Questionnaires in realist research: A case study of rural small-scale industry in Ghana

Wendy Olsen, Thandie M. Hara, Sampson Edusah

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The aim of this chapter is to review realist approaches to the use of the survey method. The first three sections review general issues related to the survey method from a realist perspective. There is room for debate among variants of realism, some of which have much in common with traditions of statistical inference. However open systems and a complex assumption about 'what exists' are two aspects which create a need for a new set of statistical practices (ie a realist statistical discourse). This chapter begins to undertake this challenging project, looking at the pre-survey, data-analysis, and interpretation stages of quantitative social research. Near the end of section 4, a case study from Ghana applies realist statistics to the Rural Small Scale Industries sector (RSSI). The sampling procedure used in that study is critically reviewed. In section 5, we examine how one might do regression with such cross-sectional data. We compare traditional methods with realist methods. In section 6, an innovative approach to the connections between description and involvement is set out. A dialectic of description and involvement is a commonly held epistemic tenet both among critical realist and feminist epistemologists. In section 7 we summarise the strengths and weaknesses of the case study material from this dialectical perspective. Finally, the chapter concludes with some implications of a dialectical approach to method. Specifically we propose that fallible descriptions are a useful outcome for realist economic researchers using statistical methods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplied Economics and the Critical Realist Critique
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)020398787X, 9780203987872
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2003


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