Reading Knight's chapter “Sensemaking,” although some of the statistics-related discussion is beyond me, reinforced to me just how subjective research is, whether it's qualitative or quantitative. At the same time, I've also been working through the methodology of my final proposal, and doing that is also reminding me that although data may be objective, the research conclusions that come from it certainly aren't. In my case even the number of relevant texts, and therefore the actual data, is subjective: do I include all texts that explicitly mention my topic (a nineteenth-century gentlemen's club) in any context, even one unrelated to my interest? Do I include texts on similar topics (like other clubs) or not? What if there are texts in obscure locations that I never find and that therefore don't make it in to my research? All of these decisions will affect the outcome of the research project. In a sense, this realization is freeing – I need to make decisions one way or another, and these decisions will affect the research no matter what I choose. For projects that don't draw on textual analysis, similar questions come up when, to use examples from Knight, the researcher must decide at what level of depth to analyze or how to code themes from interviews.
One of the biggest conclusions I draw from all this is just how important it is to be clear about your methodology and decisions in your final article/product. If the people reading your research doesn't know what decisions you made and why you made them, they can't judge for themselves whether they feel the research is conducted well, whether certain things should also be analyzed in different ways, and whether the conclusions might have turned out differently.
Knight, P.T. (2002). Small-scale research: Pragmatic inquiry in social science and the caring professions. London: SAGE.