Analysis of Generative Mechanisms

Journal of Critical Realism 10 (1):60-79 (2010)
Abstract
The focus of this article is the analysis of generative mechanisms, a basic concept and phenomenon within the metatheoretical perspective of critical realism. It is emphasized that research questions and methods, as well as the knowledge it is possible to attain, depend on the basic view – ontologically and epistemologically – regarding the phenomenon under scrutiny. A generative mechanism is described as a trans empirical but real existing entity, explaining why observable events occur. Mechanisms are mostly possible to grasp only indirectly by analytical work (theory-building), based however on empirical observations. In order to achieve such an explanatory analysis, five methodological steps are suggested and discussed, among them abduction and retroduction. These steps are illustrated throughout by examples drawn from empirical research regarding social work practice. The article is concluded with a discussion of the need for knowledge of generative mechanisms
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