Workshops: Introducing Critical Realism

The Critical Realism Network organises free online learning opportunities open to all. The Introducing Critical Realism for Social Science Research workshop series is intended as an introduction to Critical Realism, aiming to support PhD students and early career researchers who would like to learn about critical realism and its use in social research. 

This series consists of six live online sessions taking place fortnightly. The first series is planned to run from October 2021 over Zoom. We plan to run each session multiple times at different times of day to cater to different time zones. Each session involves:

  1. Engaging with some short introductory learning materials prior to the session
  2. Attending a live online session facilitated by an academic from the Critical Realism Network. These sessions will involve some delivered content (typically the first 15 minutes or so) and some interactive activities/opportunities for discussion. They will be 60-90 minutes long, depending on audience interaction.
  3. Signposting to further learning materials after the session

You will be able to sign up for the live online sessions in September. Alternatively, feel free to browse the learning materials listed below in your own time; we will leave them on this page for as long as they are useful. After each session we will also make videos of the delivered content available on our YouTube channel. We have also set up an online forum where you are welcome to discuss the issues raised in these sessions and the associated materials, whether you are attending the live sessions or not.

Session 1: Ontology

What is ontology, and why does it matter for my research?

We recommend that attendees engage with these introductory materials prior to the live-online session:

  • Gorski, P. S. (2013). “What is Critical Realism? And Why Should You Care?” Contemporary Sociology, 42(5), 658–670. Available here.
  • A short guide to ontology and epistemology: why everyone should be a critical realist, by Tom Fryer. Available here.

We recommend that attendees engage with these further learning materials after the session: 

  • The Nature of Social Reality: Issues in Social Ontology, by Yannick Slade-Caffarel. Available here.
  • The Critical Realist Notion of Depth Stratification, a short video produced by the Asia Pacific Critical Realism Network. Available here.

Session 2: Epistemology

What is epistemology, and why does it matter for my research?

We recommend these introductory materials prior to the live-online session:

  • Critical Realism Essentials: Judgemental Rationality, a short video produced by the Asia Pacific Critical Realism Network. Available here.

We recommend these further learning materials after the session: 

  • Six Epistemic Challenges for Ethnographers, by Tim Rutzou. Available here
  • Where Constructionism and Critical Realism Converge by Al Amoudi and Willmott. Available here.

Session 3: Methodological Choices

What are the implications of Critical Realism for my methodology?

We recommend these introductory materials prior to the live-online session:

  • Inference and inquiry. A short video from the CR Network, available here

We recommend these further learning materials after the session: 

  • Method in Comparative Political Social Science: Converging on Critical Realism? By Simeon Newman. Available here.
  • Critical Realism and Realist Evaluation, an overview for everyone, by Alex Clark. Available here
  • Mukumbang FC, Marchal B, Van Belle S, et al. (2019) Using the realist interview approach to maintain theoretical awareness in realist studies. Qualitative Research. Available here.

Session 4: Approaches to analysis 

How can Critical Realism help me interpret my findings and explain what’s going on in the world?

We recommend these introductory materials prior to the live-online session:

  • What is a good explanation? Aa short video from the CR Network, available here

We recommend these further learning materials after the session:  

  • Maxwell, J. A. (2004). Causal explanation, qualitative research, and scientific inquiry in education. Educational researcher, 33(2), 3-11. Available here
  • Wiltshire, G., & Ronkainen, N. (2021). A realist approach to thematic analysis: making sense of qualitative data through experiential, inferential and dispositional themes. Journal of Critical Realism, 1-22. Available here

Session 5: Critical Realism as a framework

How can Critical Realism be used to help me bring together other literature and theories?

We recommend these introductory materials prior to the live-online session:

  • Danermark. B, Ekstrom, M. Jakobsen, L. and Karlsson, JC (2002) Explaining society: Critical realism in the social sciences, London: Routledge, Chapter 5, ‘Theory in the methodology of social science’. Note that this has become chapter 6 in the second edition (2019): available here.
  • Theory in Sociology: a longer video interview with Frederic Vandenberghe, available here

We recommend these further learning materials after the session: 

  • Porter S. (2015) Realist evaluation: an immanent critique, Nursing Philosophy, 16(4):239-51: available here
  • Vincent, S. and Pagan, V. (2019) Entrepreneurial agency and field relations: A Realist Bourdieusian Analysis. Human Relations, 72(2):188-216: available here, or here for free access

Session 6: Key concepts

What key concepts in Critical Realist tradition should I be aware of and seek to learn more about?

We recommend these introductory materials prior to the live-online session:

  • Elder-Vass, D. (forthcoming). Critical realism. In G. Delanty & S.P. Turner (eds.), Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory. Available here.

We recommend these further learning materials after the session: 

  • Existential Intransitivity, a short video produced by the Asia Pacific Critical Realism Network. Available here.
  • Open-systemic causality, a short video produced by the Asia Pacific Critical Realism Network. Available here.