Beyond positivistic qualitative research

Marlei Pozzebon

Professor at HEC Montreal and FGV EAESP.



In the last decades, at least from a management perspective, many researchers have adopted a positivistic orientation in carrying out and justifying their qualitative work. This phenomenon has become prominent in the field. However, qualitative inquiry does not equate to positivism. On the contrary, several distinct alternatives co-exist, distinct in terms of ontologies-post-positivism, critical, interpretivism, pragmatism-as in terms of methodological strategies-ethnomethodology, ethnography, and research action, to cite a few. The challenge is that qualitative researchers have to struggle to have their non-positivistic roots of conducting qualitative inquiry accepted as "valid." The books suggested by Marlei Pozzebon, professor at HEC Montreal and FGV EAESP, provide guidance on an array of different research traditions of qualitative inquiry.



CRAFTING QUALITATIVE RESEARCH: Working in the postpositivistic traditions

Pushkala Prasad. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2005. 341 p. Prasad wrote this book based on several years of teaching qualitative research methods at the doctoral level. The book sheds light on four different research traditions: interpretive, traditions relating to deep structure like semiotics and structuralism, critical streams of thinking, and the "post." Using the metaphor of qualitative research as a craft, Prasad provides a fresh and intense overview of qualitative inquiry.



REFLEXIVE METHODOLOGY: New Vistas for Qualitative Research

Mats Alvesson, Kaj Skoldberg. London: Sage, 2009. 351 p.

Rather than arguing in favor of qualitative methods, the authors contribute to what they call "reflexive" empirical research. They draw attention to the complex relationship between the processes of knowledge production, the various contexts in which these processes occur, and the involvement of the researcher. The book provides an overview of different research traditions, such as grounded theory, ethnomethodology, hermeneutics, critical theory, post-structuralism, and postmodernism, as well as approaches related to language/gender/power.




Corrine Glesne. Boston: Pearson Education Inc., 2006, 250 p.

Any qualitative inquiry is based on some underlying assumptions of the nature of the reality being examined, of what constitutes "valid" research, and which research methods are appropriate. Glesne balances the practicalities of conducting research and the theoretical debates that keep qualitative inquiry vibrant. The book is an excellent guide for those seeking to use interviews and observation. The author provides numerous exercises that help refine the skills of a qualitative researcher.



THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ACTION RESEARCH: Participative Inquiry and Practice

Peter Reason, Hilary Bradbury. London: Sage, 2011, 720 p.

Action research is a methodology for qualitative and participatory inquiry. It invites qualitative researchers to leave their comfort zone as observers or investigators to become "expect-actors," to paraphrase Augusto Boal, and produce knowledge with others. Participatory inquiry also challenges the "others" by engaging those who might leave the position of research "subjects" or intervention "recipients" to assume a position of inquiring co-researchers. The goal is to achieve social change.




Norman K. Denzin, Yvonnas S. Lincoln (Ed.). London: Sage, 5th Edition, 2018. 968 p.

This handbook, first published in 1993, progressively became well known and a landmark by presenting the state-ofthe- art theory and practice of qualitative inquiry. This updated version provides alternative views that range from social constructivism, critical studies, and postmodernism, to more participatory traditions. Top scholars worldwide contributed in synthesizing existing literature, defining the present, and shaping the future of qualitative research. It is a must-have book.


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