Tuesday, 12 March 2013

explicating behaviour directly through academic research

Thomas (1994) states that "all the extant methods...including content analysis-only provide data that may be interpreted as reflecting  ... behavioral processes" (p.685), as a defence against critics that claim content-analysis is too indirect a method to get at behaviours being studied/uncovered through the research. This point resonated with me, as it is clear to me that any other method, even interviews and ethnographic observation, are all indirect ways of getting at a subject matter. Because the researcher is always an outsider approaching the subject from an intellectual distance, to analyze it, study it and make interpretations about it. Which is why in lectures and readings we are constantly reminded of being aware of our own biases as researchers which may be unconsciously imposed on to the research findings and colour our interpretation of the data.  
The only truly direct way of getting at an experience is to experience it yourself. This would make it difficult to intellectually analyze it as your experience is completely subjective and personal, rather than rational and logical. 
So I agree with Thomas that "it is a grand conceit of many social scientists and postmodern researchers to assume...that (their approach) is a direct route" (p.685) to a subject matter. 
To make a wider general claim, I would say all academics need to view their work as a piece of a bigger picture. An intellectual understanding of a subject matter is only that, an intellectual understanding. To truly understand something on a deep level, other levels of understanding are equally necessary. It is good to keep this in mind, to stay open to and aware of the limits of our claims as academics about social proccesses.

Thomas, S. (1994). Artifactual study in the analysis of culture: A defense of content analysis in a postmodern age. Communication Research. 21(6), 683-97

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree, but just imagine a scientist or researcher prefacing their claims as completely subjective and personal as opposed to rational and logical. How much traction or credence would that research get? To critique the method outside of its structural context is a start, and perhaps one of the ways true change occurs, from the inside out.