Category Archives: Theories, Frameworks and Research Design

Post Modernism

Post Modernism is defined as an attitude toward the social world in its current state of historical development. It is described as more of a diagnosis, than a theory. (Rosenau, 1992). Creswell writes that part of applying this view when conducting research is the need to “deconstruct texts” which include readings and writings to bring to the surface concealed hierarchies, as well as dominations, oppositions, inconsistencies, and contradictions. (Creswell, 2013).

This perspective can be useful in studies that are using content analysis, narrative or case studies. In analyzing the data researchers can aim to highlight any issues or concerns, especially in studies where there is hands on interfacing between researcher and communities (or individuals being studied).

Some of the most criticisms of Post modernism are as follows:

1. ” It rejects reason.” Postmodernists actually use reason extensively in their arguments. They also insist that reason should incorporate non – reason and the irrational.

2. “It denies reality.” This criticism is based on the belief that reality is socially, linguistically, historically, or culturally constructed. This is wrong because, revealing the way in which reality is constituted does not make it any less real. According to Post Modernism, that which is real may not be representable but can still have important effects, so the real needs to be considered alongside the not-real, the imaginary, the virtual, and the actual.

3. ” Anything goes—all meanings have equal value.” This criticism suggests that because postmodernism has no way of differentiating between and valuing perspectives, it is unethical and amoral. On the contrary, postmodernism argues that the question of values must remain open, even when decided—and moral ethical challenges are a matter for eternal return.

References –

Rosenau, P. (1992). Post – Modernism and the Social Sciences: Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among The Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Linstead, S. (2010). Postmodernism. In Albert J. Mills, G. Durepos, & E. Wiebe (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. (pp. 695-702). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412957397.n259

Ethnographic Theory

Ethnographic research is used to focus on a culture-sharing or subculture group; there’s a focus on developing complex and complete descriptions of the culture sharing group.  In ethnography, the researcher will observe the group, then describe and interpret the shared and learned patterns.  Ethnography really requires the researcher to become immersed in the lives of the individuals being studied, this is called participant observation.  It’s important for the researcher to study the behaviors and language of these groups.

The understanding of cultural patterns in ideologies and beliefs is critical, and this happens through extensive fieldwork that includes collecting data through interviews, observations, artifacts, symbols and other forms.  Questions found in an ethnographic study would attempt to answer, “What do people in this setting have to know and do to make this system work?” and, “If culture, sometimes defined simply as shared knowledge, is mostly caught rather than taught, how do thoe being inducted into the group find their ‘way in’ so that an adequate level of sharing is achieved?” (Creswell, 94).

Ethnographic studies are extremely important to qualitative research because it’s a detailed look at a cultural phenomena. As individuals that function in society, it’s helpful for us to understand that within our society there are subcultures to which people belong, in which their norms and ideologies  may differ from ours.  Getting some insight into the fact that there are so many different cultures and subcultures could help us understand each other better, or even how we see ourselves as people in society.

Works Cited:

Creswell, John W. Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. Sage: Los Angeles. 2013.

Wikipedia: Ethnography.


The Oxford Mini Dictionary defines narrative as ‘a spoken or written account of something’ (Hawker, 2002: 406). Essentially, ‘narrative meaning is created by noting that something is a ‘part’ of a whole, and that something is a ‘cause’ of something else’ (Polkinghorne, 1988: 6). Narratives provide links, connections, coherence, meaning, sense. Narrative descriptions exhibit human activity as purposeful engagement in the world. Narrative is the type of discourse that draws together diverse events, happenings and actions of human lives’ (Polkinghorne, 1995: 5).Creswell  defines it as a study of experiences “as expressed in lived and told stories of individuals” (Creswell, 2010: 70).

Narrative researchers collect stories, documents, and group conversations about the lived and told experiences of one or two individuals. They record the stories using interview, observation, documents and images and then report the experiences and chronologically order the meaning of those experiences. Narrative research methodology doesn’t follow a rigid process but is described as informal gathering of data.

These are the primary types of narrative:

  • Biographical study, writing and recording the experiences of another person’s life.
  • Autoethnography, in which the writing and recording is done by the subject of the study (e.g., in a journal).
  • Life history, portraying one person’s entire life.
  • Oral history, reflections of events, their causes and effects.

Critical Theory

Critical Theory perspectives are concerned with empowering human beings to transcend the constraints placed on them by race, class, and gender. Critical theory is a type of social theory oriented toward evaluating and changing society as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented only to understanding or explaining it. Critical theories aim to dig beneath the surface of social life and uncover the assumptions that keep us from a full and true understanding of how the world works. Central themes that a critical researcher might explore include the scientific study of social institutions and their transformations through interpreting the meanings of social life; and historical problems of domination, alienation, and social struggles.

Critical Theory was developed by a group of sociologists at the University of Frankfurt in Germany who referred to themselves as The Frankfurt School, including Jurgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, and Theodor Adorno. Critical Theory seeks human emancipation, “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Horkheimer 1982, 244). This theory aims to explain and transform all the circumstances that enslave human beings.

Two core concepts of critical theory are that it should be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity and that it should improve the understanding of society by integrating all the major social sciences, including geography, economics, sociology, history, political science, anthropology, and psychology.

According to Max Horkheimer, a critical theory is adequate only if it meets three criteria: it must be explanatory, practical, and normative, all at the same time. That is, it must explain what is wrong with current social reality, identify the actors to change it, and provide both clear norms for criticism and achievable practical goals for social transformation.


Bohman, James, Bohman,. “Critical Theory.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 08 Mar. 2005. Web. 11 July 2013.
Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: choosing among the five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Crossman, Ashley. “Critical Theory.” Sociology., n.d. Web. 11 July 2013.

Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is the framework to approach the systems of oppression that we live under through a legal-based institutional point of view. CRT takes race-based discrimination in the US Law system as the fundamental oppression that keeps the set of systems of discrimination intact. CRT is an extension of Critical Theory, through which race is posited as an often-overlooked element in legal discrimination. Critical Race theory takes race as a social construct (Parker and Lynn 2002), meaning that race in itself is not a biological virtue; it is a socially constructed category to ensure inequality, disempowerment, and disenfranchisement per the rules and regulations of white supremacy. CRT actively challenges the unjust ways in which the US legal system works, while denouncing the notions of liberalism and meritocracy, which as two political belief posit achievements and access to rights as an individual striving as opposed to being indicated in one’s race, gender, class, sexuality, gender identity, etc.

CRT emphasizes the importance of intersectionality, which can briefly be explained at the cross sectioning of the sets of marginalized and oppressed identities and how they play out in the experience of an individual or a group. To give a current example, the case of CeCe McDonalds, a Black transgender woman currently in jail for life after she killed a white male out of self defense. CeCe’s status as a black woman of transgender experience puts her at a status of such disempowerment that her life in the face of a white man’s transphobic and racist motivation to threaten her life gains no recognition neither by the state or the legal structures that is supposed to protect it’s citizens. Critical Race Theory therefore offers an understanding to the ways in which a person’s marginalized identities can play against her/his right to be recognized and protected under the current institutional systems we live under. CRT pushes people to be critical of one’s privilege, and actively question and challenge the state and the legal structures functioning under it.

Works Cited

Hooks, B (1990) Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics

Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: choosing among the five approaches.Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

What is Critical Race Theory?

Parker, Lynn (2002) What’s Race Got to Do With It? Critical Race Theory’s Conflicts With and Connections to Qualitative Research Methodology and Epistemology Qualitative Inquiry 7-22



Epistemology, as a technical term in philosophy, refers to how we know and the relationship between the knower and the known. It is distinguished from ontology (what exists, and the nature of reality) and axiology (values), as well as methodology.

For example, Christine Sleeter, in a review article on “Epistemological diversity in research on preservice teacher preparation for historically undeserved children”, describes epistemology as referring to “how people know what they know, including assumptions about the nature of knowledge and reality” (2001, p. 213).  For what purposes do we need epistemology? Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification.

Following the ideas of Joseph Maxwell’s outstanding key note lecture, the participants stated that epistemology is not a stance you have to decide beforehand or to follow literally regardless of the demands you meet in your study. Instead, it is a tool you may use as a researcher in your personal way to – first to formulate appropriate questions, then finding reasonable answers.

I could not apply epistemology to my own study but I could relate it to their other studies in Qualitative Research. The article “Towards an epistemology of management and economics in the Zimbabwean music industry (Tsitsi Mhripiri, 2012) examines the management, economics and political economy aspects of the Zimbabwe music industry. It compares the management and economics policy in South Africa with those is Zimbabwe and identifies gaps that need to be filled in developing an epistemology of management and economics in the Zimbabwe music industry.


Mhiripiri, J. T. (2012). Towards an epistemology of management and economics in the Zimbabwean music industry. Journal of African Media Studies4(3), 339-355.

Sleeter, C. E. (2000). Epistemological diversity in research on preservice teacher preparation for historically underserved children. Review of research in education25, 209-250.

The Advocacy and Participatory Framework

The Advocacy and Participatory worldview “holds that research inquiry needs to be intertwined with politics and a political agenda” (Creswell, p.9), therefore, there is a specific agenda for a study with this framework that aims for reform. In a study using this framework, social issues pertinent at the time are addressed “such as empowerment, inequality, oppression, domination, suppression, and alienation” (Creswell, p.9), and are really the focus of the study. This type of research offers a voice to participants and gives them the ability to form an agenda for reform.

Kemmis and Wilkinson (1998) offer four key features of the advocacy/participatory framework of inquiry:

1. Participatory actions are focused on bringing about change, and at the end of this type of study, researchers create an action agenda for change.

2. It is focused on freeing individuals from societal constraints, which is why the study begins with an important issue currently in society.

3. It aims to create a political debate so that change will occur.

4. Since advocacy/participatory researchers engage participants as active contributors to the research, it is a collaborative experience.

Creswell, J.W. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods        Approaches. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Kemmis, S., Wilkinson. M. (1998). Participatory Action Research and the Study of Practice. In B.  Atweh. S. Kemmis, & P. Weeks (Eds.), Action Research in Practice: Partnerships for Social Justice in Education (pp.21-36). New York: Routledge.

Action Research

According to Koshy et al. (2010), action research is, “a method used for improving practice. It involves action, evaluation, and critical reflection and – based on the evidence gathered – changes in practice are then implemented” (p. 2).

Action research is typically conducted within specific and practical contexts.  Typically, action research focuses on a small sample of either one or a few organizations.  According to Kock (2011), “the researcher uses participant observation and interviews as key data collection approaches. Although typically applying very little, if any, control on the environment being studied, the researcher is expected to apply some form of “positive” intervention. Typically this will be in the form of a service to the client organization” (sec. 33.2.4).

To relate this to my qualitative research, if I had used action research for my mini-study, perhaps I would have found theater publicists who were struggling to attract new clients, or who were struggling to attract media attention for their existing clients.  This could have been identified as the problem.  I then would have spoken with them, observed them, and my “intervention” could have been giving them a copy of the Standard Table of Influence and explaining to them the different strategies they could be using.  Once equipped with this knowledge, I would conduct more interviews and observation to reflect on the changes and to see whether or not they were effective.

Koshy et al. (2010) explain that, “the purpose of action research is to learn through action that then leads to personal or professional development (p.4). While many research methods aim to generate knowledge, action research’s goal is to both generate knowledge and improve the subject of the study (Kock, sec. 33.1).

Bargal (2008, p. 19) goes on to explain that action research is both a methodology and an ideology.  He then presents the eight principles of action research, which are as follows:

1. Action research combines a systematic study, sometimes experimental, of a social problem as well as the endeavors to solve it.

2. Action research includes a spiral process of data collection to determine goals, action to implement goals, and assessment of the results of the intervention.

3. Action research requires feedback of the results of intervention to all parties involved in the research.

4. Action research implies continuous cooperation between researchers and practitioners.

5. Action research relies on the principles of group dynamics and is anchored in its change phases. The phases are unfreezing, moving, and refreezing. Decision making is mutual and is carried out in a public way.

6. Action research takes into account issues of values, objectives, and power needs of the parties involved.

7. Action research serves to create knowledge, to formulate principles of intervention, and to develop instruments for selection, intervention, and training.

8. Within the framework of action research, there is an emphasis on the recruitment, training, and support of the change agents.



Bargal, D. (2008). Action Research: A Paradigm for Achieving Social Change. Small Group Research, 17-27.

Kock, Ned (2013). Action Research: Its Nature and Relationship to Human-Computer Interaction. In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.. Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. Available online at

Koshy, et al. (2010).  What is Action Research? Sage Publications.

Grounded Theory

To aim of a grounded theory study is to create or discover a theory for a process or action that is grounded in the data. Creswell notes the defining features of grounded theory, the first of which is the aforementioned process or action. This is what the researcher is trying to explain, and it must have unique steps that occur over time, such as “developing a general education program.” The theory is developed to explain this process. In order to do this, data is collected, and the researcher practices memoing, where s/he writes ideas around the data. There is finally data analysis to land on a theory. (Creswell, 2013)

Grounded theory was developed by sociologists Barney G. Glaser and Anselm L. Strauss  in 1967. They wrote several books that serve as guides for the grounded theory process. Grounded theory researchers must begin with codifying their data quite early through memo writing. The memos explain what is happening in the data, make comparisons and identify analytic gaps. As the researcher writes more memos, they build their theory.

The participants are selected through theoretical sampling, where the sample is not representative of a population, but rather chosen to fill key categories. Researchers must also seek data that fills these categories, a technique called theoretical saturation. (Charmaz & Bryant, 2008) A category is a unit of information, and may consist of events, happenings and instances. (Creswell, 2013)

The process of gathering data and coding data is described as a zigzag, where one goes to the field gather data, goes to the office to analyze, and then back and forth. One way to compile all this information is with a conditional matrix which informs the researcher of the connections between the conditions influencing the phenomenon. (Creswell, 2013)

If I were to attempt a grounded theory study based on my current research, I would try to create a theory around a phenomenon on Reddit, perhaps their process of identifying as a Redditor. I would need to identify the steps in this process, the influences and conditions on it, the strategies employed during this process, and the consequences. This would involve coding responses to questions, and then going back to my Reddit participants to saturate the categories about how they self identify and what steps in the online experience led to a new identity. In the end, I may have a theory about how individuals begin to identify as Reddit users.

Charmaz, K., & Bryant, A. (2008). Grounded Theory. In Lisa M. Given (Ed.), The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. (pp. 375-378). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412963909.n189

Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: choosing among the five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

The Case Study

Case Study research focuses on the events surrounding one case in a contemporary context or setting. Creswell describes the qualitative approach to a case study with the investigator focusing on one or more cases over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information (Creswell 2013). These multiple sources of data come in the form of textual, visual, and audio files regarding the case or cases. The use of multiple sources of information results in triangulation which contributes to the validity of an investigators research.

The intent of the case study is to provide in-depth understanding through data analysis of multiple sources of information describing all details of the case where themes or issues are identified by the researcher (Creswell 2013). The types of case studies are as follows:

  • Intrinsic: a unique case that has unusual interest in and of itself and needs to be described and detailed.
  • Instrumental: a study on a selected case that aims to understand a specific issue, problem or concern
  • Collective: multiple cases selected to illustrate an issue, problem or concern.

Case studies are relevant in conduction social research because they recount the experience surrounding a particular event bound by time and place to inform others about it.  Stake writes, “case studies will often be the preferred method of research because they may be epistemologically in harmony with the reader’s experience and thus to that person a natural basis for generalization” (Stake 2009). While case studies may be specific to one case or select cases readers are able to understand issues or problems vicariously.  Case studies feature descriptions in an often narrative format featuring personal observations from the researcher and verbatim quotation with comparisons that are implicit rather than explicit.


Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among The Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Stake, R. (2009).  The Case Study Methong in Social Inquiry. In R. Gomm, M. Hammersley, & P. Foster (Eds.), Case Study Method. (pp. 18-27). SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9780857024367.d5

Feminist Theory

Feminist Theory is a research framework that is rooted in post-structuralist and post-modern theory. Feminist Theory is also transformative in nature, that is, research conduction through a feminist framework usually aims to bring about a positive societal change. Creswell discusses Feminist Theory on pages 29 through 30 of Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design. He references Olesen (2011), who states that Feminist Theory draws on:

  • different theoretical and pragmatic orientations;
  • different international contexts; and
  • different dynamic developments.

At its core, Feminist Theory’s goal is to “center on and make problematic women’s diverse situations and the institutions that frame those situations” (Creswell, 2013). Research conducted under Feminist Theory usually highlights issues of gender discrimination and the issues of living and operating in a patriarchal society. This is because the lens of this theory views “gender as a basic organizing principle that shapes the conditions of [our] lives” (Lather, 1991). It uses the centrality of gender, and our relationship to gender, in the shaping of consciousness. When used correctly, Feminist Theory has the ability to correct both the invisibility and distortion of female experience in ways relevant to ending women’s unequal social position” (Fox-Keller, 1985).

Feminist Theory is extremely important to the discourse of social research and knowledge construction as it examines knowledge as partial and gendered, instead of neutral, objective, and value-free (Maynard, 2004). Feminist theory research is identified through:

  • framing of gender and power;
  • normative frameworks and notions of gender;
  • focus on transformation and social change; and
  • ideas about ethics and accountability.

This framework lends itself well to narrative interview and ethnographic research, as it allows to the research to engage in “standpoint” research which gives data from the point of view of the participant. Finally, it operates through an epistemological structure, as it is ultimately concerned with “who knows what, about whom, and how is this knowledge legitimated?” (Maynard, 2004).

Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: choosing among the five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Maynard, M. (2004). Feminist Research. In Michael S. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & Tim Futing Liao (Eds.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods. (pp. 379-382). Sage Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950589.n333