Deciding upon a methodological approach is inevitably constrained by the time available to put in a submission, tender or grant application, the time available to do the research, the amount of money and other resources available to conduct the research, the likelihood of ethics approval for particular methods, the political dynamics surrounding the research and so on. Rarely are we afforded the opportunity to examine our own assumptions about the value of particular research methods. The fact that we would choose qualitative research methods probably reflects in the first instance our own training as much as any other decision about a preferred methodological approach.
At the broadest level, our political and intellectual backgrounds are likely to shape the selection of subject matter for research, as well as how we go about doing it. However, these influences are not always straightforward. In the spirit of reflecting upon the guiding assumptions that underpin research methodologies, I begin this chapter by acknowledging some of the major influences that have directed the way I have thought about the process of doing research and the meaning we might attach to particular methodologies.