Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods



Publisher Name

Oxford University Press


This chapter reviews some of the major overarching philosophical approaches to qualitative inquiry and includes some historical background for each. Taking a “big picture” view, the chapter discusses post-positivism, constructivism, critical theory, feminism, and queer theory and offers a brief history of these approaches; considers the ontological, epistemological, and axiological assumptions on which they rest; and details some of their distinguishing features. In the last section, attention is turned to the future, identifying three overarching, interrelated, and contested issues with which the field is being confronted and will be compelled to address as it moves forward:retaining the rich diversity that has defined the field, the articulation of recognizable standards for qualitative research, and the commensurability of differing approaches.




81-98, "Philosophical Approaches to Qualitative Research" by Renée Spencer, Julia M. Pryce, and Jill Walsh in The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods edited by P. Leavy, 2014, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press

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