Interpretive Methods

American Political Science Association Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, Qualitative Transparency Deliberations, Working Group Final Reports, Report III.2 (January 2019)

13 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2019

See all articles by Lisa Björkman

Lisa Björkman

University of Louisville

Lisa Wedeen

University of Chicago

Juliet Williams

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Mary Hawkesworth

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick/Piscataway

Date Written: February 12, 2019

Abstract

The transparency impulse in political science arose in the context of scholars' inability to replicate findings published in leading journals. This is a concern especially for positivist approaches to empirical inquiry. The emphasis on replicability presupposes that evidence-based research involves the extraction of objective data, that data can be identically reproduced or copied, and that evidentiary material can be analyzed neutrally, such that the same findings are arrived at by various scholars. Data "extraction" as used here implies evidence that is thing-like, inertly situated in an identifiable place, and ready to be removed or drawn out for examination. Interpretive methods, on the contrary, view data as a product of interpretive encounters, and thus question the adequacy of the extraction metaphor. Interpretivists are interested in the ways in which social meanings are reiterated and power is reproduced, and in how social processes, in the process of iteration, are variously placed at risk. Attuned to the politics of representation, moreover, interpretive scholars analyze how concepts, definitions, measurements, and methods, generative of knowledge about the political world, are themselves data, which is to say, structured by power and laden with social value. Our position on the problem of replicability is that scholars are often talking past each other, that social conventions are by definition iterative, and that the challenges of replication come as no surprise, as in our view there is no such thing as value-free social science. Empirical investigation presupposes conceptual definition, and conceptual definition requires what Wittgenstein calls a "life world." The interpretive methods approach encompasses diverse academic traditions, including critical theory, ordinary language use analysis, hermeneutics, existential phenomenology, genealogy, ethnography, deconstruction, colonial and postcolonial analysis, critical race theory, feminist theory, semiotics, structuralism, poststructuralism, and science and technology studies, among others. In drawing insights from a range of philosophical traditions and debates, interpretivists, not unlike quantitative scholars, operate with often divergent philosophically motivated assumptions and goals. Most converge, however, in rejecting the transparency norms currently on offer in political science.

Suggested Citation

Björkman, Lisa and Wedeen, Lisa and Williams, Juliet and Hawkesworth, Mary, Interpretive Methods (February 12, 2019). American Political Science Association Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, Qualitative Transparency Deliberations, Working Group Final Reports, Report III.2 (January 2019) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3333411 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3333411

Lisa Björkman

University of Louisville ( email )

Louisville, KY 40292
United States

Lisa Wedeen (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Juliet Williams

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States
310-794-7954 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.genderstudies.ucla.edu/faculty/juliet-williams

Mary Hawkesworth

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick/Piscataway

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