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Focus on Methodology: A sense of sociomaterialism: How sociomaterial perspectives might illuminate health professions education

Sarah Burm, Anna MacLeod


Emerging from the field of socio-technical studies (STS), “sociomaterial” refers to a diverse group of theoretical approaches that, broadly speaking, share a commitment to symmetrically privileging both social and material elements. Not surprisingly, the ways in which a sociomaterial researcher engages in the process of collecting and analysing data will differ from studies that foreground a more human-centered point of view. 

This paper introduces researchers to the principles informing sociomaterial research and demonstrates their application in the context of a problem that has reached rampant levels among healthcare professionals—burnout. In this paper, we provide an accessible, in-depth description of what we mean by the sociomaterial, describe its historical roots and elucidate what it means to engage in empirical sociomaterial work. In so doing, our goal is to illuminate the potential of sociomaterial studies for exploring the complexity of health professions education.


sociomateriality; materiality; ethnography; health professions education

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