Discovery as Basic Methodology of Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Gerhard Kleining, Harald Witt


The paper argues 1. that methodologies of qualitative research in psychology and the social sciences should be directed toward discoveries rather than reflexive interpretations. It gives a critical account of hermeneutics and the "interpretative paradigm" pointing to three drawbacks: inherent subjectivity of interpretations, restriction to Geisteswissenschaft or the qualitative form of data and a recent tendency of dissolution of rules in what is said to be a crisis of qualitative research (DENZIN & LINCOLN 1994, pp.577f.). (2.) A number of classical studies in psychology and sociology show that problems associated with hermeneutics can be overcome using discovery or explorative research strategies. (3.) The authors present the Hamburg qualitative heuristic methodology which is in line with various classical studies but makes its methodological decisions explicit. It describes four basic rules of data collection and data analysis, the process of heuristic research and verification of its results. (4.) It gives an example of explorative research with qualitative data using the methods of the qualitative experiment and group-controlled "dialogic" introspection and evaluates these techniques. (5.) It shows how quantitative data can be handled in an explorative approach. An example is the exploration of the present structure of German society. (6.) It claims that there is no inherent relationship between the form of the data—qualitative or quantitative—and a certain research methodology—heuristic, deductive, hermeneutic—though heuristic research in psychology and the social sciences can be handled more easily with qualitative data as they carry meaning. (7.- 8.) After a look at discovering methods in the natural sciences the authors conclude that discoveries should be a basic guideline for psychological and social research in general, which could bridge the gap between qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and establish a new relationship toward the natural sciences which owe their success mainly to the development of their explorative capacities.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0101164


hermeneutics; heuristics; qualitative methodology; quantitative research; qualitative experiment; introspection

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Copyright (c) 2001 Gerhard Kleining, Harald Witt

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