Research Methods in Social Sciences

Introduction to
Culture and Society

Philosophical Basis of Research: Paradigm
Paradigm: a worldview or framework through which knowledge is filtered
(Kuhn, 1962; Lincoln, Lynham, & Guba, 2011); it is a foundational perspective
carrying a set of assumptions that guides the research process.

Ontological and epistemological belief systems both make up a paradigm.

But what is ontology and epistemology?

Paradigms: Transformative
Used in Community-Based Participatory Approach

Transformative: human rights, social justice, inclusive, participatory,
and democratic approaches involving nonacademic stakeholders
during all parts of the process. Research is an engaged, politically and
socially responsible enterprise with the power to transform and

What beliefs about reality (ontology) are operating within this paradigm?

Reality is……..(able to be transformed / to change)

Theories of Knowledge in Qualitative Approach
Empiricism: considers experience/the senses as the basis of knowledge

Symbolic Interactionism: considers how individuals and small groups use shared
symbols during interactions to communicate meaning

Phenomenology: considers the experience of consciousness from a first-person point
of view, including the nature of direct subjective experience of the world

Ethnomethodology: considers the strategies (methods) people use to negotiate meanings
in their daily interactions (these can vary across cultures/ethnicities)

Dramaturgy: uses the metaphor of theatre to consider people’s presentation of self in
“front” and “back” stages of social life

Theories of Knowledge in Qualitative Approach
Postmodernism: considers the dominant ideologies, symbols and discourses of power within human culture

Post-structuralism: considers the unified narratives that structure human culture in order to expose how
dominant (hegemonic) ideology works

Indigenous theory: considers the value of indigenous knowledge and works to ‘decolonize’ the colonizing
(White vs Rest) research practices that have dominated social sciences in the 20th century

Critical race theory: considers (and critiques) the way in which race is used in culture to justify various
forms of injustice and discrimination

Queer theory: considers (and critiques) the way in which sexual orientation and gender identity is used in
culture to justify various forms of injustice and discrimination

Feminist theory: considers (and critiques) the way in which differences based on sex and/or gender are
used in culture to justify various forms of injustice and discrimination

Theories of Knowledge in MMR, ABR and CBPR
Mixed Methods Research (MMR):

N/A (Any as it can include both Quantitative or Qualitative related theories)

Arts-Based Research (ABR):

Embodiment: considers the knowledge of the body (our ‘embodied’ senses, feelings, impressions) in our experience of
the world.

Phenomenology (as mentioned previously)

Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

Critical theory: considers (and critiques) the power structures in society / culture

Critical pedagogy: considers (and critiques) the power structures operating within education and believes that the
goal of education is to develop a critical consciousness in students so that they can challenge injustices and
inequalities in society/culture.

Feminist, Critical race, Indigenous (as mentioned previously)

Praxis (what we do to gather data)
Research method: a tool for data collection or generation (e.g ethnography)

Methodology: a plan for how research will proceed that includes a deeper reflection on the ethical, political,
philosophical dimensions of our research.

Interviews: In the Social Sciences, depending on your approach, interviews can range from unstructured
(open-ended questions) to semi-structured (open-ended but pre-determined questions) to structured (pre-
determined close-ended questions).

Quantitative research tends to use very structured interviews (eg. Surveys and questionnaires), whereas
Qualitative research tends to use semi-structured interviews and sometimes unstructured interviews.

A semi-structured interview includes a set number of pre-determined guiding open-ended questions. But
there is flexibility in the interview for the conversation to develop organically (while always ensuring that
all questions are covered).

An unstructured interview is very open-ended and only has limited guiding questions. You can think of a
life history interview in this way.