Research Philosophies Explained

(with the help of cows)

1) Positivism
You have two cows. That is too small for a true statistical sample. You go off to find someone with 1,000 normally distributed, randomly sampled bovines.

2) Interpretivism
You have two cows. Their reality is as valid as yours, so you decide to call them “chickens”.

3) Post-colonialism
There are two cows. If it weren’t for the historical burden of colonial rule, you would own an entire beef production concern. You decide that the cows must be encouraged to see their hybridity in their new complex reality so you do research to help them say “baa”.

4) Post-structuralism
You have an even number of complex animalian forms self-identified as bovines within an endless chain of signifiers. You write a large, heavy book filled with wordplay and philosophical meandering, which ends with the view that burgers and sausages are relative.

5) Feminism
You have two cows, whom you wish to set free from the impingement of hegemonic oppression by a patriarchal society.

6) Critical Realism
You may have two cows but you can never be entirely sure. You accept that their reality as a herd is entirely separate from their reality as individuals. You feel proud that you are smarter than both the positivists and the interpretivists.

7) Pragmatism
Those things in your field might be cows or they might not. So long as you get milk for your coffee you don’t really care.

8) Grounded theory
You know you are looking at two cows but since you have to pretend you entered the field without pre-existing theories, you pretend that you don’t know they are cows until you reach theoretical saturation, dripping wet with milk.

9) Action research
You decide to kneel in a field and eat grass so you can facilitate perceptible improvements in the lived experience of the cows while gathering valuable thick descriptions (and cheese).

10) PhD Student-ism
If that lot would stop yammering on about cows you could get your work finished. You decide to get a burger for lunch, just to make it look like you care about social research philosophies.


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