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21 FEBRUARY 2013

The Social Constructivist Worldview

"Social constructivism (often combined with interpretivism; see Mertens, 1998) is such a perspective, and it is typically seen as an approach to qualitative research. The ideas came from Mannheim and from works such as Berger and Luekmann's (1967) The Social Construction of Reality and Lincoln and Guba's (1985) Naturalistic Inquiry. More recent writers who have summarized this position are Lincoln and Guba (2000), Schwandt (2007), Neuman (2000), and Crotty (1998), among others. Social constructivists hold assumptions that individuals seek understanding of the world in which they live and work. Individuals develop subjective meanings of their experiences – meanings directed toward certain objects or things. These meanings are varied and multiple, leading the researcher to look for the complexity of views rather than narrowing meanings into a few categories or ideas. The goal of the research is to rely as much as possible on the participants' views of the situation being studied. The questions become broad and general so that the participants can construct the meaning of a situation, typically forged in discussions or interactions with other persons. The more open–ended the questioning, the better, as the researcher listens carefully to what people say or do in their life settings. Often these subjective meanings are negotiated socially and historically. They are not simply imprinted on individuals but are formed through interaction with others (hence social constructivism) and through historical and cultural norms that operate in individuals' lives. Thus, constructivist researchers often address the processes of interaction among individuals. They also focus on the specific contexts in which people live and work, in order to understand the historical and cultural settings of the participants. Researchers recognize that their own backgrounds shape their interpretation, and they position themselves in the research to acknowledge how their interpretation flows from their personal, cultural, and historical experiences. The researcher's intent is to make sense of (or interpret) the meanings others have about the world. Rather than starting with a theory (as in postpostivism), inquirers generate or inductively develop a theory or pattern of meaning."

(John Creswell, 2003)

John Creswell (2003). "Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches". (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.

TAGS

complexity of views • constructivist researcher • cultural experiences • Donna Mertens • Egon Guba • historical and cultural norms • historical and cultural settings • historical experiences • imprinted on individuals • interaction among individuals • interaction with othersinterpret meaningsinterpretationinterpretivismJohn CreswellKarl Mannheim • life contexts • life settings • Michael Crottyopen-ended questioningopen-ended questions • pattern of meaning • Peter Berger • postpostivism • qualitative researchsocial constructivismsocial science • subjective meanings • theory of meaning • Thomas Luckmann • Thomas Schwandt • William Neuman • work contextsYvonna Lincoln

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
20 DECEMBER 2012

How to design your research project

"What are your beliefs about how valid knowledge can be obtained? This will influence your approach to your research. If you are a positivist, for example, (who believes that valid knowledge can be obtained through a scientific approach), you are likely to choose a quantitative research method that begins with a theory and tests that theory. If you favour the social constructivist view that meaning is subjective, gained through interactions with others, you would be more likely to choose qualitative research methods that explores themes. Qualitative research is about generating theory and finding patterns of meaning."

(Centre for Academic Development and Quality, Nottingham Trent University)

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TAGS

Abbas Tashakkori • Anthony Onwuegbuzie • audiencebeliefs • Centre for Academic Development and Quality • data collection • epistemological approach • epistemological beliefs • epistemologyethical considerationsethical issues • existing theory • experimental designs • generating theory • interactions with others • John Creswell • Journal of Mixed Methods Research • Judith Bell • Mark Weinstein • Martyn Denscombe • Matt Henn • meaning is subjective • mixed methods • mixed methods research • new knowledge • new research methods • new theory • Nick Foard • non-experimental design • patterns of meaningpositivistqualitative research • quantitative research methods • research • research aims • research approachresearch contributionresearch designresearch disseminationresearch methodologyresearch projectresearch questions • research theory • scientific approach • social constructivistsocial sciencetriangulationvalid knowledge

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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