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Methods of Linking Evidence and Practice
"Seeking a Philosophical Foundation for Human Sciences Research"

Writer: MATSUDA, Ryozo (College of Social Sciences Professor)   terms: 2014 9

Reexamining the premises of human service research

In the domain of human sciences there is a lot of research on the subject of “how to support who/what” itself, but when it comes to considering the methodology of how support research is conducted, and in particular consideration of this question on the basis of the philosophy of science, many unresolved issues remain. In an exploratory research project, “Methods of Linking Evidence and Practice (MLEP)” we are examining theories upon which human sciences research has been premised, from the fundamental question of what kind of ontology we take as an assumption when carrying out this research to practical questions of how we collect/evaluate/disseminate evidence.

Various research methods and their ontological foundations

In today’s human sciences research, along with case studies, many forms of inquiry, including qualitative research focusing on narrative accounts and quantitative research employing quantitative evaluation indices, are being conducted. Within qualitative research, various methodologies based on various theories such as the grounded theory approach and the phenomenological approach have been proposed and are being put into practice where this research is carried out. In quantitative research, the possibility of complex models closer to the reality of society is being pursued in conjunction with the development of mathematical models. In our project, along with examining each of these approaches we also consider the philosophical theories that serve as premises for research in the field of human sciences.

The potential of critical realism and its development in the domain of human sciences

We are particularly interested in examining a new theory called “critical realism” that has been developed over the past quarter-century (Bhaskar 1978, 1998; Danermark et al. 2002). Critical realism, pioneered by the British philosopher of science Roy Bhaskar, has influenced methodologists in various social sciences such as economics and political science, and debates over its validity and the pursuit of research methods based on it are now being conducted in earnest. The “International Association for Critical Realism (IACR)” has also been established. The MLEP collaborates with a project on critical realism at the Institute of Humanities, Human and Social Sciences.

In my opinion, critical realism views the objects of scientific studies as an entity within an open world that is a complex system, and scientific investigations as processes of exploring them with ontological distinction between empirical, actual and real domains. This approach asserts the importance of not simply limiting inquiry to a fixed method but synthesizing various methods for explaining reality. Interest in critical realism theory is also gradually increasing in areas of human sciences such as nursing, and we plan to analyze this state of affairs and identify and address issues in these domains.


  • Bhaskar, R. (1978) A Realist Theory of Science. Hassocks, Harvester Press.
  • Bhaskar, R. (1998) The Possibility of Naturalism. 3rd ed. London, Routledge.
  • Danermakr, Berth, et al. (2002) Explaining Society: Critical Realism in the Social sciences, Routledge.

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