Elucidating social science concepts: an interpretivist guide

New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group (2016)
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Abstract

This book is a guide to working with social science concepts. Concepts are the prisms through which we see the social world. They are foundational to the social science enterprise, and the quality of investigations hinges in part on how well researchers make use of them. Most social science concepts are drawn from ordinary language used in everyday ways; however, many social scientists "reconfigure" ordinary words to meet their research needs. They tinker with the meanings of words to fit their theoretical aims and make them precise, useful tools of measurement and comparison. This book examines social science concepts through an interpretivist lens with the aim of providing concrete conceptual guidance for future research. Specifically, this book seeks to: 1) identify characteristic dangers that attend the making and use of reconfigured concepts; 2) lay out ways in which a select number of interpretivist approaches have been used to mitigate these dangers; 3) introduce practical tools that rework these interpretivist approaches into explicit and useable research methods; 4) show concretely how these elucidation tools can be gainfully used by social scientists working both within and outside of the interpretivist tradition. It will be an essential guide for social science research.

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