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Abduction is an approach to theory-building that involves identifying puzzles that the researcher seeks to engage with by participating in and observing social life and engaging with existing theory.



Affective (or ‘affect’) is a broad, encompassing term that is understood here to refer to the capacities of entities to physically, psychologically, emotionally or socially change their state. This usage is based on new materialist theory; it focuses attention on how matter changes through intra-actions enabled by assemblages. The emphasis here is on flows and entanglements that connect human and non-human entities.


Appropriation is taking something for one’s own use.


See axiology.


Axiology refers to the importance of values – aesthetic, ethical and epistemic – in shaping processes and practices of producing knowledge through research.



Bias is a term associated with the positivist paradigm that refers to a lack of objectivity or neutrality in research practice. Within this paradigm, it is treated as something that should be minimised or eliminated in order to enhance the truthfulness of research findings.




Colonialism is the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over someone else’s land, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. It operates discursively to affect the thoughts and practices of the coloniser, the colonised and their descendants.

community of practice

A community of practice is a group of people with a shared set of practices, who learn from each other.


Core/periphery is a concept that refers to the division of the world into two unequal parts: the core, represented by developed countries of the global north, and a periphery, comprising developing countries in the global south.


Craft is understood here as a way of thinking about research as a creative, improvised and skilful practice. This provides a counternarrative to the scientistic notion of research as the mastery of technique (see scientific method).

cultural imperialism

Cultural imperialism employs the logic that one cultural group is more ‘civilised’ than another, with a view to gaining or maintaining unequal power relations between the two.




Decolonisation is the process of removing colonial control over particular land, culture and people.


Developmentalism is a market-based economic approach to supporting ‘less developed’ economies and regions to become ‘more developed’. It is based on the assumption that all ‘developing economies’ should follow the dominant ideals of economic progress developed by (Western) economies in the global north.



Empowerment refers to seeking to mediate, ameliorate and potentially overcome unequal power relations, and to develop practices and relationships where power is equally shared.


Encounters are understood here as the means through which things come into being-becoming through intra-action.



Epistemology (or ‘epistemological’) refers to philosophical assumptions that are made about how knowledge is produced.



A field is a sociological concept developed by Pierre Bourdieu to define the space in which particular social and cultural groups are positioned and enact their practices. It is a commonly accepted term in empirical social and cultural research to define the boundaries of where the researcher conducts their study – their fieldwork.


global north

Global north is a term that is used to signal power relations related to colonialism and imperialism that have positioned the countries of Western Europe and North America in a dominant relationship of oppression and exploitation in relation to countries in the rest of the world, referred to as the global south.

global south

Global south is a term that is used to signal power relations related to colonialism and imperialism that have positioned the countries of the non-Western world in a subordinate relationship through oppression and exploitation perpetrated by countries in the global north.



Hybridity shows how cultural identities become obscured and undermined through colonised subjects’ mimicry of the coloniser.



See imperialism.


Imperialism is an ideology of empire-building that informs policies to enact sovereign rule over another nation-state or territory. Imperialism is enacted through colonialism.

indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples hold a connection to a particular territory that pre-dates colonisation of that land. Also referred to as First Nations, Native or Aboriginal peoples, indigenous peoples consider themselves the original custodians of that land.


Induction is an approach to theory-building based on the observation of patterns, recurrences and themes in data. It is often associated with qualitative research, and the grounded theory approach in particular.



Interpretivism is an epistemological perspective that assumes that:

  • meaning is socially constructed by actors through situated practice
  • knowledge about the social world is generated through seeking to understand these meaning-making practices.



Intersubjectivity refers here to the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual interconnections between people that determine who they are and link them together, individually and collectively.


Isomorphism is a term associated with institutional theory that seeks to explain the tendency for organisations to conform to ideal types. Mimetic isomorphism occurs when organisations imitate the practices of other organisations that they perceive to be successful, particularly in climates of uncertainty. Normative isomorphism arises as a consequence of mimetic isomorphism, as these convergent patterns become increasingly normalised and prescribed.


legitimate peripheral participation

Legitimate peripheral participation is a situated, experiential learning practice where an individual learns particular practices from others through observation and participation.


Listening is understood here as a way of being in the world that relies on all the senses.



Methodology (or ‘methodological’) refers to the overall approach implied by the researchers’ choice of particular methods, in combination with their theoretical orientation and the research questions that are asked.


Methods are the cultural practices, norms and values that are accepted within a given research community as appropriate ways of doing research.


Mimicry is a term used by postcolonial theorists to refer to the ways in which colonised subjects are expected to emulate the practices of the coloniser in ways that position them as always incomplete.




Neo-colonialism refers to ongoing processes of political, economic and cultural domination that are related to the historical legacy of colonisation (see also colonialism).


Neo-positivism refers to research that involves collecting and analysing qualitative data but is based on a positivist, rather than an interpretive, epistemology. It is characterised by the use of criteria associated with the positivist paradigm to evaluate research quality; for example, by using terms such as ‘validity’, ‘member-checking’ or ‘rigor’ in ways that reflect an underlying realist ontology and a commitment to scientific method.




Occularcentric refers to the privileging of vision above other senses (touch, hearing, smell and taste) as a basis for knowing and understanding the world.


See ontology.


Ontology (or ‘ontological’) refers to the philosophical assumptions that inform our understanding of what is real.



Othering is the problematic practice of positioning one’s self in relation to an ‘Other’ in ways that suggest that they are inferior. It positions the Other as an outsider: someone different distinguished by their embodiments and/or language.



Paradigm, understood as a set of accepted beliefs, values, assumptions and techniques that determine what researchers choose to study, how they study it and how research findings are interpreted.

participant observation

Participant observation is a research method where the researcher observes the everyday lives and work of participants to understand how they make sense of them. This typically involves living and working with participants for extended periods.



Positionality is a term used by qualitative researchers to reflect on the extent to which a researcher’s identity and lived experience enables sufficient identification with participants to enable meaningful engagement and shared understanding.


Positivism is an epistemological perspective that is aligned with the scientific method. It is associated with a realist ontology and deductive theory-building through the empirical testing of hypotheses in order to produce objective knowledge that is presumed to be generalisable.


See positivism.



Postcolonialism is the process of (re)building sovereignty and self-governance after colonial rule (see also colonialism).


Post-positivism refers to a group of methodological and theoretical perspectives that reject the logic of positivism as a basis for human inquiry.




Reciprocity is a principle that characterises research as a mutually beneficial exchange between researcher and participants who recognise each other as moral beings and enforce on each other adherence to an agreed upon set of moral norms.


In research, reflexivity refers to the researchers’ willingness to see knowledge as shaped by values, norms and situated practices of knowledge production, and to account for this in how they conduct and present themselves and their research.


Relationalities is a term used by new materialist scholars to signal the entanglements or web of relationships that constitute our being-becoming in the world.


Representations are the portrayals of particular encounters, events, situations, moments or people.


scientific method

Scientific method is understood here as a master narrative that is based on modernist, Enlightenment values of scientific neutrality and objectivity. It is closely associated with a popular (although inaccurate) view of how knowledge is produced the natural sciences. The scientific method is often positioned as the ‘gold standard’ and used to discipline forms of social inquiry, including those based on post-positivism. Unreflexive or zealous application of the scientific method leads to ‘scientism’: principles and practices developed in the natural sciences are applied in areas of inquiry where their application is inappropriate and detrimental.


Self-reflexivity is a way for researchers to question things that they might otherwise take for granted, such as choices and decisions they make during the research process.

Statement of Participation

A Statement of Participation demonstrates successful completion of an online module and your interest in the subject. It can be used to demonstrate your commitment to your ongoing continuing professional development. It does not usually carry any formal credit towards a qualification, because it is not subject to the same rigour as formal assessment.


A subaltern is someone whose history has been erased through colonial power (see also colonialism).



When applied to the production of knowledge, uncertainty offers a way of:

  • problematising modernist, rationalist assumptions about knowledge as progress
  • destabilising power relations that position knowing as a form of control.



Verisimilitude is used by qualitative, interpretive researchers to refer to the need for research to be ‘true to life’ by reflecting common-sense understandings of human experience.


walking methodologies

Walking methodologies involve walking and talking with participants as they move through a landscape that is significant to them and make connections with their surroundings.

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