What am I doing?

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I am so confused what approach I have used (positivist/constructavist, anything else!?)

My study has basically been interviewing people and then looking for themes - it is exploratory so I am not confirming themes, but finding them for the very first time.

I think I am using a positivist approach BUT the interviews are with homosexuals, so i want to say that i am trying to be reflexive and use a gay second coder - so I am not putting my own interpretation on things. So surely its constructavist!??

So confused - can anyone help me (without too many books!)


Hey Sneaks,

To me this sounds totally positivist, I fail to see how a gay second coder would make it constructivist per se.

I'm not sure I fully understand what your approach is but I'd present it as positivist to begin with. Then, the problem with that is it is hardly sufficient in itself in social studies, first because the minute you start to interprete your results you normally get away from positivism (you're only human after all), and second because Social Sciences tend to disregard "pure" positivism.

What kind of use do you make with the data you've collected?

ONE book I would recommend as an introduction is "Dictionary of Critical Theory" by David Macey (Penguin). It is simplistic so don't buy it. Plan on spending an afternoon at Borders and read from there (that's what I do!). Check the entries, and some from the undergrad literature around it. There are lots of very simple, very short dictionaries of critical theory and research methods for undergrads anyaway. then just jot down a few approaches you feel may be yours and investigate these further, just to make sure you are right.

Hope that helps a bit :$

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Thanks for the reply!

I think the rest of the thesis is positivist so would fit better if it was! The only reason I thought maybe there was a bit of constructivism in there is because I am assuming that someone else (i.e. someone from a homosexual background) will interpret the data differently - and therefore I am 'constructing' the social meaning - so confused!

I have an image in my mind of two angry examiners shouting at me in my Viva over this, so want to make sure I am solid ground with it!



I'm working within a critical constructionist framework and this whole issue is one I have struggled with. It can get so confusing!! What methodology are you using? Sometimes the methodology can help when deciding your philosophical stance. I'm using a form of critcal discourse analysis so that automatically defined my stance. The constructionist issue doesn't mean though that you are constructing the meaning, but rather that reality is made up of various constructions - e.g. constructions shaped by history, gender, culture etc. I can't think of any 'simple' texts that would help, but Ken Gergen's work (esp. Social psychology as history. (1973) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26, 309-320.) helps define the constructionist stance. Hope that helps!

L x

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Well, I am using semi-strcutred interviews, and am using template analysis, which can be used from a positivist or a constructavist approach which is very annoying. For my second chpater I am also re-analysing the same interviews with a different sort of methodology which is definitely positivist. I suppose I should bite the bullet and ask my supervisor but would rather work it out myself as I am in my third year now and really should have done all this already!


Hi there,

first of all, there is no such thing as a "homosexual background" - and yes, you could get yourself in trouble for making this rather essentialist (and quite othering) assumption that the sexuality of the second coder will impact radically on the findings (after all, his sexuality will only be one aspect of the experience/ standpoint he's bringing to the table!). There is a lot of work within sociology of sexualities looking at issues around epistemologies/standpoint which might help you clarify your thinking on that issue:

Almack, K. 2008. “Women Parenting Together: A reflexive account of the ways in which the researcher's identity and experiences may impact on the processes of doing research.” Sociological Research Online 13(1).
Weston, K. 2004. “Fieldwork in gay and lesbian communities.” In Approaches to qualitative research: A reader on theory and practice, edited by S. N. Hesse-Biber and P.Leavy, pp. 198-205. New York: Oxford University Press.
Fawcett, B. and J. Hearn. 2004. “Researching others: epistemology, experience, standpoints and participation.” International Journal of Social Research Methodology 7(3): 201-18.
Homfray, M. 2008. “Standpoint, Objectivity, and Social Construction: Reflections from the Study of Gay and Lesbian Communities.” Sociological Research Online 13(1).
Harding R & Peel E. (2007) Surveying sexualities: Internet research with non-heterosexuals. Feminism & Psychology, 17(2),277-285.

hope that helps!

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Hi Annie. Thanks for the post - I'm actually not using homosexuality, but another demographic characteristic that I didn't really want to disclose, as it would immediately identify me!