Language and Research

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.


Is an ancient and ubiquitous human activity. Curiosity about others and the worlds in which they live has always been displayed through conversation, asking questions, working together to see what happens after.


Talking or gossiping about others to tease out tensions and other reasons for behavior, Clarifying and understanding circumstances; Its is true that research is far from a unified and monolithic enterprise, and that there are important divisions within the research community which affect such vital areas as what is considered worth knowing, how research ought to be conducted, and what is to count as evidence.


  • Rationalistic vs. naturalistic
  • Positivistic vs. interpretative
  • Rigorous vs. intuitive
  • Objective vs. subjective
  • Hard vs. soft


  • Educational Research Should be based n the aims and methods of established science.
  • Educational Phenomena are assumed to be governed by the same sort of regularities and law- like relationships which characterize the so called ‘hard’ or ‘natural’ science

EMPIRICAL- ANLYTICAL APPROACH-Have sought to explain how people attribute meaning to their circumstances, and how they develop and make use of rules which govern their behavior.


Simplistic formulation has been disturbed:

  • By the recognition that there are major difference within paradigm, and
  • By the emergence of a third broad approach, namely that of critical science.
  • In the interpretative approach, a sort of fracture or schism has emerged.
  • Critics have argued that a knowledge of the meanings which individual actors bring to bear does not go far enough;
  • That human beings do not live in worlds entirely of their own devising,
  • People generally are subject to influences and pressures that shapes their attitudes and perceptions and yet of which they are often unaware.


  • Positivistic
  • Interpretive
  • Critical


Stresses the power of ‘positive’ knowledge to solve major practical problems.

The term itself is associated with the French Philosopher Comte who eschewed theological and metaphysical claims to knowledge, arguing instead that only sensorily apprehended experience could form the basis of valid knowledge and that accordingly. Knowledge could be advance only by means of observation and experiment (Cohen and Manion, 1985: 12)


  • The belief that theory is universal and that law-like generalizations are not bound to specific context or circumstances.
  • The commitment to an objective or dispassionate pursuit of ‘scientific truth’
  • A belief in determinism, or the assumption that events have causes which are distinct and analytically separable from them;
  • The view that variables can be identified and defined and that knowledge can be formalized;
  • A conviction that relationships between and among variables can be expressed in mathematically precise ways in the development and testing of theoretical proposition.

“Quantitative research is the dominant methodology in educational research. It is more widely published, taught, accepted, and rewarded in educational research circles than any other approach”

“ no one methodology can answer all questions and provide insights on all issues”


  • To identify these motives and intentions correctly is to grasp the ‘subjective meaning’ the action has to the actor
  • Many such rule governed practices are symbolic, and thus interpretative approaches are sometimes referred to as ‘symbolic’. (Popkewitz 1984)
  • The purpose of symbolic and an empirical- analytic (or positivistic) science is the same: to develop theories about social affairs.
  • The notion of theory, however, shifts from a search for law like regularities about the nature of social behavior to the identification of social rules the underlie and govern the use of ‘social facts’


  • The belief that any event or action is explicable in terms of multiple interacting factors, events and processes, and that ‘causes’ and ‘effects’ are mutually interdependent.
  • An acceptance of the extreme difficulty in attaining complete objectivity, especially in observing humans subjects who construe, or make sense of, events based on their individual systems of meaning.
  • The view that the aim of inquiry is to develop an understanding of individual cases, rather than universal laws or generalizations
  • The assumption that the world is made up of tangible and intangible multifaceted realities, and that these are best studied as a unified whole, rather than being fragmented into dependent and independent variables (in other words, context makes a difference)
  • A recognition that inquiry is always value-laden, and that such values inevitably influence the framing, bounding and focusing of research problems.


  • Phenomenology
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Symbolic interactionism

This means that interpretative accounts in research do not seek to interpret the actions and experiences of the actors, but rather to give deeper, more extensive and more systematic representation of events from the point of view of the actors involved.


“The inability of the interpretative approach to produce valid knowledge in the form of wide-ranging generalizations or to provide ‘objective’ standards of verifying or refuting theoretical accounts” (Carr and Kemmis, 1983:94)

“Like the empirical science, the interpretative tradition seeks objectivity and value-free inquiry into the human realm of intersubjective meaning” and that in doing so, “many interpretative studies are covert forms of positivism” (Jennings, 1985:5)

Is merely describing a situation from the perspective of the participants no matter how skillfully and systematically, ignores that fact that there are certain external features of social reality which are very influential in shaping the reality

“crucial problems of social conflict and social change”

What is required is to broader and more inclusive perspective that nay one participant, or group of participants, may be able to bring to bear.

[Researchers] have an obligation to seek an objective perspective which is not necessarily that of the participating actors at all… we need not be confirmed purely and simply to that social reality which is made available to us by participant actors themselves

”The very process whereby one interprets and defines a situation is itself a product of the circumstances in which one is placed” (Cohen and Manion, 1385: 38)

Important factor in such circumstances is the power of others to impose their definitions of situations or view reality upon others. Social conflicts may arise in two distinct ways.

“The function of critical theory is to understand the relations among value, interests, and actions and, to paraphrase Marx, to change the world, not to describe it”


  • Much human action is outside the conscious control of personal agency, and is embedded in social conditions beyond the conscious of the actors involved;
  • Any interpretative explanation makes sense against a background of social rules, practices and beliefs, and there is thus a ‘logic of the situation’ which differs from the ‘logic of causes’
  • Unless research is restricted to merely recording actors’ interpretations and understandings, it inevitably involves the reformulating or ‘resymbolising’ of events or expressions which is an act of construction rather than of discovery.
  • Researchers make use of expert knowledge that potentially sets them apart from the subjects being researched and which gives them access to a specialized language interpretation not accessible to the people being studied
  • Intentional agency may be frustrated by social rules, by constitutive meanings of the social order and by “the habitual sediment of the past,” and the core project of uncovering such constraints through research is one of the human liberation and emancipation.