Methodological Precision in Qualitative Research: Slavish Adherence or “Following the Yellow Brick Road?”

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Qualitative research has withstood many challenges on its way to becoming a credible research paradigm, though it remains the case that the paradigm contains ongoing methodological debates. One such debate is, for want of a better expression, the necessity for methodological precision (fundamentalism or purity). While it is accurate that research methodologies are somewhat fluid in that they are refined over time, it is equally correct that some researchers fall into a trap in claiming such fluidity is the reason for their imprecise use of a research methodology. Given that scientific knowledge is inextricably linked to the practice of method (at the very least for those who subscribe to positivist, postpositivist and to some extent modernist views) and that method is prefaced and underpinned by methodology, if methodological slippage has occurred and there is resultant incongruity between methodology and method, then an argument can be made that the study is not a scientific study and consequently cannot make the claim that it has produced scientific knowledge. Even allowing for some movement from the abstract, idealization of a given methodology into the “real world” application of the method, it is essential to note that variation in or movement away from a method’s underpinning methodology and epistemological stances can and does occur in well-designed studies; but if such movement occurs purposefully and/or has an robust rationale, grounded in the method’s original methodology.