It’s not a methodology … or is it

It’s not a methodology … or is it

“While auto-ethnography is not a specific research technique, method, or theory, it colors all three as they are employed in fieldwork” (Hayano, 1979, p. 99)

“ANT [Actor-Network Theory] cannot accurately be described as a single, stable or identifiable theoretical framework” (Fenwick & Edwards, 2010)

“Educational design research can be defined as a genre of research in which the iterative development of solutions to practical and complex educational problems also provide the context for empirical investigation, which yields theoretical understanding that can inform the work of others.” (McKenney & Reeves, 2012)

In reading today’s article about auto-ethnography (Hayano, 1979), I was struck by how it was yet another methodology that isn’t a methodology. It seems to me that most of the methodologies that fall within the realm of qualitative research intentionally do not deem themselves as methodologies. And yet in each of these cases (Autoethnography, Actor-Network Theory, and Educational Design Research) those who practice it refer to it in the same way they would any other methodology.

I’m left to wonder, is not calling it a methodology just a way to rebel against the post-positivist genre of research? Is it just a way to say, no, this isn’t a methodology, because it if were then I’d be conforming to lingo used by post-positivist researchers? What do you think? Is this just a form of rebellion? Or are these things really not methodologies?


Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-Network Theory in Education. New York.: Taylor & Francis Group.

Hayano, D. (1979). Auto-ethnography: Paradigms, problems, and prospects. Human organization, 38(1), 99-104. Retrieved from

McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting educational design research. New York, NY: Routledge.

One Reply to “It’s not a methodology … or is it”

  1. I think you may be confusing the term “method” with “methodology”. All of what I am seeing is claims not to call things “methods” because interpretive inquiry is NOT about methods but about people. Methodology is more philosophical and abstract and not tied to a particular method, but more about your approach to research.
    You’re right in their not wanting to call it “method” in opposition to positivist standpoints. The positivist puts a lot of weight on method and particular ways of doing things in order to count them as “valid” whereas interpretive research is not about that at all – focus is on understanding people and not about strict adherence to a method.

    But (Mahas-plaining here) don’t confuse these terms:

    People can do qualitative research from a postpositivist perspective (see Creswell and Miller on this)

    People can have an interpretive perspective and use quantitative methods within a larger approach that is mostly using qualitative research

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