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Qual reading summary
Week 2
Lecture video 1
Methodology: ‘what can we know’ using our chosen approach?
Epistemology: A theory of knowledge concerned with understanding how knowledge is
defined, valued and prioritised (positivism, interpretivism, etc)
 Axiology: the theory of values that inform how we see the world and the value judgements
we make within out research (research does not have to be value free)
 Defining your axiological position:
1. Why have we chosen our topic?
2. What is our particular RQ and why?
3. Why did we choose this topic over others?
 Conceptual framework (lens): concepts, assumptions, expectations, beliefs and theorys
support and inform research (useful tool). Either micro, meso and macro lens.
 Epistemological approach/RQ determines conceptual framework (some theoretical
approaches support all three: micro, meso, macro)
 Writing a good research question (based on Natalier):
1. Read and refine knowledge surrounding topic/hunch
2. Think in terms of concepts (not just topics)
3. Identify puzzles, gaps, contradictions
4. Write a question (not a statement). What do you want to know? Why will qual approach
be appropriate?
 Central question (Broad question) asks for exploration of a central phenomenon or concept
1-2 central questions with about 3 aims is ideal.
 Relate what you want to do back to do back to methodological approach
e.g. ethnographic study: cultural, group belong questions
e.g. phenomenological study: about the lived experiences
e.g. grounded theory: deeper understanding of how process x works
 Should begin with ‘how’ or ‘what’ NOT ‘why’ (causal inquiry) and be open.
(different methodological approaches in brackets)
- Discover (grounded theory)
- Seek to understand (ethnography)
- Explore the process (interpretative/constructivist)
- Describe the experience (phenomenology)
- Report the stories (narrative)
 You want the findings to emerge (No predetermined idea to prove)
- avoid smuggling unexamined assumptions in research questions
- broad research question with specific and relevant aims
1. Difference b/w methodology and method and key terms associated with methodology
2. (Willis) Use of conceptual/theoretical framework to focus research
3. Importance of writing a research question
Qual research questions
1. Design study
1. State research problem/need/definition of why research is needed (not research
question). Why it is important to interpret?
2. RQs are non-directional, evolving and open ended. Don’t use why (qual isn’t causal) or
y/n. Use ‘what’ instead.
3. Sub-questions are the same as RQ, but they also address specific concerns
2. Decide on a qual approach
Carter and Little 2007
Evaluating quality founded on epistemology, methodology and method (definitions,
contributions and interrelationships)
Epistemology: the theory of knowledge, especially methods, research quality, form, voice,
representation, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.
Epistemology guides methodological choices and is axiological.
Methodology shapes and is shaped by research objectives, questions, and study design.
Inform method, differences b/w disciplines, and drive theory.
Method is constrained by and makes visible methodological and epistemic choices.
Determine qual quality by degree of three elements and internal consistency between them.
These three elements determine planning, implementing, and quality evaluation
Rise of the evidence-based medicine movement and quality assessments in research
Avoid didacticism and checklists  instead inclusivity and flexibility
Definitions and Explanations
"The study of the nature of knowledge and justification" (Schwandt, 2001, p. 71).
Justification/thoery of knowledge
Epistemological issues are "issues about an adequate theory of knowledge or justificatory
strategy" (Harding, 1987, p. 2).
Epistemologists study the components, sources, and limits of knowledge and of the
justification of knowledge (Moser, 2002) (Inc. philosophers of science who study claims by
empirical disciplines and the formation/sustainability of beliefs (Kitcher, 2002).
Formal theories' of knowledge enrich both research epistemologies, and the praxis of social
inquiry is an important means by which theories of knowledge can be constructed
(Mauthner & Doucet, 2003; Schwandt, 2000).
Justification of a research approach via analysis and theory
The description/explanation/justification of methods, not the methods themselves
(Kaplan, 1964, p. 18).
(Kaplan 1964) tension between what is done in research vs communication of what is done
logic-in-use: the logic a researcher uses to produce knowledge
Reconstructed logic: can influence, be influenced by and idealises logic-in-use. Explains
methodology. The analysis, evaluation, and idealization of the process of something
(specifically qual research)
E.g. We all have it (physiology-in-use), but only some of us also think and write about it
(reconstructed physiology).
The following are NOT methodology:
Schools of thought/movement: symbolic interactionism or feminism,
Disciplines: anthropology
Methods: focus groups or observation
Aims to describe and analyse (limitations, presuppositions and resources) methods, and
broadly explain the process (not product) of scientific inquiry.
Methodologist: describes, explains, justifies, evaluates methods.
Methodology also known as strategies and traditions of inquiry
Methodological work  reconstructed logics on approaches to research  Methodologies
(Harding, 1987; Schwandt, 2001)  Justified methods. These include:
1. Grounded theory approaches
2. Narrative, life history, testimonio, and biographical methodologies
3. Various ethnographies
 scientific description of peoples/cultures with their customs, habits, and differences.
4. Participatory action research traditions
5. Various phenomenological or phenomenographic traditions
6. Case study approaches
Vary in prescription of methods, but all provide an overall strategy for formulating,
articulating, analysing, and evaluating methods.
All are internally heterogeneous, dynamic, and evolving  Approach methodologically in a
theoretically situated, and flexible way (not dogmatic)
Research action in the form of techniques, tools and techniques for gathering evidence
(Harding, 1987; Schwandt, 200.1)
Methodology justifies method, which produces data and analyses with create knowledge.
Epistemology modifies methodology and justifies the knowledge produced.
Practical activities of research: sampling, data collection, data management, data analysis,
and reporting.
Qualitative research samples purposively (not statistically representative) (Ritchie, Lewis, &
Elam, 2003).
Purposive sampling methods:
1. theoretical sampling (Charmaz, 2006)
2. sampling for maximum variation. Time/place based (Ritchie et al., 2003).
Qualitative data collection methods:
1. observation
2. interviews
3. focus groups
4. collection of extant texts (organisational records)
5. elicitation of texts (participant diaries)
6. creation or collection of images (photos and video)
7. Internet-facilitated methods (e-mail interviewing, blogs)
Data management methods:
1. recording
2. transcription/transcript checking
3. use of computer-assisted analysis software.
Data analysis methods:
1. constant comparison,
2. memo writing
3. theory building (Charmaz, 2006; Glaser & Strauss, 1967),
4. narrative analysis techniques (Cortazzi, 1993; Lieblich et al., 1998),
5. microlinguistic analysis techniques (Fairclough, 1992; Gee, 2005).
Several methodological problems
Methodological fundamentalism: fixed/superiority complex for a particular methodology
Applying an inappropriate post hoc methodological label to a study design
The perception that research guided by a methodology is more esoteric, less "practical," and
thus less fundable
The Contribution of Epistemology to Qualitative Research
Epistemological contribution to research is essentially theoretical (theories of knowledge)
Inescapable: actively adopt a theory of knowledge vs. implicitly adopt a theory of knowledge
(tacit and less supported assumptions)
Two epistemological positions
Professor Jeffery
Creating knowledge WITH participants
Knowledge is a product of the specific interactions and relationships between researcher
and participants in the specific context of their study.
Cannot be generalised (but may be commonalities)
Qual research engages with people's subjectivity and that the researcher should be
transparent about her own subjectivity to enable readers to make judgments about it.
Internal states or phenomena are not static/measurable (attitudes, motivations, or beliefs)
Interactions are dynamic and require personal engagement
Supports grounded theories with similar epistemic position to his (e.g., links to formal
theories: social constructionism and poststructuralism).
Supports performance ethnography: interacting participants, researcher, audience
Participants as active contributors
Methodology quality demonstration
Supports use of multiple sources to produce more data rather than to prove accuracy.
Supports returning transcripts to participants but to gather new data (not check accuracy).
Supports researcher creating detailed records of personal participation, reactions, and
experiences and to use these records in analysis.
Simultaneous analysis and data collection
Supports team analysis to broaden the framework of reference (Not repeatability)
Epistemology Influences Form, Voice, and Representation in the Method
Supports personal voice in final report (inc. alternative explanations, struggles, defeats, and
triumphs of the research process)
Supports community access to de-identified analysis records, including her memos
Think of audience as active interpreters and use less traditional modes (e.g., performances,
quote poetry)
Professor Rose
Aims to understand the reality that is as generalisable as possible.
Can measure participants' real beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge
Avoid introducing bias and thus inaccuracy
Ask questions in a non-leading, depersonalized manner. Do not influence participants.
Supports phenomenological study based on Husserlian philosophy
Supports grounded theory focused on repeatable, specific procedures
Supports ethnography that maps the cultural structure/function with specific methods
Participants as subjects being studied. Passive participation
Researcher should not influence study (be as invisible, as contained, as unobtrusive as
possible) and should be alert for deception, inconsistency, or error on the part of a
participant, as these might confound Anna's findings or reveal something about the
participant's cognition (e.g. cognitive dissonance).
Methodology quality demonstration
Supports use of multiple observers to verify or correct researcher observations e.g. sending
participants their transcripts to correct, triangulation (e.g. combining observational data,
focus group data, and interview data to increase accuracy).
Supports post hoc, pre-defined, repeatable analysis (e.g., narrative/life history design:
conversational/genre standardised analysis, phenomenology: consensus of themes)
Supports seeking misrepresentations/errors in participants' accounts, participant data
validation, repetition of study to test generalizability.
Epistemology Influences Form, Voice, and Representation in the Method
Supports the presentation of a completed, coherent, and unified analysis, with exemplary
quotes, in the objective scientific third person, with no information about Anna herself
Epistemology Influences Methodology
Methodologies  justify methods  produce knowledge
Therefore methodologies have epistemic content.
Researchers may be drawn to different methodologies or variants of the same methodology
depending on their epistemological position.
Suggestions must be internally consistent with epistemological position
Epistemology Influences Implementation of Method
Epistemology Influences the Way in Which Quality of Methods is Demonstrated
Epistemology Influences Form, Voice, and Representation in the Method
Epistemology is Axiological
Epistemic tension due to difference in values  axiology (to do with values)
Epistemology has ethical weight.
Axiology is in epistemology AND the cultural contexts
Epistemology explains/justifies rightness or wrongness, the admissibility or inadmissibility, of
types of knowledge and sources of justification of that knowledge.
Epistemological position informed by value judgments about what constitutes trustworthy
knowledge (axiology in epistemology).
Knowledge that is generated by a project will be discussed, evaluated, and justified in
relation to broader cultural values (epistemology is surrounded by axiology).
The Contribution of Methodology to Qualitative Research
Iterative Planning Relationships: Methodology Interacts With Objectives, Questions, and
Study Design
Objectives, research questions, and design  methodology
methodology  objectives, research questions, and design.
ethnographic lens: studying smoking as, or in, a culture.
Will produce a detailed description and/or interpretation of a culture
Linked with cultural anthropology and may be atheoretical to facilitate open-mind
critical ethnography linked with critical theory (ad-hoc lowers rich emic description)
phenomenology: uncover the meaning of smoking experience for school-age people.
Less prescriptive about sampling choices
A narrative-based methodology: ask about the place of smoking in the life histories of
individual children, and perhaps also those of their parents or other important figures.
Will produce a detailed analysis of life stories
Less prescriptive about sampling choices
Grounded theory: develop a substantive theory of school-aged smoking.
Will produce a theory (not verify)
Requires atheoretical sampling
Encourages use of formal and substantive theories later in study (not during design)
Could link with sociology theories (symbolic interactionism, social constructionism)
Action research: aim to make changes to smoking in a community or a school
Might produce teen antismoking activists and antismoking activities for schools
Case study methodology: select a recent event and study its lead-up and aftermath.
Iterative decision-making process: objectives, RQs, and design shape the choice of
methodology, and vice versa, until a unique solution for the research situation is reached.
Substantive theory: regarding a concrete issue, experience, or activity;
Formal theory: more abstract and far-reaching theory.
Relationships of Praxis (practice NOT theory or accepted customs)
Conceptual Relationships: Methodology Connects Research to Theory and Discipline
Epistemology provides a potential connection between research practice and formal
theories of knowledge.
Other ways in which qualitative research can be convincingly theoretical, all of them
1. The methodological variant is common in the academic discipline (e.g., sociology,
anthropology, philosophy, or psychology) via those disciplines' formal theories, thus
linking methodology to appropriate theoretical bases.
2. Methodologies can promote the use of existing formal/substantive theories both during
design and during analysis/interpretation.
3. Different methodologies can encourage or discourage the development of substantive
theories in the conduct of empirical work.
Absence of theory at various points might also be appropriate, dependent on methodology.
Discipline understanding + research experience aids combining/deciding on methodologies.
Logics-in-use are rarely ‘pure’
Methodologies are idealized reconstructed logics.
Not always necessary for a good qualitative study to be "theoretical." Less important than
the degree of internally consistent her choices of method, methodology, and epistemology.
The Contribution of Method to Qualitative Research
Qualitative research it can increase rigor if phases are iteratively related.
early unexpected insights  modified sampling and data collection to better support the
integrity, focus, and explanatory power of continuing analysis  better final product.
This principle comes originally from grounded theory methodology and depends in part on
the epistemological position adopted.
The methods selected will determine the final research product.
Method is the point where the participants and the researcher meet, the praxis that realizes
the other elements. It is through methods that methodology and epistemology become
Applying the Framework: Epistemology, Methodology, and Method in the Research Process
Decision 1: Choosing an Epistemological Position
Likely to constrain other things more than be constrained (although may be partly
determined by discipline and experience with formal theories)
Relatively fixed throughout the research process
Decision 2: Selecting a Variant of a Methodology (or Combining Existing Methodologies)
Determined in part by the researcher's chosen epistemic position/discipline
Has a profound effect on the implementation of method and use of theory.
May change throughout research
Decision 3: Selecting Methods, Within the Chosen Epistemology and Methodology, That Will
Produce the Best Data to Answer the Research Questions
Methods: most flexible, pragmatic, and intrinsically atheoretical component of the research
Strongly influenced by methodology (via objectives, RQs, study design) and epistemology.
Pathway to the final research product.
The study will be difficult to justify unless methods, methodology, and epistemology are
internally consistent.
Relatively fixed methodological and epistemological + flexibility = evolving methods
The Most Important Application of this Approach: The Research Quality Debate
Good qualitative research should be able to explain itself via internally: research
epistemology (justification of knowledge), methodology (justification of method), and
method (research action).
Alternative to checklists and "one size fits all" quality standards.
No superior qual research types. Flexibility and reactive to all elements.
Ontological questions are questions about the nature of reality, both physical (computer
monitor) and social (the organization that employs you) realities.
Week 2: What does an understanding of methodology provide as you think through your research
Methodology is the approach chosen to justify, explain and/or describe the research design and
both informs and is informed by the objectives, research questions and study design.
Methodology  research objectives, questions and study design
This cyclical and iterative process leads to methodology often being reconstructed (combined with
other theories and changed completely) throughout the research process in response to new
insights and directions of inquiry.
My research is primarily grounded in two disciplines with notably different epistemological positions
(the Arts vs. Medicine). These readings have caused me to question what position would produce
the most meaningful data for my RQs, and question whether my previous Professor Rose approach
was moreso out of convenience than appropriateness.
Willis 2007
The essential role of social theory in qualitative public health research
Started social science (lots of descriptions) and now general practice, public health literature
and nursing (evaluation and practicality)
Interviews and thematic analysis (purposive sampling and meaningful questions).
Limitation: generalisability (needed for decision and policy making)
Qual studies need to justify generalisation to other social contexts/groups (via theory)
The role of theory in all academic research
All research theory. Assumptions about reality  theoretical concepts  comprehensive
theories  practice and research.
e.g. Darwin assumed progress in human development  concept of natural selection 
theory of evolution.
e.g. John Snow assumed that cholera not simply manifested in the body  concept of
morbid material  mapped occurrences of cholera  theories of causation
Focus on populations (community or clinical)  concepts such as confounding, bias and
representativeness  theories of causation and inference.
Focus macro and/or micro phenomena
Theories are subject to constant verification.
What is social theory? It addresses the social context of human actions. Actions and beliefs
generated by social structure and communication b/w individuals and social groups.
Social theory (and science) is relatively recent (post-revolutionary France and Europe
concepts of the state, the people and society). Worked with epidemiologists to demonstrate
systematic nature.
Aims to outline social theory conceptual tools demonstrate their use in research.
Grounded theory (deriving theory from qual data) needs (social) theory knowledge (have to
be able to recognise a theoretical concept in the data).
Social theory 1:
Conflict theorists assume that social structure derives from conflict between social groups
(Karl Marx). This occurs via ideology (belief system)
Socio-economic status: class determines power. A recurring theme is that economic
inequality is magnified when paired with demographic inequalities
Social theory 2: Structural functionalism
Society as a system in dynamic equilibrium but capable of evolving, especially in response to
stresses. People have different but complementary social roles, maintained by a common
set of moral values, binding them into social collectives.
Suicide is systemic: social collectives with a high level of social integration (Catholics,
married people, especially those with children) had lower rates of suicide.
Social bonds/capital/punishment
Social theory 3: Symbolic interactionism
Micro-phenomena of social interaction (Herbert Blumer). Social interaction underpins the
process of learning who we are and the symbolic meaning of things.
Erving Goffman: stigma  experience a disrupted or spoiled social identity  adapt by
hiding the stigma to ‘pass’ as normal or they may join a similar social group and assert their
Social theory 4: Sociology of knowledge theories
Social construction, postmodernism and post-structuralism to critical theory: knowledge is
contestable (emphasising the mediating role of the social context).
Michel Foucault: medicine is less rationality and scientific progress, and more an interplay
between various historical, social and political forces.
Concepts of power and discourse to explain how knowledge changes over time, and how
cultural ideas influence health knowledge and practices.
Social theory 5: Feminist theories
Gender in understanding health experience and health outcomes.
May fall under any theory above but they extend these to emphasise gender.
Simone de Beauvoir exposed the subtle ideologies employing “the second sex”
Profound effects (eating disorders, non-compliance) of inequality on women’s health.
Social theory gives us a range of tools for understanding social life
Patient non-compliance due to patient’s personality, ignorance or deviance: irrational from
medical perspective but not from patient perspective (all relevant social theories are
explored for possible explanations of the problem)
e.g. Parsons: breakdown in the mutual obligations with patient-doctor relationship
e.g. Social inequality/conflict perspective: issues of access and availability to healthy food/
e.g. Feminist theory: gender roles where women as the primary food providers may have a
different experience from men and thus both men and women should be interviewed.
e.g. micro-theory: examination of repressed or ‘spoiled identities’
e.g. social constructionist theories: examine how and why ideas about compliance and
obesity are constructed and debated in different social settings.
Aim to identify 1 or more groups likely yield rich relevant data, with method dependent on
the research problem (if unclear, this might be a random selection from population of
In QUANT: Demographic variables are used to define a representative sample.
In QUAL: Demographic variables are used as theoretical tools to generate an explanation of
the research problem.
Initial sampling may change as a result of data analysis.
Theory, data analysis and diversified sampling
First data collected  categorising according to the theoretical concepts  assess concepts
for relevance
Such dominant ideologies (e.g. gender stereotypes) are difficult to change and, unless our
interventions address this hurdle, they are likely to fail.
Theoretical explanations justify generalisability
Data collection and analysis occur simultaneously (iteration between data and social theory).
Difficulties with sample size planning
Drawing research conclusions
Interview quotes avoid word count but don’t analyse or address theory
Argue, in words, for a particular conclusion (explain phenomena: consistency, divergences,
beliefs, behaviours, etc)
No statistical meta-analysis, but coherence with previous studies should be explicitly
assessed (including theoretical literature) – can it be extended to other social groups via
Study design and choice of social theory depends on the research problem.
Theory provides a framework and plays a central role in data collection and analysis.
Links to the theoretical literature and informs generalisability
Flexible use of social theory requires matching the research problem/data with relevant
social theories.
Team research (eg statistician and social theorist) > basic understanding of social theory
RQs designed as a starting point don’t adequately represent the interactive and inductive
nature of qual research. This might be acceptable if they are worth answering, but often in
qual research, you need to first make use of other components (theory and methodology). If
you skip this  risk of “type III error” (answering the wrong question)
Develop RQs after significant data collection and analysis (start with ideas and open mind)
Good RQs often the “result of an interactive design process, rather than being the starting
point for developing a design”.
The functions of RQs
Proposal RQs: “to explain specifically what your study will attempt to learn or understand”
Research design RQs:
1. “to help you to focus the study” (relations to goals and conceptual framework)
2. “to give you guidance for how to conduct it” (relations to methods and validity)
Must focus beyond “what’s going on here” but not too focused creating tunnel vision
Must not smuggle unexamined assumptions (imposing inappropriate/unproductive
conceptual framework). Must justify ANY assumptions
Need to account for goals, research paradigm(s), assumed and established conceptual
RQs and other kinds of questions
Confusion b/w what you want to understand and what you want to accomplish (distinguish
b/w purpose and RQ)
Practical applications should inform (not be) research questions  find supporting or
illuminating data to further practice.
RQ vs interview questions.
RQ: identify things you want to understand
IQ: generate data that you need to understand things
Research hypotheses in Qual designs
RQ vs research hypotheses
RQ: state what you want to learn
RH: a statement of your tentative answers to these questions, what you think is going on
(implications of you theory or experience)
Can have a qual hypothesis, but must have an open mind and be careful not to adopt the
quant standards that usually go with them
Better to phrase as “propositions” not hypotheses (part of theorizing and data analysis)
Often post-hoc and grounded in the data (developed and tested interactively)
Can’t statistically test significance of a hypothesis unless it occurs prior to data collection,
but this “fishing expedition” is more valuable than this significance in qual research anyway
(as long as they are tested against new evidence and possible validity threats)
Generic Qs and particularistic questions
“How do students deal with racial and ethnic difference in multiracial schools?”
Common in qual…. General  operationalised
May be a logical positivism view (causal explanation via general laws)
Sampling study approach (statistical conclusion validity)
Often used in interviews and better for larger studies (generalizability)
Particularistic: “How do students at North High deal with racial and ethnic difference?”
Common for specific inquiries/fields of study e.g. education, applied research
Argued by realist philosophers that causation can be explained via single cases
Case study approach (needs different argument to justify validity than stats)
Better for qual  only suggestive answers to broad “sample framework” questions
Primary concern with adequate description, interpretation and explanation (not
Instrumentalist Qs and realist Qs
- takes a positivist view that only theoretical terms whose meaning could be precisely
specified in terms of research operations and objective data (operational definitions) are
legitimate in science e.g. intelligence is whatever intelligence tests measure)
- Respondent reports/statements or direction observations > inferred beliefs, behaviour or
causal influences
- “how do nurses perceive and report the effects of working with rape victims”
instrumentalist (formulated in terms of observable or measurable data)
Lose sight of real question and operational aims by excluding actual phenomena
- “What, if any, are the effects on nurses of working with rape victims” realist (feelings,
beliefs, intentions, behaviours, effects, etc. don’t need to be reduced to collectable data.
More phenomenological?)
- reliance on inference may cause unwarranted conclusions or cause assumptions to
influence interpretation.
- unobservable phenomena (e.g. black holes, dinosaurs extinction) just as real and legitimate
- “far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an
exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise” (Light & Pillemer
- can have instrumentalist questions (if realist proposal is refused) and incorporate realist
concerns in the design
- Answers how participants make sense of what happened, how this perspective informs
action, and how they communicate this (sometime more important than ‘truth’)
Variance Qs and Process Qs
- Focus on the difference and correlation (Does, how much, to what extent, is there a
- “Do second-career teachers remain in teaching longer than teach…. What factors account
for this?”
- Better for quant with stat differences. Sometimes grounded in answers to prior process Qs
in qual.
-Focus on how things happen (not whether)
- “How do second-career teachers decide whether to remain in teaching or to leave?”
- usually 3 kinds of qs (all situation-specific, inductive phenomena)
1. Questions about meaning of events/activities
2. Questions about the influence of contexts on events
3. Questions about the process that these events occurred
Developing RQs
Expect to iterate and evolve
Week 3/4
Lecture 1
Critical/emancipatory approaches (interpretivist but not just understanding – context important –
researcher highly embedded and indistinguishable from the research)
Positivist Approach
Scientific method
Facts are out there to be gathered and analysed in an unproblematic way
Assumes that there is a knowable reality waiting to be discovered
Unusual (not the best tool for the social world)
Structured questions with objective/distant researcher
Order of questions is important (non-leading and different to imterperativist)
Due to criticism of positivist approach in both social sciences and academic world
A lot of assumptions around positivism have not be reflected/discussed
Move to be more reflective. They acknowledge observation is fallible and that theory is
revisable and may be informed by findings (classic positivism has pre-determined theories
and hypotheses).
Realist evaluation (Bhaskar). Question ability as researchers/humans to be certain about the
nature of reality (what we can and can’t know). Key concepts: context, mechanisms,
outcomes. (aim, measure impacts of intervention, conclusions. Connection between context
mechanisms and outcomes that are rational but drawing on social sciences to ask how the
three concepts relate to each other)
Interpretive methodological approaches
Reality is not fixed and measurable
Seek to understand how people make sense of their world
Shaping and constructing meaning
Acknowledges the research in the research to varying degrees
Inductive approaches (grounded theory vs deductive positivist pre-determined hypothesis)
Often thick/rich descriptions (comes from anthropology). Explain factors surrounding
May be imput from psycho-analytic approaches (critical social psychology)
Anthropological traditions/roots
Focus on culture of a particular group
Anthropology: wanting to make sense of peoples every day lives. Attending to what people
do (skills, language, practice, ritual lives, symbols to make meaning, productive lives –
exchanges of materials/resources – health and wellbeing, sex/reproduction, family ties,
social differentiation (groups and levels of power).
Takes insider/emic approach: observation. Researcher part of participant lives. Seeks to
understand how people make sense of their lives. Can never be a total insider.
May use photography, video, etc. (fairly new) but often unstructured interviews and
observation (both observation and participant observation (embedded), use of key
- Originally German philosophy (Edmund Hershal)
- Examining experience and the way it occurs in it’s own terms
- Common in health contexts: nursing, illness studies
- 1. Interpretive/hermeneutic approach: from social theory where understanding is
iterative/cyclical process.
- 2. Descriptive process: rigorous process of dissecting texts/transcripts/other with
thematic analysis. Look for categories/themes/meanings to be grouped and essential
underlying themes.
- Symbolic interactionism
Came out of deinstitutionalisation of people with mental health problems in USA in 1980
(e.g., making it crazy: ethnography of psychiatric communities….; number our days)
- Came from sociology/Chicago school (Blumer 1969)
People (individually/collectively) have a particular meaning about objects in their world.
They interpret these objects with language. Meaning is refined via interactions. As
individuals use meanings they can be modified in an interpretive process that is every
changing (hermeneutics). Meanings are realigned and redefined and dependent on
interactions and use.
- Any idea of truth is tentative (meaning keeps changing)
- Less fashionable now.
Grounded theory
- From Glaser and Strauss (1967): nursing school in San Francisco (awareness of dying
- Informed by symbolic interactionism and focuses on developing theory ‘from the ground
- Quite contentious and has changed over time. Glaser now disagrees with Strauss
(revolving around theoretical categories of the particular paradigms behind theoretical
research. Stauss and Corben are now more interpretist. Glaser is more objectivist (closer
to realist scale and believes that there is a reality that is observable but also interaction
between subjects).
- Claims that it’s more about theory generation than other approaches (disputable)
Emancipatory/critical approaches
See Ian Robinson
Interpretive approaches are interested in human experience/action. Critical and
emancipatory approaches have an emphasise on the social and historical origins of meaning.
Brings about social and political movements
Not just about understanding for its own sake, but understanding social and political
phenomenon/movements in a way to then understand the ongoing processes of transform
in society.
E.g., participatory action research (“Is a quest to understand and improve the world by
changing it. It comprises collective, self-reflective inquiry that participants undertake in
social situations, so that they can understand and improve upon the practices in which they
participate. The reflective process is seen as being oriented to action, historically influences,
embedded in social relationships, and culturally and politically influences. Critical theory
often provides the underpinning, participation is emphasised and people work towards
improving their own situations or practices… This involves the participant in becoming a coresearch in a self-critical community”).
E.g., Feminist research (social change/justice. Shared characteristics with interpretivist
approach generally. About other oppressed groups as well. Excavating knowledge that
wasn’t previously obvious. Largely about researcher reflexivity, and understanding
preconceptions and being transparent)
E.g., Critical discourse analysis
Discourse Analysis
Can be emancipatory (linked to critical approaches)
Explores how socially produced ideas and objects are part of the world that we create
How these ideas and objects are maintained through history/societal structures
“Discourse analysis focuses attention to the rhetorical devices and linguistic structure, the
‘style’ as well as the subject matter”
Used in health a lot: media constructions of risk, obesity, health responsibility, sexuality and
E.g., 4 strategic unities characterisation:
1. Hysteriarisation of womans bodies
2. Pedagogisation of children sexuality
3. Socialisation of procreative behaviour
4. Psychiatrisation of perverse pleasure
(4 areas that discourse about sex/sexuality are key. Methodology in the form of discourse
analysis. Makes sense of what happens in society)
Major Positions in Research Method
Research Traditions/paradigms
1. Positivist
- Aim (explanation, control)
- Knowledge (Objective, measurable, value free, universal, generalisable. Changing one
variable at a time to measure what’s happening. Usually an artificial/lab setting)
- Researcher (Expert, independent)
- Positivist
- post-positivist
- Not good for things that aren’t physical/can’t be objectified.
- Social research rise against positivist approach “Opponents of positivism view reality
not as an entity separate and external from the individual, but as internally constructed.
People perceive the world differently; therefore reality is relative to each of us.
Consequently multiple constructions of reality exist, and these constructions can change
over time as people engage socially in their world and become better informed”. Reality
is not objective, it is constructed and is different depending on individual context and
2. Interpretive
- Aim (Not about objective knowledge, but understanding)
- Knowledge (Subjective, contextualised and value dependent)
- Researcher (independent participant. Standing back from research context. But context
is interpreted by the researcher)
- Interpretive
- Hermeneutics
- Constructivist
- Ethnography
- Anthropology
- Phenomenology.
3. Critical
- Aim (critique, emancipation. Conscious effort to unpack power dynamics and take
action to emancipate the oppressed e.g., action research that is actively political)
- Knowledge (Subjective, contextualised, value dependent)
- Researcher (Participant, participatory. Researcher is embedded and indistinguishable
from the research group. Highly contextualised and value dependent knowledge)
- Action research
- Feminist
4. Postmodern
- The role, proper usage, and meaning of postmodernism remain matter of intense
debate and vary widely with context
Where is your research located in terms of what you’re intending to do.
Research Approach - Psychology
Social psychoanalytic research uses a qualitative interpretive approach to look at the
interconnections between the internal world of the individual and the external world of
groups and society
Must deal with unconscious processes – with interviews, important we can see associations
people are making between ideas, what emotional associations.
E.g., sibling research: ethnicity, race, religion, location, class, gender, etc., really merge with
internal process so that sibling relations are shaped by both psychic and social processes.
Significance of sibling relationships on the construction of identity – how our subjectivity in
families relationships. Siblings in psychoanalytic theory are quite marginalized, and when
they do appear (Freuds theory), usually most terrible and negatively charged relationships.
Either not very important or highly toxic.
What is Ethnography? Video 1
The way in which anthropologists explore people’s social worlds. How people make sense of
the world. Exploring common sense.
Via participant observation (living alongside)
Tend to specifically assess two skills:
1. Language
2. Practices/conventions
It cannot be applied. It is a particular mode of analytical attention (the way in which you
attend to relationships in the world around you). Two scales:
1. Attend to things that everyone does (look at variance)
2. Attend to the specific skills and things particular groups are involved in and develop (look
at context)
E.g., peoples rituall lives and beliefs in imaginary worlds, productive life (exchanges,
professions), lifecycles (birth, marriages, adulthood, death), Health and wellbeing (bodily
practice, sex, food), environmental issues (how people understand the world around them
and how they relate, social differentiation (what it means to be powerful/powerless and
how people negotiate relations in everyday lives).
All these topics are ‘relational worlds’. People relating to others, and researcher relating to
people. Learn through having to unlearn. Discomfort of living in someone elses
space/foreign environment. Our own worlds are not the only worlds
Ethnography is also about writing – producing an account of these things. Classical genres
(well critiqued), experimental ways (fiction, films, art, sound, exhibitions).
All ethnographic texts in the broadest sense combine analytical, theoretical and empirical
thinking (drawing them together)
Specific analytical mode of attention in which we try to get beyond our own habitual
practices and everyday understanding, and beyond the starting point of our own
philosophical traditions to try and understand where other human beings might be coming
from as they make their way and live in the world.
What is Ethnography? Video 2
Not ‘essence’
The motivation (of the evangelical/anthropological version):
Qual method that aims to (philosophically) open up and extend understandings of humans in
context (environments, humans, animals, etc.)
Engage people on their own terms in a relatively undirected way
A disciplined preoccupation with social imaginaries – with values, ideas and practices that
have become thinkable, plausible, self-evident
A counter-point to metrics (useful way of summing things up/general ways of talking about
things. Ethnography uses specificity and complexity as a starting point – no variables,
sample, objectivity, truth. More concerned with detail/specificity of engagements)
Relational – knowing through engagement – learning ‘from’ not simply ‘about’.
Ethnographers elicit what they know from the situations they are in (dynamic engagement)
Requires an ability to unlearn and to not know – methodological ignorance (intellectual
discomfort and outside comfort zone)
Empirically motivated – learning from engagement over time to understand relationship
Slows down will to act. – patience (opposite to metrics which give shape/policy making.)
A navigational skill – keep finding way and reconstructing perceptions
A theoretical practice – not agreed by all. Depends on theoretical interest. If you imagine
yourself in the flow. Intellectual abstraction makes it theoretical. Some ethnographers ‘go
native’ but then they are no longer an ethnographer. Partly there and partly not there.
Ethnography as theoretical practice
Non-metric abstraction (providing generative theoretical ideas that can be used. They are
abstractions, not just a replication of the research situation):
- Attempts to clarify how existing ways of thinking (and acting) are reproduced – in
relation to specific situations – including how ‘change’ is recognised. (What holds the
situation together and how are they reproduced? Including how change is recognised –
every change is only relative to something continuous, what continuous things do
people use? Methodological ignorance to deduce what people use for
- Knowledge question. To enquire into the spaces in which people make up their minds –
(what matters to people? How is knowledge authorised? How and what are people using
to construct knowledge) insisting that making up your mind is always a relational
process and not the autonomous choice of an individual.
- To show that things might be otherwise than had been assumed, and to bring new
questions to the table. Analysing, constructing and theorizing while collecting data.
Historical Origins
Early 20th century study of human diversity – other ways of being human – critique of
modernist assumptions (Anthropology throughout 19th Century. Mallanosky in Britain first
person to formalise methodology. Move forward from ‘armchair anthropology’ which were
dependent on incompatible and atheoretical secondary sources.
Participation – building relations
Minute and systematic observation
Focus on collective practices – ritual, myth, kinship, production and exchange, political
structures – and the interconnections between these (not about individuals – about
social/cultural structures. Anthropology resists the disciplinary dispersal of expertise – social
science is individual branches)
A mode of collection – language, image, artefacts (vulnerable to being ‘butterfly collecting’
(Edward Leak?).
Crisis of Representation
in the 1980s. The paradigm that built ethnography created many (epistemological and
ethical) problems.
The Problem
Local cultures under threat: modernity/tradition (salvage anthropology – explore traditions
before they are destroyed by modernity)
Cultures/sub-groups as islands: homogenous, singular (lens is too focused. Social groups as
Anthropological accounts subjective (Do we just end up with a fabulous version of
Anthropological accounts collusive (e.g., helping military and niche areas for marketing – sell
outs? Political dilemma)
Culture as difference – primitive, exotic, elsewhere (Culture as an external thing…)
What is Ethnography
What: What do you study? Anything – environment, situation. Define a project and describe
the situation before you’ve been there. Use prior literature and imagine space. Can change.
Where: Spatial coordinates that are quite broad. Also need to understand how space is
experiences and understood? What makes a place where it is? Why are they there with that
name? What relations determined the descriptions and perceptions surrounding the place?
What is place? What is the local scale? How does that place relate to others
(generalisability)? Being specific is different to local (which is ‘not being elsewhere’). Local
vs. global.
Who: Who do you talk to? Are you steering the conversation or being steered? People are
working you out too. The participants can lead you astray – what is a lie/secret and how are
they useful – still have cultural significance (may show ideals). Classical anthropology can go
into it with a goal outcome in mind that blinds data collection and interpretation.
When: What time are we working? Temporal dynamics. Anthropologists work in the present,
but the present is a social space that concentrates the past and future into a moment that
you are trying to catch. So ideally trying to catch in any present, the diverse
temporalities/the different timescales, rhythms, temporal dynamics.
Classical ethnography (anthropologist travels to another culture – place, culture, subjects
awaiting discovery and description – report back with thick description and heaps of details)
Contemporary ethnography (Anthropologist as navigator, on a journey, finding her way in a
world which is also on the move. Participation, learning, recording, writing. Highly
embedded in research. Engagement is the priority. Negotiating access/relations)
What kinds of understanding does ethnography offer
It can help to give new perspectives on how problems are approached, how questions are
posed… allows new things/relations to come into play
Allows unauthorised connections to be made (space of openness. Deliberately engaged in
unconventional relationships)
“A nomadic approach in a world of fortified hill towns” – Westbrook
(interdisciplinary/ethnographic approach breaks down the walls of individual disciplines and
Phenomenology Introduction video
Experience should be examined in it’s own environment under it’s own terms
Philosophical approach to experience (can be applied to everything)
Creswell “A phenomenological approach is best suited to understanding several individuals
common or shared experiences to a phenomenon”. The term ‘lived experience’ reveal the
immediate pre-reflective consciousness one has regarding events in which one has
Two approaches
1. Interpretive/hermeneutic style: Researcher attends to the descriptions of the
phenomenon given by the subjects. But then transposes their own insight resulting in a
text/story about phenomena.
2. Descriptive style: Researcher attends to descriptions (like above) but goes through a
rigorous process of dissecting the descriptions to discover the meanings and
interrelationships (making sure that the researcher’s preconceptions and theoretical
positions do not influence analysis).
Once the researcher identifies the research to be studied and has formulated the research
question, they collect data (in depth interview and observation is most common).
Number of participants depends on expected number to provide insights into the
phenomenon (may use snowball sampling until saturation).
Questions asked: open, non-leading and no assumptions
Two essential questions:
1. What have you experienced in terms of the phenomenon?
2. What contexts or influences have typically effected your experiences of the phenomenon?
Researcher much maintain a stance of dialogical openness
Setting of interview should allow comfort
Entire transcript is read initially to get a global sense of the data. (In descriptive
phenomenology, the next step is to read the interview and highlight/divide interview into
meaningful units which are then grouped by themes, leading to clusters of meaning. These
clusters then undergo free imaginative variation to determine which is essential for and
constitutive of a fixed identity for the phenomenon under study. The idea is to subject an
experience to every experience (to see how far it can be stretched before losing identity 
eliminates useless themes.
What is Grounded Theory Video
The aim is to ‘generate or discover a theory’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967)
Different to other methodologies in that the aim is around rich description, exploration of
people’s experiences.
Defined as: ‘the discovery of theory from data systematically obtained from social research’
(Glaser and Strauss 1967:2)
Generated and developed mostly from empirical data. Grounding theory in data.
When would you use it?
Focus of the methodology is uncovering basic social processes
Ideal for exploring integral social relationships and the behaviour of groups where there has
been little exploration of the contextual factors that affect individual’s lives/social processes
(Crooks 2001)
‘Get though and beyond conjecture and preconception to exactly the underlying processes
of what is going on, so that professionals can intervene with confidence to help resolve the
participant’s main concerns’ (Glaser 1978) (May not always be used to intervene)
History of GT
From School of Nursing Uni of Cali San Fran by sociologists Glaser and Strauss – awareness of
Used a lot in health care, nursing, business studies, sociology
Epistemological basis is more objectivist (and perhaps even positivistic. Theory does suggest
constructing concepts but the way the research was developed may not be so
Influenced by symbolic interactionism (Blumer 1969:2)
- People act towards things due to the meanings that these things have for them
Things/concepts are theoretical.
- The meaning of such things is derived from/arises out of the social interactions
- Meanings are handled/modified via interpretation used to deal with things encountered
1960’s move from natural science as the foundation of social research to:
o Denzin and Lincoln’s MODERNIST MOMENT
 Realist ontology
 Epistemology – objective truths, generalisable, testable and verifiable theory
 Place of the researched and the researcher
Discovery of theory (objectivist theory, you discover it NOT create it)
The move in social science towards postmodernism and post-structuralism has resulted in
GT being attacked for its objectivist and positivist foundations
In later works, Glaser and Strauss take on the language associated with interpretivism –
change in foundation? (Argue that they took on the language, but the foundations are still
objectivist. Glaser is vague on the foundations of GT)
Development of GT
Many versions of GT and many GTists
1980’s division between Glaser and Strauss
o Basics of Qual research/GT? (Strauss and Corbin 1990)
o Glaser (1992) suggested this did not extend understanding of grounded theory but
had gone on to develop another method entirely – full conceptual description
Wrote “To Strauss, I request that you pull the book ‘the Basics of GT
Research’. It distorts and misconceives GT while engaging in a gross neglect
of 90% of it’s important ideas. You wrote a whole different method to why I
call it GT – it indicates that you never grasped what we did, nor study it to
carefully understand it. Your pal Barney”. Glaser (1992)
 1998 (2nd Ed) whilst not responding directly to Glaser’s criticisms, was less
 They remained good friends through this debate
Unclear if these two schools of thought are different, or expressing similar ideas differently
(Melia 1996). Differences at the intellectual level.
Constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz)
[b]y adopting a constructivist GT approach, the researcher can move GT methods further
into the realm of interpretive social science consistent with a Blumarian (1969) emphasis on
meaning, without assuming the existence of a unidimensional external reality (Charmaz
2000: 521)
Since late 90’s different perspective on GT (more common now)
o This theoretical perspective may then be able to answer some of the criticisms of
modernist GT
o Reading through lit and getting a sense of what question you want to answer, the
theory you want to generate (objectivist, atheoretical, positivist, etc) or would you
prefer to construct theory?
o As in other constructivist methodologies, a constructivist GT arises from interaction
between the researcher and the participants, the researcher’s perspective being
(explicitly – not just discovering data) part of the process
Features of GT
Charmaz (1995, 2002) identifies features that all GT have:
o Simultaneous collection and analysis of data
o Creation of analytic codes/categories developed from the data and not by preexisting conceptualisations (theoretical sensitivity)
o Discovery of basic social processes in the data
o Inductive construction of abstract categories
o Theoretical sampling to refine categories
o Writing analytical memos as the stage between coding and writing
o The integration of categories into a theoretical framework
** Should add the construction of a core category
Doing GT
Unlike many other qual methods, we have some idea (Dey 1999):
How to start the research (identifying area of interest, avoiding theoretical preconceptions,
and using theoretical sensitivity)
How to do it (analytical procedures and sampling strategies)
How to stop (theoretical saturation)
Data Collection methods - ‘All is data’ (both qual and quant but often qual)
In-depth interviews
o Most commonly used
o Open-ended questions
o Questions can be modified to reflect emerging theory
Observational methods (used to be with interview. Now ethical issues with observation)
Focus groups can be used (most people stick to one-on-one interviews)
Start with topic guide – broad questions (prompts and probes)
Concurrent data collection and analysis (leave time for operationalising collected info)
o Development of categories and components of theory
o Narrowing to area of interest/concern to participants – fill out categories
o Topic guide will change (not the same per person. Development of theory > rich
Theoretical sensitivity
Researchers become theoretically sensitive by immersing themselves in the data and trying
to understand what the participants see as being significant and important
Concurrent data collection/analysis allows the researcher to become theoretically sensitive
to the data
Begin with as few predetermined ideas as possible
o Existing literature and theory, and prior knowledge and experience of the
researcher, can also be used to inform the development of categories, but the
categories should not be forced to fit with the literature, and should not be used to
create categories
The role of the literature review
To achieve theoretical sensitivity, the researcher must begin with few predetermined ideas,
particularly hypotheses, to ensure data sensitivity (does not mean that the researcher must
start with a tabula rasa which is often assumed)
An open mind not an empty head (Dey 1999) (It is how prior knowledge is used that makes
the difference, used to inform analysis rather than direct it)
Literature can be used as data and constantly compared with the emerging categories to be
integrated in the theory (Glaser 1992). GTist do initial review to justify the research then
redo review as you collect and go in new directions
Theoretical Sampling
Type of purposeful sampling where theory determines where you go and what data you
collect next
Charmaz (1990) suggests that theoretical sampling is best used when some key concepts
have been discovered. Initial data collection is commenced with a fairly random group of
people, who have experience the phenomenon under study, to begin to develop concepts.
Theoretical sampling is then used to generate further data to confirm and refute original
For theoretical sampling to be implemented successfully, there needs to be concurrent data
collection and analysis
The ongoing analysis informs direction of next data collection and aims to develop theory
Glaser (1978) and Charmaz (1995) identify a two-step coding process in the data analysis
o line by line, open coding (substantive)
o Theoretical coding
**Theoretical coding conceptualises how the substantive codes may relate to each
other as hypothesis to be integrated into a theory
Open, axial and selective (Strauss and Corbin 1990; 1998)
o Open coding refers to the process of generating initial concepts from the data
o Axial coding to the development and linking of concepts into conceptual families –
coding paradigm
o Selective coding to the formalising of these relationships into theoretical
Keeping the codes active using the constant comparative method asking (Glaser 1978):
o What is actually happening here?
o Under what conditions does this happen?
o What is this data a study of?
o What categories does this incident indicate?
Data analysis: Memo writing
The codes and categories go some way towards analysis, but until the analysis has been fully
written up it is not complete
Nvivo is useful for this. Start thinking theoretical
Memo writing is the intermediate step between coding and first draft of completed study
o Hypotheses and ideas recorded during analysis
o Not to be treated as complete or fixed, as they are initial analytical thoughts and can
be altered as thinking changes
Useful to go back to the field to test out some of the assumptions developed in the memo
Documents the development of theory – audit trail
The development of the core category
Glaser would suggest that without a core category, any effort in GT would drift
Core category accounts for most of the variation of data and therefore most other
categories relate to it in some way
Core category is more highly abstracted category but still must remain grounded in the data.
The major categories are related to the core category and these categories show how the
core cat works in the lives of participants.
Core cat development is a bit vague (Glaser and Strauss: you find it magically in the data.
Charmaz: you construct it with the data))
(Theoretical) Saturation of concepts
Data collection and analysis cycle can conclude
No addition data are found whereby the sociologist can develop the properties of the
Does not mean exhaustion of data sources (sufficiency rather than saturation) rather than
full development of a category
How to judge when TSat has been reached
o New conceptualisation may be waiting just round the corner or new data or a reexamination of current data may throw up a new conceptual perspective
Research is often governed by practicalities – resources and time
Theoretical narrowing during data collection, using theoretical sampling and sensitivity, with
all properties of a category being explored, will limit the unpredictability of new theoretical
developments being identifies to some extent
‘Weakness in using the method have become equated with weakness inherent in the
method’ (Charmaz 1990) (must move from descriptive to conceptual level!!!)
GT has its own criteria (Glaser 1978)
o Fit and relevance – how well do the categories relate to the data and derives from
constant comparison and conceptualisation of the data
o Workability – refers to the integration of the categories into the core category that
o Modifiability – ensuring that all concepts that are theoretically important are
incorporated into it by constant comparison process. A modifiable theory can be
altered when new relevant data is compared to existing data
‘Plausible stories’ (Strong 1979; Melia 1987)
Grounded Theorists and some critiques Video
Versions of Grounded Theory
o Theory should emerge by constant comparison, not forced
o No pre-assumptions but has admit that outside theory can be brought in during later
o Accuses Strauss and Corbin of being too prescriptive (against models, context,
Stauss and Corbin:
o Prescriptive, develops categories
o Structure approach (more popular)
o Constructivist (arguable) GT. categories and theory constructed by researcher
o More recent method but most popular
o She argues that Strauss, Corbin and Glaser are far too realist and not interpretative
o She argues that we construct our world and that these are the basis of theory
development (social reality is nuanced and requires interpretation)
o Recognises that interpretation isn’t done in society in general, but interpretation
comes from the researcher (recognises the place of researcher interpretation –
reflexive approach).
o May be too hard on both Glaser and Strauss who were actually influenced by
symbolic interactionism (key is interpretation)
Critiques of GT
Cannot set aside theory at the start. Theory neutral observation is impossible.
Inductive approach.
Researchers have to specify theory in proposals
Theoretical sampling takes time (not the same as coding)
Coding breaks up narrative flow of data
Realist vs. constructionist
o G & S believe concepts and categories lie in the data and are discovered
o Charmaz – researchers construct categories
o N.B and S are interpretivists – origins in symbolic interactionism – how people
construct their reality through interactions.
Feminist Research – Sharlene Nagy Hesse Biber
Critical, emancipatory approaches about exploring knowledge that has not been 'counted as
knowledge' in the past, and about bringing about social change through exposing power
Feminist researchers have been extremely influential in highlighting issues of research
method in shining a light on previously unexplored, and they would argue, legitimate
Methods aren’t what makes research ‘feminist’
Feminist research has a unique perspective
Often misconceptions about feminist
There are feminisms (not just one point of view)
Many researchers shy away from the label ‘feminists’ due to prior radical nature
Issues that deal with getting at subjugated knowledge about women’s lives. Dealing with
women’s oppression, factors in the environment that oppress women and other groups
Committed to social change and justice
Feminists use tools that other perspectives use in a certain kind of way
“You can’t dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools” – they are patriarchal tools
you shouldn’t touch  qualitative approach to get new knowledge and use new tools.
Excavating knowledge that wasn’t there before and asking questions that deal with women
and describe what kind of women (tending to issues of difference – not all women are the
Being careful about generalising an entire group
Looking at issues of power (also between researcher and researched)
Deeply listening without imparting your agenda
Reflexivity in the research project (knowing and reflecting on your own biases)
Positivist approach: remove bias and remain objective
Feminist approach: can’t remove values and bias of researcher. Embrace values and tending
to your agenda through a transparent research project  you become more objective.
Charmaz, K. (2003). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods.
In Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y. S. (eds), Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry, 2nd edition, Thousand Oaks,
Sage, pp. 249-291.Charmaz - Grounded Theory
The Discovery of Grounded Theory (1967) Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss
Against arguments that quant provides the only form of systematic/social/scientific inquiry
GT: Systematic guidelines for collecting and analysing to build middle-range theoretical
frameworks that explain the collected data. Legitimized qual research
Development of analytical interpretations of the data via research process  inform and
refine developing theories.
Postmodernists and poststructuralists dispute positivistic premises. What GT is and should
be is contested.
Strauss and Glaser/Corbin moved in different direction that were both positivist/objectivist.
Glaser is closer to traditional positivism. Assumptions of an objective, external reality where
data can be discovered, reductionist inquiry of manageable research problems and
objectivist rendering of data.
Stauss and Corbin – Assumptions of an objective external reality aimed towards unbiased
data collection, proposes a set of technical procedures, and espouses verification. Postpositivism due to giving voice to respondents, with accurate representations (including
science, art and acknowledging researcher interpretation).
Constructivist GT
Celebrates firsthand knowledge of empirical worlds, middle ground between
postmodernism and positivism, offers accessible methods for 21st century qual research.
Assumes the relativism of multiple social realities, mutual creation researcher and
participants, and underpinned by interpretation.
Use GT methods as flexible, heuristic strategies NOT formulaic procedures (positivism).
Three arguments:
o Not rigid or prescriptive
o Focus on meaning (furthering interpretive understanding)
o GT without posivit leanings
Continuum between objectivist and constructivist GT
GT methods do not detail data collection techniques; they move each step of the analytic
process towards the development, refinement, and interrelation of concepts. Strategies
o Simultaneous collection and analysis of data
o A two-step coding process
o Comparative methods
o Memo writing aimed at construction of conceptual analyses
o Sampling to refine emerging theoretical ideas
o Integration of theoretical framework
Criteria for evaluating GT (Glaser): fit, work, relevance, and modifiability
No preconceived theories/concepts. Accounts for variation.
Different disciplines using GT vary fundamental assumptions, data collection, analytic
emphases, theoretical levels e.g., feminist, Marxist, phenomenology.
Possible to conduct empirical study with an interpretivist approach (call for meaning)
Grounded theory then and now
The development of Grounded Theory
Before GT qual research (mainly ethnography) mainly provided descriptive case studies
instead of developing theory
Reformulation and Repudiation
Strauss and Corbin: more behaviourist than interpretive (idea that GT is verificational)
Glaser considers S&C to be forcing data and analysis through their preconceptions, alaytic
questions, hypotheses and methodological technique. He considers systematic comparison
as sufficient “Categories emerge upon comparison and properties emerge upon more
comparison. And that is all there is to it” (Glaser 1992, p43)
Glaser declares that S&C’s invoke contrived comparisons rather than those that have
emerged from analytic processes of comparing data to data, concept to concept and
category to category. He views their approach as “full conceptual description”, not GT –
verifying not generating theory (verification = random sampling and standardized
Both endorse a realist ontology and positivist epistemology, the latter especially for Glaser.
Both assume an external reality that researchers can discover and record – Glaser through
discovering, coding and comparing; Strauss and Corbin through analytic questions,
hypotheses, methodological applications.
Objectivist (non-influential researcher) vs constructivist assumptions.
Positivist = objectivist = prescriptive = didactic = realist?
Realism combines three social science principles:
1. causal explanations are achievable;
2. social reality is mainly an interpretative reality of social actors;
3. social actors evaluate their social reality
Constructivist = flexible strategies = symbolic interactionism? =
Grounded Theory Strategies
Regarding Data
GT methods specify analytic strategies NOT data collection methods (associated with limited
interview studies)
GTists have been accused on slighting data collection (data lacks rich description) – it focus’
on development of early analytic schemes so data gathering can be problematic/disputed
Glasers comparative approach and emphasis on process support efficient, productive and
exciting data analysis, without formulaic techniques.
Glaser warns against forcing data into preconceived categories through imposition of
artificial questions.
Strauss and Corbin may be good for beginners, more prescriptive.
“An acontextual reliance on respondents overt concerns [what they state] can lead to
narrow research problems, limited data and trivial analysis”
GTists data has objective status. S&C write of “the reality of the data” and tell us “the data
do not lie”. But data are narrative constructions that are reconstructions of experience only.
Coding Data
Simultaneous data collection and analysis.
“We should interact with our data and pose questions to them while coding them”
“we are deterred by line-by-line coding from imposing extant theories or our own beliefs on
the data”
Sensitizing concepts
- sharpened by line-by-line coding
- offers ways of seeing, organizing and understanding experience
- embedded in our disciplinary emphases and perspectival proclivities
- deepen perception by providing starting points for building analysis, NOT ending points for
evading it.
- use ONLY as points of departure from which to study the data
Constant comparison method means:
Comparing different people (their views, situations, actions, accounts, experiences)
Comparing data from the same individuals with themselves at different points in time
Comparing incidents
Comparing data with category
Comparing categories
While both G and S&C use constant comparative methods, S&C introduced new procedures:
dimensionalizing, axial coding, and the conditional matrix (to make researchers’ emerging
theories denser, more complex and more precise)
Dimensionalizing: during initial coding. Develop a “dimensional profile of the properties of a
Axial coding (S&C): during initial coding. Reassembling data in new ways to make new
connections between a category and its subcategories (conditions giving rise to a category,
its context, social interactions through which it is handled and its consequences)
Selective/focused coding: uses initial codes that reappear frequently to sort large amounts
of data (more directed, precise and conceptual than line-by-line).
- “Making explicit decisions about selecting codes gives us a check on the fit between
emerging theoretical framework and the empirical reality it explains”.
“Categories turn description into conceptual analysis by specifying properties analytically”
Conditional matrix (S&C): later analysis. Deeper understanding of levels of phenomena.
“An analytic diagram that maps the range of conditions and consequences related to the
phenomenon or category… series of circles in which the outer ring represent those
conditions most distant from actions and interactions….”
- S&C propose researchers create matrice to sensitize themselves to the range of conditions
conceivably affecting the phenomena of interest and to the range of hypothetical
consequences…. Can sharpen explanations of and predictions about the studied
Memo Writing
Intermediate step between coding and first draft of analysis
Links analytic interpretation with empirical reality
Look at data/codes in new ways and inform collection
Action codes show interrelated processes (not isolated topics) – Matrix?
Theoretical Sampling
Filling in the gaps in data or theories with new delimited data collection (look for precise
information to shed light on the ermerging theory)
Unique to GT. Relied on comparative methods.
Used to refine ideas NOT to increase sample size
“to identify conceptual boundaries and pinpoint the fit and relevance of our categories”
Pivotal part of formal theory development (Explains the abstract and generic emerging
Tease out less visible properties of concepts (links/gaps between categories, limits,
conditions, applicability – when, how and to what extent categories are pertinent and
Categories that explain phenomena become concepts
Strauss says early theoretical sampling. Charmaz says later (otherwise might prematurely
close analysis)
Not really saturation without theoretical sampling. Saturation = rewrite memos.
Computer-assisted Analysis
NUD.IST, Ethnograph: GT analysis
HyperResearch: retrieve and group data
Help to do multiple searches using more than one cose word at once, and attaching memos
Mechanical operations do not substitute nuanced interpretive analysis
Only use to assist conduct of studies, not to legitimize them
More suited for objectivist GT than constructivist GT
Promoted one-dimensional view (positivist) of qual research
Critical challenges to GT
Issues with author’s representations of participants, interpretive authority, writers voice
Fracturing data might limit understanding, aiming for analysis > accurate representations
G&S suggest using codes and categories to:
Avoid being immersed in stories/adopting subject perspectives
Avoid being overwhelmed by data
Allow data organisation
Criticisms include:
Limits entry into subjects worlds
Curtails representation of social world and subjective experience
Relies on viewer authority as expert observer
Posits objectivist procedures on which the analysis rests
CGT “assumes that people create and maintain meaningful worlds through dialectical
processes of conferring meaning on their realities and acting within them” – “social reality
does not exist independent of human action”.
CGT more interpretive consistent with Blumerian (1969) emphasis on meaning, “without
assuming the existence of a unidimensional external reality”
The place of GT in qual research
Look at slices of social life. “More like a painting than a photograph (Charmaz 1995a).
GT “provides a systematic analytic approach to qual analysis of ethnographic materials”
Strengths of GT include:
- Step by step analytic process
- Self-correcting data collection
- Methods are more theoretical and less acontextual descriptions
- Emphasis on comparative methods
- Categories and concepts are not waiting to be discovered.
Glaser – can collect data without effects of bias or biography
GCT: narrowing RQ, creation of concepts and cateogries, constructive theoretical framework
reflects what and how the researcher thinks and does about shaping and collecting data
“the researcher composes the story; it does not simply unfold before the eyes of an
objective viewer. This story reflects the viewer as well as the viewed”
Radical empiricists: accust GT of contaminating stories and redirecting analysis
Postmodernists/structuralists accuse unconscious composition of stories, deconstruct the
Denzin on interpretive approaches “privilege the researcher over the subject, method over
subject matter, and maintain commitments to outmoded conceptions of validity, truth and
generalizability” p20
To interpret a reality, we need to understand our experience and the subjects portrayal of
“preserves realism through gritty, empirical inquiry and sheds positivistic proclivities by
becoming increasingly interpretive”. CGT “Distinguishes between the real and the true”. Still
“What we take as real, as objective knowledge and truth, is based upon our perspective”
(Schwandt 1994)
GT Must take epistemological questions into account
What do participants define as real and where does it take them?
Don’t aim to capture a single reality, but the interactions and complexities between/within.
Objectivist vs CGT
CGT “What a viewer sees shapes what he or she will define, measure and analyse”
CGT Looks at how variables are grounded, given meaning and acted out (not objective
CGT Pragmatic
OGT Positivist, systematic, discover realities, construct objective and verifiable theories,
provides both understanding and prediction, hypothesis testing, assume researcher
interpretation = participants, didactic and prescriptive (not emergent and interactive),
specific steps in categorization (axial coding, conditional matrix),
CGT lies between postmodernist and postpositivist approaches
CGT “include multiple voices, views, and visions in their rendering of lived experience.”
Constructing Constructivism
Need to look for: intimate familiarity, views, values, acts, facts, deep meanings, beliefs,
ideologies, situations, structures
Strive for intimate familiarity, for sustained involvement, to clarify rather than challenge
respondents views about reality, and look for tacit meanings
Not just one data collection that tells the public version of a story.
Further tease out the deeper meaning of responses (not like overt data of S&C)
Axial coding – awkward scientistic terms and categories (distance readers from experience)
Good codes = good questions
Objectifying experiences – e.g., pain is not measurable, it is a subjective experience not a
universal truth. Ask instead ‘what is pain really all about? What makes pain, pain? Defining
properties or attributes of individuals? How does the person experience this pain, and what,
if anything, does he or she do about it?’ AIM FOR MEANING NOT TRUTH
Rendering through writing
Postmodernist approach: evoke experiential feeling through writing – create a story with
mood via linguistic style and narrative that removes scientific framework without being
fictitious. Reproduce tempo, immediacy and mood of the experience with simple language
Metaphors and analogies to explicate tacit meanings and feelings of a category
Questions tie together ideas and redirect the reader
Reflect relationship tone with the tone of descriptions. “aim for curiosity without
condescension, openness without voyeurism, and participation without domination”
Consider illuminating subheadings – signposts can box in ideas and direction: scientific 
literary style.
“Emotional realism” through literary description and style (Clough 1992)
“Perhaps, however, portraying moods, feelings, and views evokes an aesthetic verisimilitude
of them”
Postmodernism can inform realist study of experience (not just justify abandoning it)
Learn from linguistic and rhetorical analysis by becoming more reflexive about
Notes on mixed videos:
Expressing similar ideas with different analytical frameworks
GT with constructivist epistemology
GT asks questions like:
What was the process/core phenomenon?
What influences the process to occur/causal conditions?
What actions were taken in response to the process/strategies?
What were the outcomes of strategies/consequences?
Open coding – 1st stage. Open minded labelling of chunks of text. Constant comparative analysis
Memos – how the categories explain the process and fit into a theoretical model
Finish when there are no new categories from the data
Axial coding is the next stage – relations between categories: causal conditions, strategies,
consequences, connections. Coding paradigm/logic diagram to visually show axial connections
Selective coding – overall explanation of the theory/story
Discriminant sampling – conduct same interview questions with new participants – test/verify theory
What is Grounded theory? By Lynn Calman video
Grapple with your own biases and their effect on interpretation and meaning
Proposal lit review is a lot broader than the lit review you’ll have to redo for your
Theoretical sampling – simultaneous data collection and analysis helps you avoid mistakes and find
useful unconsidered topics (and actually explore them). Follow emergent leads – makes more
convincing and supported points
Initial coding – Focus on actions and processes as much as possible “what is happening?”. Sociology
of Gerunds (Gerund: a noun formed from a verb denoting an action or a state  focus on doing and
action) to identify the most key possible focus’ for analysis.
Marxist process – world consists of change not structures. Social constructivism (how actions
construct processes and structures) – useful but doesn’t consider effect of researcher influence 
Social CGT.
Line-by-line coding: Line-by-line coding at first only. Take the codes that stand out that seem to
speak to the data, then follow up by writing memos. LBL gets reader into the data, but then good to
be selective. Use as a heuristic device (to learn about the data before selectively analysing) NOT a
procedure to apply. In Vivo codes (codes that are exact chunks of data)
Focused/axial coding: decision made by researcher to move from LBL. If it doesn’t hold then you go
back to LBL (gets you unstuck). May be good to compare incidents (not just dramatic ones), not just
experiences. Taking LBL codes (which can seem quite boring or specifically descriptive) and elevating
to a higher (more abstract) level where you test the data against them. Find the larger story/deeper
meaning  test resulting category.
GT does fragment stories but provide deeper abstract understanding
Memoing: don’t restrict into theory, methodology, etc… They are about:
Codes and categories, links between categories, gaps, musing about usefulness of category, perhaps
practical implications, questioning bias. Keep in chronological records (research diary). Guidelines for
writing: basic questions you might raise – fluid notes. Treat them analytically, define by empirical
properties (moves analysis forward), bring data into memos. Memos may end up being published or
revised. Part of a process of theorising, constructing and writing. Conversations with yourself. Should
be private (or have separate private ones).
Don’t discount outlier codes
Re-coding: New dimensions (S&C). Don’t be so concerned with accuracy. Constant comparison with
theoretical focal points. Go back to check how codes or categories hold up against previous data, no
need to go back and recode. Don’t need to commit to one category
Theoretical sampling and asking analytical questions: Determining what interviews you’re going to
do (varying sample) OR to change the types of analytical questions you ask (even if you’ve already
collected it) – moves GT forward.
Being analytic/developing theory:
**Being analytic means: breaking up the data and seeing what constitutes it, it’s properties,
conditions for emergence of properties, defining what you’re talking about (not assuming definitions
– what is ‘caring’?). Getting deeper into meanings that have been taken for granted (moves theory)
**Developing theory means: Define your category before developing theory.
Is a theory an explanation?
Positivist view: theory as an explanation and prediction
Other views: theory as abstract understanding, linking abstract concepts, relationships (variables OR
understanding world in a more comprehensive and abstract way. Glaser only considers variables –
Grounded theorists are often low to middle level. Writing in a theoretical way might develop a
theoretical perspective but need to link between theoretical concepts for greater understanding
Saturation: How to know when you’ve reached saturation. Difference between saturation of data
(not GT) and saturation of theoretical concepts (some anthropologists in USA that use saturation
differently to GT). Asking analytic stories should lead to forever evolving interviews and data – you
can saturate a category and get different stories. Define the properties and range of variation of a
concept to determine if it’s saturated – saturation by definition or claim (weakness of GT if done
prematurely). Closely related to constant comparison – no new concepts emerging = saturation of
theoretical concepts. Must exhausted dimensions within the time period, but understand that even
concepts change so true concept saturation cannot be achieved.
Cannot discover theory. How much of science is based on consensus.
Strauss saw discovery as having rhetorical power – answer to quant sociology. Strauss believed that
GT could verify theory, she believes it checks.
The structure of scientific revolution – Thomas Kuhn
Induction, deduction, and abduction: GT thought as being inductive, but she suggests that it is
abductive. Inductive cases produce a puzzling finding. Then think of all possible theoretical
explanations. A creative, imaginative leap from empirical finding to making it understandable (use
prior theory or create it). You put things together in new ways  new theoretical understanding.
You come up with a theory from a range of explanations – develop hypotheses and test against new
data to see which one holds up. Abduction means to go back to the data and see which of these
alternative explanations best explains the phenomena (finding puzzling categories, finding theories
or creating theories, try and find which best suits – most inclusive of all variations).
Postmodernism and constructivism: GT is compatible with a constructivist views of the world. Pay
attention to language: implicit meanings, how language structures and forms a frame for action.
(objectivist view that it comes up with objective explanation. Constructivism suggests that it can do
that and also pay attention how people are using words to construct their view of the worlds). She
says that this aligns a lot with Strauss (renaming a phenomenon changes your relationship to it).
The history of GT: She thinks that Corbin is starting to align with constructivist view (Basics of Qual
research Corbin and Strauss; Developing Grounded Theory Morse, Corbin, et al.). GT is a method in
process as well as a method that can analyse process.
Discussion post
What is Grounded theory? By Lynn Calman video
After days trying to get through the Charmaz (2003) chapter and wrap my head around grounded
theory (GT), I’ve found a few resources I’d love to share, that really helped my clarify my
understanding. There was one in particular I’d like to comment on which was an interview with
Charmaz herself, that clarified a lot of questions that came from reading the prescribed chapter.
In particular, this interview provided a deeper insight into the interactions between key grounded
theorist (GTists), particularly between Charmaz and Strauss. Charmaz spoke admirably Strauss and
noted that his popular publication with Corbin seemed rather uncharacteristic of his usual nonprescriptive and curious approach to research. Charmaz suggested that these methods (e.g., coding
guidelines) seemed quite experimental, mentioning Strauss’ surprise at rise in popularity of these
methods. She also suggested that Corbin seems to have moved towards a more constructivist
ideology, and commended her transparency in evolving her application of GT.
I also found it interesting that Charmaz built her epistemological position from Marxist foundations,
which illuminated the connections between conflict theory with symbolic interactionism (that macro
level imbalances stem from different perceptions of meaning at an individual level). I can see how
combining these two fundamental theories would lead to constructivist ideologies.
Charmaz describes theory in constructivist grounded theory (CGT) as being a linking of abstract
concepts, relationships, and/or perspectives and not just an objective prediction/explanation of a
phenomenon. I appreciated her reassurance that grounded theorists don’t need to (and often don’t)
create theories that are wildly revolutionary. I’m hoping this will help me move from writing in a
theoretical way (developing my theoretical perspective) to linking and saturating theoretical
concepts that paint a bigger picture. Charmaz points out that a researcher should not be able to
saturate their data to the point where they stop collecting new stories, because participants and
their contexts are forever evolving. Even theoretical saturation is not technically possible (concepts
also evolve), so all that GTists can do is exhausted as many dimensions within a set time period as
possible. The resulting theory is frozen in time but can be used to see how a phenomenon progress
in varied contexts. One last point that I would like to mention is that Charmaz describes CGT as
abductive (not inductive, which it is commonly suggested to be). This means going back to the data
to see which alternative explanations best explains the phenomena in question (finding or creating
theories that are most inclusive of all data and anomalies).
Sociological Theory and Levels of Analysis
Useful for understanding the 3/4 primary theories and their timelines.
5.5 Grounded theory | Qualitative Methods | Qualitative Analysis | UvA
The most animated explanation of GT I’ve yet to find
5.6 Versions of grounded theory | Qualitative Methods | Qualitative Analysis | UvA
Particularly insightful explanation of the varied approaches to GT
Video - Fairclough Critical Discourse Analysis
CDA is concerned with how power is exercised through language
CDA – interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse that uses language as a form of social
Farclough: any form of language is a communicative event
Model for CDA consists of 3 dimensions
1. Text: speech, writing, images or mixture (analysis at word level)
2. Discursive practice: production/consitution of texts. Analysis at text level
3. Social practice: standard of society/organisation/social structures. Analysis of norm level
Faircloughs analytical approach assumes that language:
1. Creates change
2. Changes behaviour
3. Is a tool of power
First dimension: Text
Discourse is the collection of words/characters that we choose in writing or speaking
Certain words show/express attitude (e.g., my neighbour is an old witch vs. old woman)
Language as a community (stranger, foreigner, refugee). Texts contains interpretations
** Seeks to understand the words and the way the text is written by analysing the text
Second dimension: Discursive practice
We understand that language can bear change
Composition of words can change our view
Text is almost always subject to interpretation (language is not neutral – values, attitudes,
** The way it is produced (e.g. form: spoken; author borrowed passages;
Third Dimension: Social Practice
Language creates opinions and characterises our attitudes. It creates social
Languages are associated with power
Integral for communication, which is a social event. The language and words forms context
of our social community
Languages and communication linked to the society we are involved with
May apply to the entire organisation or departmental levels for other. It can also apply to
transnational levels (strong culture – emirates, IKEA, McDonalds).
** Norms and traditions (e.g., patriarchal organisation, authoritarian leadership)
** Different between and within industries
Criticisms of the model
Difficult to understand and use
Different use between cultures (esp. low vs high contexts; what is not written or said)
Useful to determine what the sender wants to convey and what they want from the
Video - Critical Discourse Analysis (Jason Underwood)
CDA is used to examine how power relationships are established and reinformed through language
What does the text say about society?
Critical: Examination of the merits/faults of a work
Discourse: Written or spoken communication
Analysis: Explanation of the elements and structure of a work
Areas used to interrogate the text
Framing: What is the angle or perspective of the writer or speaker (look at how the ‘frame’
influences our perspective of the text)? – different frames change the way a painting looks
Foregrounding: What concepts and issues are emphasized? What is the subject of the text
or the object of concern? Who is at the foreground of the text? What is made important?
Background: What concepts and issues are played down in the text? What is reduced in
importance? What is minimized?
Audience: Is the intended audience expected to share the views of the text? What is the
audience relation to the author and subject of the text? Is the audience receptive or hostile?
Topicalization: What is put at the front of each sentence (shows what is valued/devalued)?
Agent – patient relations: What has the most authority/power in the text, paragraph,
sentence? Valued, positive tone and dominance with active voice. What degree of formality
is there in the text? What words indicate a degree of certainty or attitude?
What does society value/dismiss? (behaviours, values, etc)
What does the author value/dismiss?
What biases are presented in the text and what are the implications?
Who is presented as powerful in the text and what are the implications?
Language connects with the social by being the primary domain of ideology and through being both
a site of and stake in struggles for power. Thought to be a socio-cognitive interface between social
and discourse structures. Needs to adequately and relevantly provide insights into the way discourse
reproduces or resists social/political inequality and power abuse/domination  is not limited to
specific structures of text or talk, but systematically relates these to structures of the socio-political
contexts e.g. highlight rhetoric, manipulation behind political speeches. However it has been said to
simultaneously be too broad to specifically identify manipulations within the rhetoric yet is also not
powerful enough to appropriately find out what researchers set out to accomplish.
3 approaches aim to map three forms of analysis onto each other including analysis of:
- spoken or written
- language texts
- analysis of discourse practice
- processes of text production
- distribution and consumption
- analysis of discursive events as instances of socio-cultural practices e.g., micro, meso and macro
interpretation combination
Micro: analysist considers various aspects of textual/linguistic analysis e.g. sentences, use of
rhetoric devices
Meso: analysises issues of production and consumption e.g., who produced text, target
Macro: Analysist is concerned with intertextual and interdiscursive elements and tried to
account for the broad, societal occurrences affecting the text
Discourse Analysis Part 1: Discursive Psychology
Two key issues of using language:
1. Language not just descriptive, but a social activity in itself
2. Language constructs our social world for most discourse analyses
Use of language not just the language itself. Language provides meaning when you look at it’s
interactions with other factors
In most cases, descriptions are not actually describing
Conversation analysis underpins DA, and is often used for transcripts
Language in a social life as a form of social life (not a description), from seeing language as action not
Discourse seen as
[smallest level] A conversation or text (naturalist texts/discourses – happen without the
researcher there)
Discourse = collection of texts or conversations (may be naturalistic, written, speeches,
images, videos)
A shared way of talking or creating texts (code) Overarching social phenomenon that
manifests via discourse
Discourses = codes, languages, ways of speaking of a topic (different forms)
A discourse is “a language or system of representation that has developed socially in
order to make and circulate a coherent set of meanings about an important topic area”
(John Fiske (1987). Television Culture. NY: Methuen)  includes meanings, topics,
Multiple discourses on one phenomena – freedom fighters OR terrorists. “The chosen
discourse delivers the vocabulary, expressions and perhaps also the style needed to
communicate” (Wikipedia)
Cognitivism = the idea that people behave as a result of cognitive states which their
beliefs describe (room for error if they have poorly communicated or perceived a
phenomenon)  rejected by discursive psychologists
Discursive psychologists argue that: Language is not a passive reflection of the external
world – it is a site for ‘doing reality’ rather than describing it.
Construct the event differently depending on audience – can lead to seemingly contradictory
descriptions. Discourse analysis as doing different activities below (caught playing in fountain by the
police). Both are activities discursively. Both are correct. Each serve a difficult action  variation.
Link varying descriptions with the different rationales behind the descriptions to explain
contadictions/variance. Ask: What activities are being carried out? Why is this beig said this way?
What effect does it have? Examine the wider conversational context  FIND DEEPER MEANING OF
TEXT TO EXPLAIN CONTRADICTIONS AND VARIANCE (goal of the discursive analysis).
Using ‘factualisation’ via
-stake and interest (not ideal): might be perceived as being said due to self-interest e.g., salesman
saying “these windows are the cheapest you’ll find” or you don’t like the politics of the person
you’re talking about, so you only pick up on their bad points (biased)
Avoid by ‘managing stake’. Contradiction arises in the attempt to minimise stake (a
disclaimer to minimise self interest in the statement. Persuades listener).
- Independence: Other devices draw attention away from the speaker – establishing distance. Downplays role and up-plays the role of an external factors (blame). Can also show it’s not just you who
believe something – corroborating evidence.
- Detailed description: to increase believability – shows that the witness is a reliable witness that can
remember the events. Use exact words – direct quotes more believable (feels like primary evidence)
Discourse Analysis Part 2: Foucauldian Approaches
Foucault Discourse: “A group of statements which provides a language for talking about – a way of
representing the knowledge about – a particular topic at a particular historical moment… Discourse
is about the production of knowledge through language. But…. Since all social practices entail
meaning, and meanings shape and influence what we do – our conduct – all practices have a
discursive aspect” Stuart Hall 1999:291
Discourses are everywhere and everything. It is through discourses that we give the world meaning
and understand the world. Our social practices ARE the use of those discourses (those meanings).
They shape and influence the world but they also constitute it as well. They represent knowledge at
a particular historical moment.
All social practices should be understood by discoursive construction
Discourse actually constructs the object or event itself (we do it)
Allows and limits the possibilities of understanding the object
Facilitates and limits, enables and constrains what can be said, by whom, where and
when e.g., idea of homosexuals – late 19th century. Brings understanding and constructs
subject via a range of medical, moral and legal discourses. Label has defined the subjects
and the way people interact with them. Discourse defines subjects and determines how
they interact and are interacted with (allows and limits)
Notion of the subjective self
It is not just that we accept practices/discourses and the ideas that go with them
We locate ourselves (position) on that conceptual map by
1. Taking on roles defined by concepts
2. Think of ourselves in those terms
We adopt subject positions that make our identities or selves
Discourses create the subjective experiences of individuals
Knowledge is put to work via discursive practices to regulate people’s conduct
E.g., discursive constructions of sexuality in medical terms results in medical control (and
legal terms in legal control)
Thus we must understand how power/knowledge serve to allow and limit certain social
Discursive practice = operationalisation of the meaning, demands, restrictions and
actions enforced/prescribed via text
Discourse  communication that directs, labels, limits, facilitates human interaction.
Foucault rejects idea that power just constrains (view that power means controlling,
preventing, repressing, concealing, etc.). For Foucault, power also produces reality, it
produces domains of objects and rituals of truth (e.g., psychiatric knowledge, sexual
understanding. ENABLES and not just restricts. Creates rules and structures).
Dominant Discourses
Privileges those versions of social reality that legitimate existing power relations and
social structures
Some discourses so entrenched it is difficult to see how they could be challenged –
become ‘common sense’ (dominant discourses)
But alternatives always possible  counter-discourses
Discourses are not eternal, they come and go, have a history, a genealogy
Discourse and Institutions
Discourses not just ways of speaking and writing
But bound up with institutional practices
= ways of organising, regulating and administering social life e.g., being positioned as
‘the patient’ means one’s body becomes and object of legitimate interest to doctors and
nurses and may be exposed, touched, and invaded in the treatment process. Not
threatened because we are part of the discourse  rationalises certain interactions
Doing Foucauldian DA
Focus on discourses
Explicit focus on power and politics – usually takes a specific stance to undermine
oppressive discourses (predominantly critical approach)
Almost anything is discourse (text, image video – anything that can give things meaning
and embed/create discourses and structure our experience of the world)
Macro-level analysis with focus on how people are positioned (Not like discursive
psychology analysis of individual level things)
Subjects and object focus
Identify the discursive resources (what interpretive repoertoires in discursive
psychology) – the topics, the themes
Keep it at a macro level – not minute grammar but focus on content
Use own cultural knowledge to do this
Look for indirect (or no) references to topic – implicit meaning
Relationship between discourses
There are many and contrasting discourses about objects and events
Objects may be constructed in contradictory ways
Discourses are historically and culturally situated
Ask how the discourse arose
Action Orientation
How are the different constructions being used?
What or who gains (or loses) from that particular subject position being identified in that
E.g., to attribute responsibility, to highlight one’s contribution, to disclaim responsibility.
People are using discourses to achieve things and act in the world
What subject positions do the discourses offer?
What kinds of categories or types of people or activities are on offer that people can
adopt for themselves or assign to others?
What kinds of action do these make possible or do they prohibit (or disapprove)?
Look at the range of positions thrown up by discourses
Discourse and power
How do discourses support institutions and reproduce power relations?
To evaluate gains and losses we have to take a moral/political stance. This made explicit
– Foucauldians argue that it is impossible not to be political. These discourses are doing
a certain thing that needs to be identified/challenged
Things to look for and ask during DA
Hidden relations of power present in the text
Who is exercising the power – who is using them to support their position (people or
Who is the ideal subject audience for the text?
What is left unspecified or unsaid (perspectives, groups of people, etc.)
The use of passive voice, or processes expressed as things (reification)
The use of colourful, descriptive language (adjectives) to indicate a strong discourse
Would alternative wording of the same information have resulted ina different discourse
being privileged?
How are the events presented?
How are people in the text characterised?
What message does the author intend you to get from the text?
Why was this particular image chesen – or chosen to accompany the text (if applicable)
What repetition exists within the text and between different texts on the same topic
(suggest dominant discourse or insecure ideas)
What professional media practices assist with the presentation of dominant discourses
(e.g., editorial constraints, journalistic standards, etc.)?
Criticisms of DA
1. Separation of practice (discursive psychology) and resources (Foucauldian DA). Calls to unite
them. Wetherell calls for ‘eclectic’ approach
2. DA not concerned with authorial intention but with rhetorical foce. What people did, not
what they intended. But it still uses implicit model of person as an active discourse user. (At
one level the discourse leaves out the person and their intent, but in order to be a discourse
user at all you need to have intent to have an effect  contradiction between relative
unimportance of any kind of intention and yet the whole notion of discourses is that we are
trying to use language to achieve kinds of effects in kinds of ways (using it intentionally)
3. Discursive determinism: Once we are assigned a subject position within a discourse it looks
like we have no choice to escape it. Yet, discourses are challenged and individuals do adopt
different discourses. How? Seems to need a reference to something outside discourse
(psychoanalysis, personal history, material world, etc.) – provide evidence for change
outside of discourse
4. Relativism vs realism: DA rejects realism – that we can determine truth by reference to an
objective external world. All we have is what people say and mean. Is there reality beyond
discourse? Extra discursive  critical realist position – accepts that the social world and
psychological experience are dominated by discursive approached (different ways of talking
about the world). Rejects radical relativism – says there is nothing else out there.
Pausing, discourse markers, lexical choice, syntax, fronting topicalization, language choice become
windows to see ideologies, beliefs, power differentials, gender models, social relationships, social
conventions/expectations, traditions, etc.
What is Discourse Analysis? Marcus Weaver-Hightower, PhD
Schiffrin et al. 2003 define discourse as:
1. Language beyond the sentence (beyond morphology, phonology, syntax, semantics,
pragmatics – used by linguists)
2. Language in use (empirical discourse and conversation analysis – used by applied linguists)
3. A broader range of social practice that includes non-linguistic and nonspecific instances of
language (Foucault, used by sociologists, education, communications, e.g., clothing that
they’re wearing, accessories, materials, gestures – critical – power – inequality )
Foucault on discourse: “Not just the language of an individual communication (which Foucault
regards as a ‘sample’) but the larger systems of thought within a particular historical location that
make certain things “thinkable” and “sayable” and regulate who can say them”. The things that
cause language/communication  the meaning that determines the language/interaction.
Discourses  understandings, meanings, communications, discussions,
Discourse analysis in 2 approaches (Jim Gee – Intro to discourse analysis)
1. Descriptive (largely linguistic – how language work together to cohere and create meaning)
2. Critical (applied, political – understanding how power flows and operates using language)
Discourse analysis in 3 approaches (Hodges, Kuper, Reeves (2008) Discourse analysis)
1. Formal linguistic discourse analysis (e.g., sociolinguistics) – microanalysis of linguistic,
grammatical, and sematic uses and meanings of written or oral language and tests
2. Empirical discourse analysis (e.g., conversation or genre analysis)
Micro and macroanalysis of the ways that language and/or texts (samples of written or oral
language/texts and data on the ‘uses’ of test in social settings) construct social practices
3. Critical discourse analysis (e.g., Foucauldian analysis)
Macroanalysis of how discourses (in many forms) construct what is possible for individuals
and institutions to think and tot say (samples of written or oral language/texts; and data on
the uses of the text in social settings; AND data on the institutions and individuals who
produce and are produced by the language texts
Critical discourse analysis involves analysing social interactions in a written or spoken
form. The key focus is not on language itself, but the way in which language is used.
Discourse can have significant effects through the way things are represented or
positioned, and can result in the generation of imbalanced power relationships between
social classes, genders, ethnic and cultural groups.
Discourse is produced with context, and should also have context taken into
consideration when undergoing analysis.
It is also important to note that different people can interpret the same text differently,
depending on their emotional, formal and cognitive framework, as well as class, gender,
age, belief and attitudes.
(Fairclough & Wodak, 1997)
Critical discourse analysis involves analysing social interactions in a written or spoken
form. The key focus is not on language itself, but the way in which language is used.
Discourse can have significant effects through the way things are represented or
positioned, and can result in the generation of imbalanced power relationships between
social classes, genders, ethnic and cultural groups.
Discourse is produced with context, and should also have context taken into
consideration when undergoing analysis.
It is also important to note that different people can interpret the same text differently,
depending on their emotional, formal and cognitive framework, as well as class, gender,
age, belief and attitudes.
CDA appears to be a socio-political tool used to dissect and analyse discourse. The article
mostly focussed on open media scources, however other texts such as schoolbooks are also
considered discourse. It considers the specific choice of words, phrases and even grammar
as being used strategically by dominating groups (which hold sway over the media) to
influence the perspectives and opinions of the general public. It is deliberately political, with
the goal of discovering these 'discursive strategies' and using them to fight the power classes
to enact social change for the 'dominated'.
Assumptions inherent in this approach appear to be:
. There is a dominant/dominated dynamic which is constant and pervasive in society
. The dominant have the ability to direct/influence/change discourse
. The dominant wish to continue to suppress the dominated
. A moral distinction is thus made: the dominant are 'bad' and must be fought against; the
dominated are incapable of fighting for themselves and require rescuing.
CDA fights against the dominant powers by correcting and editing allowable terminology in
discourse referring to the dominated, for example in media reports, school books, university
teaching, published guidelines on allowable language and published rebuttals of discourse.
Fairclough and Wodak: As someone coming from a political theory background and now
learning to be more of a social scientist, this reading brought me back to the question: is
everything political? Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is certainly an important tool in our
qualitative research toolkit that we could apply to our data analysis, especially when
engaging with data or content that are in fact political (e.g. the Thatcher interview in the
reading). Yet, it also seems clear that CDA may be less relevant or applicable, beyond helping
researchers internally clarify our own positions when we interpret and analyse the data, in
other types of research that are more exploratory. Perhaps a better question regarding CDA
would be, should all research be politicized?
CDA A preliminary description
CDA involves written (or partially written) analysis of real and often extended instances
of social interactions
Critical approach is distinctive about
1. The relationship between language and society
2. The relationship between analysis and practices
CDA sees language (discourse) as a form of social practice (connects event, situation,
institution, social structure framing the
“Discourse is socially constitutive as well as socially shaped: it constitutes situations,
objects of knowledge, and the social identities of and relationships between people and
groups of people”
Both sustains and transforms the social status quo.
Ideological effects of discursive practices  unequal power relations
CDA aims to clarify the ideological loading of language and implicit power dynamics
within discourses
CDAnalysts often politically active and drivers of interventions
CDA intervenes on the side of dominated and oppressed groups and against dominating
groups  politically and socially emancipatory motivations
Changes in critical consciousness of language in peoples ordinary lives shows a shift in
function of language in society (late modernity) Giddens, 1991.
Rise of marketing focus in economics and television/news,
“The whole process of political struggle and the struggle for political legitimacy is
becoming inextricably bound up with media economics and the pursuit of audiences and
profitability”  increased design pressure on political discourse
Controlling and shaping language to align with economic, political and institutional
objectives  ‘technologization of discourse’ (Fairclough 1992a)  modern form of
“The critical analysis of discourse is therefore firstly a feature of contemporary social life,
and only secondly an area of academic work”
Foucault against Marxism and theories of ideology.
Against Foucault method saying that despite being popular, it is “analysis of a rather
abstract sort that is not anchored in close analysis of particular texts”
“critical science has to be self-reflexive (reflecting on the interests that underlie it) and
must consider the historical context in which linguistic and social interactions take
“Linguistic signs (words and longer expressions) are the material of ideology, and that all
language use is ideologyical. Linguistic signs are regarded as ‘an arena of class struggle’”
(Volosinov 1973 written 1928)
Kristeva (1986) intertextuality linking texts. (originally Bakhtin)
Bakhtin theory of genre  all texts shaped by socially available repertoires of genres
(articles, ads, ec.) or mixed genres.
Approaches to CDA
Either focused on repetition, predicatability and reproduction of practices or on creativity
and innovation.
Multifunctionality of texts
Hermeneutic, interpretative procedures vs text-orientated interpretations.
People place in imaginary position of sources of their discourse – actually ideological
positioning – social subjects (Pecheuz)
radical change in people’s discursive position only from political revolution
Critical Linguists
1970s in Britain associated with ‘systemic’ linguist theory – accounts for its emphasis on
practical ways of analysing texts (unlike French DA abstract focus on discursive formations)
Grammatical form to position subjects politically
Popular in discourse of the press (Fowler 1991), more recently educational texts and spoken
Social Semiotics
Used by critical linguists
Draws attention to multi-semiotic character of texts in contemporary society, exploring
visual images. Relationship between language and visual images
Important concept of genre, intertextuality and interpretive/productive practices
Sociocultural change and change in discourse
Shifting of boundaries within and between orders of discourse (for example shift between
private and public life)
Uses conversationalisation analysis tendencies to draw researcher closer to social and
cultural change.
“Those who control most dimensions of discourse (preparation, setting, participants, topics,
style, rhetoric, interaction, etc.) have the most power” (Dijk post 1993)
Reading analysis
“discourse is not an arbitrary corpus of texts, extensionally (objectively) defined by time and
space, but rather is intentionally defined by its content, as for example ‘fascist discourse’ is a
correlate of German fascism” (On linguist Maas) – DA studies the rules which constitute a
specific discourse making it a fascist text.
Political discourse requires socio-historical context NOT a non-context-oriented analysis
Duisburg School
Discourse – “flow of text and speech through time” (Jager and Jager 1993)
Thatcher speech
Rhetorical power – power which comes from a facility in the rhetoric of political persuasion,
cultural capital
“Power in discourse” vs. “power over discourse” 273
Discourse Constitutes Society and Culture
“Every instance of language use makes its own small contribution to reproducing and/or
transforming society and culture, including power relations. That is the power of discourse;
that is why it is worth struggling over” 273
Social like with discourse: representations (of the world), relations (between people),
identities (personal)
Use of ‘you’ for populist, avoid terms like radical, ‘we’ claims to speak for the people
Use of ‘we’ changes and is unclear throughout – reflexive awareness of language?? Level of
inclusivity shifts depending on context.
According to CDA “even the individual cases (simle sentences) of a text simultaneously
function ‘ideationally’ in representing reality, and ‘interpersonally’ in constructing social
relations and identities, as well as ‘textually’ in making the parts of a text into a coherent
whole” 275
Discourse Does Ideological Work
Ideology as a Maxists account of class relations – power inequalities
To determine whether a particular discursive event does ideological work, need to also
consider how they are interpreted, received and implemented
Words like ‘freedom, law and order, sound finance’
Ideology – representations of reality + constructions of identity. (social outcomes + resulting
identity constructions) – “constructing a political programme and a consistuency for that
programme” (Bourdieu 1991)
Discourse is Historical
Intertextuality and sociocultural knowledge  Context (history)
Discourse Analysis is Interpretative and Explanatory
Emotions, attitudes, and knowledge effect interpretation
Often paired with discourse-historical methodology to disentangle manifest and latent
meanings, and political rhetorics (thorough investigation of context/history)
Systematic approach to inherent meanings, scientific procedures, self-reflective researcher –
“explanatory in intent, not just interpretive” and “interpretations and explanations are
never finished and authoritative; they are dynamic and open, open to new contexts and new
information” 279
Doctors often dominate clients – found through CDA (Lalouschek et al. 1990; Mishlet 1977;
Wets 1990)  guidelines for different behaviour patterns.
“be aware that their [CDanalysts] work is constantly at risk of appropriation by the state and
capital” 281
Riessman Chapter
“Narrative are compoased for particular audiences at moments in history, and they draw on
taken-for-granted discourses and values circulating in a particular culture. Consequently,
narratives don’t speak for themselves, offering a window into an “essential self”.”
Oral storytelling – “connects events in a sequence that is consequential for later action and
for the meanings that the speaker wants listeners to take away from the story. Events
perceived by the speaker as important are selected, organized, connected, and evalutated as
meaningful for a particular audience”
“depicting a rupture from the expected – interpretive because they mirror the world, rather
than copying it exactly”
Narrative theory shifted with French structuralism, Russian formalism, poststructutralism,
cultural analysis, and postmodernism”
Can organise ethnographic observations into narratives (“texts about texts”)
“Narrative is everywhere, but not everything is narrative”
“specificity has been lost with popularization. All talk and text is not narrative” – narratives
require sequenced storyline, specific characters, particulars of a setting (other discourses
include chronicles, reports, arguments, and question and answer exchanges)
“A fundamental criterion of narrative is surely contingency. Whatever the content, stories
demand the consequential linking of events or ideas. Narrative shaping entails imposing a
meaningful pattern on what would otherwise be random and disconnected” Phil Salmon
Different operationalizations (exc. For congruency)
Social linguistics: highly restrictive definition – “Narrative refers to a discrete unit of
discourse, an extended answer by a research participant to a single question, topically
centred and temporally organized”.
Social history and anthropology: broad narrative of a lifetime
Psychology and sociology: middle ground. Long sections of talk – single or multiple
interviews. Discrete story of social linguistics evolves into a series of stories via interactions
Uses of narrative: practice of storytelling; narrative data; narrative analysis
Narrative vs story “A story is one kind of narrative, while there are other kinds (e.g., habitual
and hypothetical narrative) that have distinctive styles and structures.” Narrative don’t
require a complication, only temporal ordering.
Popularized with the idea that identities are constructed.
Construct identities through story telling – identities are fluid, related to belonging and
demonstrate a duality shown in NA
Narratives encourage others to act – inspiration, political, reactive, strategic, functional,
purposeful, sense-making tools (Mark Freeman), doorways into the meanings of a certain
group of society
“We revise and edit the remembered past to square with our identities in the present” 8
All story telling involves persuading an audience that may be skeptical, requiring rhetorical
Good narratives and narrators provoke empathic responses from listeners, readers and
Due to their persuasive power, narratives are often used to purposefully mislead
Narratives provoke engagement.
Stories reveal truths about human experience
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live” Didion [42]
“To be understood, these private constructions of identity must mesh with a community of
life stories, or “deep structures” about the nature of life itself in a particular culture.
Connecting biography and society becomes possible through the close analysis of stories”.
Narrative inquiry “is grounded in the study of the particular” [47]
Interrograte intent and language – how and why incidents are stories, not simply the context
of the stories. Understand the rational for particulars of the story’s construction.
Extended accounts considered wholistically, not split into categories like GT.
Suggests combining inductive thematic coding, GT, ethnography, etc. with close analysis of
individual cases
NT shifts attention the the how and why details of a stories contextual construction.
Preserves the voices, subjectivities, imagination and human agency of participants
Develops general categories but based on a full text
Can develop theory (e.g. medical, natural, psych sciences)
Realist, postmodern, constructionist strands with varied analysis.
Different tools for constructing meaning – one using the construction of stories, one using
the construction of theories from stories, and one using the discourses within stories.
Shift away from realism due to critiques of positivist, realists epistemologies, the rise of
memoirs in literature and pop culture, new ‘identity’ political movements for marginalised
groups, burgeoning therapeutic culture
The construction of ‘self’ in various contexts due to autobiographical occasions (Robert
Zussman) – rise of jobs surrounding knowing how people identify themselves
Narrative turn in: language, biographies, the unconscious, the visual, the researcher power
dynamic, reflexivity, intersubjectivity, and interdisciplinary study [62]
Moves away from discipline-specific and investigator-controlled practices
Rise in technology and analysis (recording devices, visual mediums and transcript analysis)
‘The personal Narratives Group’ – interdisciplinary researchers working in solidarity for
women’s experience research (led the surge in narrative research in the 1980’s)
From 1981 use of narrative grew for inquiries of textuality within literary theory,
historiography, anthropology, psychoanalysis. Also found within professions such as law,
medicine, nursing, education, OT, social work.
Narrative “forces the social sciences to develop new theories, new methods and new ways
of talking about self and society” [70]
“Narrative is the proverbial ferry between the abstract and the concrete, between cognition
and behavior, and between the symbolic and the material” [71] p16
People use narratives to construct their identities and provide a sense of stability and
reassurance in a world full of uncertainty (quote me)
Turns away from realist assumptions of positivism
Investigator relies on diverse theories and epistemologies
Case-based method of study
Not useful for studying “large numbers of nameless, faceless subjects”. Slow analysis,
attention to subtlety in language audience, text structure, local contexts of production,
circulating discourses that influence, and how…
Often uses thematic narrative analysis – “interrogates ‘what’ is spoken (or written), rather
than ‘how’” it is told p19
Thematic and structure are building blocks
5 broad approaches to NA
The analysis of narratives lecture
Story and narrative = the way that social actors produce, represent and contextualise
their experience and personal knowledge. How they make sense of what happened.
Narrative is the wide, general term
Story restricts to genre that recounts protagonists (actors), events, complications and
Data can come from interviews (usually), biography, autobiography, life history
interview, personal letters, diaries, etc., Can use photos to jog memories and narratives.
Adapts to context.
Often participant led – less researcher intervention.
Can use autobiographies in NA (they are the stories).
Can use very discursive or GT approaches to NA. NA appears to be more of a
methodology than an analytical method. Some are very traditional and don’t allow this.
GT might be looking at larger themes, but you still look at underlying, smaller narratives.
Thematic approach requires comparing experiences, some suggest that you cannot do
Denzin: started with triangulation, then constructivist approach to narrative analysis
Story as a sequence of events that is both meaningful and significant (why else would
they say it). Why did you highlight those events and what did it mean to the person?
Stories are temporal, have a causal sequence and are logical
Riessman (1993); a lot of medical context – disabilities and suffering. What provokes
people to start telling stories and construct in certain ways?
4 types of narrative/life history (Lieblich et al (1998)
Holistic content: complete life story, clinical studies (psychiatric case studies), thematic
analysis, transitions between themes/over time, contradictions, identify what is left out
(often intentional) and why – use researcher expectations to see/question gaps. Typical
themes: relational story, belonging, transitions/change, vocational meaning, relationship
dimensions, early life as a determinant of later actions (Adler)
Holistic form: Looks at the plot (progression) or structure of complete life stories 
romance (hero/heroin with challenges and then victory)
comedy (wider than individual, hero has skills to overcome hazards and restore order)
tragedy (hero is defeated)
satire (setting yourself outside society, cynical perspective on social hegemony)
Advance, regression, stable
Categorical Context: Essentially a content analysis – extract categories, count and crosstabulate
Categorical Form: How people are doing thing s(Discursive). Discrete linguistic or stylistic
linguistic characteristics. Metaphors, passive vs active, etc. Aim is to see in detail how
people tell the stories through the words, metaphors, and other linguistic devices.
E.g., use linguistic features to identify inner meaning of events to narrator:
o Adverbials like suddenly may indicate how expected or unexpected events were
o Mental verbs like ‘I thought, I understood, and I noticed’ may indicate extent to
which an experience is in consciousness and can be remembered.
o Denotations of time and place indicate distance or belonging
o Past (common in stories), present (common in interviews) and future tense in
verbs and transitions may highlight sense of identification
o Transitions between first, second and third person may indicate difficulty of reencountering a difficult experience
o Passive and active verbs may indicate speakers perception of agency (how
responsible do they feel about the things they describe – shifting blame)
o Breaking chronological or causal flow with digressions may show avoiding
difficult experiences
o Repetitions indicates importance or emotional charge
o Detailed description may show reluctance to describe difficult emotions
o Method – underline just the words referring to the factual events described.
Then examine all the words not underlined. SMALL SECTION DETAILED
Reissman: Structure of narrative:
o How the story is organised, developed and where does it begin/end
o Based on Labov, evaluation model.
o 6 structural elements:
Abstract (could be Q. posed by researcher – summary of what the story is about)
Orientation (Who, what, when how?)
Complication (turning points, crises, problems: results from action)
Evaluation (the point of the story)
Result (outcome, effect. Combines evaluation and results)
Coda (brings it back to present time, makes it relevant)
** abstract and coda optional
Forms and functions of stories
Role of luck and planning – effects of events and personal intervention of life
Morality – Cautionary tales and life lessons for others (e.g., story to child)
Passing on cultural heritage or organisational culture (could be moral)
(e.g., fables of incompetence in medical settings)
To order careers and memories into chronicles
A way of coming to terms with traumatic events
TO structure idea of self and self identity (psych view)
** Stories imitate life and present an inner reality to the outside world. They shape
narrator’s identity. We know/discover ourselves and reveal ourselves to other, through
our stories.
To justify relationships
Show how the actor frames and makes sense of a particular set of experiences
(measures/explanations of success, overcoming adversity, good and bad practice)
Success and moral tales: collective reminder of what not to do, how not to be. Common
theme = overcoming of difficulties and achievement of success. Challenge  adversity
 success, turning points, use as a starting point for further exploration/analysis
Narrative as chronicle: form of autobiography. How it happened/shaped me story.
Notion of career/purpose/societal function as identity.
Criticisms of narrative
Bury (2001) questions motivation for stories e.g., may be an attempt to look competent
rather than coping. Not simply and externalisation of how they’re feeling, but may be
influences by context, expectations, pressures, obligations.
Competing narratives (e.g., organisations) may reflect different political ideologies. But
sometimes researchers need to offer reasons, causes and accounts – i.e., to make
judgements – evaluate the program in that organisation (less interested in personal
story and more interested in higher level meanings – stories less useful).
Narrative is a way that people make sense and give meaning to events, perspectives (e.g. identity).
Narratives assist the construction of meaning.