Building Across Fault Lines in Qualitative Research

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As the field of qualitative research has grown larger and the application of mixed methods has become common, methodological distinctions—and the core assumptions that underlie these distinctions—have faded in prominence. This article examines the epistemological, methodological, and methodical assumptions that define some of the fault lines between approaches to qualitative research. The metaphor of fault lines is introduced to highlight the shifting grounds within and across established traditions in qualitative research, as well as the ways in which researchers may respond to these dynamics. Included in this discussion will be the conflicting viewpoints regarding the epistemological position of the subject, as well as key points of contrast between empirical, rhetorical, and performative research. As a reference point for both designing and evaluating research in light of these distinctions, the term structural integrity is introduced. The implications of this term for the continued development of a rigorous human science are discussed.

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