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Noonan - What is Interpretive Research?

Camilla Noonan (camilla.noonan@ucd.ie)
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camilla noonan

on 25 February 2014

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Transcript of Noonan - What is Interpretive Research?

What is Interpretive Research?



PhD program, UCD
February, 19th, 2014
Prof Donncha Kavanagh
Dr Camilla Noonan

What assumptions are made?

Ontology
- what is the world like?
Epistemology
- what kind of
knowledge
can we have of the world?
Method
- how can we acquire
knowledge
?

Relationship between
theory and practice
?
Intepretivist Approach?
Preoccupations of Interpretive Researchers?

Seeing through the eyes of the research participants

Emphasis on context

Emphasis on process - temporality, change & flux

Flexibility & limited structure

Concepts and theory grounded in the data

Emphasis on theoretical (not statistical) generalization



Assumptions of Classical Positivism

Methodological monism
Ontology - external realism
Possible to separate the observer from the observed
Explanations in form of time and context independent, general laws (nomothetic statements

Method guarantees unbiased results





Idealised "scientific method" ..

Develop testable theories to explain observable phenomena

Deduce hypotheses from theories (deductive approach)

Devise replicable empirical studies (experiments) to test hypotheses

Revise/refine theory on basis of results
The Interpretivist Tradition
Are there differences between social
and natural systems??

Human consciousness

Constitutive role of language

Human Agency

Reflexivity of social knowledge

Role of observer - replication not possible

Complexity
Positivist tradition

Theory


Hypothesis


Research Design


Devise measures and concepts


Select research sites


Select research subjects


Collect data


Process data


Analyse data


Findings conclusions


Write up/conclusions


Interpretivist tradition

1. General research question


2. Select relevant site(s) and subjects


3. Collect data

5 (b) Collection of further data
4. Interpretation of data


5. Conceptual and theoretical work

5 (a) Tighter specification of research questions
Write up findings



Interpretive research:

- What are the key assumptions?

- What are the difficulties/challenges?

What kind of outcomes can you expect?
Doing interpretive research - the challenges!

1.
Developing your social ontology

2. Site selection and negotiating access

3.
Developing trustful relationships and
getting people to talk

4. Benefits/costs of engagement?

5. What method - quantitative/qualitative?

6. Patience and persistence
Critiques...

This research is subjective and unsystematic; it is not rigorous!

Telling stories - is this
legitimate
knowledge?

Lacks transparency!

Difficult to replicate findings!

Problems of generalisation!


For the canons of good research practice see:

Klein and Meyers (1999) "A set of principles for conducting and evaluating interpretive field studies in Information Systems" MISQ, 23:1
Critique: This research is not rigorous!

Methodological justification ?



The principle of Contextualisation

The principle of Interaction between the researcher and the subjects

The principle of Abstraction and Generalisation

The principle of Dialogical Reasoning

The principle of Multiple Interpretations

The principle of Suspicion
Subjectivism - broad assumptions

Ontology
=> Reality is imagined - humans give meaning to
their surroundings

Epistemology
=> Knowledge is personal and experiential

Method
=> Impossible to separate

Outcome










Difficulties & Challenges of doing this type of research?

Common misconceptions & critiques?




ethnography anthropology
qualitative research micro-processual
ethnomethodology hermeneutic research
phenomenology grounded theory
interpretative symbolic interactionism
ideographic post-positivistic
inductive postmodern
case studies contextualist
participant-observation constructivist
"The terms phenomenology, ethnomethodology, and symbolic interactionism represent different attempts to confront empirical reality from the perspective of those who are being studied" (Denzin 1978 : 28)

Labels…

If the ethnographer’s ‘natives’ have PhDs in chemical engineering and years of work-experience in industry, how can one participate meaningfully in their world?
Jay Labinger’s critique of the ‘lab studies’: “the bottom-line picture of how science operates almost always comes out radically different from my own interpretation.” (Labinger, Jay A. (1995) 'Science as Culture: A View from the Petri Dish', Social Studies of Science, 25(2): 285-306)





The native’s point of view

After four decades of micro-processual research – ethnomethodology (1967), grounded theory (1968), symbolic interactionism (1969) – it’s no longer either novel or distinctive.

How can academics use essentially the same method as journalists in a distinctive and interesting manner? Ask important questions.

Anthropologists have been criticised as voyeuristic, selfish, arrogant and an insidious instrument through which one group or society dominates another - “at heart, non-conformists who aspire to a state pension” (Grimshaw and Hart 1994).

There are influences that operate “behind the back of agents”, and which therefore cannot be found in micro-situations (e.g. ‘gender’ might not emerge from empirical data).





Tired and Emotional

Anthropology is, at once, an advocate of realism and relativism.
Realism: Radcliffe-Brown ( 1920s) believed that the aim of cultural anthropology was to develop a natural science of society. “Ethnographers most often use some version of ‘natural history’, tricking out their ethnographies in the form of objective descriptions of natural objects” Tyler (1987) .
Relativism: Anthropology is “not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning” (Geertz: 1973).
Dilemma: How can the ‘native’s point of view’ be presented as the ‘real facts’ (i.e. the ‘objective truth’)?

Epistemic Two-timing

Present an interpretation that the reader will accept as an insightful and valid reading of the case, and will be able to use this interpretation to understand different contexts and cases.
Bentham’s work as a case of theory translation (diffusion) rather than generalisation.
Geertz’s insights can illuminate new contexts – e.g. strategy-making in organisations as a form of ‘deep play’.



‘Generalising’ theory

Why learn about the other? To know thy Self
Interpretation as an exercise in ordering.
According to Geertz an ethnographer must present a ‘thick description’ which is composed not only of facts but also of commentary, interpretation and interpretations of those comments and interpretations.
Interpretations of interpretations of interpretations….
Interpretation and Power
Skills of observation and writing
Light on method, light on theory?

Interpretativism

ethnography anthropology
qualitative research micro-processual
ethnomethodology hermeneutic research
phenomenology grounded theory
interpretative symbolic interactionism
ideographic post-positivistic
inductive postmodern
case studies contextualist
participant-observation constructivist
"The terms phenomenology, ethnomethodology, and symbolic interactionism represent different attempts to confront empirical reality from the perspective of those who are being studied" (Denzin 1978 : 28)

Labels…

Points from Week 5

Qualitative Research Seminar

Interpretivism

Why learn about the other? To know thy Self.

Interpretation as an exercise in ordering.

According to Geertz an ethnographer must present a ‘thick description’ which is composed not only of facts but also of commentary, interpretation and interpretations of those comments and interpretations.

Interpretations of interpretations of interpretations….

Interpretation and Power

Skills of observation and writing

Light on method, light on theory?
"Generalising" Theory

Present an interpretation that the reader will accept as an insightful and valid reading of the case, and will be able to use this interpretation to understand different contexts and cases.

Bentham’s work as a case of theory translation (diffusion) rather than generalisation.

Geertz’s insights can illuminate new contexts – e.g. strategy-making in organisations as a form of ‘deep play’.



Epistemic Two-timing

Anthropology is, at once, an advocate of realism and relativism.

Realism: Radcliffe-Brown ( 1920s) believed that the aim of cultural anthropology was to develop a natural science of society. “Ethnographers most often use some version of ‘natural history’, tricking out their ethnographies in the form of objective descriptions of natural objects” Tyler (1987) .

Relativism: Anthropology is “not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning” (Geertz: 1973).

Dilemma: How can the ‘native’s point of view’ be presented as the ‘real facts’ (i.e. the ‘objective truth’)?

Tired and Emotional...

After four decades of micro-processual research – ethnomethodology (1967), grounded theory (1968), symbolic interactionism (1969) – it’s no longer either novel or distinctive.

How can academics use essentially the same method as journalists in a distinctive and interesting manner? Ask important questions.

Anthropologists have been criticised as voyeuristic, selfish, arrogant and an insidious instrument through which one group or society dominates another - “at heart, non-conformists who aspire to a state pension” (Grimshaw and Hart 1994).

There are influences that operate “behind the back of agents”, and which therefore cannot be found in micro-situations (e.g. ‘gender’ might not emerge from empirical data).

The Natives point of view

If the ethnographer’s ‘natives’ have PhDs in chemical engineering and years of work-experience in industry, how can one participate meaningfully in their world?

Jay Labinger’s critique of the ‘lab studies’: “the bottom-line picture of how science operates almost always comes out radically different from my own interpretation.”

(Labinger, Jay A. (1995) 'Science as Culture: A View from the Petri Dish', Social Studies of Science, 25(2): 285-306)



LABELS

ethnography anthropology
qualitative research micro-processual
ethnomethodology hermeneutic research
phenomenology grounded theory
interpretative symbolic interactionism
ideographic post-positivistic
inductive postmodern
case studies contextualist
participant-observation constructivist


"The terms phenomenology, ethnomethodology, and symbolic interactionism represent different attempts to confront empirical reality from the perspective of those who are being studied" (Denzin 1978 : 28)

Qualitative Research Seminar


Some points from week 5 .....
Full transcript