Qualitative Research as Interpretive Science



Qualitative research is “taking over social sciences and related fields” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Yet many organizational scholars question the viability of a scientific approach to non-positivist qualitative research. Consequently, qualitative research is often assessed more on the “convincingness” of its findings than on the integrity of the methodology used or the results produced. Unfortunately, this turn away from science abandons the long-standing concern in organizational research with producing trustworthy evidence-based knowledge that is useful in practice. This may be also be limiting the value, credibility and usefulness of organizational research.

In this session, Robert Gephart will describe a methodological approach based on Alfred Schutz’s phenomenological philosophy that can provide verifiable scientific knowledge on organizations. The seminar will address the nature of positivism and interpretivism in social science, explain the need for developing qualitative research as a form of interpretive science, and illustrate the interpretive science approach with examples of existing organizational research. The interpretive science approach can help discover and understand important organizational phenomena other approaches cannot comprehend or grasp because it uses a well-developed methodology that is grounded in the actual meanings that social actors have and use in everyday organizational life.

Please contact Amanda Williams (williams@rsm.nl) for an optional reading for this session.