Qualitative Researcher, 13 pp 2-4

In this short paper we take issue with some recent developments in the design and application of qualitative research which, to our mind, are indicative of a reductionist tendency. As discussed previously (Atkinson, Delamont, and Housley, 2009 Housley and Smith, Forthcoming), ‘qualitative methods’ are increasingly deployed across disciplinary boundaries and are to be found in multiple fields of inquiry. Despite the proliferation of qualitative research methods indicating a triumph of sorts, our concern lies with the ‘post-disciplinary vacuum’ in which qualitative methods are now routinely employed. This development affords a space from which ‘innovation1 ’ is consistently driven without recourse to disciplinary questions and first principles. We, of course, are not against innovation in itself; however, the problem remains that the full contribution of qualitative research cannot be realised when sociological inquiry is reduced to a narrow focus on practices or experience without consideration of social organisational features in relation to different orders of action. In what follows we discuss a series of ‘methodological innovation types’ that we associate with a reductionist tendency. These are articulated in terms of three waves which, although not strictly chronological, are understood to display a typological progression that can be observed in recent, rehashed and resurrected trends in qualitative innovation.