Question Sandy Social Sciences

Research philosophy: interpretivism

What is the interpretivist approach to research?

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Answer Internal Staff

Interpretivism is a philosophical approach to conducting research. It is a philosophical stance that advocates that humans are different from physical phenomena because they create meanings. An interpretivist approach argues that social worlds cannot be studied in the same way as physical phenomena as complexity needs to be taken into account (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2016, pp. 718-719). The purpose of interpretivist research is to create new and richer understandings and interpretations of the world we live in. For example, in business and management studies this would mean looking at organisations from different stakeholder viewpoints i.e. the CEO, managers, admin staff, cleaners, customers etc. Unlike the positivist approach where you, as a researcher, should remain objective and distanced from the results, in an interpretivist approach your interpretations of the data is an important influence to the contributions you think the data will make. A typical approach to data collection associated with interpretivism is a method that uses an inductive approach with a small sample. The data collected from this small sample should be qualitative in nature, and a common technique used to obtain such qualitative data is an interview.

References

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., and Thornhill, A. (2016). Research Methods for Business Students. 7th Edition. Harlow: Pearson.