EVERAL articles published recently
a ‘new paradigm’ in psychological
research: q u a l i t at ive approaches (e.g.
have touched on features that can enhance
the ‘ t ru s t wo rt h i n e s s ’ of qualitative studies.
My aim here is to explore these in more
I will describe what have been identified
as the ‘horro rs ’ of any scientific enquiry
( Wo o
l ga r, 1988). Using examples from my
own research, I will show how, within a
qualitative study, these can be dealt with.
Confronting these ‘horro rs ’ and wo rk i n g
with them can tra n s fo rm them into
Wh at are the ‘ h o r ro r s ’ ?
Woolgar (1996) says that the ‘traditional’
or ‘ re c e ive d ’v i ew of science, and the one
on which scientific method is based, is that
it effectively deals with the connection
between the object of study and its
rep re s e n t ation (explanation). However,
Woolgar argues that because of the
‘methodological horro rs ’ of scientific
research it is impossible, in principle,
to make effective connections between
rep re s e n t ations and their underlying reality.
These ‘methodological horro rs ’a re
described as indexicality, i n c o n cl u d ab i l i t y
and re fl ex
ivity (Woolgar, 1988, pp.32–33).
I n d ex i c a l i t y
re fe rs to the notion that a
rep re s e n t ation is always linked to a
particular time or setting, and that it will
change as settings and situations change.
I n c o n cl u d ab i l i t y
is the idea that accounts
are never conclusive and can always be
R e fl ex iv i t y
re fe rs to the continual
process of the impact of the researcher’s
previous knowledge of a phenomenon
on the way in which it is rep re s e n t e d.
This rep re s e n t at i o n
, in turn, influences
further conceptualisations of it, and so
These ‘horro rs ’a re seen as applying to
all scientific enquiry, whether in the nat u ra l
or social sciences, whether quantitative
Rather than seeing these ‘horro rs ’
as insurmountable, as is suggested in
Wo o l ga r ’s critique of science, c e rt a i n
Pidgeon, 1992) have suggested ways in
which the ‘gap ’b e t ween objects and their
rep re s e n t ation can be minimised. The
notion of ‘ t ru s t wo rt h i n e s s ’ sets out cri t e ri a
by which qualitative psychological research
should be judged. ‘Tru s t wo rt h i n e s s ’
measures — that is, certain good practices
— have, in particular, been used as a way
of reducing the ‘gap ’b e t ween an object of
study and its explanation (e.g. Banister
In quantitative methodology, the