IACR Annual Conference
30 July 2019
Delighted to have been accepted to give my talk “Revisiting RRREIC for interdisciplinary research: exploring challenges and opportunities in a well-being project” at the International Association for Critical Realism (IACR) at the University of Southhampton.
RRREIC, for resolution, redescription, retroduction (or retrodiction), elimination, identification, and correction, is meant to be an alternative to how the scientific process of discovery is seen. It was introduced by Roy Bhaskar in 1986 as an alternative to the nomothetic or hypothetico-deductive model.
I have found RRREIC to be an accessible framework to get scientists of different background communicating with each other. The difference over the hypothesis-focused style of the post-positivist models is that there is more room for “sense-making” in that it deals with the movement from observation to formulating hypotheses in a way I find much more complete (actually, RRREIC doesn’t include formulating hypotheses, but that’s another story.) The image below, from this article, is a typical interpretation of the hypothetico-deductive approach:
Further, it’s exciting for management and organizational studies especially because it parallels the “opening” and “closing” phases of effective problem structuring exercises. So talking about RRREIC and resolving (or trying to resolve) its issues is a way for researchers and practitioners to make these actions more deliberate and more effective.
Hope to see you at my talk!
The RRREIC schema, for resolution, redescription, retrodiction or retroduction, elimination, identification, and correction, is meant to provide a way of describing how researchers can develop causal explanations in open systems. In theory, RRREIC provides an alternative to the deductive-nomological model of explanation that fits with the critical realist ontology. Given its centrality to applied work, it is surprising that relatively little has been written about it outside of the seminal works of Roy Bhaskar. Moreover, within critical realism scholars often use the terms in conflicting ways, which complicates its use in practice. With these conceptual difficulties, it is perhaps unsurprising that we find few examples of RRREIC in applied research projects as described in the academic literature. This paper holds that more attention to this topic could allow researchers to improve their research designs. Drawing on descriptions of the RRREIC elements in theoretical and empirical works, the explores some ongoing disagreements around the meaning of the schema’s terms and attempts to clarify them. The topic is explored through a case in which an iterative form of RRREIC was used deliberately to explore the mechanisms of well-being in doctoral research programs. Practical steps were derived from RRREIC to facilitate communication and mutual understanding between researchers. The discussion will have important implications for critical realist research. As a model meant to underly all practical explanation building, RRREIC holds vast potential as a means of enhancing research outcomes. This discussion aims to be another step towards realizing its potential.