Saturday, 16 March 2013

Messy Data Vs. Neat Narrative

This week’s Yin (1981) reading was interesting in replying to Matthew Miles’ conclusion that “qualitative research on organizations cannot be expected to transcend story-telling.” When Yin mentions that Miles described qualitative research as not rational, and of less scientific value, I remembered one of the first Luker (2010) readings we had done where she discussed the traditional gendered separation between quantitative and qualitative research. I couldn’t help but think that gender wasn’t the main differentiating factor among these different types of research; it seems to also come with perspective. You’ll notice that more traditional scholars tend to have Miles’ sort of perspective because cold hard facts represent that sort of clarity and correctness I guess we strive for as academics. It mirrors that whole concept of our search for the capital-T Truth. Newer, more open and innovative minds embrace all the messy questions and answers that come with studying humans from a social science perspective. In this world, the questions and answers change and evolve as the world evolves (in our case, how information evolves), and it’s necessary for us to also evolve our traditional rigid views of the hard and fast method of studying things accordingly. Qualitative research allows us to linger in the messy data, as opposed to creating a neat narrative. 

Luker, K. (2010). Salsa dancing into the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Yin, R.K. (1981). The case study crisis: Some answers. Administrative Science Quarterly, 26(1), 58-65. 

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