Numbers And Interpretations: What Is At Stake In Our Ways Of Knowing?

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Theory And Psychology


This article reflects on a set of target articles concerned with the use of quantitative procedures in interpretive research. The authors of those articles (Osatuke & Stiles; Westerman; and Yanchar) discuss ways that numerical procedures can be brought into interpretive studies, using illustrations from research programs on psychotherapy process, schools, law courts, and work life. Instead of the usual quantitative-qualitative distinction, I use Geertz's distinction between experimental science and interpretive science and Kidder and Fine's distinction between Big-Q and small-q research to reflect on several procedural and epistemological differences among target papers. The diversity of approaches under the umbrella of qualitative methods is described, along with some recent developments. Even though US psychology continues to mount stiff resistance against incorporating interpretive approaches into its knowledge-producing practices, such approaches are flowering in other parts of the world.

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