Historical Background on the Development of Social Science and Its Importance

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Introduction and Background

Classical social scientists consisted of prominent thinkers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Their main emphases were the decline of empires and the rise of nation states, according to new ideas of national identity, erosion of traditional morality and the new world economy (Forte, 2008). While they could now be called as arm-chair social scientists due to their reliance on reading, reflecting on personal or second-hand sources and critical thinking, they pursued the important social science objective of inferring theoretical principles from empirical generalizations (Hirschman, 2000; Spillman, 2014). From their analysis arose original insights and interpretations, such as those from Marx and Weber (Hirschman, 2000).

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Succeeding social scientists grappled with positivist criticisms that their field lacks scientific rigor which compelled them to tackle the issue of verification or testing hypotheses of theories. The goal was for social science to become more scientific; consequently, applying scientific logic and methods for the examination of human societies and human behaviour developed during the twentieth century (Hirschman, 2000). During this time, the goal of social science changed from defining the meaning of a good society or justifying certain human behaviours to making sense of the differences and similarities in human behaviours, organisations and societies. Social science adapted the scientific approach through rigorous observation, measurement and data analysis methods that enabled scholars to assess the validity and reliability of their hypotheses. Presently, social scientists are using new technologies and data to conduct studies that go beyond positivist frameworks (Schatzki, 2002). Particularly, by presenting a rich source of both qualitative and quantitative data, the Internet is a new and exciting field of study as well as method of data-collection. Furthermore, some social scientists eschew the desire for neutrality when methods themselves are political with social implications (Law, 2004). Finally, several modern social scientists believe that social scientists should only pursue research that matters to society and forget the pretension of becoming as objective as other scientific fields (Flyvbjerg, 2001).

Why Do We Do Research?

People do research for the academic pursuit of knowledge and discovery, plus as a creative activity that can advance a field’s boundaries. Research is integral to social science as it provides knowledge and basis for testing or revising existing paradigms and theories apart from the goal of developing new ones (Flyvbjerg, 2001). Furthermore, research offers countless benefits to students as it exposes them to the exacting research process that hones skills and attitudes which would be useful in conducting future roles and activities (Arena et al., 2015). Students who intend to become managers and specialists can use the scientific method to analyse and resolve real-life problems in their organisations and careers (Bande and Karanassou, 2009). In addition, research allows scholars to update knowledge quickly. Altogether, the Internet and electronic tools have vastly boosted the ability of people to conduct, analyse and share research.

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Why Does Social Science Matter?

Despite some critics undermining the value of social science to modern society, its significance and contributions have become increasingly important as societies face diverse and complex issues and challenges more than ever, whether it is global warming, social inequality or floundering organisational performance (Flyvbjerg, 2001). Social science matters as it offers frameworks, theories, models, and measures that will enable people to understand and analyse issues (Wolgemuth et al., 2014). Furthermore, social scientists had and can conduct multidisciplinary research that not many fields even want to consider, research that is vital to finding comprehensive solutions to sophisticated social problems (Daleure et al., 2014).

Research Area

Background on Human Resource Management and How Social Science Can Help

Human resources management (HRM) has evolved from personnel management practices and systems to become a strategic dimension of corporate entrepreneurship (Lee et al., 2011). Since the 1980s, HRM strategy has improved in contributing to firm competitiveness and managerial efficiency. As managerial scholars connected the management of people and performance, they recommended specific theories and views that maximised human resources. One of the latest subfields is Strategic HRM which “covers the overall HR strategies adopted by business units and companies and tries to measure their impacts on performance” (Lengnick-Hall et al., 2009, p. 64). Besides strategic HRM, e-HRM is on the rise with the increase in managing expatriate and telecommuting employees (Marler and Fisher, 2013).

Social science can help the field of HRM as it offers relevant models, theories, and methods. HRM scholars can use social science paradigms to understand social systems, beliefs and practices in organisations as well as in between organisations (e.g. government and private firms) (Bratton and Gold, 1994, p. 30). Furthermore, HRM researchers can use social science methods to analyse the social basis of legal rules and beliefs of interest groups (Bratton and Gold, 1994, p. 71; Onwuegbuzie and Leech, 2005). The theories and paradigms can enrich the analysis of data and how they can be applied for more successful localisation programmes.

Overview of Saudisation to Localisation

Owing to its failure of achieving workforce localisation outcomes, the Saudisation program has been replaced with localisation strategies and policies which aim to replace expatriates with Saudis. Challenges in localisation and the strategies of the KSA’s 2030 vision in reducing the unemployment rate underline the urgency of understanding the high turnover of Saudis in private firms and the low employment of locals in the private industry. Initial research shows that private firms have workplace expectations that do not always match those of Saudis which lead to low morale and workplace satisfaction (Ho, 2012; Madhi, 2003).

If the problem of high Saudi turnover continues, in the long run, localisation will fail and the unemployment rate will keep on rising. To make matters worse, there are high numbers of graduates of both males and females in Saudi Arabia annually and if they could not find a stable work place, they will increase the unemployment rate each year. The public sector can only accommodate a few new graduates due to its small growth rate compared to the private sector which is growing quickly and hiring more expatriates than locals. Likewise, Saudi Arabia intends to privatise more industries for greater competitiveness which heightens the probability of higher unemployment in the future. The research intends to offer findings that can help reduce the unemployment and turnover rate of Saudis in the private sector by understanding how their job satisfaction can be improved.

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Why the Research Is Important

It is important to understand why the private firms are failing to met the Saudi workers job expectations which lead to high turnover from the Saudi nation because this will result in higher unemployment rate and social conflicts. After the research is conduced, solutions can help improve the stability of the working place for Saudis and reduce the unemployment rate, especially for young Saudi workers.

The aim, research questions, and objectives of the research are the following:

Research Question: Despite following localisation policies, why did private firms fail to meet Saudi employees’ job expectations which contributed to their high turnover rate?

Aim 1: To understand why companies that fulfilled past localisation requirements failed to meet Saudi employees’ job expectations which resulted in high Saudi turnover rate in the private sector.

Objective 1: To determine workplace issues that led to the resignation of Saudis in private sector companies.

Objective 2: To provide short-term and long-term solutions that can meet Saudi employees’ job expectations and both reduce as well as prevent high turnover.

Research Design

Objectivism versus Constructivism

Objectivism has been the main framework in many fields including education and HRM. Traditional approaches to learning and human relationships are based on behaviouristic and cognitive theories that hold philosophical assumptions of objectivism. The main assumptions of objectivism are the following. First, a real world exists which is made of entities with properties and relations; also, properties predict their categorization (Jonassen, 1992).  Second, the real world can be modelled due to its full structures (Clegg, 2017).  Third, symbols can represent reality and can only have meaning in connection to their reality (Jonassen, 1992).  Fourth, the human mind can digest abstract symbols similar to a computer which replicates nature (Green, 2012).  Human thought refers to symbol-manipulation and is independent of humanity. Sixth, the meaning of the world has an objective existence that is separate from in the human mind and external to the person (Jonassen, 1992; Lakoff, 1987).

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Objectivism is not useful to this research because human properties cannot be completely and fully determined as well as structured (Derrida, 1986). Furthermore, while symbols can represent reality, it is only an aspect of what is real to people. For instance, beliefs, however illogical, can be real to some to the point that they will die for it. Likewise, the human mind is not like a computer that can easily process abstract information and change beliefs accordingly (Cronje, 2006). Finally, meaning can live in the human mind and affect beliefs, attitudes, and actions (Campos, 2007).

Constructivism provides the philosophical foundation of postmodernism which rejects objective truth and corresponding theories. Grogan (2000) asserted that postmodernism is sceptical of grand narratives and consequently, constructivism undercuts beliefs in internal consistency and objective ways of knowing (Derrida, 1986). Unlike objectivism, constructivism asserts that knowledge does not exist independent of the learner as knowledge is constructed. Some of the prominent constructivists are Piaget, Blumer, Kuhn, and Vygotsky. The major epistemological assumptions of constructivism are as follows. First, the real world sets the boundaries of human experiences (Petchtone, 2014). Reality is local and multiple realities can exist. Second, the mind creates the structures of the world through interaction and interpretation. Culture produces symbols which shape how people frame realities. Third, the mind produces symbols through perceiving and interpreting the society. Fourth, human thought is creative and develops from sensory experiences, perceptions, and social interactions. Fifth, meaning comes from an interpretive process and relies on the person’s experiences and understanding (Cobb, 1994).

Constructivism is useful for this research because the student also believes in the existence of multiple realities and divergences in the construction of meaning. HRM issues can be tricky to resolve as people have their own perceptions of problems and solutions. Disregarding this reality can result in assumptions about how people think and behave as well as failed programmes and policies that seek to alter individual and group behaviours. In addition, cultural differences can impact how managers and employees approach HR concerns. Diversity in experiences and philosophical frameworks can either improve or hamper people’s ability for collaboration. Managers who insist on having their way without thinking about issues from the lens of employees would have a large probability of failing in implementing changes. Constructivism provides a critical perspective, a view of the world as poly-structured and dynamic in meaning and realities.

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Qualitative versus Quantitative

Quantitative research has the following basic characteristics. First, the researcher is aware in advance the kind of data he/she looks for (McCusker and Gunaydin, 2015). Second, every domain of the study has careful preparation prior to data-collection (Lewis, 2015). Third, researchers use tools, namely questionnaires or equipment, to obtain numerical data. Fourth, data is mostly in numbers and statistics. Fifth, quantitative data is more efficient and can test hypotheses, but could detach or sanitise contextual detail (Hafford-Letchfield, 2015). Sixth, researchers intend to be objectively distanced from the subject matter.

Qualitative studies help answers inquiries that ask why and how apart from trying without depending too much on numerical data. Qualitative methods are relevant when the possible answer to a question entails an explanation instead of a direct yes or no (Sullivan and Sargeant, 2011). Furthermore, qualitative research is more about cases than variables, and making sense of differences rather than determining the mean of responses. Likewise, a qualitative study wants to know the individual’s perspective. At the same time, qualitative research recognises the reality that the researcher has its bias and cannot be sufficiently objective or detached from the subjects or the topic (Wilson, 2000). Several qualitative methods are in-depth interviews, case studies, focus groups and open-ended questions.

Due to the subjectivity of data-collection methods, qualitative researchers must prove that their findings are credible (Sullivan and Sargeant, 2011). Similar to quantitative approaches, a cogent qualitative research project begins with a basic review of current knowledge- a thorough literature search. Opposite to quantitative approaches, many qualitative paradigms do not believe in and are not after a single “truth,” but diverse and context-specific “realities” (Flyvbjerg, 2006; Sullivan and Sargeant, 2011). Consequently, while validity and reliability are measured in quantitative tradition, their conceptualisations are often incompatible with qualitative research. The more important concepts for qualitative researchers are “precision, credibility, and transferability” (Sullivan and Sargeant, 2011). With emphasis on the quality of research and relevance to end consumers, qualitative research matches social science which intends to improve social conditions.

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On the one hand, some experts think that reliability is irrelevant to qualitative studies, which is why they would rather use the concept of “dependability” (Sullivan and Sargeant, 2011). Dependability can be attained through consistency of data and assessed through clear research steps and research findings (Sullivan and Sargeant, 2011). Moreover, trustworthiness and rigor can strengthen the credibility of findings. A common technique that can boost trustworthiness and rigor is through the process of triangulation that relies on multiple data sources (such as observations and interviews), multiple analytic methods, or numerous researchers (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005). The main objective is to decrease and respond to the potential bias while improving the “truthfulness” of analysis according to the data (Golafshani, 2003).

Qualitative versus quantitative research has its divergences mostly from purists who see one as superior over the other and deem them as more different than similar or complementary. Purists would assert that the two are dissimilar in ontology, epistemology, axiology, logic, causal linkages and ethics (Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Furthermore, Rossman and Wilson (1985) showed the development of three main schools of thought on the quantitative–qualitative paradigm wars: purists, situationalists and pragmatists. Differences in if and how much quantitative and qualitative approaches can be merged affect these schools. If seen as residing in a continuum, purists and pragmatists are at the extreme ends, whereas situationalists are located between purists and pragmatists.

Essentially different, purists argue that quantitative and qualitative methods are dissimilar in their ontologic, epistemologic and axiologic assumptions regarding what research is and what it should be about (McCusker and Gunaydin, 2015). Additionally, purists perceive that the assumptions of both paradigms cannot co-exist due to primary divergences in how the world is and how it should be known. Purists assert that quantitative and qualitative approaches hold no potential for incorporation and propose singular method studies. On the contrary, situationalists assert that singe methods can work yet the two methods have specific value. Moreover, they believe that some questions are better answered by quantitative approaches, whereas others match qualitative methods (Ramlo, 2016). Specific questions are subjective enough to be explored through the qualitative method, while objective inquiries would require quantitative answers.

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Both frameworks are useful as they provide a more realistic and deeper understanding of HR issues. Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2005) called this being a pragmatic researcher. Furthermore, Onwuegbuzie and Teddlie (2003) suggested a re-conceptualisation that combines quantitative and qualitative data collection and data analytical procedures. They prepared a model where quantitative data analysis techniques are called exploratory (uses descriptive statistics and cluster analysis), and exploratory qualitative data analysis integrates traditional thematic analyses. As for confirmatory methods, quantitative techniques consist of inferential statistics, while qualitative methods apply confirmatory thematic analyses; replicating qualitative studies are essential to the replicability of emergent themes or to test theories (Onwuegbuzie & Teddlie, 2003).

Mixed methods research taps the diverse strengths of both qualitative and quantitative methodology by merging their components in a research study to boost the breadth and profundity of understanding (Wisdom et al., 2012). Qualitative and quantitative methods can be merged for different purposes and offer a comprehensive picture of human resource management and organisational situations than either method can on its own. Mixed methods are useful in these conditions: (1) researchers seek to incorporate different methods or use a method to support the findings from another (triangulation); (2) researchers want to use a method for elaboration or enhancement as well as illustration of findings from another method (complementarity); (3) researchers intend to use the results of one method to inform another, such as when designing new measures (development); (4) researchers want to employ one method to determine and make sense of paradoxes and contradictions in findings and to reframe or find new research questions (initiation); and (5) researchers aim to broaden the breadth and depth of the study through numerous different research components (expansion) (Greene, Caracelli, and Graham 1989). In addition, Bryman (2006) asserted that mixed methods can result in obtaining diversity of views, exemplifying concepts, and refining instruments. Mixed methods are useful in this research as there are failures that must be understood and addressed, not from a single source of viewpoint or knowledge but from a variety of valid realities.

Research Paradigm


Positivists believe the stability of reality that is observable and describable from an objective frame (Levin, 1988) without affecting the phenomena or people under study. Furthermore, positivists argue that the phenomena must be isolated and that observations ought to be repeatable. To attain this, positivism usually applies the manoeuvring of reality with changes in only a single independent variable for the purpose of achieving regularities in, and to build associations between the elements of the world. The main approach of the positivist is to use the scientific method to identify natural laws via procedures of direct manipulation and observation.

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Science is central to positivism; it is the sole way to the knowable and objective truth. Moreover, science helps understand the world enough that people can predict and control it (Weenink and Bridgman, 2017). Basically, it believes in a deterministic world that works through the laws of cause and effect. Using the scientific method will reveal causal relationships. Also, positivist science is predominantly mechanistic and its researchers rely on deductive reasoning to test theories or hypothesis (Allan, 2010). If the results revenant that the facts fail to match theories, they are changed or new ones are made to better forecast the future or reality. Positivists practice empiricism, the notion that observation and measurement are the central aspects of scientific pursuits.

Positivism limits the study to what is directly observable. The mechanistic approach simplifies and limits reality. Furthermore, its view of the truth does not match the reality that truths reflect multiple realities (Wildemuth, 1993). Likewise, researchers cannot detach themselves enough to not affect the phenomena they are studying (Alan, 2011). Simply by asking questions, they are bound to affect what they intend to study. More so, their findings can impact their subjects later on, if not during the research and even if there has been no direct contact if the data-collection is done through mail or the Internet. Generalisations about people, their beliefs and practices, can have diverse, sometimes even negative impacts on them and how other groups would see and interact with the former.


The middle of the twentieth century introduced new ways of thinking, including post-positivism. Post-positivism believe that how scientists think and behave can be compared to what ordinary people do in their lives. Furthermore, it asserts that observation is flawed. What people can see and measure will always have flaws because nothing is absolute, while assumptions and methods cannot be refined to perfectly illustrate and measure reality. Moreover, while positivists asserted that the goal of science was to discover the truth, post-positivists argued that the real goal is to keep on trying when the end is always changing and never fully discoverable and understandable. One of the most common kinds of post-positivism is critical realism. Critical realists argue that reality is detached from thinking opposite to subjectivists who would say that an external reality is non-existence. Also, critical realism is fully critical of people’s ability to determine reality.

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Post-positivism also believes that observations are theory-laden and that scientists have biases. Still, it rejects the idea that people cannot understand each other because they can as long as they see and accept their differences. Many post-positivists are constructivists as they think they can change the world through their ideas. A post-positivist perspective enables the penetration of researcher and research participant’s subjective frameworks (Russell and Kelly, 2002) to improve the understanding of the relationship between the researcher, the known, and the road to knowing (Sprague, 2005). The researcher’s epistemological stance means accepting a “a minimalist standard of rationality that requires that belief is apportioned to evidence and that no assertion be immune for critical assessment” (Sprague, 2005, p. 40). One way of achieving is through reflexive accounts of research to determine the role of researchers in the research process (Couture and Zaidi, 2012).

The limits of post-positivism are connected to its lack of objectivity, according to purist positivists, and muddled sense of the world (Allan, 2011). Since perception and observation are flawed, objectivity in a post-positivist is an illusion. Even scientists are biased and biases can impact what they study, how, and why. Nevertheless, similar to qualitative research, post-positivism believes that credibility of research can be attained through triangulation of multiple imperfect perspectives (Manjikian, 2013). Objectivity does not reside in a single individual or the researcher but is inherently inside society. While objectivity cannot be attained perfectly, scientists can try approaching it through putting issues within the context of broader truth-seekers who are willing to read and criticise one another. The theories that will come out from peer evaluation are still theory-laden but at least, they are open to constant analysis and reinterpretations than seen as absolute ways of structuring and predicting reality. Also, triangulation can enhance credibility of findings with respect to those who own these realities and not what the researcher would deem as real and acceptable. As for the multiple perspectives that can create a messy way of seeing the world, it is better to see the reality as it is, including its complexities, than simplify and sanitise it in order to fit existing hypotheses. In this research, the goal is not to have one source of knowledge but multiple sources to understand the causes of failures and provide better resolutions to localisation weaknesses.

One of the benefits of the post-positivist frame is that it does not aspire to know the single truth but to see the truths from different eyes and make possible generalisations from there. The study on localisation must have this approach to become productive- to know what each knower knows according to how he/she knows the world. The ontological and epistemological beliefs and practices of stakeholders, no matter how different and conflicting they are, should be seen as valid and not incorrect or insufficient. As a result, the researcher would be at the vantage point of looking at a higher ground by perceiving diverse perspectives. This can be compared to the idea of a box which has an object inside and two holes, one on top and the other on the side. Some researchers would only look from one hole, thereby missing the parts of the phenomena in the other hole. Post-positivism asks researcher to not only look through all holes but try to break the box and see what is inside. The difficulty of this task is immense; nevertheless, the goal is to approach the truths and realities and change theories as one views more of what is inside the box.

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Theory Building: Critiquing research in management and social science

To build theories, researchers must be able to critique articles in management and social science. Fundamental to the research of this student is to understand the dialectic between standardisation and localization. On the one hand, Schuler et al. (1993) and other HRM theorists identify the endogenous and exogenous factors for companies and offer an objective politicoeconomic environment. In reality though, strategic environment is merely politico-economic or fully objective. The formation of HRM policies and practices has limits in connection to objective factors such as laws and management beliefs and interests. The subjective analyses of managers and employees have an impact on policies and their success.

Weick (1995) and management theorists asserted the maxim: environments are enacted. Constructivism asserts that the reality is made through the mind while post-positivism adds multiple perspectives in social construction. In the same way, localisation is complex and difficult to implement due to the existence of conflicting values, assumptions, and definitions of a good company to work for. Not to mention, multicultural differences exist within companies that can lead to a wedge between foreign company owners and stakeholders and Saudi employees. Explaining the logic and behaviour of private companies must have cultural aspects.

Cognitive and affect interpretations are equally valid as decision-makers use both their mind and emotions in thinking about their options. As one study noted:

The structures used to interpret the environment are often held subconsciously (Fiol & Huff, 1992) and differences may be particularly significant in cross-cultural management scenarios… These cognitive structures are held collectively, by groups …or communities (Wenger, 1998).

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Post-positivist research must consider these different dimensions in knowing the phenomena and the different views on its failures and possibilities.

Research Approaches: Deductive and Inductive Methods

The research will combine deductive and inductive approaches. Deductive reasoning refers to the “valid reasoning by which it is impossible to accept the premises but reject the conclusion”. The deductive approach starts with the objective. With the determined objective, the definitions and assumptions are clarified next. Afterward, the researcher will create a logical structure from the definitions and assumptions to reach the objective. The deductive methodology moves from the general to the specific as the researcher must begin with a logical structure to attain the objectives that are hinged on definitions and assumptions. The validity of any theory that is deduced relies on the ability of the researcher to determine different HRM process and their interrelations in a logical way.

Induction is a reasoning method where a law or a general principle can be inferred through observing particular cases. The inductive approach focuses on observation and attaining conclusions through observation. It moves from the specific to general as the researcher makes generalisations from limited observations. Inductive inference can be useful in evaluating cause-and-effect relations with degrees of certainty through spectrums of probabilities. Also called Bayesian induction, this can apply in cases where decision-making should be done based on observable effects and causes are inferred (Kyriacou, 2004).

People frequently use inductive reasoning due to the idea of making generalisations from specific observations. While it is useful, it has limits since inductive reasoning does not always draw upon exhaustive evidence (Kyriacou, 2004). Consequently, conclusions may be incomplete. The strength of the inductive argument can be improved as it includes more evidence. If the evidence represents the whole as faithfully as possible, the inductive conclusion can have higher chances of being correct. Representative evidence can result in conclusions with strong external validity.

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Both deductive and inductive approaches are essential to driving the validity of reasoning particularly when using the post-positivist paradigm and usefulness of the research. Deductive reasoning is important as the review of literature will provide initial theories and hypotheses. However, it is limited by the conclusion that must also be contained in the premises. Valid deductive reasoning is circular reasoning in its nature or “begging the question.” The truth of the deduced conclusion is also dependent on the validity of the form of the argument, and the verity of the premise. The conclusions are as good as the premises. Inductive reasoning can improve research by providing answers to what cannot be known through deductive reasoning. Together, these ways of thinking offer both general and specific ways of knowing the world. Also, induction is future-oriented while deduction is past- or present-oriented, hence, they can help explain past behaviours and somehow predict future ones. While post-positivism is not into predicting absolutes, deduction and induction can help imagine possible scenarios for better responses from the management.

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