Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-17, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 2 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2017.


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core definition

Reconstruction is rebuilding, used in social research to reconstruct and idea, theory or way of seeing after analysis has dismantled or deconstructed the prevailing notion.

explanatory context

This notion of reconstruction as rebuilding is primarily a dialectical or critical social research concept. It is part of the dialectical process that attempts to dig beneath the surface of taken-for-granted notions of the social world.


This is explained in Researching the Real World Part 2.4.2 ('Elements of Critical Social Research') and Researching the Real World Part ('Deconstruction and reconstruction').


The nature of critical soccial research with examples of the methdology can be found in Critical Social Research.

analytical review

van Rees (undated, pp. 90–91) explores reconstruction in discourse analysis, focusing on argumentative discourse:

In order to enable an adequate evaluation, in pragma-dialectics, argumentative dis- course is subjected to a dialectical reconstruction, highlighting those elements which the evaluation will address. Dialectical reconstruction entails looking at argumentative discourse from a particular, theoretically motivated point of view: the discourse is viewed as an attempt to attain the rational resolution of a conflict of opinion. The reconstruction is guided by a conception ofwhat is necessary for the rational resolution of a conflict of opinion, represented in an idealized model of critical discussion. It abstracts those (and only those) elements in the discourse which are relevant with regard to this particular goal. The reconstruction results in an analytic overview in which the differences of opinion, the distribution of dialectical roles, the expressed and unexpressed premises which make up the arguments, the argumentation structure and the argumentation schemes ofthe arguments are laid out ....

In order to arrive at such an analytic overview, a number of dialectical trans- formations are carried out on the discourse, which bring into focus those elements in the discourse which potentially contribute to the resolution of a conflict of opinion. These transformations are: deletion, addition, permutation, and substitution. The transformation of deletion selects those elements that are immediately relevant to the resolution, omitting what is irrelevant to this goal. The transformation of addition makes explicit those elements that are immediately relevant to the resolution but which have been left implicit in the discourse. The transformation of permutation rearranges elements in the discourse in such a way as to mirror the order in which the resolution ideally is attained. The transformation of substitution, finally, reformulates relevant elements, in such a way as to most clearly show up their function in the resolution.

It is important to realize that pragma-dialectical reconstruction, like, indeed, any reconstruction, necessarily is an abstraction, even if it is a legitimate one for an analyst who is interested in evaluating discourse with a view to its dialectical rationality. The discourse is regarded as directed at the attainment of one particular goal, the rational resolution o f a conflict o f opinion. In actual fact, discourse usually is aimed at realizing a multitude of goals.


associated issues


related areas

See also



Critical Social Research Section 1.6.9

Researching the Real World Section


van Rees, M.A., undated, 'Accounting for transformations in the dialectical reconstruction of argumentative discourse', available at, accessed 27 December 2016.

accessed xxx.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2017

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