Constructing Identity Through Consumption

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Method

This chapter will first present the philosophical assumptions and research philosophy of the thesis. Later is the scientific approach, data collection and sampling process. Lastly, the methodology chapter discusses questions of quality and ethics, the study limitations, and the research trustworthiness and transferability.

Philosophical Assumptions

A qualitative research should consider all philosophical assumptions that are brought into the study, which emphasizes the importance of understanding the differences of how an individual decide to view their reality. According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009), there are three main philosophical assumptions of ontology, epistemology and axiology that serves as a foundation for studies.
Ontology can be defined as the way individuals make assumptions regarding the world and how it works according to them (Saunders et al., 2009). It includes the two aspects of objectivism and subjectivism, which both concerns the nature of reality. According to the aspect of objectivism, social entities are independent from social actors, i.e. that there is only one reality. On the contrary, subjectivism sees the reality as a social construct and thus is subjective. (ibid). By using a subjectivist ontology, the authors decisions in this study will be justified by contextualizing and describing the phenomena and provide a comprehensive study. “We are what we buy” can thus be seen as a social construct, and therefore a subjectivist ontology assumption can be made.
The epistemology assumption illustrates the acceptable knowledge within a field, i.e. the subjective meanings and social phenomena (Saunders et al., 2009). Subjective evidence and biases of viewpoints of individuals and their experience, provide the foundation to epistemological assumptions (Guba & Lincoln, 1988). This study focuses on the circumstances behind a situation and the motivating actions, which implies that the subjective meaning and social phenomena are taken into account.
The judgement of values in the decisions of research constitutes the axiology assumption (Saunders et al., 2009). This assumption implies that the researcher is a part of the research, i.e. that an individual demonstrates his or her own values at all stages of the research process, which can have an impact on credibility. (ibid). The authors of this study are also young consumers and have an interest in luxury consumption, which may lead to subconscious opinions and viewpoints. As the researchers have made a subjectivist assumption, they may also belong in this social construct. Therefore, it is of high importance for the authors of this study to isolate their own judgment of values in the decisions of this research. This will provide transparency and limit possible biases.

Research Philosophy

In order to build a strong in-depth analysis, it is beneficial to recognize the research philosophy used (Crossan, 2003). The establishment of knowledge and the nature of it can be explained by the research philosophy, i.e. how we decide to view the world (Saunders, et al., 2009). The authors of this thesis decided to select relativism as their philosophical commitment. As the purpose of this study is to explore how consumers use luxury consumption in their identity construction, the authors decided to use epistemological relativism as a viewpoint, as it “encourages reflection upon the formation of, and relation between, categories in accounts of social situations” (Al-Amoudi & Willmott, p.35, 2011). Epistemological relativism allows exploration from several viewpoints and can facilitate the process of exploring identities and its relationship to luxury consumption as a social construct (Al-Amoudi & Willmott, 2011).
In addition, Lawson (2003) stated that in the viewpoint of relativism, our lives “are affected by our life paths and socio-cultural situations, and thereby make a difference in how we can and do ‘see’ or know or approach things” (p. 162). When researching how consumers construct an identity, it is beneficial to take situational differences in consideration, which emphasizes this study. The researchers of this study made a great effort to consider different perspectives of different participants in the collected interviews. The participants may come from different cultural, geographical and financial backgrounds, which highlights the opportunity epistemological relativism provided to the study.

Research Approach

This study was conducted by collecting data in the form of a qualitative approach. This data was later analyzed by an inductive research approach, which was highly appropriate as the authors were in particular interested in the context of the problem and did not make a hypothesis.

Qualitative Research Approach

A qualitative research approach focuses on knowledge given from research strategies mainly expressed in words and no numbers (Saunders et al., 2009). One can thus argue that all qualitative data is information explicitly given without numerical form (Thorne, 2000). This type of data also provides the ability to categorize the results and thus create a new understanding (Saunders et al., 2009). There are various methods to how qualitative data can be gathered, e.g. semi-constructed interviews, focus groups, surveys, recorded observations, policy documents etc. (Thorne, 2000; Saunders et al., 2009). The authors of this exploratory study decided to use semi-structured interviews, as researchers within this field seek “knowledge about how people think and feel about circumstances in which they find themselves than they are in making judgements about whether those thoughts and feelings are valid” (p.68). This study explores how consumers construct their identity though luxury consumption, and a qualitative research approach with semi-structured interviews has the ability to bring deeper insights, as the questions can be altered based on the situational circumstances.

Inductive Research Approach

This study had a collection of primary and secondary data and then as a result of data analysis, more knowledge could be generated. This illustrates a form of an inductive research approach. Saunders et al. (2009) stated that an inductive research approach emphasizes the context of events, i.e. the understanding of the significance it has to people in a certain time and place. This type of research approach often begins with observations, thus creating an understanding of the collected data and later identifies patterns for the development of themes, theories and frameworks. (ibid).

1. Introduction
1.1. The problem
1.2. The Purpose
1.3. The Research Question
1.4. The Perspective
1.5. Delimitation
1.6. The Target Reader of This Study
1.7. Description of Key Terms
2. Frame of References
2.1. Constructing Identity Through Consumption
2.2. Social Status
2.3. Luxury Consumption
2.4. Dimension of Luxury Value Perception
3. Method 
3.1. Philosophical Assumptions
3.2. Research Philosophy
3.3. Research Approach
3.4. Exploratory Research Design
3.5. Data Collection
3.6. Quality and Ethics of Research
3.7. Limitation of Method
3.8. Trustworthiness and Transferability
3.9. Summary of Method
4. Empirical Findings and Analysis
5. Discussion
5.1. Implications
5.2. Limitations of Research
5.3. Suggestions for Further Research
6. Conclusion
7. References
8. Appendix 1 
9. Appendix 2
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We Are What We Buy An exploratory study of how young Swedish consumers construct their identities through luxury consumption

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