Course: Qualitative Research Methods.

Qualitative Research Ontology Epistemology Ethics ENVS441
November 24, 2019

Lecturer: Morag Rose

Morag: 2nd year in Liverpool Uni

First degree: writing, broadcasting Uni of Leeds then worked in community development where research was vital to show what was working

MRes Social and Cultural Geography. Manchester Metropolitan University

PhD Urban Studies and Planning. Sheffield

Commnity Development Worker, Activist, Artist, Academic

Social science and different kinds of research

Research philosophy

Ontology -> Understanding of existence -> What is the nature of reality?

Epistemology -> Understanding of knowledge -> What can we know about the world?

Methodology -> System of methods -> How can we investigate the world?

“The whole point of philosophy – and here I reveal my own assumptions – is that there is no one right answer…”


eg. The City

Objectivism: A Physical Entity: size, population, transport structure

Realism: A Socio-economic complex: patterns of employment, housing, culture

Constructivism: a set of meanings for inhabitants: a place to work, live, travel


eg. Air Pollution

Positivism: measuring sources, types, quantities etc

Realism: exposing the economic forces which lead to air pollution

Interpretivism: exploring the community perceptions of air quality


~ Garrett, Bradley (2012). Place Hacking. PhD Thesis

Research design

Case Studies: 5 misunderstandings

  1. General, theoretical (context-independent) knowledge is more valuable than concrete, practical (context-dependent) knowledge.
  2. One cannot generalize on the basis of an individual case; therefore the case study cannot contribute to scientific development.
  3. The case study is most useful for generating hypotheses; that is, in the first stage of a total research process, whereas other methods are more suitable for hypothesis testing and theory building.
  4. The case study contains a bias toward verification, that is, a tendency to confirm the researcher’s preconceived notions
  5. It is often difficult to summarize and develop general propositions and theories on the basis of speicif case studies. Flyvberg 2006.

Sampling strategies

Barriers to integration: