Continuing to clear-out the filing cabinet that is fast-assuming legendary status in both my life and the sociological world (pretty much the same thing, actually) I came across a copy of an article by Clarke and Layder originally published in the November 1994 issue of Sociology Review called “Let’s Get Real: The Realist Approach in Sociology”.
While a 23 year-old article’s not usually a source I’d recommend for contemporary students, in this particular case the age of the content’s not especially significant because it deals with the general principles of realist methodology – and these haven’t really changed much over the past 25 years. The article’s also one of the most accessible explanations of sociological realism for A-level students I’ve read or indeed written – although, to be fair, this probably isn’t actually saying that much in terms of the competition.
Be that as it may, if you teach Realism alongside “Other Alternative Research Approaches” such as Positivism and Interpretivism this article should prove helpful, not just in terms of clearly-identifying the key principles of Realism but also in terms of highlighting the key similarities and differences between these competing approaches. And even if you don’t teach Realism, you should find the stuff on Positivism and Interpretivism helpful.
As you might expect, given its age and provenance (it’s been in a filing cabinet for most of the past quarter century…) the actual document is a little bit the worse for wear. This hasn’t been helped, it must be admitted, by the various annotations to the text I presumably added in my “Underline everything and hope something sticks” phase of critical unawareness.