journal articles reveals that they are based on factual analysis of phenomenon under investigation. For that reason, epistemology as a premise for research theory development holds true for the case of both articles. However, epistemology is subdivided into a multiplicity of contexts based on the approach that research paradigm or theoretical framework that the study chooses to assume. For instance, Newburry et al.’s (2014) critical rationalism paradigm falls under the category of falsification under epistemology. On the other hand, Baum et al.’s (2016) social realism theory falls squarely under the rationalism epistemological category of objective research. Hence, put another way, Newburry et al.’s (2014) and Baum et al.’s (2016) are evaluations of falsification and rationalism respectively. Blaikie (2007) further explains that rationalism looks for evidence in the unobservable realities in the consequences it has on people’s lives. In contrast, falsification is primarily concerned with trying out solutions and theories by proposing them and then criticizing them. For that reason, falsification holds that if the theory is not open to criticism, then it does not qualify for the epistemological line of thinking that is falsification. Rationalism and falsification, therefore, develop differentiated results when evaluating a similar research topic.

Baum et al.’s (2016) Social Realism (SR) theory is founded on rational thinking where the premise of the study was to look at the conditions on the ground in an attempt to explain the impact of observed conditions on the way of life of the affected individuals. To that extent, the core question was diversity recruitment and the role that recruiting firms played to enhance the same. The observations made by the study revealed that practice of diversity inclusion was achieved through the development and distribution of advertising messages that contained diversity messages of inclusivity. Consequently, messages that appealed to ethnic minorities served to enhance the capacity of the recruiting firm in delivering on its objectives of diversity recruitment. Further, the study found that regardless of the country of origin of the recruiting firm, diversity inclusive in advertising messages ensured that minority groups were encouraged to apply for positions. Therefore, the country of origin did not matter. Observation proves key in SR context of theoretical research whereby the premise of the researcher is to observe cause and effect relationships in interpreting the attributes of the phenomenon under research. To that extent, the data collection approach taken by the researcher serves to align with the research paradigm that is SR with the epistemological intention or evaluating reality or realism as an attribute of interest in the phenomenon under investigation. Data collection was through the evaluation of reactions of participants after exposure to various advertising messages about recruitment. In essence, diversity inclusivity was core to the evaluation of the success factors achievable by the recruiting firms as pertains to the advertising messages presented. In essence, the realism context of epistemology sought to evaluate conditions in the phenomenon as pertains to their perceptions regarding diversity inclusion messages. In simpler terms, SR was primarily focused on engaging observable characteristics of the phenomenon.

On the other hand, an epistemology that aligns with falsification is also considered in ontological terms as cautious reality perspective as opposed to rationalism which borrows from conceptual realist ontology. Falsification will seek to try developing solutions by proposing theories and then making attempts towards disapproving the same theories. The central purpose of theoretical testing is to improve on it by developing a newer more definitive theory. Therefore, critical rationalism is essentially concerned with falsification and or disapproval of facts to develop solutions that serve to understand characteristics or attributes of the phenomenon better. In that esteem, the hypothesis of the researcher was that members of the marginalized group that are either based on gender, education, and incomes were relatively more attracted to foreign-headquartered and international firms. In contrast, the findings of the research report served to disapprove the notion created by of minority groups as pertains to their interest in international firms. As such, the findings indicated that it is not necessarily evident that minority groups are attracted to institutions that are international or that have headquarters in an international context. It is the disapproval that makes the findings of the reported binding in regards to the disapproval of logical fallacies associated with the research question (Blaikie, 2007). In that regard, the logical fallacy disapproved through falsification is the fact that all minority groups would respond positively to recruitment efforts by international firms with international headquarters. As pertains to the research findings, it was established that it is not always the case that minority groups prefer employment where there are attributes of foreignness, internationalization and talent recruitment. To that extent, the falsification of the hypothesis set out by the researcher proves fundamental in that it serves to disapprove the assumption; hence, meet the purpose of CR.

In Chapter 2 of the book Approaches to Social Enquiry 2 ed., the weaknesses of ontology as a school of thought are evaluated. As such, ontology is deemed to present the possibility of one social reality while epistemology relies on the possibility of many or multiple instances of social realities. In contrast, epistemology is concerned with an evaluation of multiple realities. For instance, Baum et al.’s, (2016) evaluation of social realism was centered on testing multiple realities. Diversity recruitment in that regard was based on the analysis of attributes of minority groups that encompass, gender, race, and ethnicity. On the other hand, a multiplicity of testing was also seen to be the case as regards to the evaluation of the firm’s country of origin as an influential factor. For that reason, multiple sets of outcomes as possibilities present given the fact that the investigation considers various possibilities and relationships between the variables under investigation. As Blaikie (2007) describes epistemological research aims at evaluating multiple realities while ontology is concerned with a single assumption of reality. In the same line, epistemological thinking is applied in Newburry et al.’s (2014) critical realism theory approach where falsification of the hypothesis was the main agenda of the research study. As such, the research employed multiple interpretations of relationships between the variables in the phenomenon. Key among issues tested was the attractiveness of employers. However, such attractiveness was weighed on the scales of foreignness, internationalization, and talent recruitment. Consequently, the outcomes of the experiment proved to pool various attributes associated with the hypothesis of the research. Hence, epistemology arises as a common factor that unites both studies presented by Newburry et al. (2014) and Blaikie (2007). As such, other than the fact that both studies are epistemological in thinking, they also test multiple realities in the phenomenon which serves key as a characteristic of epistemology research.

Inductive and deductive processes differ in the sense that the former advances that researcher begins from the unknown to the known while the latter is vice versa. For that reason, inductive research, in this case, aligns with the procedure adopted for CR where Newburry et al., (2014) begun from the unknown to find out the whether it aligns with what is known. For that reason, the hypothesis begged to evaluate the body of emerging evidence on its efficacy to support the notion that international firms are of preference by minority groups. In that regard, the Newburry et al., (2014) study qualifies to be considered an inductive study given that it combines characteristics of inductive research that include justification of falsification of a given ideology, followed by the development of claims beyond the evidence. For instance, the hypothesis claims that minority groups will be attracted to international recruiting firms provided they are internationally headquartered. Finally, the study qualifies as inductive given that it presents observations as results that counter initial conclusions or assumptions as portrayed in the development of a hypothesis (Blaikie, 2007). In comparison, Baum et al.’s (2016) SR research can be categorized as deductive in its research attempt. The procedure through which the study collects data is characterized by challenges associated with deductive studies. As such, limitations of data, for instance, was in the fact that the study was dependent on the outcomes of observation processes resulting from the consumption of advertising messages by recruiting firms. Further, the limitation associated with place or location of the proposed claim proved difficult to clearly present although home country firms and international firms were considered as the context on which the deductive propositions were made (Baum et al., 2016).

In conclusion, the comparison and contrast of the two journal articles reveal various similarities and differences based on the research approaches undertaken by both studies. Among the unifying factor is that both Baum et al., (2016) and Newburry et al., (2014) employ epistemology in their research theoretical thinking. As such, epistemology, as opposed to ontology, is more open to empirical testing which proves true for both instances. However, two differing approaches of epistemology manifest. In the case of Baum et al., (2016), a deductive process of presenting a claim is evident where weaknesses associated with the observation process as a data collection method were realized. In contrast, inductive epistemology proved to present an avenue for disapproving hypothesis testing as was the case in Newburry et al.’s (2014) study. The core differences, however, are the results that were yielded when the two relatively similar studies that evaluated fairly the same research question developed totally different results. The hypothesis that diversity inclusion is attractive to minority groups was disapproved with a key point noting that it is not always the case that firms that are international will appeal to minorities (Newburry et al., 2014). On the contrary, Baum et al.’s (2016) were such that media messages that are done through advertising and that contain messages of diversity inclusion would serve to appeal to minority groups. Hence, international firms that employed advertising media messages that have diversity content proved appealing to minority groups job seekers. The variation in the results yielded from both studies is a testament to the purpose and intention of this research paper as set out in the introduction. In that esteem, the paper concludes that when two research paradigms are used to investigate similar research question, two sets of varied results will be yielded depending on the paradigms utilized.


Baum, M., Sterzing, A., & Alaca, N. (2016). Reactions towards diversity recruitment and the moderating influence of the recruiting firm's country-of-origin. Journal of Business Research, 69(2016), 4140-4149. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2016.03.037

Blaikie, N. (2007). Approaches to Social Enquiry: Advancing Knowledge. New York: Polity Press.

Newburry, W., Gardberg, N. A., & Sanchez, J. I. (2014). Employer Attractiveness in Latin America: The Association Among Foreignness, Internationalization, and Talent Recruitment. Journal of International Management, 20(2014), 327-344. doi:10.1016/j.intman.2014.01.001

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