Research methodologies

Research methodologies:

Two major research philosophies or methodologies have been identified in the Western tradition of science: positivist or scientific, which is quantitative in character; and interpretivist or anti-positivist, which is qualitative in character. In the context of narrative environments, a third, performative, paradigm is relevant, which is active, generative and dialogic in character. In recent years, a fourth paradigm might be said to have emerged, post-qualitative research, in which the researcher cannot avoid discussing their implication in the ‘object’ of research, implying a necessary self and relational analysis.

Positivist paradigm 

Positivists believe that:

  • reality is stable and can be observed and described from an objective viewpoint, without interfering with the phenomena being studied;
  • phenomena should be isolated and that observations should be repeatable; and
  • predictions can be made on the basis of the previously observed and explained realities and their inter-relationships. (Davison, 1998)

Interpretivist paradigm 

Interpretivists contend that only through the subjective interpretation of and intervention in reality can that reality be fully understood. The study of phenomena in their natural environment is key to the interpretivist philosophy, together with the acknowledgement that scientists cannot avoid affecting those phenomena they study. They admit that there may be many interpretations of reality, but maintain that these interpretations are in themselves a part of the scientific knowledge they are pursuing. (Davison, 1998).

Performative paradigm

Under the performative paradigm, perception takes place  in the midst of social cognition. The performative paradigm assumes an enactive intersubjectivity. Social cognition emerges from embodied social interaction or, in Merleau-Ponty’s term, from intercorporeality (cf). (Fuchs, 2009).

While the representational idiom of the sciences of modernity is an epistemological enterprise geared towards the production of theory, the performative paradigm of cybernetics is instead a practice, including theory and other kinds of account, which looks at the diversity of its components and actors and constructs a view of the world capable of accounting for such motley assemblages. (Fazi, 2011)

The performative paradigm incorporates an enactive approach. From an enactive point of view, organisms do not passively receive information from their environment which they then translate into internal representations. Rather, they actively participate in the generation of meaning. Thus, a cognitive being’s world is not a pre-given external realm represented by the brain; it is the result of a ‘dialogue’ between the sense-making activity of an agent and the ‘responses’ from its environment (Fuchs, 2009) or ‘affordances’ in the environment, as discussed by J.J. Gibson.

Post-Qualitative paradigm

This might also be termed the ‘ontological turn’. It is not simply about the researcher knowing about something but about the researcher being embedded within the apparatus by means of which knowledge is generated and validated. Patti Lather (2016) suggests that this kind of research is about the nature of the real and how to recover footing in a mind-independent reality where things talk back (DeLanda, 2010: 47).

For examples of performative research in art and design, see:

Bolt, B. 2006. A Performative paradigm for the creative arts? Working Papers in Art and Design, (5).
Available at:
Accessed on 18 April 2013.

Haseman, B. 2006. A Manifesto for performative research. Media International Australia, (118), pp.98–106.
Available at: Accessed on 18 April 2013.

Markussen, T. 2005. Practising performativity: transformative moments in research.
European Journal of Women’s Studies, 12 (3), pp.329–344.
Available at:
Accessed March 25 2013.

For a discussion of the performative methodology in practice, in this case an examination of a healthcare team, see:

Sommerfeldt, S.C., Caine, V. and Molzahn, A. (2014). Considering performativity as methodology and phenomena. Forum: Qualitative Social Analysis, 15 (2). Available from [Accessed 10 February 2016].


Davison, R.M. (1998). Research methodology. In An Action Research Perspective of Group Support Systems: How to Improve Meetings in Hong Kong [PhD Thesis]. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong. Available at:

DeLanda, Manuel. (2010). Deleuze: History and science. New York, NY: Atropos Press

Fazi, M.B. (2011). Cybernetics in action. Computational Culture, (November). Available at:

Fuchs, T. and Jaegher, H., (2009). Enactive intersubjectivity: participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 8(4), pp.465–486. Available at:

Lather, P. (2016). Top Ten+ List: (Re)Thinking Ontology in (Post)Qualitative Research. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, 16 (2), 125–131. Available from [Accessed 18 July 2017].

edited 18 July, 2017 by Allan Parsons