What Is an Interpretivist Approach?

An interpretivist approach is a way to conduct research that includes the researcher’s subjective analysis as an important aspect. This type of research is based on empathy and understanding the perspective of research subjects.

While many research projects begin with a hypothesis and work to prove or disprove that original theory, an interpretivist approach lets the results evolve naturally from the research. This honors the significance the researchers place on meaningful human actions and their historical context.

The Goal of an Interpretivist Approach to Research With interpretivist research, the goal is to develop an understanding of the subjects and the topic. This differs from most other data collection and research methods because it shifts the focus away from making and proving the researcher’s predictions. It runs all the information gathered through the filters of social constructs, cultural norms and relationships between subjects and researchers.

The Connection Between the Researcher and Subjects One of the key principles of the interpretivist approach is that there’s a connection between the researchers and the way research is conducted and the research subjects. The way questions are asked, the tone of voice used by the researcher and even the subject’s comfort level with the researcher affects the results. Comfortable dialogue is considered important in getting accurate responses so the researchers are more involved and active in the actual research than they’d be in other types of research study approaches.

Data Collection Techniques for Studies Using the Interpretivist Approach The primary data collection techniques for studies using the interpretivist approach are personal interactions between the researcher and subjects. The methods include interviews and observation. While there might be a set of questions prepared that each subject is asked to answer for an apples-to-apples comparison, the interview questions tend to be unstructured. This lets the conversation flow naturally between researchers and study participants. It also builds a rapport that improves the accuracy of the research findings. Reviewing written texts provided by subjects is also a method used in this type of research in conjunction with the interviews and observation.

Subjective, Qualitative and In Motion Reality is considered to be subjective and changeable because it’s based on cultural standards that frequently change. This type of qualitative research takes that into account and weighs the results of the data against current social norms. The results are tied to things going on in society at the time of the research, and that makes taking the time to create a connection between the researcher and subjects even more important in interpretivist research.

The Findings of an Interpretivist Research Study Because the findings emerge during the course of the research, the results are presented in a present tense report that acknowledges the possibility of change. Researchers performing this type of study also need to be extra cautious to present findings from the participant’s perspective rather than the researcher’s point of view. This is facilitated by the relationship established through dialogue between the person conducting the study and the people responding to queries. It’s also important to note that the findings may need to be frequently updated because the respondent’s situation and feelings about events can change rapidly.