Dissolving Dualisms: How Two Positivists Engaged With Non-Positivist Qualitative Methodology

Carolyn Oliver, Susan Nesbit, Niamh Kelly


This is the story of how a chemical engineer and a medical microbiologist overcame their positivist training and deeply held disciplinary attitudes to engage with non-positivist qualitative methodology. Through a series of facilitated reflections they explored what helped and hindered their transition from positivist to non-positivist inquiry. To move forward they needed to acknowledge the extent and nature of the transition they were making, find metaphors to dissolve troubling dualisms, and balance a desire to reach out to others with the need to manage the very real sense of vulnerability that came with embracing subjectivity. Their experiences suggest that pragmatism may be a useful bridging framework for the growing number of academics from the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines turning to qualitative methodologists for help to move beyond positivist research.

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