Method and fieldwork in a hermeneutical perspective

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A look at what scientific method and scientific theory means

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Method and fieldwork in a hermeneutical perspective

  1. 1. Method and Fieldwork in aHermeneutical Perspective Espen Suenson Åbo Akademi 13.2.2012
  2. 2. 1 stpoint:Science is argumentation. We argue to convince
  3. 3. Science is argumentation•  Numbers can’t speak for themselves•  We need to know when planning an experiment what the numbers are for
  4. 4. Science is argumentation•  What is written in the grant proposal has an influence on the subsequent research
  5. 5. Science is argumentation•  Perelman & Olbrecths-Tyteca (1958): Convincing yourself is a special case of convincing others
  6. 6. Science is argumentation•  Gadamer (1960): All thought is directed by application•  For a scientist, the application is to convince other scientists
  7. 7. Science is argumentation•  Latour & Woolgar (1979): empirical demonstration that the natural sciences are as much about argumentation as any other
  8. 8. 2nd point:The scientific argument
  9. 9. The scientific argumentA point we wish to make + form + evidence
  10. 10. The scientific argument•  Example (Heidenberg, Nåls, Porres 2008: Statechart features and pre-release maintenance defects, p. 465)•  Quote: “The understandability points ratio and the assessed difficulty for changeability are the two major indicators that ModelA was easier to understand and change.”
  11. 11. “The understandability points ratio and the assesseddifficulty for changeability are the two major indicatorsthat ModelA was easier to understand and change.”•  Form: enthymeme•  Major premise: understandability points ratio and assessed difficulty indicate ease of understanding and changing•  Minor premise: “in Table 4 we can see that ModelA generated better values for all four data points.”•  Conclusion: ModelA is easier to understand and change
  12. 12. “The understandability points ratio and the assesseddifficulty for changeability are the two major indicatorsthat ModelA was easier to understand and change.”•  Point we wish to make: It is easier to understand models written using a better design style
  13. 13. “The understandability points ratio and the assesseddifficulty for changeability are the two major indicatorsthat ModelA was easier to understand and change.”•  Evidence: Paired sample t-test comparing Model1 – ModelA.
  14. 14. The scientific argument•  This kind of rhetorical analysis can be done with different choices of base unit size: sentence, paragraph, section, article, book …
  15. 15. 3rd point:scientific evidence depends on interpretation
  16. 16. Scientific evidence•  Evidence that cannot be understood is useless
  17. 17. Scientific evidence•  We can always get more evidence, hence interpretation is important, not quantity
  18. 18. Scientific evidence•  Evidence and interpretation is linked by the point that we’re trying to make•  This point is: the research goal
  19. 19. 4 thpoint:What does this have to do with fieldwork?
  20. 20. Fieldwork•  Fieldwork is a method for gathering evidence
  21. 21. Fieldwork•  Basic idea: talk to people, see what they’re doing
  22. 22. Fieldwork•  You have to solve problems and adjust your method as you go along•  People are unpredictable. If you knew what they’re going to say there would be no point in talking to them
  23. 23. 5 point: thSo method is collection of evidence. What is theory?
  24. 24. Scientific theory•  Gadamer: No understanding can take place without prejudice•  Prejudice: what we expect to see
  25. 25. Scientific theory•  Theory is prejudices written down, so they can be discussed and checked
  26. 26. Scientific theory•  Can we write down all our prejudices, i.e. all we know? Of course not. Hence, theory presents a certain perspective, determined by application
  27. 27. Final point:Scientific method is a dialogue with evidence
  28. 28. Science as dialogue•  ‘Dialogue’ is a metaphor
  29. 29. Science as dialogue•  Why a metaphor?•  Makes is easier to remember, easier to understand
  30. 30. Science as dialogue•  Why is it a good metaphor?•  In science, as in dialogue, it is important to ‘listen’ to the evidence
  31. 31. Science as dialogue•  To select a method and stick to it no matter what the observations show is like a person that only talks about himself and asks questions without listening to the answers
  32. 32. Conclusion:Why is this stuff important? Because it makes your lifeharder if you’re not aware of what you’re doing.

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