In general, the thing I struggle with most is that qualitative research has no expectation of impartiality. I am beginning to understand that this is because at least some of the proponents of qualitative research explicitly reject the possibility of impartiality. I guess I’m a positivist by nature and my natural Libra inclination is to see and hear both sides of arguments. Anyway, I struggle with the idea of deliberate bias in research, of prejudged advocacy. I don’t know where it leaves us if everything we read takes a side, how do we get to truth? Yes, I know many of the folks who advocate for qualitative research reject the concept of truth, but honestly I don’t see how to move forward if there’s no truth.
Jun 29 2010
I’ve struggled with this one as well, and I’ve moved away from positivism.
I agree that there is an empirical truth out there, but I’m very aware that my perceptions are my weaknesses. I don’t doubt, when I see green, that you see the same colours on the wavelength, but I’m well aware that my experiences carry thoroughly different understandings of that colour.
I can describe, in as much neutrality as I can, what it is that I see, but even my language carries my interpretations with it. When I see a teacher “scold” a child, did they really scold them? Did they raise their voice? Or was that measured against how loud I would be if I raised my voice? Was the tone particularly high pitched? Measured against what?
At this point we see why we have to acknowledge our own inability to be impartial. Eventually, in the process of making sense of those things we observe, we have to acknowledge our weaknesses and difficulties.