4: Methodologies, approaches and theories


Methodology, methods, approaches, theory and research questions form the building blocks of social research, but confusion exists around exactly what they are and how they are used in research. The chapter begins by clarifying the distinctions between methods, methodologies and approaches, then describes positivist, realist, constructionist, interpretivist and transformative methodologies. The terms ‘ontology’ and ‘epistemology’ are explained after which a table maps the ontological and epistemological views and suitable methods for each of the methodologies described earlier. Action, evaluation, mixed methods, arts-based and digitally mediated research approaches are outlined followed by a discussion of the role of theory and the links between research, theory and practice. The chapter concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.

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