chapter  4
16 Pages

Inquiry as Engaged Unfolding

Something that comes up time and again in our workshops is the question of method. We are often asked: “What method should I use?” “Is this a constructionist method?” We have found that many people assume, for example, that discourse analysis is a relational constructionist method (because it focuses on language). And they think that using a questionnaire is not (because it deals with numbers or categorical responses). There are a number of important points to make here. The fi rst is that there is no such thing as a relational constructionist method. Relational constructionism is a meta-theory or discourse of (human) science. It provides a general orientation toward all relational processes, including those that might be called inquiry, intervention or development, leadership or organizing. This general orientation invites us to view all activities in which humans participate, all inquiry and theorizing-including relational constructionism-as a relational process. In principle this means that we could use anything that positive science would call a method, including, for example, statistics, experiments, and surveys. 

Our second point follows from the argument that methods have no meaning in and of themselves. As we said in the conclusion to the last chapter, how we think about, use, talk, and write about methods activates a particular meta-theory or discourse of science. In other words, methods are neither free standing, nor are they necessarily attached to any one particular discourse. What becomes central for the constructionist is how we practice any particular ‘method’ or, more generally, how we ‘do’ our inquiry. For us, relational constructionist assumptions guide the questions we ask, how we try to answer them, what we count as a fact, what we recognize as rigor, the language tools we employ-indeed, all aspects of inquiry.