Carspecken's critical methodology – A theoretical assessment


This paper builds on the authors' earlier introduction to Carspecken's highly theorized 'critical qualitative research' methodology, also referred to as 'critical ethnography', and reviews its diverse theoretical origins.

In particular, it briefly reviews the contribution of philosophical pragmatism, critical social theory, phenomenology, and the expressivism of J. G. Herder. It goes on to describe and assess the extent to which Carspecken successfully integrates these in order to create a coherent theoretical foundation for research, and outlines the virtues and weaknesses that characterise his methodology.

Through an appeal to pragmatic philosophy, Carspecken sets aside the host of theoretical problems raised by his eclecticism, and for researchers similarly unmoved by theoretical anomalies and contradictions, his methodology offers a potentially productive, flexible approach to critical ethnographic research.


Colin Holmes
Adjunct Professor, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Nutrition, James Cook University, Townsville QLD

Wendy Smyth
School of Nursing, Nutrition and Midwifery, James Cook University, Townsville QLD


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critical ethnography; qualitative methodology; Carspecken; critical qualitative methodology; critical qualitative research


PP: 146 - 154

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