Rosaline Barbour draws on her extensive teaching experience to provide a clear, user-friendly introduction to the craft of doing qualitative research. Each chapter includes examples of real-life qualitative data and a range of exercises to help students get a feel for the process of generating and analysing qualitative data.

Qualitative Traditions: Epistemology and Ontology


  • This chapter outlines the major qualitative traditions, reviewing their disciplinary origins, their distinctive features and commonalities.
  • It seeks to locate qualitative research both historically and philosophically.
  • It sets out the debate about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research paradigms and also considers the points of convergence.
  • It then examines underlying assumptions about the nature of knowledge (epistemology) and how we can study the social world (ontology).
  • Finally, it reviews the potential offered by seeking to develop hybrid approaches which combine aspects of complementary but previously distinctive traditions.


The chapter starts by focusing on the key qualitative traditions – of symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, conversation and discourse analysis (incuding critical/Foucauldian discourse analysis) – outlining their main features, similarities and differences and showing how these ...

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