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Realist Inquiry in Social Science

Realist Inquiry in Social Science

December 2015 | 168 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Realist Inquiry in Social Science is an invaluable guide to conducting realist research. Written by highly regarded experts in the field, the first part of the book sets out the fundamentals necessary for rigorous realist research, while the second part deals with a number of its most important applications, discussing it in the context of case studies, action research and grounded theory amongst other approaches.

Grounded in philosophical methodology, this book goes beyond understanding knowledge justification only as empirical validity, but instead emphasises the importance of theoretical criteria for all good research. The authors consider both quantitative and qualitative research methods, and approach methodology from an interdisciplinary viewpoint.  Using abductive reasoning as the starting point for an insightful journey into realist inquiry, this book demonstrates that scientific realism continues to be of major relevance to the social sciences. 


Chapter 1: Scientific Realism
What is Realism?

Naturalistic Realism

Global and Local Realism

Realist Methodology

The Centrality of Method

Realism in the Social Sciences

Chapter 2: Evidence
Social Science Preliminaries

Empirical Evidence and Theory

Coherentism and Naturalism

Varieties of Evidence: Pragmatic Considerations

Chapter 3: Validity
Test Validity, Operational Definition, and Logical Empiricism

Holism, Realism, and Ontological Commitment

Construct Validity and Logical Empiricism

Construct Validity, Generalization in Experiments, and Epistemology

Paradigms of Validity

Coherence Justification

Chapter 4: Grounded Theory
The Abductive Theory of Method

Problem Formulation

Phenomena Detection

Theory Construction

ATOM as Grounded Theory Method

Chapter 5: Factor Analysis
Exploratory Factor Analysis and Scientific Inference

Methodological Challenges to Exploratory Factor Analysis

Exploratory Factor Analysis and Other Factor Analytic Methods

Chapter 6: Case Study
Constitutive and Regulative Rules

What is A Case?

Generalizing From Cases

A Case Study in China

Making Generalizations

Improving Knowledge of Generalizations


The current replication crisis in psychology makes professors’ Haig and Evers book as timely as it is erudite. Using philosophical realism as their organizing principle, they take the reader on a creative and insightful tour through validity, Grounded Theory, factor analysis and case studies in an effort to improve and advance psychological research. 

James W. Grice
Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University

Realist Inquiry in Social Science comes as a complete breath of fresh air in a domain predominated by anti-realism. I was especially charmed and mesmerized by its recognition of the primacy of problems and its focus on abductive reasoning.

Tim De Mey
Assistant Professor in Theoretical Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam

This book provides an accessible and systematic introduction to Realist methodologies in the social sciences. It covers qualitative and quantitative research methods from a Realist perspective, making clear how this approach  provides a fruitful and practical way for social scientists to approach research methods. That a book of such clarity should have been written by Brian Haig and Colin Evers is not surprising.  Over the past three decades, Realism has moved from the periphery of methodological considerations  to taking centre stage. In the social sciences these authors have been central to the change in Realism’s fortunes. 

Hugh Lauder
Professor of Education and Political Economy, University of Bath

Brian D. Haig

Brian Haig is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Canterbury, and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Education at the University of Bath. He is a theoretical psychologist who has published numerous articles in psychology, education, and philosophy journals on the conceptual foundations of quantitative and qualitative research methods, and the nature of psychological science more generally. He recently published a book entitled Investigating the Psychological World (MIT Press, 2014). He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the New Zealand Psychological Society. More About Author

Colin W. Evers

Colin Evers is Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of New South Wales, having previously worked at The University of Hong Kong, Monash University, and the University of Sydney. He studied mathematics, philosophy, and education before taking his PhD in philosophy of education at the University of Sydney. His teaching and research interests are in educational administration, philosophy of education, and research methodology. He has co-edited and co-authored ten books in his various fields of interest including Knowing Educational Administration, Exploring Educational Administration and Doing Educational Administration (all... More About Author

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