Interpretive research paradigms: points of difference
Losekoot, E; Wright, N
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This paper outlines the background to the debate surrounding positivisitic and phenomenological research and the growing consensus of a mixed methods approach. It explains the increasing popularity of interpretative methods but recognises growing concern about the lack of rigour by some researchers in using these methods. In the move from positivism to interpretivism the two main interpretive approaches are symbolic interactionism and hermeneutic phenomenolism, but these terms are not synonymous. It explains symbolic interactionism and the fact that it is context specific and dependent on the environment in which the research is taking place, recognising that humans are best understood in relation to their environment. Examples are given of currently acceptable practices that were once prohibited and vice versa. It then outlines hermeneutic phenomenology’s origins and why it is so popular with marketing academics and others. The tradition of ‘textual analysis’ now needs to be expanded to include online and multi-media materials. This paper highlights the differences between what may be reported happened and what actually did occur. Hermeneutics, it is argued, aims to find out what happened, but this is always interpreted through the dasein of the researcher. Symbolic interactionism, on the other hand, focuses not on what happened, but why. The authors warn, however, that one of the most popular tools of such research, participant observation, may find itself compromised as the presence of the observer may well influence the events they are observing. In conclusion, the authors recommend that phenomenological researchers consider using a combination of hermeneutic and symbolic interactionism research in order to not only understand what actually happened in a social environment, but also what it meant to those experiencing the event. This cannot ever totally exclude the life world of the researcher from their interpretation of the events they are studying, but it should at least allow a more accurate representation of what was observed.