Interpretive Research Design

Advanced methods
Course Description: 

Interpretive research puts the meaning‐making of those studied at the centre of a research project. Often guided by the abductive logic of inquiry, such research is commonly not driven by formal hypotheses or variables. Based on constructivist ontology and intersubjectivist epistemology, interpretive research generates data through talk, observation, and/or document selection and analyses them through a wide array of methods. The rationale and the readings in this seminar accordingly focus on the study of politics ‘from below’ and ‘from within’ to make sense of power relations in particular political settings. The seminar thus discusses examples of research questions that require an investigation into the meanings of specific political practices, and of concepts and processes to situational actors in order to illuminate wider‐ranging or more theoretical issues of political concern. The methodological aim of this seminar is twofold. First, it explains the vocabulary, processes, and quality standards consistent with the interpretive emphasis on meaning‐making. In this sense, it helps prepare interpretive research proposals in a systematic way. Second, it engages interpretive research practice by looking at how interpretive researchers think of and do fieldwork.
The seminar is open to all researchers but will be most suitable to those that are currently planning empirical research or those who will do so in the future and intend to conduct fieldwork that requires interpretive sensibility and includes various modes of in‐situ interviewing (e.g. conversational interviewing, ordinary language interviewing), different degrees of participant observation, and the reconstruction of policy meanings. Those who have completed field research and are in the “writing up” stage will also benefit from several parts of the course, such as understanding and communicating (e.g., to reviewers) what the appropriate quality standards are for assessing interpretive work. While no extensive prerequisite knowledge of interpretive tradition is required for this seminar, general familiarity with, openness to and curiosity about different ways of doing research are necessary in order to have productive and mutually enriching discussions.

Learning Outcomes: 



1. Seminar contribution – 10 %
2. Preparation, conduct, and reflection in class of an interview simulation – 20 %
3. Field notes from a site observation/participation – 20 %
4. Essay on methods ca. 2500 words– 50%