Application of critical realism in social work research: Methodological considerations
Keywords:Critical realism, research methodology, ontological map, retroduction, intensive data
INTRODUCTION: Critical realism (CR) provides a unique and robust philosophical framework for social work researchers by attending to the role of individual agency and social structure; however, little practical guidance is available regarding how the ontology and epistemology of CR can be applied as a methodological framework for qualitative research.
APPROACH: In this article, we explain what CR is in relation to other ontological and epistemological positions and provide some practical suggestions for CR-informed research by drawing on relevant examples from a study that examined the causes of trust among Korean migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand.
CONCLUSIONS: We suggest that the three-layered ontological map of CR justifies the use of series of data-coding processes to identify preliminary tendencies at the surface layer of empirical reality, abductive reasoning to formulate ideas about how observed tendencies are connected at the middle layer of actual reality and retroductive inference to identify causal mechanisms or structures and key conditions embedded in the deeper layer of real reality to produce certain experiences under study.
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