March 19, 2017

Brief Introduction to Realism and my Research: context and boundaries

Long term blog readers will no doubt have had their brains melted as I have debated and discussed the use of different philosophical perspectives as a guide for the research methodology, beginning with a constructivist perspective before navigating towards and settling on a realist philosophy. Subsequently, methodology has transitioned from pure grounded theory methodology, to a mixed methods methodology with grounded theory used as a method, before navigating towards and settling on a case study methodology using grounded theory as a method, using a realist philosophy to guide the methodology. Feel free to have a search about my blog to find relevant discussions!

I have been thinking about this for a long time now, and a realist approach is the only overarching philosophical approach that makes sense to the context of my research; therefore, I am beginning to understand and further develop my philosophical justifications and arguments for realism as a philosophical drive for my research design. It is such a complex area however with many variants, directions, debates, discussions and applications; therefore, there needs to be a series of limits set to what can realistically be explored and discussed in the thesis, and on this blog. These limits I find come naturally within the boundaries of my research.

Limits Of Realist Discussions

Different people will have different approaches, but for me so far it’s easier to contextualise discussions of realism within the boundaries of my own research. It is important to lay out a set of limits because it will keep you focussed about what you need to explore, and what you need to discuss in terms of your philosophical justification and the way in which it applies to your research methodology. It’s easy to travel off in different directions as realism like any philosophical perspective is vast, complex and well debated and discussed.

The following are limitations that I have placed on my own investigations and discussions of realism:
· I talk about realism only in the context of social sciences and not the natural sciences
· I talk about realism only in the context of qualitative research
· I talk about realism only in the context of case study methodology
· I talk about realism only in the context of grounded theory method
· I talk about realism specific to the type of case study and grounded theory used

Obviously this blog is not as “formal” or “academic” as the thesis therefore I shall be a little less restrictive about these compared to the thesis so I can talk about, for example, realism in other methodologies and compare to the selected methodology of case study in general. I can also do this in the thesis but it would be more specific, e.g., I assume it would be important for example to compare the use of realism in phenomenology and case study relative to the phenomenon of investigation, as this can contribute to the philosophical justification of the selected philosophical perspective.

A Guide, Not A Strict Structure!

It’s important to some extent to treat these limits as a guide rather than an absolute rigid structure of discussions. Think about it as being set free within the boundaries of your research as defined by the discipline in general, and the overall research design. There is little point, for example, in talking about realism in phenomenological research if your research design is not based on phenomenology; however, that doesn’t stop you from discussing realism applications within that methodology if you can apply it in some way that is relevant to your own methodology. That’s an example of what I am talking about in terms of being set free within the boundaries of your research.

Now that limits have been set, key questions must be asked that shall help develop an overview of what needs to be known, and this is the subject of the next blog post.

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