Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Learning critical realist research by example: Political decision-making in transport

Melia, Steve


Steven Melia
Senior Lecturer in Transport Planning


This article illustrates the process of applied critical realist research using a case study of political decision-making in transport. Critical realism is often used to analyse socio-political change but rarely to explain specific political decisions, and never in transport studies. There have been some attempts to illustrate the process of applied critical realism but not in a political context. The case study analysed an apparent inconsistency in the attitude of UK governments towards road building in the 1990s and post-2012. It structured the findings diagrammatically, illustrating the relationships between social structures, causal mechanisms and actors. This article questions the conventional distinction between ‘more important' and ‘less important’ causes. It shows how normative conclusions may be derived from empirical findings where no agreement exists on the objective basis for normative judgements. It demonstrates how critical realist methods can provide deeper explanations for policy change than existing approaches used in transport studies.


Melia, S. (2020). Learning critical realist research by example: Political decision-making in transport. Journal of Critical Realism, 19(3), 285-303.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 4, 2020
Online Publication Date May 27, 2020
Publication Date May 27, 2020
Deposit Date May 5, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 28, 2021
Journal Journal of Critical Realism
Print ISSN 1476-7430
Electronic ISSN 1572-5138
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 3
Pages 285-303
Keywords Applied Critical Realism; Critical Realist methodology; Critical Realism and politics; Critical Realism and transport; road building; UK politics
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Journal Ref.: REA366R1


You might also like

Downloadable Citations