Realist Ontology and Epistemology for Rural Research

26 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2008

Date Written: September 2008


In this paper, realist findings from the philosophy of social science are summarised and implications for rural research methodology are drawn out. Four specific ontological claims are fleshed out. These ontological claims act as grounding assumptions for social research and knowledge, but are not foundational in the essentialist sense. Examples are used to illustrate realism in action in empirical research in India. Then several epistemological themes underlying realist village research are also spelt out. The paper offers a very explicit introduction to a range of sophisticated themes in realist social research. Overall the paper contributes an original line of argument to the debate about realist research methodology and techniques.

Keywords: realism, social structures, village studies, ontology, epistemology, casestudy

Suggested Citation

Olsen, Wendy K., Realist Ontology and Epistemology for Rural Research (September 2008). Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper No. 53. Available at SSRN: or

Wendy K. Olsen (Contact Author)

University of Manchester ( email )

Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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