And so we come to the last post. So sad! In any case, I think my first question comes a little too late: what is meaning in research? Are we talking about linguistics? Semiotics? If we can’t answer this satisfactorily, should we just conduct descriptive research? If the “qualitative approach is so amorphous that it is and always will be, undefinable” (p. 249), how dare we criticize it and ask for more of this or less of that?
I appreciated the discussion on writer’s meanings that begins in page 253. As we all know, Saussure, Foucault and Derrida are as erudite and eloquent as they are poetic and abstract. Nevertheless, what the author did not mention that needed to be there was the fact that this authors, through lack of a clear meaning, grant us the freedom to interpret… to make meaning of what they were saying…hah! On the other hand, I have to play the devil’s advocate here: clarity is overrated. So is generalizability (p. 291-292).
I also enjoyed the critique of quantitative research and its reductionist ways, but I feel like that’s not what the end of the book should be about. Why is it so hard to celebrate qualitative research without mentioning quantitative research? Let the counters do their thing and pay them no attention! If the critique “cuts both ways” (p. 269), just drop the damn knifes and do your thing!
The discussion arguing that reality is constructed by us was very interesting and, in my humble opinion, constituted the strongest point in favor of doing qualitative work: we need to give individuals a voice in which to express their reality-building process. It is that process and the things that surround and affect it that we should be studying. Likewise, the point made on page 284 about the researcher becoming part of the making-meaning process is truly important… and something that, I feel, really scares researchers.
I also enjoyed the critique of the way we call ethnography things that are not…but what should we call them if we use the same methods (only not the same amount of time)?
The discussion about writing on page 295 was quite… hypocritical. Researchers seldom feel a powerful need to share their findings with the world; they would write differently if they did. Writers don’t think about what the reader needs, they think about what the editors need. The fact that everyone writes to get published is rarely addressed in books and academic writing, along with the fact that almost nobody writes the stuff that gets published.
Are we headed towards convergence? Hell no. Everyday the counters become bigger and stronger, they get their rather repetitive stuff published and, in a sense, academia has found a way to entice new brains with its “obscure statistical innovations” (p. 304). Thankfully, some folks out there are still doing research that matters.
The last part of the book was a tad boring, or “long and detailed” (p. 308). In a sense, I felt like it was a rehash of the previous chapter. In any case, convergence would be great… but the chasm academia has built between two ways of doing things that should be complementary seems insurmountable. And I don’t care!