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Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Philosophical, Paradigm,
and Interpretive
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Key Questions
• What philosophical assumptions are being
acknowledged (implicitly or explicitly) in a
qualitative study?
• What paradigm stances do qualitative
researchers use?
• What interpretive or theoretical
frameworks are researchers likely to use
when qualitative researchers select a lens
for their study?
• How are the assumptions, paradigms,
and interpretive/theoretical frameworks
used in designing and or conducting a
qualitative study?
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
The Role of Philosophical Assumptions,
Paradigms, and Worldviews
• When researchers undertake a qualitative
study, you are tacitly agreeing to its
underlying philosophical assumptions.
• After choosing qualitative research, then
researchers bring to the study their own
worldviews that shape the direction of the
• Further, some researchers use an
interpretive lens because they want to
advocate for a correction to marginalization
of underrepresented groups or to societal
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Philosophical Assumptions
• The nature of reality (ontology)
• How researchers know what they know
• The role of values in research (axiology)
• The language of research (rhetorical)
• The methods used in the process of
research (methodology)
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Philosophical Assumption:
• Question: What is the nature of reality?
• Characteristics: Reality is subjective
and multiple, as seen by participants in
the study
• Implications for Practice: Researcher uses
quotes and themes in words of
participants and provides evidence of
different perspectives
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Philosophical Assumption:
• Question: What is the relationship
between the researcher and that being
• Characteristics: Researchers attempt to
lessen distance between themselves and
that what is being researched
• Implications for Practice: Researchers
collaborate and spend time in field with
participants, to become an “insider”
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Philosophical Assumption:
• Question: What is the role of values?
• Characteristics: Researchers acknowledge
that research is value laden and that
biases represent
• Implications for Practice: Researchers
openly discusses values that shape the
narrative and includes own interpretation in
conjunction with the interpretation of
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Philosophical Assumption:
• Question: What is the language of
• Characteristics: Researchers write in a
literary, informal style using the personal
voice and uses qualitative terms and limited
• Implications for Practice: Researchers use
an engaging style of narrative, may use
first-person pronoun, and employ the
language of qualitative research
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Philosophical Assumption:
• Question: What is the process of research?
• Characteristics: Researchers use inductive
logic, studies in the topic within its context,
and uses an emerging design
• Implications for Practice: Researchers work
with particulars (details) before
generalizations, describe in detail, the
context of the study, and continually revise
questions from experiences in the field
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Paradigms and Worldviews
• Definition of paradigm: a basic set of
beliefs that guide action (Guba, 1990, p.
• Major research paradigms
Social constructivism
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
• Approach
Reductionism oriented
A priori theories
• Practice
– Inquiry in logically related steps
– Multiple perspectives from participants not
single reality
– Rigorous data collection and analysis
– Use of computer programs
– Reports have scientific structure (e.g.,
problem, data collection, etc.)
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Social Constructivism
• Approach
– The understanding of the world in which we live
and work
– The development of multiple meanings
– The researchers look for complexity of viewpoints
• Practice
– Researchers ask broad general open-ended
– Researchers focus on the “processes” of
– Researchers focus on historical and cultural
settings of participants
– Researchers acknowledge their background
shapes interpretation
– Researchers “interpret” the meanings others have
about the world
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
• Approach
– It contains an action agenda
– It focuses on issues such as oppression,
domination, suppression, alienation and hegemony
– It is recursive or dialectical
– It is emancipatory
– It helps people free themselves from constraints
– It is practical and collaborative “with” others
• Practice
– The issues help shape research questions
– The researchers work with participants to design
– The “voice” of the participants is heard throughout
the research process
– The agenda is focused on action for reform
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
• Approach
– Focuses on the outcomes of the research
– Focuses on “what works” to address the
research problem
– Focuses on the researchers freedom of choice
in methods
– Focuses on the many approaches to collecting
and analyzing data
• Practice
– The researchers use multiple methods to
answer research questions
– The research is conducted that best
addresses the research problem
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Theoretical Perspectives:
Interpretive Communities
Postmodern perspective
Feminist theories
Critical theory
Critical Race Theory (CRT)
Queer Theory
Disability Theories
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Postmodernism Perspectives
• Assumptions
– There are knowledge claims must be set within the
world today in multiple perspectives such as race,
gender, class, and group affiliations
– There are negative conditions show themselves in
the presence of hierarchies, power, control by
individuals in the hierarchy and multiple meanings
of language
– There are different discourses
– There are marginalized people that are important
– There are Meta-narratives or universals hold true
of the social conditions
– There is a need to “deconstruct” the text to learn
about the hierarchies, oppositions, contradictions
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Postmodernism Perspectives
• Examples
– Interpretive Biography (Denzin, 1989)
– Narrative (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000)
– Grounded Theory (Clark, 2005) – Researchers study
“turning points”) during life transitions
– Ethnography (Thomas, 1993)
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Feminist Theories
• Assumptions
– The overall focus is on women’s diverse situations
and the institutions that frame those situations
– The subject matter is focused on domination within
a patriarchal society
– The lens is focused on gender
– The goals are focused to establish collaborative
relationships to place the researcher within the
study so as not to be objective but transformative
• Practice
– The need to examine the researcher’s background
to determine validity and trustworthiness of
– The need to report women’s voices without
exploiting them
– The need to use methods in a self-disclosing and
respectful way
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Critical Theory
• Assumptions
– The focus is concerned with empowering people
to transcend the constrains placed on them by
race, class and power
– The theory is used to interpret or illuminate social
– The themes include scientific study of institutions
and their transformation through interpreting
meanings of social life, historical problems,
domination, alienation, and social struggles
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Critical Theory
• An example from Ethnography
– Focus on changes in how people think,
encourage people to interact, form networks with
the end goal of “social theorizing”
– Focuses on the use of an intensive case study or
historically comparative cases of specific actors
– Focuses on the formation of formal models
– Focuses on the use “ethnographic accounts”
(interpretive social psychology)
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Critical Race Theory (CRT)
• Goals of CRT
– To present stories about discrimination from the
perspective of people of color (e.g., cases studies
of descriptions and interviews
– To eradicate racial subjugation while recognizing
that race is a social construct
– To interact race with other inequities such as
gender and class
• Practice
– The research places race and racism is in the
foreground of the research process
– The research looks for ways to explain the
experiences of people of color
– The research offers transformative solutions if
racial, gender and class subordination
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
• Assumptions
Queer Theory
– It is related to the complexities of individual
– It explores how identities reproduce and perform
in social forums
– It uses the term “queer theory,” which allows for
the incorporation of other social elements
including race, class, age
– It holds that binary distinctions are inadequate to
describe sexual identity
• Practice
– It uses Postmodern or poststructural orientation to
deconstruct dominant theories related to identity
– It focuses on how identity is culturally and linked to
discourse and overlaps with human sexuality
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Disability Theories
• Assumptions
– The focus is addressing the meaning of inclusion
in schools and encompasses administrators,
teachers and parents who have children with
– The focus is on disability as a dimension of human
difference rather than defect
• Practice
– The research process views individuals with
disabilities as different
– The questions asked, labels applied to these
individuals, communication methods, and
consideration of how data collection will benefit
the community are considered
– The data are reported in a way that is respectful
of power relationships.
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
Chapter 2
Philosophical, Paradigm,
and Interpretive
Creswell Qualitative Inquiry 2e
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