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Introduction to Qualitative Interpretive Methods

Marie Østergaard Møller
mol@dps.aau.dk

Aalborg Universitet

Marie Østergaard Møller is Associate Professor at Aalborg University in Denmark.

Her research interests include social and political categories, categorisation, frontline work, welfare state research, classic social theory of solidarity, and systematic qualitative methods.

Recently published articles include:

  • Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy 
    An Approach to the Development of Comparative Cross-National Studies of Street-Level Bureaucracy (2019)
  • Qualitative Studies
    Health Care Professionalism without Doctors (2018)
  • Administration and Society
    Welfare State Regimes and Caseworkers’ Problem Explanation (2017)
  • Profession and Professionalism
    She isn’t someone I associate with a pension (2016)
  • Public Management Review
    Prevention at the Front Line: How home nurses, pedagogues, and teachers transform public worry into decisions on special efforts (2015)
  • Critical Policy Studies
    Constructing at-risk target groups (2014)
  • Social Policy and Administration
    Disciplining Disability (2013)

Course Dates and Times

Monday 25 February – Friday 1 March, 09:00–12:30
15 hours over 5 days

Prerequisite Knowledge

None


Short Outline

This course is for PhD students who have just started an interpretive or qualitative research project. It is aimed primarily at students of political science, sociology, international relations and public administration, but students of other social science disciplines such as public policy and anthropology will also benefit from it.

The course is organised around the typical steps of a research process – from how to formulate an interpretive research question to how to present and document analyses. It introduces a broad spectrum of interpretive approaches with a focus in particular on narrative methods and discourse analysis. These two approaches provide a good representation of different interpretive strategies, and by understanding their logics and uses, you will be able to select a research strategy that best fits your own research question.

By the end of the course, you should have a working knowledge of interpretive methods, including insights into how they can be used in an interpretive research process.

Tasks for ECTS Credits

2 credits (pass/fail grade) Attend at least 90% of course hours, participate fully in in-class activities, and carry out the necessary reading and/or other work prior to, and after, class, including daily matrix-group work based on readings of the day.

3 credits (to be graded) As above, plus prepare a group presentation, which requires approximately five hours' work outside class, based on matrix work of the day.

4 credits (to be graded) As above, plus complete a four-page assignment to be handed in shortly after the course.


Long Course Outline

This course offers an introduction to different interpretive methods. You will learn to ‘read’ texts while becoming familiar with contemporary thinking about interpretation, narrative, and discourse. During the course we will focus on narrative method, hermeneutics, phenomenology, discourse analysis, deconstruction method and genealogy. The course is organised with the following six objectives in mind:

  1. To examine the scientific criteria of interpretive research and to give you basic training in how to formulate an interpretive research question
  2. To expose you to issues of conceptualisation, theory, research design, and strategies of framing questions and selecting cases
  3. To help you organise and process material through interpretive coding strategies
  4. To teach you how to choose the best strategy of interpretation for your research question
  5. To explain how to condense and present interpretations
  6. To draw conclusions from interpretive analyses.

The course will cover basic techniques for collecting, interpreting, and presenting analyses. Throughout it, we will operate on two interrelated dimensions, one focused on theoretical approaches to various types of interpretive research, the other on practical techniques for data collection, coding strategies and interpretive strategies of analysis, writing, and presenting findings.

Theoretically, the course considers questions such as:

  • What is ‘interpretive’ research?
  • What questions is it best suited for?
  • By what criteria does it meet or fail to meet the standards of scientific evidence?
  • What are the roles of concepts in interpretive research?
  • Can interpretive methods verify hypotheses, or only generate them?
  • Can interpretive research explain social phenomena, or only interpret them?
  • Do interpretive analyses have a small-N problem?
  • In what ways is interpretive research 'grounded'?

Practically, the course considers questions such as:

  • What scientific criteria apply for interpretive methods?
  • How do researchers ask the ‘right’ question to the ‘right’ material?
  • What collecting techniques can be used to enhance the quality of the material?
  • What interpretive position should ground the research?
  • What is the unit of analysis?
  • How do researchers organise the material and how do they ‘read’ it?
  • How can they make sense of their interpretations in a transparent, authentic and inclusive way?
  • How can they draw conclusions from their interpretive analyses?

The course introduces a broad spectrum of interpretive approaches; however, its theoretical focus will be on narrative method and discourse analysis, to expose you to methods which put rather different weight on inductive and deductive strategies of interpretation. This will strengthen your general knowledge of interpretive methods, and give you a solid basis for choosing the ‘right’ strategy of interpretation after the course.

This course will give you a basic understanding of how to choose between interpretive methods, including insight into hands-on tools that can be used during an interpretive research process. It will prepare you to take advanced courses in interpretive methods with a more specialised focus on (for example) ethnographic method, grounded theory, narrative method or discourse analysis.

By the end of this course, you should have a basic understanding of how to:

  1. operationalise an interpretive research question
  2. select and collect data for interpretation
  3. organise and process data through interpretive coding strategies
  4. analyse data using strategies of interpretation
  5. condense and present interpretations.

Day Topic Details
1 Introducing interpretive methods
  1. Welcome
  2. Interpretation of what? 
Asking the ‘right’ question to the ‘right’ material
  3. Selecting and collecting data suited for 
interpretation
  4. Introduction of written 
student assignment.
2 Interpretive strategies, positions and methods (1) Hands-on strategies for interpretation and analysis (1)
  1. Narrative methods
  2. What’s your unit of 
analysis? Organising 
your data?
  3. What’s in your data? 
Reading your data.
3 Interpretive strategies, positions and methods (2) Hands-on strategies for interpretation and analysis (2)
  1. Discourse analysis
  2. How to make sense of it?
  3. Sorting your data using 
interpretive research strategies
4 Interpretive strategies, positions and methods (3) Hands-on strategies for interpretation and analysis (3).
  1. Discourse analysis
  2. How to make sense of it?
  3. Sorting your data using interpretive research strategies.
5 Condensing and presenting interpretations. Drawing conclusions from interpretive analyses
  1. Descriptive analyses
  2. Explaining analyses
  3. Chronologically analyses
  4. You only know what you (can) show – citations and displays.
  5. Scientific criteria
  6. Documentation
  7. Publication
Day Readings
1

Soss, Joe, 2006: “Talking Our Way to Meaningful Explanations - A Practice Centered View of Interviewing for Interpretive Research”, pp. 127-149 in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Wagener, Hendrik: Chapter 1 and 2, pp. 3-23 in: Meaning in Action – Interpretation and Dialogue in Policy Analysis. New York: M.E. Sharp.

Weiss, Robert S., 1994, “Respondents: Choosing Them and Recruiting Them” in: Learning from Strangers: The Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies. New York: Free Press. PP. 15-37.

Yanow, Dvora, 2006 “Thinking interpretively: philosophical presuppositions and the human 
 sciences”, 5-26 in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Yanow, Dvora, 2012: “Ways of Knowing”, pp. 24-44 in: Interpretive Research Design. London: Routledge.

2

Schaffer, Frederic Charles, 2006: “Ordinary Language Interviewing”, pp. 150- 160 in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Mark Bevir, 2006: “How Narratives explain” in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe. PP. 281-290.

Riessman, Catherine Kohler, 1993, “Narrative Analysis” in: Qualitative Research MethodsSeries 30. London: SAGA Publications. PP. 1-70

3

Fairclough, Norman, 2003: “Social analysis, discourse analysis, text analysis” pp. 21-61 & “Discourses and representations” pp. 123-155 in: Analyzing Discourse. Textual analysis of social research. London: Routledge.

Phillips, Nelson & Cynthia Hardy, 2002, “Discourse Analysis – Investigating Processes of Social Construction” in: Qualitative Research Methods Series 50. London: SAGA Publications. PP. 1-87.

4

Laclau, Ernesto and Chantal Mouffe, 2014: “Beyond the Positivity of the Social: Antagonisms and Hegemony”, Chapter 3, pp. 79-131 in: Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso.

Stavrakakis, Y., Horwarth, D., & Norval, A., 2000. “Introducing discourse theory and political analysis”, chapter 1 in: Discourse theory and political analysis. Identities. Pp. 1-23. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Dreyfus, Hubert. L. and Paul Rabinow, 1983: "Interpretive Analytics," In: Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, pp. 104-124 Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983, second edition.

5

Miles, Matthew B.,Michael A. Huberman and Johnny Saldana (2014): “Displaying the Data” Chapters 5,11,12, pp. 105- 120, 273-338 in: Qualitative Data Analysis. A Methods Sourcebook, 3. edition. London: SAGE.

Case Material

Lindekilde, Lasse, “Discourse and Frame Analysis: In-depth Analysis of Qualitative Data in Social Movement Research” in: D. della Porta (ed.) Methodological Practices in Social Movement Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press. PP. 1-38.

Government of Denmark, 2009: A Common and safe future, www.nyidanmark.dk, pp. 4-30.

Software Requirements

None

Hardware Requirements

None

Literature

Government of Denmark, 2009: A Common and safe future, www.nyidanmark.dk

Dvora Yanow, 2006 “Thinking interpretively: philosophical presuppositions and the human 
sciences,” in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe. PP. 5-27.

Dvora Yanow & Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, 2012: “Ways of Knowing” in: Interpretive Research Design. London: Routledge. PP. 24-44.

Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, 1983: "Interpretive Analytics," In: Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983, second edition. PP. 104-125.

Laclau, Ernesto and Chantal Mouffe, 2014: “Beyond the Positivity of the Social: Antagonisms and Hegemony”, Chapter 3, pp. 79-131 in: Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso.

Lindekilde, Lasse, “Discourse and Frame Analysis:
In-depth Analysis of Qualitative Data in Social Movement Research”  in: D. della Porta (ed.) Methodological Practices in Social Movement Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press. PP. 1-38.

Mark Bevir, 2006: “How Narratives explain” in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe. PP. 281-290.

Miles, Matthew B.,Michael A. Huberman and Johnny Saldana (2014): “Displaying the Data” Chapters 5,11,12, pp. 105- 120, 273-338 in: Qualitative Data Analysis. A Methods Sourcebook, 3. edition. London: SAGE.

Fairclough, Norman, 2003, “Social analysis, discourse analysis, text analysis” pp. 19-61 & “Discourses and representations” pp. 121-156 in: Analyzing Discourse. Textual analysis of social research. London: Routledge.

Phillips, Nelson & Cynthia Hardy, 2002, “Discourse Analysis – Investigating Processes of Social Construction” in: Qualitative Research Methods Series 50. London: SAGA Publications. PP. 1-87.

Riessman, Catherine Kohler, 1993, “Narrative Analysis” in: Qualitative Research MethodsSeries 30. London: SAGA Publications. PP. 1-70.

Schaffer, Frederic Charles, 2006, “Ordinary Language Interviewing”, Capter 7 in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe. PP. 150-160.

Soss, Joe, 2006, “Talking Our Way to Meaningful Explanations - A Practice Centered View of Interviewing for Interpretive Research” in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe. PP. 127-149.

Stavrakakis, Y., Horwarth, D., & Norval, A., 2000. “Introducing discourse theory and political analysis”, chapter 1 in: Discourse theory and political analysis. Identities. Pp. 1-23. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Weiss, Robert S., 1994, “Respondents: Choosing Them and Recruiting Them” in: Learning from Strangers: The Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies. New York: Free Press. PP. 15-37.

Recommended Courses to Cover After this One

<p><strong>Summer School</strong></p> <p>Analysing Discourse<br /> Expert Interviews for Qualitative Data Generation<br /> Focus Groups for Qualitative Data Generation<br /> Ethnography<br /> Strategies of Interpretive/Qualitative Political Research<br /> Qualitative Data Analysis : Methods and Procedures</p> <p><strong>Winter School</strong></p> <p>Analysing Political Language<br /> Advanced Qualitative Data Analysis<br /> Knowing and the Known: The Philosophy and Methodology of the Social Sciences</p>


Additional Information

Disclaimer

This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed in due time.

Note from the Academic Conveners

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, contact the instructor before registering.