psy_04_99_p186-189_johnson

psy_04_99_p186-189_johnson - Research `hor rors The...

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S EVERAL articles published recently in The Psychologist have outlined 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 detail. 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 methodological virtues. 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 added to. 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 on. These ‘horro rs ’a re seen as applying to all scientific enquiry, whether in the nat u ra l or social sciences, whether quantitative or qualitative. 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 et al ., 1994). In quantitative methodology, the
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psy_04_99_p186-189_johnson - Research `hor rors The...

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