Toward More Interesting Research Questions: Problematizing Theory in Social Justice
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- Okimoto, T.G. Soc Just Res (2014) 27: 395. doi:10.1007/s11211-014-0215-5
The majority of research in social justice, indeed in all of social science, is incremental, has received few citations, has garnered little attention in the public, and can be viewed as dull and uninteresting by both academics and lay readers. Although often well versed in a variety of methodological techniques for testing research questions, we rarely receive explicit guidance in how to construct them in a way that is interesting, useful, and pushes theory forward. A novel “problematization” approach for constructing interesting research questions has been proposed by Alvesson and Sandberg (Constructing research questions: doing interesting research. Sage Publications, London, 2013). In this essay, I introduce the problematization method to social justice scholars in a comprehensive review and critique that identifies the benefits and limitations of the approach. Then, to provide a cursory illustration of the method in practice, I problematize the domain of retributive justice, attempting to identify potentially interesting directions for future research inquiry.