Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, 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 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

The term criticism basically means assessment.

explanatory context

In the social sciences and humanities such assessment may be positive or negative in tone (and is thus not restricted to the negative connotations of the notion of criticism in everyday parlance).


Criticism in the social sciences and humanities involves two distinct types of assessment. First, is criticism as examination and analysis. Such criticism is constrained by a set of disciplinary parameters that are invoked to guide and sustain the criticism. This can be seen in conventional art criticism and history, literary criticism and ‘internal’ criticisms in the social sciences.


Second is criticism from outside. An alternative set of presuppositions, epistemological framework and theory are applied to an examination of the social world. This can be seen in Marxist analysis, most feminist and black critiques. Here, to be ‘critical’ involves the suspension of taken-for-granted assumptions about a discipline, or the social or cultural world. This includes suspending preconceptions about the nature of knowledge.

analytical review

associated issues


related areas

See also



copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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