You are here

A Realist Approach for Qualitative Research

A Realist Approach for Qualitative Research

Other Titles in:
Qualitative Research

November 2011 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Are cultural and material phenomena equally real? How can one study the relationships between cultural constructions, social behaviour and material conditions and draw a valid conclusion from the data?

In contrast to interpretive or constructivist positions, realism supports the insights of critical theory in social and educational research regarding the relationships between actors' perspectives and their actual situations, while avoiding the epistemological objectivism associated with positivism and some forms of post-positivist empiricism.

This book will explain how readers can use realism to conceptualize and conduct their qualitative study to get results with greater validity.

Preface: The Value of Realism for Qualitative Research
About the Author
Part I: A Realist Stance for Qualitative Research
Chapter 1: What Is Realism, and Why Should Qualitative Researchers Care?
Chapter 2: Meaning and Culture Are Real
Chapter 3: Causation Is Real
Chapter 4: Diversity Is Real
Part II: Realism and Qualitative Methods
Chapter 5: The Realities of Research Design
Chapter 6: Research Relationships and Data Collection
Chapter 7: Real and Virtual Relationships in Qualitative Data Analysis (with Barbara Miller)
Chapter 8: Understanding, Validity, and Evidence
Part III: Applications of Realism in Qualitative Research
Chapter 9: Explaining Plains Indian Social Organization
Chapter 10: Meaning and Diversity in Inuit Kinship and Culture
Author Index
Subject Index

Maxwell's book is an outstanding accomplishment. He has connected a tremendous amount of past and present knowledge in it. His reading and integration cuts across multiple disciplines. I especially like the discussions of causation, ‘validity’, and the methodological significance of viewing culture as distributed."

Burke Johnson
University of South Alabama

“This book is well-written and clearly argued, and does a good job of connecting what are often arcane philosophical issues with the more practical concerns of carrying out qualitative research.”

Sam Porter
Queen’s University Belfast, U.K.

“The information presented is novel. It serves to advance current epistemological thinking in the area of qualitative research. It is the only book I’m aware of that links issues of epistemology and ontology so directly with qualitative methodologies.”

Marianna L. Litovich
Wesleyan University

This  timely text could at last get us to the tipping point where realistapproaches enter the mainstream of qualitative research. They have gainedwidespread acceptance by philosophers  but continue to be regarded withsuspicion by the dominant tribe of constructivist qualitative researchers. Maxwell provides a convincing case that realism helps to resolve many of theproblems they face without deserting cherished aspects of constructivism.

Colin Robson
Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Huddersfield

"This is a book that should be read by qualitative researchers at any stage of their career and by those critical of the qualitative and realist approach to social science, such is the manner in which Maxwell introduces, negotiates and analyses key issues in research methodology."

Robin J Smith
Cardiff University, UK
Qualitative Research

A sophisticated and nuanced text this is an important and helpful book

Mr Robin Sen
Department of Sociological Studies, Sheffield University
July 15, 2019

This is an excellent book, we would rather use it for a research focused course which we currently do not have. We will consider this text if we can add a course specifically for research.

Professor Teresa Stuffer
Education Dept, Great Basin Clg-Elko
April 22, 2016

This is a really strong and thought provoking book. It challenges some basic assumptions of everyday research but also of core concepts such as culture or causation.

Mr Noel Clycq
Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies, University of Antwerp
April 1, 2015

A very useful text for those interested in developing a deeper understanding of the realist approach to research.

Mr Lee Sobo-Allen
School of Healthcare, Leeds University
December 11, 2014

I already had Joseph’s Maxwell’s Qualitative Research Design and was expecting some overlap – which there was but this is inevitable. The focus on critical realism was a useful adjunct for my own research and I would have no hesitation in recommending this to students also interested in taking a critical realism approach to qualitative research projects. If they already had some experience of Qualitative design I’d say go straight for this one. It stands well on its own.

Ms Sue Watling
Centre for Educational Research and Development, University of Lincoln
August 10, 2014

Joseph A. Maxwell

Joseph A. Maxwell is a Professor (Emeritus) in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, where he taught courses on qualitative and mixed methods research. He is the author of Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach (3rd ed.; SAGE, 2013), A Realist Approach for Qualitative Research (SAGE, 2012), and papers on qualitative and mixed methods research, program evaluation, sociocultural theory, Native American societies, and medical education. He has a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago. More About Author

Purchasing options

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9780761929239