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  • Series: Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series x
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Frederic S. Lee and Bruce Cronin

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Jamie Morgan

This chapter provides an introductory account of the core elements of a generic critical realist social ontology for economics. The focus on social ontology in critical realism puts forward a position based on causal powers inhering in entities (such as structures and agents), complex interactions between causal powers in terms of arising events, and a consequent account of systems as ‘open’. According to its proponents, this social ontology is implicit within heterodox economic positions but is antithetical to mainstream economics. This is because mainstream economics pursues theorizations and applications that reduce to closed systems and typically assume and/or explore event regularities, often based on uses of mathematical models that are expressed in a deductive form. Critical realism’s great strength is that it provides a more plausibly realistic account of the economy as an intrinsic aspect of society; in so doing it ‘under-labours’ for heterodox approaches. However, in so far as it only under-labours, critical realism can also be developed in a variety of ways based on different issues for methods and methodology.

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Frederic S. Lee

This chapter articulates a relationship between critical realism and the method of grounded theory, arguing that this is particularly well suited for heterodox economic enquiry. Such an approach to theory creation and evaluation directly engages with mixed research methods (such as historical method, survey methods, participation observation method, analytical statistics, social network analysis, modeling, and cases), data triangulation, and historical theorization. Because critical realism is concerned with the social ontology of the domain of economics and the method of rounded theory promotes the use of mixed research methods and data triangulation, heterodox economics does not have a preference for a particular method or data.

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Rick Szostak

Scholars of interdisciplinarity stress the importance of ‘disciplinary perspective’, a mutually supportive set of theories, methods, subject matter, philosophical attitudes, concepts, and assessment guidelines that guide research in each discipline. Heterodox economics, with its emphasis on diverse methods, theories, and subject matter, can usefully be informed by the scholarship of interdisciplinarity. This chapter draws several implications for the practice of heterodox economics. Heterodox theories will often be justified best with recourse to heterodox methods. Likewise alternative methods are often called for when investigating variables usually ignored by economists. In turn the choice of a particular method influences the sort of theory and type of variables that will be engaged. Yet no method is perfect for exploring any question, and thus all economists should be (but generally are not) aware of the compensating strengths and weaknesses of different methods. These are briefly outlined, and their suitability for investigating particular theories and variables is discussed.

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Lynda Pickbourn and Smita Ramnarain

Qualitative and quantitative research methods are typically treated as distinct tools in economics research. This chapter explores the presumed analytical separation of these methods, questioning whether they are distinct from one another, or whether, in fact, they are interdependent and mutually informative avenues for social exploration. After reviewing the different arguments for and against the integration of these methods, we argue the latter: that is, that quantitative and qualitative research methods must each be, and are, necessarily related to the other in the construction of empirically grounded theory. In addition, if economic research is to adequately explain the complexities of social reality, both qualitative and quantitative methods can and should also be used in conjunction with one another (for instance, through data triangulation and case-study methods).

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Natalia Bracarense and A. Reeves Johnson

According to Frederic Lee, heterodox economics studies the social provisioning process. As a process implies movement through time, an understanding of history and historical change would seem necessary to study social provisioning. Living up to this claim, however, has proven to be difficult in practice. As a step towards overcoming these challenges, the present chapter argues that the agency–structure framework espoused by critical realists permits the use of genuinely historical methods and data. With the support of this argument, this chapter is devoted to an evaluation of research methods for an economics informed by history, and one that understands social change as the interaction between agents and social structures.

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Tiago Cardão-Pito

Survey methods aim at gathering and interpreting information about a specific population under study. These methods are rarely conducted in mainstream economic research. Fortunately, they are relatively more common in heterodox economic research. When properly implemented, they offer a productive framework to test and make inferences about concrete economic claims in actual populations. As survey methods allow studying real people, they provide effective research instruments. These methodologies can be used to question mainstream economic propositions and also to make new discoveries, formulate new concepts and theories, and test existing theories in heterodox economics. After contextualizing survey studies, and describing several heterodox economic papers that have used these methodologies, this chapter informs about key questions in research employing survey methods, such as: designing and planning the study, the population_sample relationship, the art of crafting survey questions, the psychology of answering questions, the most-used methods for data collection (mail-based, internet, telephone, and face-to-face based surveys), the survey response rate, the problem of non-response, and the analysis and reporting of findings.

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Amit Basole and Smita Ramnarain

This chapter examines the relevance of qualitative and ethnographic methods for the discipline of economics, especially in heterodox economic inquiry. Using examples such as Adam Smith and Ronald Coase, we argue that qualitative and ethnographic techniques have always informed the development of economic theory, but remain invisible in its presentation. In view of common objections to such work within economics, we discuss how these methods contribute to a greater understanding of real-world economic and social phenomena, power relations, and social hierarchy. We then discuss specific ethnographic techniques _ interviews, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation, non-participant observation, and document analysis – and their uses in economics, drawing on studies in both the mainstream and heterodox traditions. The chapter presents a typology of these studies, sorting them into five broad categories of research queries that are amenable to a qualitative approach. We conclude with a discussion of the ways in which ethnographic work may be encouraged within heterodoxy.

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Andrew Mearman

This chapter explores how heterodox economists might deploy experimental methods. It considers the basic form of the pure experiment and notes some key challenges to it. It then goes on to discuss alternative experimental designs, which are responses to the challenges of the pure experiment. The chapter then considers statistical analysis of experimental data.

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Michael J. Murray

The chapter seeks to inform readers of factor analysis as an analytical procedure for conducting heterodox economic research, particularly research conducted within a grounded theory_critical realist framework. The chapter enlightens the readers to analytical methods of model building suitable for social and behavioral research. Factor analysis is used many social science disciplines, including business, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, and is just beginning to penetrate the economic discipline. Factor analysis provides a toolkit for those who seek a broader understanding of social and economic phenomena in terms of its underlying social structure. The chapter contextualizes factor analysis within the heterodox economic approach of critical realist_grounded theory and discusses the various methods within factor analysis and conditions for their use.