Argumentative research method

In our Wednesday class we were given a number and asked to research and answer 5 questions about the research method listed on the Google Doc with the corresponding number; Dejan and I got argumentative research method.

So lets get into this:

  • What is it ? (Short description of how it works)

Arguments are used to persuade someone to do something/agree with an aspect of your worldview. This is achieved by two or more different viewpoints being promoted by two or more parties, each viewpoint is backed up by logical reasons (e.g. objective facts) and/or emotional (e.g. subjective truths) to encourage the other party to agree with your viewpoint.

That is how we describe the concept of arguments in a general sense, relating this back to research the argumentative method is known as the Dialectic Method. It is a way to look at secondary research and debate opposing viewpoints to elicit the truth.

Dialectic Method is usually split up into 2 sub-methods: the Socratic method and Hegelian dialectic.

Dialectic research is a form of qualitative research because it uses words and it seeks a subjective truth that both parties can agree on. In other words it deals with people and opinions rather than scientific measurements (quantitative data).

Dialectical research works by comparing a thesis (an idea declared as the truth by one party known as the claimant), with an opposing idea (known as an antithesis). Both the thesis and the antithesis are backed up with reasoning based on facts elicited through others primary or secondary research and the end point of the dialectic method is a synthesis of ideas.


  • What kinds of questions/problems might it be useful for?

The dialectical method is used in research (specifically secondary research) to compare two or more opposing viewpoints which are backed-up with objective and subjective facts to determine which viewpoint is a subjective truth that all parties can agree on. In other words it is the identification of a truth based on opposing primary and secondary research of others.

Therefore Dialectic research would be useful in secondary research to compare the conflicting findings of multiple authors and argue for which is the likely truth.

Being a form of qualitative research dialectic research will fit into the Social Scientific Paradigm which has a Constructivism ontology, and Interpretist epistemology. This paradigm contains other qualitative research methods such as interviews and surveys, however dialectic research will take opposing ideas found through the primary research methods such as interviews and surveys and determine which is the one everyone agrees on.

So dialectic research is useful for evaluating primary research and solving problems that have had primary research performed, but no agreement of different parties.


  • How could it be used in IT research  (try to think of an example)?

Dialectic research can be used in IT research on topics where primary research has been performed and there is still no agreement between different stakeholders, this is because by comparing the ideas and reaching a synthesis the disagreement is solved and action can be taken. Examples are:

  • In a UX team one designer believes that an app they are working on should have a onboarding tool feature to show the user how to use the app, however another designer believes that the app is intuitive enough that this feature is not necessary. After qualitative research, such as multiple surveys by both parties has been conducted, both the designers perform dialectic research to compare the thesis (that the onboarding tool is necessary) and antithesis (that the tool isn’t necessary) and they reach the synthesis that they will recommend the development of an onboarding tool to the client.
  • The decision making process for legislators to decide what limits and constrictions they should place on A.I. research and development


  • What are the strengths of the approach?

Dialectic research is useful in resolving disagreements of opinion, by outlining all opinions and reaching a synthesis of opinion. Therefore it is useful in the analysis of primary research, i.e. it is useful in the decision making process and in performing secondary research.

Dialectic research is very useful in reaching a consensus between all stakeholders allowing a process, implementation or inquiry to move forwards.

Regarding what makes a effective argument in this approach certain attributes should be meet:

  • The thesis and antithesis needs to be worded clearly so you know what is arguing for.
  • Both sides of the argument need to be based on objective facts because this increases the credibility of the thesis and antithesis because it is showing they actually have a logical and objective basis for what they are arguing for.
  • The argument is believable in other words it is similar enough to the worldview of the other party which is based on their personal biases as to make the argument seem credible.
  • Are the facts that are used to back up the thesis and antithesis valid and credible (which can be determined based on the 4 indicators I outlined in ‘What is credibility and validity” research journal entry, additionally are the facts actually relevant to the argument).


  • What are the weaknesses of the approach?

The facts that back up the thesis and antithesis in dialectic research are from primary research and so this approach is not useful in gathering quantitative, or qualitative facts in primary research.

The synthesis outcome of dialectic research is very much based on how well both the thesis and antithesis were articulated, so even if there is a greater quantity of valid and credible objective facts to back up one side of the argument it can still be discounted by the other party if it was not articulated effectively.

A good example of this is the dialectic methods used in the decision making process of politics; if the Labour party opposes a policy proposed by the National party in an argument based on a lot of credible and valid objective facts but does not articulate this objection clearly enough then the public are likely not to care to agree with the Labour party.

Whilst when evaluating primary research or secondary research this research approach is not useful if: the argument claim being made is unclear so the reader does not know what viewpoint is being argued for, the argument is based on emotions rather than objective facts, the claim being made is not believable, and the objective facts being used to backup the argument are made by biased sources, not valid and credible and if the facts are not relevant to the claim being made.