Title: Qualitative research revisited: epistemology of a comprehensive approach

Authors: Léo-Paul Dana; Hervé Dumez

Addresses: Montpellier Research in Management, Montpellier Business School, 2300 avenue des Moulins, Montpellier, France ' i3-CRG, CNRS École polytechnique, Batiment Ensta, 828, Boulevard des Maréchaux, 91762 Palaiseau Cedex, France

Abstract: This paper explains why the term 'comprehensive research' appears to be more relevant than 'qualitative research'. Three great epistemological risks are outlined, as they relate to this type of approach: 1) the risk of abstract actors or beings of reason, as per David Emile Durkheim (1858-1917); 2) the risk of circularity, a concept of Karl Popper (1902-1994); 3) the risk linked to the phenomenon of equifinality, a concept introduced by Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901-1972). Our paper shows how to manage these risks, by determining the unit of analysis (abstract actors), by specifying in an independent manner, the theories in terms of social mechanisms and the material in terms of coding (to avoid circularity), expanding the exploration of plausible rival hypotheses, process tracing and counterfactual reasoning (equifinality). Finally, we explain the scientific contributions that can be expected from this kind of approach, such as highlighting mechanisms, building typologies and redefining concepts or theories.

Keywords: research methodology; epistemology; qualitative research; exploratory typology; comprehensive research; epistemological risks.

DOI: 10.1504/IJESB.2015.071822

International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 2015 Vol.26 No.2, pp.154 - 170

Received: 23 Jan 2015
Accepted: 08 Feb 2015

Published online: 19 Sep 2015 *

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