Hermeneutic as a Research Method

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Hermeneutic as a Research Method

  1. 1. Hermeneutic as a Research MethodHow to do research using Hermeneutic approachDr. Felice AddeoDepartment of Political, Social and Communication ScienceUniversity of Salerno – Italymail: faddeo@unisa.it; feliceaddeo@libero.it
  2. 2. - Hermeneutic as a Research Method- Epistemological foundations- The Roles of Researcher Interviewer and Interviewee- How to conduct a research with Hermeneutic Approach- How to conduct and analyze an Interview- How to interpret Interview transcripts- Criticism to Hermeneutic ApproachContents
  3. 3. Hermeneutics and Social ScienceSocial science could be considered as a double hermeneutic‘ process:“a mutual interpretative interplay between social science and those whose activitiescompose its subject matter” (Giddens, 1984)“all social actors, it can properly be said, are social theorists, who alter their theories in thelight of experience’ (Giddens, 1984) - part of which experience is social theory.“The social sciences deal with a pre-interpreted world; they stand in a subject–subjectrelation to their “field of study.” Their field of study is the pre-interpreted world of thesocial actors. The social actors uphold and develop the symbolic social world; the socialactors’ symbolic world enters into the construction and production of that world. In thissense the construction of social theory involves a double hermeneutic. [Giddens 1993, 154;Habermas 1981, 159, 162 (1984, 107, 110)]. The social scientist must interpret a socialworld which already exhibits symbolic meaning” (in Weinert, 2009).
  4. 4. Hermeneutics and Social ScienceThomas Theorem (1928)If men define situations as real, theyare real in their consequences
  5. 5. Hermeneutic as a Research Methodmain goal of Hermeneutic approach is to explore andanalyze the lifeword of people, using qualitativemethod, and non directive interviewingtechniques to collect information(Montesperelli, 1998)
  6. 6. Qualitative MethodWilhelm DiltheyNatural Sciences (Naturwissenschaft) aim at explaining phenomena in terms of cause andeffect (erklaren).Human Sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) could not completely follow the explanation model.Psychological, social, and historical aspects are crucial in order to have a greater knowledge.That is why Human Sciences should aim more at understand and interpret (verstehen) ratherthan explain in order to study social phenomena. Both kind of Sciences are human product,however Natural sciences tend to abstract away from the life-context, while it is the primaryobject of inquiry in the human sciences.There is Empathy between Researchers/Scientists and Research Subjects as they share thesame common human nature.Wilhelm WindelbandHe distinguishes between Nomothetic and Idiographic ScienceNomothetic = to find universal laws that explain phenomena and to generalize the resultsIdiographic = to analyze contingent, unique, and often subjective phenomena, appraising theiruniqueness
  7. 7. Qualitative MethodHeinrich RickertIn his intellectual and judgmental activity, a researcher is guided by Wertbeziehungen (value-relevance).Max WeberAll social phenomena have no unique and clear explanation.Every researchers try to explain (Verursachung) a social phenomenon, they do it on the basis ofhis own values and interests.All the explanations could not be judged as absolutely true or false: they are more or lessadequate.“There is no absolutely "objective" scientific analysis of culture... All knowledge of culturalreality... is always knowledge from particular points of view. ... an "objective" analysis ofcultural events, which proceeds according to the thesis that the ideal of science is thereduction of empirical reality to "laws," is meaningless... [because]... the knowledge of sociallaws is not knowledge of social reality but is rather one of the various aids used by our mindsfor attaining this end” - Max Weber, "Objectivity" in Social Science, 1897 (ref. Wikipedia).Karl Pearson, surely not a qualitative researcher, defined the concept of causation as anunscientific and metaphysical speculation.
  8. 8. Qualitative Epistemology- Phenomenology and Constructivism could be considered as the main epistemological andphilosophical perspectives of qualitative method- Phenomenon: (tò phainòmenon) = what appear = Phenomenology focuses on subjectiveexperiences and interpretations of the world, because we can only know how things appearto us and to the others and NOT how they really are: even if there is an “essence” of thethings (objects, subjects), this essence is not accessible to human understanding.- Constructivism: reality is socially constructed, i.e. is not given by nature but it is the result ofdynamic process that is reproduced by people acting on their interpretations and theirknowledge of itconsequencesThere is no immediate relation between Knower and Known: this relation is mediated by themeaning: «There is no perception without something being perceived» (E. Husserl)Kant: meanings are not copies of reality but a mean to dominate intellectually itWeber: reality is chaotic and self-contradictory, meanings help human beings in selecting,reducing, ordering, and making sense of complexity: “all knowledge of cultural reality, as maybe seen, is always knowledge from particular points of view”there is no separation between Knower and Known as they share the same cultural horizon
  9. 9. Qualitative Method features- in-depth understanding of human behavior, actions, motivations, representations,attitudes, values, explicit and tacit knowledge- Interest in the meaning, i.e. how people make sense of their lives, experiences, and theirvisions of the reality- reduce the distance between the researcher and the subjects being studied- preference for the study of “Micro” problems- Inductive or Abductive reasoning = not follow the hypothesis-verification process, but beopen to listening, dialogue and, above all, unexpected- Hidiographic (each subject is a world apart and he is not fungible) and Holistic (each subjectis considered as a coherent whole) orientation – no strict need for statistical generalization- dependence from the social and cultural context in which the research is conducted- as there are no highly standardized and coded data collection and analysis procedures,greatest importance is attached to the skills and the competences of the researcher(s), i.e.to the researcher’s personal knowledge and to his capability of empathic understanding
  10. 10. Hermeneutics: the word “Hermeneutics” generally refers to text interpretation, especially in the fields ofReligion and Law.Schleiermacher widened the domain of Hermeneutics not only to sacred or legal texts, but to all humandocuments and modes of communication.Heidegger shifted the focus of Hermeneutics from interpretation to existential understanding (ontologybefore gnoseology) – Heidegger developed the concept of Hermeneutic Circle: It refers to the idea thatones understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to the individual parts and onesunderstanding of each individual part by reference to the whole.Gadamer and Ricouer finally stated that hermeneutics could be applied to all human activities“Hermeneutics is the theory of the operations of understanding in their relation to the interpretation oftexts” (Ricoeur,1992)So, in Social Science, the domain of Hermeneutics has been gradually extended to the study of every actor process involving interpretation: verbal and nonverbal communication, as pre-suppositions, pre-understandings, and son on.Nowadays, relying on phenomenological and constructivist epistemologies, Hermeneutic has finallybecome a social research method.Hermeneutics
  11. 11. Hermeneutics is considered also like the “art of interpretation” – interpreting andunderstanding are not only ways of knowing, they are the ways people deal with reality‘Explanation is a necessary step for understanding. We always explain in order to betterunderstand. A text must be explained in its internal structure before being understood in itsrelation to the interest it arouses and to which it responds. It is no different for a value or agroup of values. But the opposite is just as true. If understanding passes through explanation,explanation is completed in understanding’ (Ricoeur, 1992 quoted in Schwabenland, 2006 ).As we interpret, we do not knowing the real essence of things, but their meanings.Meanings are:- not given, but develop in conversation- socially constructed- constantly being created in the interaction(Bowens, 1997)Hermeneutics
  12. 12. «Is the meaning of our experiences, and not the ontological structure of objects, thatconstitutes reality» (Schütz) - The “essence” of things is not intelligible or approachable.Meanings have an intersubjective nature: externalizing the meanings makes them objects of areality that is constructed (Berger and Luckman) – for example: “shared meanings constructedby people in their interactions with each other and used as an everyday resource to interpretthe meaning of elements of social and cultural life. If people share common sense, then theyshare a definition of the situation” (wikipedia)“Meanings may be shared by the members of small groups and communities but unclear tooutsiders. The same words can mean different things to different people; different words canmean the same things. Meaning is elusive. Even within groups meanings may be contested”(Schwabenland, 2006)Horizon of Historical and Linguistic tradition: before comprehending, the man is comprehendedinto the Historical and Linguistic Horizon.Hermeneutics
  13. 13. The most important thing is to unfold what constitutes individual comprehension. Gadamerpoints out in this context that prejudice is a (nonfixed) reflection of that unfoldingcomprehension, and is not per se without value. Being alien to a particular tradition is acondition of understanding. Gadamer points out that we can never step outside of ourtradition; all we can do is try to understand it (wikipedia)‘He [sic] who seeks to understand his own tradition or that of other cultures can only do sofrom his own, particular standpoint; his “prejudices” not only restrict his vision but enable it.In the act of understanding the vision is both enlarged and corrected, at the same timemaking the speaker explicitly aware of these prejudices, which are not just peripheral butconstitute the very core of our peculiarity’ (Mehta, 1992 in Schwabenland, 2012)Hermeneutics
  14. 14. Pre-comprehensions constitute the historical and linguistic horizon preceding, orienting andfullfilling every act of understanding and interpreting.Hegel: pre-comprehensions are the social Institutions: law, ethics, family, civil society, state, adso on.Dilthey: extended the concept of pre-comprehensions, including language, habits, morality,and lifestylesHusserl: lifeworld is the most important form of pre-comprehensionHeidegger and Gadamer: pre-comprehensions are first ontological and the gnoseological:before comprehending (understanding), man is comprehendend (included) into his historicaland linguistic horizon; this is the limitation of the man as knower: you cannot leave yourhorizon to gain an objective or absolute knowledge.Knower and known share the same horizon: this allows the former to (try to) understand thelatter.That is why, in Hermeneutics, pre-comprehension and pre-judice have no negative acceptationHermeneutics
  15. 15. main goal of Hermeneutic approach is to explore and analyze the lifeworld of individualsLifeworld (Lebenswelt) (Scheler, Husserl; Berger & Luckmann; Schütz)“the world as immediately or directly experienced in the subjectivity of everyday life, assharply distinguished from the objective "worlds" of the sciences, which employ the methodsof the mathematical sciences of nature; although these sciences originate in the life-world,they are not those of everyday life” (Britannica).“the sum total of physical surroundings and everyday experiences that make up anindividuals world” (Merriam Webster).Lifeworld
  16. 16. Lifeworld could also be thought as:Cognitive map to orient oneself in daily lifeCommon sense, i.e. storage of permanent symbolic formsPragmatic cognitive styleBasic knowledge, mostly implicit and “natural”Finite province of meaning = according to Schütz life is experienced through different «finiteprovince of meaning». In other words, there are multiple reality helping people to organizetheir experiences within a complex and multidimensional realityEach finite province of meaning (religion, science, politics, and so on) gives sense to a preciseframe of reality and do not depend on the ontological structure of the objects belonging to aspecific domain, they depend on the meaning people give to those objects and to theirpersonal experience in each different province (Schütz)Lifeworld
  17. 17. In Humans Science Lifeworld has been reevaluated = from daily as anonymity todaily as a rich source of knowledge (Heidegger)• «there were gods there too» (Heraclitus)• Lifeworld as pure expression of middle class culture (Lefebvre 1977)• Crisis of ideologies  reevaluation of social reproduction, daily life, and so on new conflicts centered on identity, personal needs, experiences (Heller 1970,Crespi 1977-78, Melucci 1984)Lifeworld
  18. 18. Science, originated from Lifeworld; positivism removed this origin andwanted to take lifeworld place in order to orient mankind and makesense of reality (Husserl):People belong to science and they are reduced to a simple researchobject: this would be the very meaning of mankind.Scientific method and its results are made absoluteReturn to Lifeworld  Critical Spirit (Husserl, Foucault, Habermas,Derrida, Garfinkel)Lifeworld and Science
  19. 19. Individual is not born as a member of society; he is born predisposed for sociality,and he becomes a member of society through socialization (Berger and Luckmann)Individual interiorizes language, norms, values of a social reality that is partly given =it is a background knowledge one can draw on without starting every time from thebeginningIndividual is guided by cognitive premises = pre-judices, i.e., judgments precedingevery single/individual judgment (Gadamer)Common Social Sphere= everything appear as given, that is the individual has ahorizon of significance and understanding that seems so strong to appear as naturaland steadyLifeworld is a world of intersubjective meanings, shared and constructed by subjectsLifeworld development
  20. 20. Lifeworld premises are not call into question = they seem so obvious to be considered notworth of attention and reflectionIndividuals usually take the “natural attitude” = EPOCHÉIn daily life, no one wonders if lifeworld is real or is just a system of appearancesLifeworld requires the «suspension of doubt» to be maintained = physical perceptions andsocial rules seem universal and evident.“man with the natural attitude also uses a specific epoché, of course quite another one, thanthe phenomenologist. He does not suspend belief in the outer world and its objects but on thecontrary: he suspends doubt in its existence. What he puts in brackets is the doubt that theworld and its objects might be otherwise than it appears to him. We propose to call this theepoché of the natural attitude” (Schutz).Lifeworld premises
  21. 21. Some cognitive strategies help people to maintain the suspension of doubtRepetition = to repeat gestures, actions, cycles and rhythms of life, making them some sort oflike daily routines  the (unaware) aim is to dilate the Present and dispel the idea of changeTypification = to represent real situations with the aid of classification, i.e., to reduce thecomplexity of reality by placing a specific and unique experience into a general category ofknowledgeAnnihilation= to deny the inner world in order to affirm it (a person says he is atheist whilehaving an inner religious afflatus)Reification = to perceive/conceive products of human action as if they were not human (ex.Institutions, value systems, Society, Religion, and so on)These cognitive strategies absolutize the lifeworld and cover its limitationshoweverA too rigid lifeworld would easily and continuously disappear as reality is flexible, mutable andunpredictable, so the suspension of doubt could be interrupted if a big changes occur.Lifeworld cognitive strategies
  22. 22. - Starting with a Concept Map- The central role of the interviewee- How to select interviewees- The roles of Researcher and Interviewer- How to conduct a Hermeneutic interview- How to analyze and interpret a Hermeneutic interview- Criticism to Hermeneutic ApproachDoing Research with Hermeneutic Approach
  23. 23. Right after the literature review, in the effort of translating the theoretical frame intosomething that could be examined empirically (operationalization), it is very useful to recapwhat has been read, and to organize the research concepts and ideas, using a concept map.Concept map is general research scheme and it could be seen as a way of representingrelations among research concepts/dimensions. Specifically, it is a taxonomic diagram whereeach concept is connected to another and linked back to the original idea. Concept maps area way to develop logical thinking and enhance meaningful learning in the sciences.Operationally, it is useful to identify measurable concepts (Marradi, 2007).A similar procedure of concept mapping is widely used in education as an informal processwhereby an individual draws a picture of all the ideas related to some general theme orquestion, showing how these are related (Novak, Gowin, 1997; Novak, 1998; Jackson,Trochim, 2002)Using a concept map (in qualitative, quantitative or mixed method research) will help:- Clarify theoretical framework- Build data collection technique (i.e. interview guide)- Interpret and Analyze Data and Interview transcriptsUsing a Concept Map to help your research design
  24. 24. 24Research subject: Immigrants’ needsUnit of Analysis: Immigrants from different Countries living in the province of Salerno - ItalyConcept MapUsing a Concept Map to help your research designBig OvalResearch purpose / Research QuestionSmaller OvalsRelevant ResearchDimensionsRectanglesempirical indicatorsi.e. concepts thatwill be effectivelysurveyed
  25. 25. As the interviewee is the only expert of his lifeworld, in the Hermeneutic approach he hasthe central role in the whole research process: the interviewee sets the rules and thetimes of the interview as he weaves the narrative nets of his experiences.So the classical interview situation is upset: the interviewer has no more a hegemonic roleover the interviewee (i.e. the usual asymmetric power relation is virtually dissolved).Qualitative interviewing techniques are the most suitable to collect narrations becausethey allow the interviewees to express their visions of the world using their own personalway of communicating.Interviewee could activate a biographical reconstruction process of his identity: henarrates himself, he reflects on his existence and he is finally able to place it in a widercontext in which suspensions of doubt mechanisms are unveiled.Central role of the Interviewee
  26. 26. From a methodological point of view, the central role of the interviewee implies that- potentially, everything interviewee says is important and worth analyzing- it is important not only what he tells, but also HOW: means of expressions should bedeeply analyzed- Non directive techniques are more advisable as they are flexible and adaptable- Researcher and Interviewer has to be highly skilled: they should have hermeneuticsensitivity and maieutic skillCentral role of the Interviewee
  27. 27. Hermeneutic Sensitivity is a «skill» that every social researcher, also the quantitative ones,should have.Hermeneutic Sensitivity cannot be taught or derived from general principles, but dependson the cultivation of individuals and their common sense (Gadamer)Hermeneutic Sensitivity should be «socratically» considered as- to be aware of your own limitations ("I know that I know nothing")- Ethical sensitivity = listening as constitutive element of every dialogue- Pedagogical sensitivity= maieutic dimension, that is helping the others to reach andexpress their inner knowledge(Montesperelli, 1998)Social Researchers should practice the art of listening, establishing an equal relationshipwith the interviewees: only taking into account your own presuppositions, it is possible toknow the of the others’ presuppositions.Hermeneutic Sensitivity
  28. 28. Interviewer Role in Hermeneutic Approach⁻ plays a maieutic role, so the interviewer should minimize interruptions and od few buteffective interventions⁻ must make interviewer comfortable⁻ should be skilled, experienced, motivated , creative and hermeneutic sensitivity⁻ must REALLY listen: “Hearing is physiological phenomenon, listening is a psychological act”⁻ has to know very well the research goals, should have an active role in the research group⁻ has a flexible interview guide and he should be able to adjust it according to interviewees⁻ should pay attention both to verbal and non verbal communication⁻ should gather also extra-contextual information about the interview setting and conduction⁻ above all, interviewer must transcribe the interviews
  29. 29. in qualitative research interviewees are selected with NON probability sampling because1) data collection technique are complex and time- and resource- consuming , so is it notpossible to have huge sample2) there is no epistemological and gnoseological need to infer from the sample to thepopulation.Most common non probability sampling used in Hermeneutic approach are:Convenience sampling : interviewees are chosen based on their relative ease of access (tooobjectionable: better to use ONLY in a very preliminary explorative stage or when the all theothers sampling method are not applicable)Judgmental or Purposive sampling: the researcher chooses the interviewees based on whothey think would be appropriate for the study, i.e. according to some properties he would liketo be represented in the sample (i.e. gender, education, and so on)How to select Interviewees
  30. 30. Snowball sampling: existing interviewees help researcher in recruiting other interviewees fromamong their acquaintances.This sampling is appropriate to use in research when the members of a population are difficultto locate (es. underground cultures, hidden population).Sampling terminates when “saturation” is reached, i.e. when the collection of new data doesnot shed any further light on the issue under investigation “(Glaser & Strauss; Bertaux)Disadvantages of this sampling are:- Overrepresentation of the social circles related the first participants (the ones who startedthe snowball) (solution: choose many different «starting point»)- It is difficult to understand if the «saturation» point has been effectively reachedHow to select Interviewees
  31. 31. How to conduct an Hermeneutic InterviewTo conduct an Hermeneutic Interview it is sufficient to have a simple and flexible guideline inwhich the main research topics and subtopics are listed, eventually with some questions thatcould be asked if necessary.Interview guideline is useful, but it has not to be rigidly followed.Interviewer should let the interview flows as a normal conversation, without following asequential scheme, eventually introducing those topics and subtopics not faced by theinterviewee yet.The same suggestions are useful when conducting a normal non directive interview.Interview ‘s topics and subtopics can be chosen easily if using a research concept mapInterview guideline ( very brief summary)topicsSociodemographicMigratory ProjectActual conditionNeedsIntegration
  32. 32. How to conduct an Hermeneutic InterviewFirst question is crucial: it is your calling cardAvoid too direct questions as they may be too threatening or disturbingAlso avoid dichotomous questions (yes/no), they will freeze the interactionBetter to ask broad question and/or a factual questionRemember that Interviewees should feel comfortableIt could be useful to establish an empathic relationship with interviewees asking them forsuggestions about a common problem or involving them into the comment of a picture ora documentSpeech flow should be similar to everyday conversation, as this is more familiar to theinterviewee and nearer to his lifewolrdIt is better to avoid chit-chatting: interviewee could be demotivated and, above all,research will be lessened
  33. 33. How to conduct an Hermeneutic InterviewAccording to the principle of the «central role of the interviewee», all that intervieweesays is important and has to be recordedInterviewer must always remember that interview in social research is not aninterrogation or a test; interviewee must be respected: is the main actor and has theknowledge we want to knowInterviewer must listen to the interviewee with attention, interest, patience and humilityInterviewer must never express authoritative opinion (judgment, admonitions, etc.)Interviewee should always be allowed to hesitate or take a break (short or long) (toovercome the horror vacui (fear of not being able to say something interesting), to avoidanxiety, haste, and to prevent form all the other things that could cause biases)If asked, Interviewer will express opinions and evaluations only when the interview is over.If the interviewee appears to be stimulated by the answers, the interview should bereprisedNever attempt to prolong an interview: it is better to divide it in two or more sessions
  34. 34. How to transcribe a Hermeneutic InterviewPolisemyVerbal/Linguistic more evident, manifest, structured,Paralanguage (voice quality, rate, pitch,volume, and speaking style, as well asprosodic features such as rhythm, intonation,and stress);Kinesics e Mimicry(movement and body position);Proxemics (how people use and perceive thephysical space around them);Dressingless evident, manifest, structured( difficult to decode);Strengthen or modify what has been saidgive information on the interaction and therelationship between the interview’s actorsInterviewee’s narration is a oral text, its transcript is a written text, that is why Hermeneuticsis crucial in understanding and interpreting interviewsNarration is a polysemous text, produced with the aid of different codes, when analyzing thenarrations as a text, all linguistic aspects should be considered: syntactic, semantic,pragmatics, meanings, codes, and so on
  35. 35. How to transcribe a Hermeneutic InterviewWHYThe transcription of the interview is fundamental in order to analyze itTranscribing means to create a written text, i.e. to objectivize the speech so that it will bealways available hic et nunc (Berger and Luckmann)Transcription allows to analyze the speech in a better way:- words could be separated and their order modified, narration could be back-warded andeventually develop syllogistic form of reasoning (Ricoeur)- researcher could clarify his concepts and develop new ideas- if the transcription is given to the interviewee, it is possible to activate his reflexivityKeep in mind that «Transcription is a form of TRANSLATION» (and translation is alwaysbetrayal)Translation is never a mere transposition of word from a language to another as it is almostimpossible to produce a text that is fully congruent with the original one.Every transcription/translation attempts to combine different languages, communicationstrategies, socio-cultural background  every transcription is an interpretative act!
  36. 36. How to transcribe a Hermeneutic InterviewWHENSomeone suggests to transcribe during the interview = illusion of higher conformityBUTIt is very difficult to interact with the interviewee and transcribe his speech at the same time:⁻ Something is always missing⁻ Interviewee may feel threatened, disturbed or frightenedBETTER transcribe when the interview is over as, usually, speech is tape and or video recordedThis allows researcher to have an empirical basis more congruent with all that has been saidduring the interview (verbal and non verbal communication)WHOInterview MUST be transcribed by the Interviewer because she/he knows better:⁻ how interaction developed⁻ the environment and the socio-cultural context⁻ the verbal and non verbal communication and all the other aspects of the interaction thathave not been tape or video recorded
  37. 37. How to transcribe a Hermeneutic InterviewWHATTranscription is a time consuming activity however the general criteria is to transcribe literallyevery word said by the interview.Researcher/transcriber must never try to «embellish» the speech or «put it into an order»: ill-formed expressions, repetitions, regional accent or dialectal word should be kept as they givemore (and fundamental) information about the interviewer’s lifeword.The non verbal communication forms to be included into the transcription have to be carefulselected as it is not possible, neither useful to use it all. Moreover, a text reporting everypossible non verbal code will be not understandable and readable.That is why transcription should be done having always in mind the research goals.“This decision will be largely dictated by the purpose the material will serve in your research.A dialectician will be concerned with pronunciation, an historian probably will not be. Apsychologist doing detailed discourse analysis will be interested in the length of every pauseand the exact number and location of every "uh" and "er"; a journalist might not require thiskind of detail at all”.Usually, in social research, a restricted set of conventional codes is used
  38. 38. How to interpet a Hermeneutic InterviewInterview Transcript is a complex text as it includes⁻ Narrations of events, objects, people, facts from the interviewer’s lifeworld⁻ Nonverbal communication codes⁻ Interactions among the interview’ actors (interviewee, interviewers, other people)⁻ Field notes and observations from the interviewer⁻ Definition of situation (Goffman)Interview Transcription is a polysemous text differing from the original one asIt is written so it is an interpretation of the original oral speechIt could be far (sometimes very far) from the interviewee’s intentions = the intervieweecould not agree with the transcription of his speech as «she/he may do not find/identifyhimself» , so:transcripts tends to be scarcely adequate«Adequacy principle»(Weber; Schütz) = researcher’s transcriptions and interpretationsshould be re-submitted to the interviewees
  39. 39. When interpreting a text, one should consider that there are differentintentions, i.e., according to Eco(1984) that textual interpretation is“polyvocal”, i.e. has more than one voice.Intentio auctoris- the author = the meanings the author wanted to instill intohis textIntentio operis - the text = what the internal mechanisms of the text allow usto say about itIntentio lectoris – the reader = what the reader interprets from the textHow to interpret a Hermeneutic Interview
  40. 40. How to interpret a Hermeneutic Interview«Adequacy principle»: interviewee feels that the relationship with the written text of the speechand the interpretation made by the researcher is both familiar and strange.However, interviewee could not be the only judge of the transcritption/interpretation as it oftenhappens that the interpretation made by the researcher allow to «understand the text betterthan its author» (Schleiermacher)there is dialogical-dialectical interchange between interpreter (researcher) andinterpretandum (text as objectification of interviewee’s speech), between self and other,between familiarity and strangeness (Gadamer).Hermeneutic interpretation «proceeds through iterative cycles of explanation andunderstanding, of text, and context and of understanding of the other and understanding of theself» (Schwabenland)«Adequacy principle» is rarely applied, even if it could be very useful to the researcher to: Understand better the Interviewee’s point of view; Refine the interpretation Discover the potentialities and the limitations of the research
  41. 41. How to interpret a Hermeneutic Interview«Interpreting a text is like a walk in the Woods» – Umberto EcoEco uses this metaphor to set the limits of the interpretation activity.Just as woods is not a private garden, Interpretation is not a private affair, it is a public activity and it shouldfollow some rules. Above all in social research.Some criteria for interpretingAvoid aberrant decoding = a message is interpreted differently from what was intended by its sender = insocial research it happens when the researcher tends to favor information that confirms her/his beliefs orideas (Confirmation Bias).Have always in mind the Research cognitive objectives (i.e. research goals)Parsimony and Relevance: a text could say many thing, but not all are interesting or correct (some of themcould be totally misleading or wrong) = first discard all the and then try the choose among the remaining themost relevant one.Intersubjective agreement within the relevant scientific communityConsider the to what degree the text is autonomousRefer to the Hermeutic Cicle = ones understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to theindividual parts and ones understanding of each individual part by reference to the wholeUse concept maps, metaphors, typology and classifications
  42. 42. How to analyze a Hermeneutic Interview1) Transcribe all the interviews2) Interpret them by:- reading each of one them carefully- selecting and commenting the most relevant excerpts from each one- controlling the interpretation of the excerpts- considering all the interviews together to sum up the findings3) Write down a report synthesizing your findingsConcept Map could be useful in selecting the excerpts (they could be placed be under one ofthe «ovals»)
  43. 43. How to analyze a Hermeneutic InterviewEXAMPLE OF A COMMENTNeedsLegal and bureaucratic aid seems to be the mosturgent need for the majority of the immigrants thatwere interviewed:«I don’t need anything but legal aid to help megetting through those…BORING AND STUPID officialdocuments»(Female, Ukraine, 50, caregiver)« Italian Bureaucracy is so slow and complicated [shesighs]… I really need help»(Female, Belarus, 43, day laborer)Researcher recaps the resultsin a commentExcerpts are included toreinforce the findings.Few but significant excerptsshould be chosen andcommentedNonverbal communication =1st Interviewee raised up her voice to express herdisappointment(word in capital letters)2nd interview stops for sighing as she feel disheartened
  44. 44. How to control resultsIn Hermeneutic Approach, researcher is interested both in WHAT and HOW is narratedThomas Theorem = If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences = if aninterviewee is telling something we believe is wrong we should not correct it, but try tounderstand how this subjective perception influence is actions.Conformity = to what extent “reality” and the narration of lifeworld coincidecriteria to check the conformity are:Relevance = to what extent the subjective construction of interviewee’s reality (lifeworld) is anexpression of her/his aspirations, beliefs, ambitions, attitudes, behaviors, social representationsCoherence = internal (checking the facts and the events narrated in a single interview) andexternal (among different interviews narrating the same subject)Memory = check the influence of personal event memory on the narration of events – meaningsgiven to Present may influence the memory of past eventsConformity check could be done using triangulation proceduresCongruency = degree of agreement between two or more interpretations of the same excerptmade by different researchersGeneralization = not in a statical sense, it refers to what extent it is possible to extend theresearch findings to other similar research subjects/socio-cultural context/situations
  45. 45. truthfulness of narration =interviewees may say things that weknow are not true, incorrect ordespicableInterpretative intervention of theresearcherthe empirical basis is not avaliableGeneralization is not possibleMain goal of Hermeneutic approach is to explore individuallifeworld, which is made by beliefs, prejudices, commonsense, and all the other cognitive mechanism of identityconfirmation – Hermeneutic Approach is more interestedin how these beliefs, perceptions, opinions could shapeinterviewee’s lifeworld and influence his behavior (ThomasTheorem)Every act ok knowing is also an act of interpretation = theaffirm the contrary is to believe in a blind objectivismEvery researcher should expose the Analysis andInterpretation procedures used (publicity criterion)Interview transcripts could be made availableMethodological rigor is the only guarantee of “objectivity”The same goes for the quantitative approachStatistical generalization is not an objective of thisapproachIt is a controversial subject even for the quantitativeresearch (Marradi)Criticism of Hermeneutic Approach and replies

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