Discovery as Basic Methodology of Qualitative and Quantitative Research


  • Gerhard Kleining Universität Hamburg
  • Harald Witt Universität Hamburg



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


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


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Author Biographies

Gerhard Kleining, Universität Hamburg

Gerhard KLEINING is Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of Hamburg , Germany. His publications include contributions to social structure and stratification, social images and stereotypes, qualitative methodologies and methods, heuristic research, introspection.

Harald Witt, Universität Hamburg

Harald WITT is Professor of Psychology at the University of Hamburg, Germany. His fields of research and publication include work and technique, qualitative research methodologies and methods, introspection.




How to Cite

Kleining, G., & Witt, H. (2001). Discovery as Basic Methodology of Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2(1).



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