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The Importance of Hermeneutic Theory in Understanding and Appreciating Interpretive Inquiry as a Methodology

posted Mar 14, 2016, 3:29 AM by Naomi Naghi   [ updated Jul 26, 2016, 12:18 PM ]

Lawrence Muganga[1]

Journal of Social Research & Policy
Volume: 6, Issue: 1
, Online First
Date: July 2015
ISSN: 2067-2640 (print), 2068-9861 (electronic)

Abstract: In recent decades, qualitative research processes have gained respectability in the social sciences field. Among the different types of qualitative research, interpretive inquiry seeks to gain information from interview subjects and to analyze that information from the context of the participants. The concept of hermeneutics, which originated in Ancient Greece and gained popularity as a method of analyzing Biblical text during the 17th Century, has recently expanded its focus into several qualitative research areas. Hermeneutics not only represents a philosophy, but also a theoretical framework or methodological approach to research. This paper will demonstrate that as a framework and/or methodology, hermeneutics complements the aims of interpretive inquiry. Specifically, qualitative researchers employing hermeneutics can interpret the interview data by concentrating on three concepts: the whole-part relationship, interpretation, and language. These three aspects permeate every stage of the research process, beginning with pre-interview activities and interviews and finishing with data interpretation and analysis.  Although the use of hermeneutics and interpretive inquiries contain drawbacks related to the inherent subjectivity of both methods, the researcher needs to understand the relationship between their background, the subject’s context, and the language emerging from the interview process. As a qualitative researcher engaging in my own research area, educational policy, I have used both of these approaches to investigate the use of authentic and personalized learning in African postsecondary education. 

Keywords: Hermeneutics; Interpretive Inquiry; Qualitative Research; Whole-Part Methodology; Interpretation; Language; Interviews.

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