Crotty 1998: Introduction to the research process

Book cover imageHalfway through this one I thought, “oh damn… I should have read this before the Morrison chapter…”. However, it does set the scene of social research more clearly and definitely than the first reading, and for that reason I think it was probably worthwhile to have gained a sense of the contested nature of all of this before I got too comfortable with the structure presented here. It was conceptually neat enough for me to attempt to sketch out the different layers of the model on a sheet of A3 (specially purchased along with a new set of felt-tips; I was in a very back-to-school kind of mood):


Essentially the ‘reasonably clear-cut way of using terms and grasping what is involved in the process of social research’ that Michael Crotty has presented in this chapter is a four-layered explanation; when articulating a proposal one would usually start with the methods to be used to collect and work with data, and then rationalise these by relating them to a specific methodology (which seeks to reveal a certain kind of ‘truth’ or ‘meaning’ – for example phenomenological research aims to elicit people’s lived experiences of a particular concept or phenomenon). The methodology is in turn rationalised through the theoretical perspective being taken. The clarity of connections between these two layers seems particularly variable to me at this point, and this is mainly the fault of Interpretivism, which Crotty further divides into sub-perspectives that are difficult to distinguish from methodologies. However, I see why it makes sense to subdivide Interpretivism in this way as; in rejecting the positivist view and proposing that we can’t¬†determine truth, or fact, or whatever you want to call it, if we don’t subsequently identify what we believe can be determined, then we will lose direction.

Theoretical perspectives stem primarily from epistemologies but no doubt there are factors that pervert these connections… I’m fairly happy with the three epistemologies identified on the map, but I’m not 100% sure there is any real (or implied?!) connection between subjectivism and any of the theoretical perspectives over on the right hand side. I’m not too concerned about this though, because these perspectives – Postmodernism, Structuralism and Post-structuralism – appear to be deliberately¬†woolly and contested… they are about wooliness and contestedness.

I have included the two ontological perspectives on the map as well, but set aside in the corner as I agree with Crotty that they’re not really relevant right now (will they ever be?) I’m just going to say that I’m definitely a Realist for the moment, although I suspect if I thought more deeply about these things I might start to waver. I’m not going to do that.

I had a useful conversation with The Lovely Brendan about the ideas on my map as I was putting the finishing touches to it and he was cooking me a delicious tea of baked trout, mashed squash and pan-fried leeks (Brendan had always thought of himself as an Idealist – who knew?!). Later, when I was assuring him that the squash was definitely NOT stringy, he suggested that it might depend on what he meant by stringy, and I pondered out loud whether ‘stringiness’ as a concept existed outside the mind of conscious beings.

We agreed we needed to start thinking outside the squash.

Crotty 1998: The digested read (in 140 characters)…

Here’s a simple explanation of all those complex words and things to do with social research. Don’t expect it to be useful for much longer.

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