Towards a critical occupational approach to research

Janet Njelesani, Barbara E. Gibson, Stephanie Nixon, Debra Cameron, Helene J. Polatajko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Critical approaches to research are becoming increasingly more prevalent but occupational science and critical approaches have not been explicitly combined into one approach despite the potential to enrich the understanding of the assumptions and ideologies underlying human activity. In this article we outline an approach to research that is mutually informed by occupational and critical social science perspectives. The critical occupational approach we describe can be used to explore the ways in which knowledge is produced through engagement in occupation, who controls knowledge production, the mechanisms of how occupations are taken up, and who stands to gain or lose. We discuss the implications and considerations for generating research purposes and methods and conducting analyses. We then illustrate the use of the approach through a case study. We conclude this article with consideration of the wider uses and implications of a critical occupational approach within health and social research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-220
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Critical social science
  • Occupational approach
  • Qualitative methodology
  • occupational therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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