9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Research Relations and Ethical Issues Building II, C2.01

Unequal relation of power in the final interpretation

Unequal relation of power in the final interpretation

This paper addresses the kind of information we get by using qualitative methods such as interviews, observations and the like. The paper elaborates and discusses some important aspects of producing data in a way that is respectful to the phenomenon or the persons in focus of the analysis.

To use qualitative methods respectfully, we may consider how the relation between researcher and researched is a relation of power. The researcher is the one who initiate the research and make the agenda. He or she decides what is the theme in focus, pose most of the questions in an interview and choose the angle of observations. Most important is the domination in the final interpretation and conclusion, written by the researcher in the final report or article.

There has been some attention to the unequal relation of power in the literature. Focus has been on how to handle this relation in the meeting between interviewer and interviewed, between observer and observed. The final interpretation has not been offered much attention with respect to this relation of power, not even the fact that the final version of the research is published, uploaded on the web and may be read by many persons.

To take this final interpretation in to consideration some questions may be posed: How can we make a respectful interpretation of the data produced in collaboration between researcher and researched? What exactly do we mean when we say interpretation?

The paper will argue that interpretation is a condition that we must be aware of, but will never get rid of (Gadamer 1999), because the final interpretation of the qualitative research can only be the interpretation of the researcher ? the researched will leave the interview with his or hers own interpretation, but this version will mostly not be committed to paper.

This paper will take up this challenge and try to elaborate, argue and discuss how a decentralized subject, a descriptive focus and an accept of an approaching condition will bring us closer to a respectful use and interpretation of qualitative research.