A case for critical realism in the pursuit of interdisciplinarity and impact

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Abstract

In recent years, much social scientific scholarship in sport, exercise and health (SEH) hasrepudiated (post)positivist research and has instead persuasively argued in favour ofqualitative research from constructivist-interpretivist paradigmatic approaches. While thisscholarship has enriched the field in numerous ways, this paper contends that constructivistinterpretivistassumptions elicit a modus operandi which is inimical to the accomplishment oftwo associated contemporary research agendas: interdisciplinarity and impact. In seeking analternative philosophy of science, the purpose of this paper is to explore how critical realism(Bhaskar, 1975; 1979; 1989) – meta-theoretical position that has been somewhat absent todate in SEH research – might offer qualitative researchers a new conceptual framework withwhich greater interdisciplinarity and impact can be achieved. Two main critical realist claimsare introduced: (1) the epistemic fallacy can be avoided by adopting a stratified ontology andjudgemental rationality, and (2) social science would benefit from seeking causalexplanations and using a transformational model of social activity. By de-couplinginterpretive epistemologies from constructivist ontologies, it is argued that critical realismpermits greater methodological plurality and hence can help transcend persistentparadigmatic boundaries. Indeed, by adopting a realist social ontology and complex,emergent conception of causality, this paper suggests that critical realism permits andencourages impact by asking researchers to focus on explaining the enduring social relationsthat produce real-world problems. The paper concludes by pointing out the limitations ofcritical realism and highlighting other ways that interdisciplinarity and impact can similarlybe achieved.
LanguageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Early online date9 May 2018
DOIs
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2018

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interdisciplinarity
realism
ontology
Research
Sports
Research Personnel
Nimodipine
Social Sciences
philosophy of science
Health
health
causality
Causality
epistemology
rationality
social science

Cite this

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title = "A case for critical realism in the pursuit of interdisciplinarity and impact",
abstract = "In recent years, much social scientific scholarship in sport, exercise and health (SEH) hasrepudiated (post)positivist research and has instead persuasively argued in favour ofqualitative research from constructivist-interpretivist paradigmatic approaches. While thisscholarship has enriched the field in numerous ways, this paper contends that constructivistinterpretivistassumptions elicit a modus operandi which is inimical to the accomplishment oftwo associated contemporary research agendas: interdisciplinarity and impact. In seeking analternative philosophy of science, the purpose of this paper is to explore how critical realism(Bhaskar, 1975; 1979; 1989) – meta-theoretical position that has been somewhat absent todate in SEH research – might offer qualitative researchers a new conceptual framework withwhich greater interdisciplinarity and impact can be achieved. Two main critical realist claimsare introduced: (1) the epistemic fallacy can be avoided by adopting a stratified ontology andjudgemental rationality, and (2) social science would benefit from seeking causalexplanations and using a transformational model of social activity. By de-couplinginterpretive epistemologies from constructivist ontologies, it is argued that critical realismpermits greater methodological plurality and hence can help transcend persistentparadigmatic boundaries. Indeed, by adopting a realist social ontology and complex,emergent conception of causality, this paper suggests that critical realism permits andencourages impact by asking researchers to focus on explaining the enduring social relationsthat produce real-world problems. The paper concludes by pointing out the limitations ofcritical realism and highlighting other ways that interdisciplinarity and impact can similarlybe achieved.",
author = "Gareth Wiltshire",
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