4 theoretical perspectives to tackle research
4 theoretical perspectives to tackle research

Ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, Goffman’s dramaturgy, and cultural analysis: learn about 4 Theoretical Perspectives from Online Dissertation Help. The author makes this arbitrary selection because it indicates the impossibility of working them all in a single article.


For ethnomethodology, the world of social facts is reached through the interpretive work of its members, an activity through which social actors produce and organize the circumstances of everyday life (Holstein and Gubrium, 1994: 264).


As a theoretical perspective and that defines objectives and formulates research designs, ethnomethodology highlights, first of all, the study of the procedures by which the members of an entity, groups, groups, carry out, conduct, social interaction. In it, the context in which it takes place, and the interpretive practices that the members occupy allow to address a variety of research topics.


In particular, the study, rare at the time, of situations and people, often categorized as deviants (juvenile delinquents, courts of justice, imprisoned or on parole), and the investigation of organizations and bureaucracies.


Symbolic interactionism


The intellectual influence on interactionism comes mainly from pragmatism (although it is not the only one), some of whose basic assumptions deserve to be remembered:


  1. Human beings are active and creative agents,

Ii. The world of people is the one in whose construction they participate, it molds their behaviors, which in turn re-build,

Iii. Subjective behavior does not exist prior to experience but flows from it.


Meaning and awareness arise from behavior. The meaning of an object does not reside in the object itself but in the behaviors directed towards it (Reynolds, 2003).


For Mead (1934) the most important thing to know the society is to take into account that it is constituted by individuals with selves (yos). Society is possible through interaction and communication between individuals (the ability to respond to each other) and the ability to interpret linguistic and gestural symbols.


The focus of Blumer’s interactionism (1982) is the subjective meanings that social actors assign to their activities in reciprocally oriented social action (social interaction), and the symbolic character of it.


In synthesis, the meanings are constructed in the interaction and it is thanks to the interpretative process as they are modified; Therefore, in the analysis of the social world, it is crucial to take into account the subjective points of view of the social agents.


The symbolic interactionism most closely linked to Blumer has been highlighted in three lines of research:


First, the study of occupations and professions, not as social entities or categories, but as processes in which negotiated interactions are created and prestige, identifications, and loyalties are built.


Second, the line represented by Howard Becker (1963) in which so-called deviant behaviors or groups are studied, who create their own world of interpretations, which differ from those that the rest of society assign to them.


And finally, in recent years (seventy and eighty), approaches to the theory of Marxist conflict, in their less materialistic version, have converged in symbolic interactionism (Collins, 1990: 263-264).


Goffman’s dramaturgy 


In Goffman’s thinking, the importance that he assigns to the social structure is no longer emphasized as a recreation of the social agents but rather places it before subjective consciousness (Collins, 1990: 277).


As elements for a methodological orientation, Goffman’s dramaturgic method points out the study of the scope in which the interactions take place, the realization of the performances, that is to say, the activities carried out, and the idealizations with respect to the same ones that construct participants.


The method is situational, since it includes the definition of the situation in terms of verbal and non-verbal actions, in which identities are mobilized, as well as models, norms, and modalities of social agents that are often ritualized (represent a style of Act).


The cultural analysis


We will finally mention cultural studies as a broad and complex line of research that occupies, but not exclusively, qualitative methods, in particular field studies, interpretation of texts and narratives, and self-reflection.


The cultural definition of cultural studies is that of “producing significant meaning or practice that happens at every level of the social and at every moment of the cultural process.” Humans actively construct their culture in social relations and, in turn, shape them (Gray, 2003: 12)


As a synthesis of the paradigmatic theoretical framework of the studies of culture we wish to propose the following:


First, culture is not determined by economics, nor is it exclusively its symbolic expression; However, the sociological understanding of the culture of a society, group or social class requires its socioeconomic contextualization.


Second, politics and the presence of a hegemonic power underlie the constitution of so-called cultural phenomena.


And third, culture is constitutive of the experience of life and, in turn, is constituted by the material, social and symbolic practices of daily life.


Culture is built in the interaction of everyday life.

What is substantive theory?

The paradigm and the general theoretical perspective analyzed so far form only the starting point in the construction of the theoretical framework.


The central theoretical argument has to be elaborated around substantive theory. In qualitative research, it provides the sensitizing concepts that will allow formulating the objectives and choosing the methodology; Throughout research, substantive theory will permeate all stages of its development.


Substantive theory is linked and developed from the specific thematic area that defines the object or purpose of the research.


They are the great subjects of sociology and social psychology. Some of them raise issues related to other disciplines, such as economics and economic processes; Politics, institutions, state and participation; Education and school institutions; Science and technology; Or family institution and kinship.


Some concepts and propositions of substantive theory may have been elaborated within the framework of the general perspective guiding our study; Others do not.


Compatibilizing the substantive contents of our theoretical framework, integrating them and putting together an argumentative scheme that supports our research is not an easy task, it takes time and effort.

What method do I apply with each perspective?

The four general theoretical perspectives that we have used as examples in this article require that their basic concepts and ideas be reflected in theoretical frameworks.




In an ethnomethodological perspective , language is the central protagonist. Through language the social practices and rules that the people in their daily lives construct are revealed, which allow to sustain the process of interaction. The world of life is revealed in language.


The methods associated with ethnomethodological research are the observation and recording of interactions involving linguistic exchanges. The verbal accounts of situations and facts as well as the procedure called Conversation Analysis are part of the methodological strategies of ethnomethodology.


Symbolic interactionism


What distinguishes symbolic interactionism from other approaches is Mead’s idea that people possess a mind and a self that makes communication, interaction, and interpretation of meanings possible.


The methods associated with symbolic interactionism are observation, narrative and interviews.




Placing ourselves in the line of thought and research of Goffman , for example, will lead us to privilege studies where cases, situations or institutions form our focus of interest.


His work offers us a framework where we can deploy our own ideas and define our concepts.


Cultural studies


The cultural studies in the diversity of traditions that can be distinguished, offer us a privileged field for the articulation of ideas and multiteóricos, multi -method and multi – disciplinary concepts.


This does not mean that everything goes with everything, but the contribution of theories and methods from different bibliographic sources is the norm, not the exception.


It is also convenient to enter into the knowledge of the links between the psychological and the culture, the analyzes of collective behaviors, the investigations of textual contents and discourses, and power structures reproduced, for example, through education, versions of the History collectively remembered.


Finally, Sautu asks us the million dollar question: how is the theoretical framework justified?


With the mechanisms of analytical reasoning and synthesis that our own culture offers us, and in which we have participated throughout our lives (daily and academic).


In experience we learn to think in a deductive and inductive way, we occupy mentally the comparison, the analogy and the idea of causality.


Thus, in practice and in reading, implicit rules of intuitive use are formed similar to our use of grammar in everyday speech and intellectual work.


We conjugate correctly the verbs without necessarily remembering the grammar rules.


Let’s go, it’s possible. The concepts that we review are denominations of practices proper to research, are abstractions that tell us in concrete “with what to have and with what knife” we will chew our thesis. I know that the culinary image is bad, but I also know that it is effective.

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