Table 2. Some of the many different philosophies that underpin social research, presented along a positivist–subjectivist continuum. The table demonstrates how the philosophies influence research strategies and methodologies, etc. (based on Crockett 1950, Brandt 1957, Feyerabend 1962, 1981a, 1981b, Husserl 1962, 1965, Marcuse 1965, Ricoeur 1978a, 1978b, 1978c, Sneed 1982, Burgess 1983, Brown 1987, 1998, Bourdieu 1991, Eger 1993, 1997, Yeung 1997, Moran 2000, Hellman 2001, Chakravartty 2004, Mayer 2006, and on extensive discussion with 12 researchers from different social science backgrounds at Aberdeen and Aberystwyth University).

Positivist Approaches to Social Science Subjectivist approaches to Social Science
Philosophy Extreme
Positivism
Structural Realism Critical Realism Transcendental Realism Hermeneutics Nominalism Extreme
Subjectivism
Core Ontological Assumption Reality as a concrete structure Reality as a concrete process Reality as an interplay between a concrete structure and influenced by perception Reality is both a projection of human imagination and a concrete structure. Reality as a social construction Reality as a realm of symbolic exchange Reality as a projection of human imagination
Methodological Criteria External Validity,
Researcher led,
Quantitative,
Empirical
External and Internal Validity,
Researcher/participant led,
Quantitative and Qualitative,
Empirical
External and Internal Validity, Researcher/participant led,
Quantitative and Qualitative,
Theoretical and empirical
External and Internal Validity,
Researcher/participant led,
Quantitative and Qualitative,
Theoretical and empirical
Internal Validity,
Participant led,
Qualitative,
Theoretical and empirical
Internal Validity,
Participant led,
Qualitative and Quantitative,
Theoretical and empirical
Internal Validity,
Participant led,
Qualitative,
Theoretical and empirical
Types of Questions Demographic and project related Demographic and project related to structure of reality Demographic and project related, acknowledging human perception of reality Demographic and project related to human understanding of reality Study of participant behavior Participant response related to understanding of words Participant response related to project
Research Strategy Experiments, Surveys,
Action research,
Case studies
Ethnography,
Case studies, Grounded theory
Survey
Ethnography,
Case studies,
Grounded theory
Experiments,
Ethnography,
Case studies, Grounded theory
Documents, Speeches,
Stories,
Ceremonies, Advertising,
Ethnography,
Case studies, Grounded theory
Ethnography,
Case studies, Grounded theory
Method of data collection Questionnaires, observation Interactive interviews, Questionnaires Interactive interviews, Questionnaires, which may use qualitative questions Interactive interviews, Questionnaires Structural semiotics, Discourse analysis, Psychoanalytic criticism, Interviewing, Ethnographic techniques Interviews, Participant observation Interviews, participant observation
Type of Analysis Statistical methods Statistical methods Statistical methods Statistical methods, Inferential statistical analysis
phenomenological analysis
Dialectical process involving three “moments:”: Social historical analysis, Formal analysis, Interpretation–Reinterpretation Content analysis, Thematic analysis, Discourse analysis,
Interpretive phenomenological analysis
Content analysis, Thematic analysis, Discourse analysis, Interpretive phenomenological analysis
Potential Interpretation Generalization,
inductive and deductively valid arguments
Hypothetico-deducto mode
Generalization, although
does not allow contingent generalizations to be treated as necessary causal mechanism,
Hypothetico-deducto mode
Abstraction and retroduction,
Generalization, although does not allow contingent generalizations to be treated as necessary causal mechanisms.
Hypothetico-deducto mode
Process of retroduction, a posteri reasoning, use of analogies,
Generalization, although
does not allow contingent generalizations to be treated as necessary causal mechanisms
No Generalization No Generalization as there can be no universal truth No Generalization