This book is an illustrative guide to doing critical social research. It is not concerned with simply describing techniques of data collection that may be pertinent to a critical approach. Rather, through the exploration of a large number of case studies of critical social research it sets out and then explores the nature of critical social research "methodology". Methodology is viewed in this book as the interface between methodic practice, substantive theory and epistemological underpinnings. Epistemology is used here to refer to the presuppositions about the nature of knowledge and of science that inform practical enquiry. Critical social research is underpinned by a critical-dialectical perspective which attemps to dig beneath the surface of historically specific, oppressive, social structures. This is contrasted with positivistic concerns to discover the factors that cause observed phenomena or to build grand theoretical edifices, and with phenomenological attempts to interpret the meanings of social factors or attempt close analysis of symbolic processes. Method refers to the way empirical data is collected and ranges from asking questions, through reading documents, to observation of both controlled and uncontrolled situations. While some methods lend themselves more readily to certain epistemological perspectives, no method of data collection is inherently positivist, phenomenological or critical. Substantive theory refers to a set of propositions that offer a coherent account of aspects of the social world.
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