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John Creswell's Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Chapter Two

Updated on April 11, 2013

In Chapter Two of Creswell’s book, Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design, the author emphasizes the affect our personal beliefs and philosophical assumptions can have on our specific research. He discusses how our beliefs, developed by past experiences, can shape our research questions, the approach we use towards our topic of interest, and even the way we pursue our research. Not only do we need to be aware of these beliefs and assumptions before beginning our research, but we also need to be sure to include these in the discussion portion of our papers. With a knowledge of the personal stance we have taken in our research, readers will be better able to understand our perspectives and how they may have influenced our writing.

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In order to better understand our own philosophical assumptions, the author includes a table (2.1) outlining the research process to help us identify philosophy and theory in the research process. He then outlines the importance of understanding philosophy so that we may better include our own into our research project. In his text, Creswell identifies the four basic assumptions that every researcher makes when they undertake a qualitative research project, which are a) ontology, or how the issue relates to the nature of reality, b) epistemology, or being aware of how knowledge claims are justified by staying as close to the participants as possible during the study in order to get firsthand information about their knowledge, c) axiology, or the role of values in research, and d) methodology, or the basic procedure used in qualitative research. Writing your philosophical assumptions into your qualitative study is as simple as talking about these four assumptions thoroughly in the Methods section of your paper, making sure to detail out how they are shown in your study.

“The philosophical assumptions are embedded within interpretive frameworks that qualitative researchers use when they conduct a study [being the] key premises” (Gasque, 2010, p. 22-23) on which the research is based. Some of these interpretive frameworks are postpositivism, social constructivism, transformative frameworks, postmodern perspectives, pragmatism, feminist theories, critical theory and critical race theory, queer theory, and disability theories. For the purpose of brevity, let’s briefly review each of these theories:

  • In practice, postpositivist researchers view inquiry as a series of logically related steps, believe in multiple perspectives from participants rather than a single reality, and espouse rigorous methods of qualitative data collection and analysis.
  • In social constructivism, individuals seek understanding of the world in which they live and work. They 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 narrow the meanings into a few categories or ideas.
  • The basic tenet of this transformative framework is that knowledge is not neutral and it reflects the power and social relationships within society, and thus the purpose of knowledge construction is to aid people to improve society. These individuals include marginalized groups such as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons, queers, and societies that need a more hopeful, positive psychology and resilience.
  • Postmodernism might be considered a family of theories and perspectives that have something in common. The basic concept is that knowledge claims must be set within the conditions of the world today and in the multiple perspectives of class, race, gender, and other group affiliations.
  • Individuals holding an interpretative framework based on pragmatism focus on the outcomes of the research-the actions, situations, and consequences of inquiry-rather than antecedent conditions. There is a concern with applications-‘what works’-and solutions to problems. Thus, instead of a focus on methods, the important aspect of research is the problem being studied and the questions asked about this problem.

  • Feminist research approaches center on and make problematic womens’ diverse situations and the institutions that frame those situations. Research topics may include a postcolonial thought related to forms of feminism depending on the context of nationalism, globalization, and diverse international contexts, and work by or about specific groups of women such as standpoint theories about lesbians, women with disabilities and women of color.
  • Critical theory perspectives are concerned with empowering human beings to transcend the constraints placed on them by race, class, and gender. The critical researcher might design, for example, an ethnographic study to include changes in how people think; encourage people to interact, form networks, being activists, and form action-oriented groups; and help individuals examine the conditions of their existence.
  • Critical race theory focuses theoretical attention on race and how racism is deeply embedded within the framework of American society.
  • Queer theory is characterized by a variety of methods and strategies related to individual identity. As a body of literature continuing to evolve, it explores the myriad complexities of the construct, identity, and how identities reproduce and ‘perform’ in social forums.
  • Disability inquiry addresses the meaning of inclusion in schools and encompasses administrators, teachers, and parents who have children with disabilities.

(Creswell, 2013, p. 23-34, italics mine)


At the end of the chapter, the author discussed the practice of using social justice interpretive frameworks in qualitative research by listing the common elements that can be identified in the papers that used them. The research questions were aimed at assisting researchers in truly understanding the specific problems and issues involved, the researchers focused on respecting individual differences in their participants rather than using typical categories like men and women, researchers were aware of their own beliefs and assumptions entering the project and admitted that the information that resulted belonged to both the researchers and the participants, and finally, the research incited some form of change or reform. The author finally discussed the link that was found between philosophy and interpretive frameworks briefly discussed how to connect the two in several ways in a qualitative project.

The author gave his readers many different perspectives to choose from and consider when deciding on a research topic and a direction to head with it. Not only did he reveal a variety of interpretive frameworks, but he encouraged his readers to take a personal stance within their papers and defend it linking their personal philosophies and beliefs with an interpretive framework supporting them. This is a much more personal way of compiling research than anything any of my education has ever prepared me for. This text will definitely be a learning experience like no other for me.


American Psychological Association. (2012). APA style. Retrieved from

Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design (Third edition). Los Angeles, California: Sage Publications.

Gasque, A.W. (Ed.). (2010). Concise rules of APA style: The official pocket style guide from the American Psychological Association (Sixth edition). Washington, District of Columbia: American Psychological Association.

Ober, Scott. (1995). Contemporary Business Communication. 2nd Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Owl Purdue Writing Lab. (2012). Retrieved from

VandenBos, G.R. (Ed.). (2007). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, District of Columbia: American Psychological Association.

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