Interpretivism and the Pursuit of Research Legitimization


Interpretivismand the Pursuit of Research Legitimization

Ithas been recognized that case studies may take the form of eitherqualitative or quantitative approaches. However, at times, they mayconsider taking a mix of the two approaches. In the qualitative andinterpretive researches, the researcher becomes involved directly inthe process of data collection as well as analysis. Although inqualitative and interpretive approaches the researcher becomesinvolved directly in collecting data and analysis, the researcher ininterpretive research is more close to the actors and usually becomesa passionate participant (Craton, 2001). Although the aspect of theresearcher acting as a participant is usually viewed as a pitfall, itis at times perceived as one of the advantages of this approach.Interpretive research helps in the presentation of a researcher’sown constructions and those of participants. Despite interpretiveresearches being prolific in social sciences and increasinglyrecognized in multidisciplinary researches, the validity of theinterpretive researches have been debated. Besides, the results ofthe interpretive research have been criticized in terms ofreliability, validity and the capacity to generalize (Kelliher,2005) these are collectively known as research legitimization.However, the capacity to generalize, achieve reliability and validitycan be attained by the interpretive research.

Interpretiveresearch is critical in helping investigators attain an understandingof actions of individuals in social situations and circumstances. Forinstance, an interpretive researcher would go past describing thereasons behind a job-enrichment program not working, through using anestablished hypothesis of job design and motivation. Rather thandoing this, the interpretive researcher would consider circulatingamid workers in their workplace setting, asking them about theiropinions on the program, its implication to them, and how itreinforces or conflicts their existing behaviors, opinions andattitudes (McNabb,2004). Through this, the investigator seeks to understand theprogram’s meaning that is, how it can be attached to rules, norms,values, and social practice. A research is usually classified asinterpretive in case it can build on the assumption that individualslearn about reality from the meanings, which they assign to socialphenomena like consciousness, publications, language, tools, sharedpublications, and other artifacts (McNabb,2004). Interpretive researches are context-laden, which implies thattheir meanings keep on changing. The chief goal of interpretiveresearch entails providing multi-layered interpretations anddescriptions of human experiences. In accomplishing this key goal,interpretive research considers the way in which humans make sense ofthe in their lives as they occur, but not as they are planned. Thus,in order to thoroughly comprehend an organization or event, theinvestigator should fathom its historical context.

Principlesof Interpretive Research

Inorder to help investigators in conducting and evaluating interpretiveresearch studies, a set of seven significant principles have beendeveloped. These principles are as discussed below HermeneuticCircle Principle

Thisprinciple became devised in order to illustrate the phenomenon of theunderstanding/learning process. The emphasis of this principle isexplaining the nature of the socially constructed meanings of humansand the interdependent implication of the sections and the whole thatthey form (McNabb,2013). The interpretation of the larger whole comes from anunderstanding of the parts, while from the whole an understanding ofthe parts can be connected. Thus, the understanding process movescontinually in an expanding circle of greater understanding.

ContextualNature Principle

Accordingto this principle, the contextual nature of the organization orstudied phenomenon is critical. The meaning of the investigator isusually derived out of the given historical and social context inwhich the phenomenon has been embedded all together, all patternsthat are discovered within the embedded context change constantly(McNabb,2013). Therefore, the organization being interpreted is usuallysituation and time specific. The emphasis of this principle isexplaining the socio-historical context in order to make the audiencecomprehend the emergence of the present situation.

Interactionbetween Investigators and Study Subjects Principle

Informationis not usually inherent in the phenomenon however, it becomesdeveloped due to the social interrelations of investigator andparticipants. The investigator, through interacting withparticipants, becomes the same with the group members under study.The emphasis of this principle is explaining the mutual interactionsof investigators with participants.

Abstractionand Generalization Principle

Accordingto this principle, interpretive research usually deals withabstractions since it tries bringing order to disunited parts throughcategorizing them into generalizations and concepts having widerapplication. The inferences, which are grounded on investigator’ssubjective interpretation of a single case, should be perceived astheoretical generalizations. The emphasis of this principle isexplaining how insights become derived through using a certaintheoretical lens acting as a sensitizing tool for viewing the worldin a given manner.

DialogicalReasoning Principle

Thisprinciple argues that the investigator weighs explicitly all biases,preconceptions, or both that are brought to the planned researchactivity against the information, which actually emerges from theactual research process (McNabb,2013). Dialogical reasoning forces the investigator to start bydefining the underlying assumptions guiding the study and theresearch paradigm upon which the research will be based through aprocess of dialog with participants, the investigator defines andredefines research questions and assumptions in light of the data,which emerges.

MultipleInterpretations Principle

Thisprinciple demands that the investigator should compare aggressivelyhis/her contextual and historical interpretations of the phenomenonagainst all other available interpretations and any reason that isprovided for them. Therefore, the investigator should subject his/herown biases and preconceptions to comparisons against competinginterpretations. This principle emphasizes on explaining possiblevariations in the interpretations of the investigator.


Accordingto this principle, investigators should find alternative explanationsto the issues being investigated. The emphasis of this principle isexplaining any feasible bias in the narratives collected fromparticipants and finding any alternative explanations to the researchproblem (McNabb,2013).

Interpretiveresearch is usually known for its value. Interpretive researches areusually characterized by their capacity to have a researchermaintaining a close involvement. This element is of value because ithelps in ensuring that the researcher has an in-depth access toparticipants, data and issues. Besides, this element permitsparticipation in action or observation rather than just accessingopinions like, when using interviews to study a certain problem(Eisenhardt, 1989). Positive benefits are likely to be achievedthrough the close involvement since the field participants usuallysee the researcher as one who is attempting to make a validcontribution in the field site rather than seeking data and writingit for literature purposes. Interpretive researches are of valuebecause they help in revealing information that cannot be revealed byany other method. For instance, there are some meanings that cannotbe interpreted or described without having an access to thebackground knowledge relevant to the meaning. In such a scenario, theresearcher has to participate in order to understand the meaning.This makes interpretive research of immense value to understandingmeanings attached to a particular item. Although observations andinterviews may tend to provide rich descriptions of some of the livedexperiences, they may not be detailed to provide an in-depth meaningand interpretation. Take, for instance, in understanding a certainculture, a researcher can gather information through interviews,observation or act as a participant observer. In the case ofobservation and interviews, the researcher will be capable ofobtaining the information concerning the culture, but not as much asthat of the participant observer (Craton, 2001). For the case of theinterpretive researcher, he will be in a position to provide theinformation based on his own understanding and that of theparticipants of the given culture. Thus, interprevitism is usually ofimportance because it helps to provide information based on the dataprovided by participants and that of the researcher. Presenting datain this manner may help in detecting any flaws that may result fromthe participants giving wrong information. At times, the dataprovided by the participants may match that of the researcher, whichis an indication of the accuracy in the information. Interpretiveresearch usually establishes the meaning and arrives at anunderstanding of the occurrence to which it implicitly refers(Douglas, 2003). It is apparent that interpretive is essentiallypremised way of knowing what individuals identify as different fromthe logical positivists. The primary goal of interpretive research isseeking to understand properly the meaning attached to a phenomenonrather than generalizing or predicting outcomes from data.

Interpretiveresearch is also valued due to accepting flexibility. In theinterpretive research, interpretive conceptions usually assume thatthere are no absolutes this emanates from the reasoning that anunanticipated data may emerge during the process of developinginterpretive conceptions. Interpretive research achieves thisflexibility through three ways observation, using flexible methodsfor text analysis like the hermeneutic circle, and keeping an openmind. Cultural differences may become a relevant element in anyencounter amid participants and researchers since each has adifferent understanding and expectation. Although such understandingsor differences may occur, the interpretive perspective can provide aneffective approach to dealing with such an issue. Anderson (1981)made a suggestion that through applying the skill of observation mayhelp in connecting actual and verbal behavior in an attempt to gain adeeper understanding of the precise meaning of an event. In thiscase, flexibility can be achieved through a combination of openness,observation and hermeneutic circle. Through using this combination,the researcher will not only gather unanticipated and deeper datafrom the conversation, but will also be capable of avoiding culturaldifferences amid the participants and researcher.

Interpretiveresearch is critical for studying government agencies andorganizations. The fundamental aim of interpretive research makes theapproach relevant for this application. The chief aim of theinterpretive approach is developing a more entire comprehension ofsocial associations and discovering human possibilities. Presentresearches of organizational culture shows the significance ofinterpretive research techniques for appropriately understandingbelief systems, values and norms in organizations. Thus, interpretiveresearch is significant for studying government agencies andorganizations. Besides, interpretive research is critical in theinformation systems field. Since it can be used in understandinghuman action and thought in organizational and social contexts, ithas the potential of producing deep insights into the IS phenomena,including the utilization and management of the information systems.

Onthe other hand, interprevitism is of importance because theinterpretive approach can be capable of generating new knowledge,which is vital in providing valuable information for the future work.For instance, in a nursing setting, the perspective of patientsregarding their nursing care may be revealed and understood in casenurses ask them to describe their experiences during the process ofnursing. Such information is valuable and can be used for newunderstandings in the nursing education and policy. Besides,interpretive research may also provide valuable information for thefuture work through story telling. Participants may tell stories,which may help in providing information for future research. Forexample, consider a researcher doing a research in a healthcaresetting using the interpretive approach. As the researcher does hisresearch, he can receive health care information that can be used inthe future from the participants through the stories that he obtainfrom them (Eisenhardt &amp Graebner, 2007).

Inaddition, interpretive research is of importance since it provides amore detailed data, which is critical in understanding in depth whatis actually happening. Interpretive research usually has moredetailed information since the researcher may dig out informationfrom a participant without the participant noticing that he is beingobserved. When a participant knows that there is someone observinghim/her, he/she may tend to hide the actual behavior, but the momenthe/she does not know whether he/she is being observed, he/she islikely to behave normally. According to Douglas (2003), in mostcases, the participants do not know whether they are being observed,which lead to the participant observer obtaining a lot ofinformation. Thus, the interpretive research is rich in informationdetailing the happenings or issue being studied. Furthermore,interprevitism do not just give descriptions, but give the reasonsfor a certain occurrence being studied. Therefore, interprevitism isimportant since it tends to provide answers to a given happeningrather than just giving descriptions (Walsham, 2006).


Despiteinterpretive researches being prolific in social sciences andincreasingly recognized in multidisciplinary researches, the validityof the interpretive researches have been debated. Besides, theresults of the interpretive research have been criticized in terms ofreliability, validity and the capacity to generalize. All theseissues tend to be interdependent they are as discussed in thefollowing paragraphs.


Thisrefers to the stability or consistency of a given measure. Accordingto Denzin (1970), independent and multiple methods should have agreater reliability compared to a single methodological approach to aconcern, if the multiple and independent techniques reach the sameconclusion. Most interpretive researches use a single method inproviding results for instance, a researcher may use observationalone in obtaining information that he may desire to find out.However, observation alone may tend not to provide adequateinformation concerning an issue under study. Interpretivists usuallybelieve that a research can be considered reliable in case aresearcher can be in a position to demonstrate interpretive awareness(Weber, 2004) that is, in the conduct of a research, an interpretiveresearcher need to show that he/she has acknowledged the subjectivityhe/she is bringing to the research process and that he/she has takensteps in addressing the implications of his/her subjectivity. Forexample, a researcher may purposefully attempt to withhold hispreconceptions, when seeking to fathom some phenomena, can remainopen during the research process to alternative explanation of thephenomena he observes, focus on description then explanation, andconstantly review the plausibility of alternative interpretation ofthe phenomenon he observed. According to Weber (2004), replicabilityis usually a more difficult goal to attain in interpretivism. This isbecause the methods that interpretivists tend to use are usually lesswell-defined. Besides, the subjective nature of the interpretation isusually acknowledged explicitly. Therefore, in most cases, theinterpretive researches usually present results that are not reliabledue to the investigator’s responsiveness.

Aresearch is usually as good as the researcher. It is theinvestigator’s sensitivity, creativity, skills and flexibility inutilizing the verification strategies that usually determines thereliability of the evolving study. For instance, ongoing analysis canresult in the dynamic formulation of questions and conjectures, whichcompel purposive sampling. The investigator analyses the data thatwould then establish the recruitment of future participant. Withinthe notions of saturation and categorization, lie sampling strategiesin order to ensure confirmation and replication. Responsiveness ofthe researcher as to whether the categorization scheme really holdsand is maintained, or appears muddled and thin, influences theoutcome. In such a situation, it is crucial that the researcherremain open, use creativity, insight and sensitivity. Besides, theresearcher must be willing to surrender any ideas, which are poorlysupported without regard to the excitement and potential that theyinitially appear to offer. It is these qualities or actions, whichproduce social inquiry and are vital to the achievement of optimalreliability.


Thisis the element that tries to check whether a research is in acapacity of giving a true picture of reality. In case a research iscapable of giving a true picture of reality, then it is considered tobe valid. In a more theoretical way, validity is the considerationfor operationalization operationalization concerns how aninvestigator defines some elements of society that they desire tostudy. For instance social structure and class are elements that theinvestigator cannot see, thus the investigator has to pick somethingthat is observable in order to indicate the presence of a certainpart of society. This is an indication that an interpretivist may becarrying out a certain research only to give results of anotherresearch due to the inability of measuring the aspect beinginvestigated. This was the case for Durkheim he studied suicide andsuggested that suicide rates are determined by the social integrationlevel in society (Douglas, 2003), which is impossible to see.Researchers argued that the results of the study were not validbecause Durkheim was really measuring the probability of coronersbringing in suicide verdicts. According to Wu &amp Chen (2005), thevalidity of interpretive research has been questioned for long byempiricists. According to their argument, interpretive researches areusually subjective, unable to generalize, and biased. Validity may beput into different categories descriptive validity, evaluativevalidity, interpretive validity, and theoretical validity.Descriptive validity relates to the accuracy of the data used by theinvestigator. The data need to accurately reflect what a participanthas done or said. Besides, the reporting of the data should alsoreflect the same accuracy. This implies that the transcriptionrepresents an accurate account of participant’s action. Adescriptive validity of a given study may be questioned due to dataomission. Descriptive validity is the ground on which all the otherforms of validity become founded. Without having an accurate accountof formative data everything else becomes irrelevant.

Interpretivevalidity relates to how well the investigator reports the meaning ofobjects/ actions and events of participants. In this case, validityemanates from the interpretations of participants, but notresearcher’s perspective. Therefore, interpretive researches sufferfrom invalidity due to participants having a wrong interpretation ofthe participant’s actions. This is usually the case depending onthe method that the investigator uses. For instance, in case aninvestigator is using observation method, he is likely to have awrong interpretation of some behavior/actions that are associatedwith the participant. On the other hand, theoretical validity relatesto the theoretical constructions, which the investigator brings ordevelops during the investigator. Theoretical validity usually seeksto evaluate validity of the investigator’s concepts and theorizedassociations amid the concepts in context with a phenomenon. Thechief investigation here regards as to whether the investigatorprovides an accurate explanation to the phenomena underconsideration. Sometimes, the researcher does not provide an accurateexplanation of the action of the participants, which makes the datadiffer from the explanation provided. For instance, an investigatormay provide an explanation to employees’ frustrations as beingcaused by a dislike for management however, the data provided maytend to differ with the explanation provided (Alligood &amp Fawcett,1999). In such a scenario, the explanation may be due to theorganizational policies, which can be indicated by the data.Therefore, due to the researcher giving the wrong explanation ofphenomena, results can be considered invalid. In addition, evaluativevalidity relates to the evaluations done by an investigator. In thiscase, it is considered that the researcher explains the actions ofparticipants without using data, but through using his ownunderstanding of the situation under consideration. In such a case,the research fails to meet evaluative validity. Therefore, failure ofresearchers using available data in providing an explanation to agiven phenomena leads to invalidation of the data since theinvestigator tends to provide explanation based on own understandingof the phenomena, but not in accordance with the available data.

Responsivenesson the side of the researcher seems a critical consideration elementin observing validity. Lack of responsiveness on the side of theresearcher at all stages of study process becomes the greatest threatto attaining validity (Baskerville &amp Myers, 2004). Lack ofresponsiveness on the side of the researcher can be due to lack ofknowledge, inability to abstract, moving beyond technicalities ofdata coding, overly adhering to instructions instead of listening todata, and working deductively from a previously held assumption or acertain theoretical framework. Therefore, emanating from theseactions/elements, an interpretive research may be rendered invalid.


Thisis the capacity of applying a theory resulting from a given casestudy universally. In interpretive researches, it is problematic togeneralize a certain finding from a case study. Interpretive researchis usually concerned with the idiosyncratic characteristics andconcepts of a given select group. Thus, the findings or theory from aresearch may only become applicable to a group that is similar to theone being investigated. The sampling method used, theoreticalsampling usually targets participants that can offer adequateexpertise on the phenomena so that a comprehension and thedevelopment of theory directly associated with the phenomena isattained. Nevertheless, theory derived from the grounded theoryresearch offers two levels of theory abstract and specific to thesituation. According to Maxwell (1992), the abstract level can beregarded as the external generalizability while the situation levelcan be referred as internal generalizability. A theory specific tothe situation can be developed from the repetitive patterns andthemes, and may become applicable to similar situations.Nevertheless, every situation will have special characteristics thatmay affect the applicability of the situation specific theory. On theother hand, at the abstract level, the theory is considered moreholistic in nature. The theory deals with patterns and concepts,which can be more broadly applied. In most interpretive researches,it is exceedingly difficult to generalize the results of one casestudy in order to apply to other situations. For instance, a study inone town in a country may be indicated to have the results indicatingthat boys perform better in technical courses however, the resultsof this study cannot be generalized to fit in other towns since datafrom other towns may have a different indication.

Legitimizationof Interpretative Case Study

Incase interpretive techniques have a rest on various methodologicalapproaches from qualitative and quantitative ones, it will bereasoned that the legitimation of the truth claims would also tend tohave a rest on different criteria. The interpretive methodologyusually embraces that there is a tendency of having indirect andunmediated access to reality. This implies that interactionsinvolving individuals with the external worlds are usually alreadymediated by the cultural and historical contexts in which theyusually find themselves. Nonetheless, more than this, humans simplydo not respond to the external stimuli, but usually make and remakecomprehensions of the stimuli. From the perspectives of thesepresuppositions, the elements of replicability and reliability asfeasibilities within the social world must never be assumed. Indeed,their ontological status must be considered an open question that canbe established through empirical research (Wolfe, 1994).Methodologists have been searching for alternative standards, whichwould be useful in keeping with the interpretivist presuppositions.They commenced by seeking parallel equivalents for example,transferability in lieu of generalizability and credibility in lieuof internal validity. Subsequent scholars pointed out how theparallel-ist approach retained positivist informed realism. This madethem seek ways of correcting the approach through developing new setsof criteria in assessing interpretive research that were based on itsown presupposition foundation. This move raised the awareness of thescholars of the need for immense methodological transparency andshared review criteria across the disciplines, even as some reachedthe point of arguing that unchanging, universal, and historicalstandards were incoherent with the interpretive research.

Accordingto Yanow (2006), reliability and rigor are considered as thecriteria, which all researchers should meet. However, as themethodology literature notes, neither of these criteria is constantwith the presuppositions of the interpretive research. According tothe argument held by scholars, interpretive research techniquescannot be rigorous because they usually require the researcher’sresponse with flexibility in the field. The view that participants’views are the data that researchers should use in providing theresults is held true by the scholars. The scholars argue thatresearchers have to rely on the data provided through the views ofthe participants since failure to follow the views of theparticipants will automatically lead to invalidity of the resultsbecause the results do not represent the real view of theparticipants by not considering their output. Besides, considerationof the participants’ views is necessary as it does not underminethe trustworthiness of the interpretive research.

Legitimizationof the interpretive case studies can be enhanced through using acombination of different research methods and adopting rightstandards of research. Therefore, through considering the differentelements leading to the limitation of the interpretive research,legitimization of the interpretive research can be improved. Solvingthe issue of validity and reliability can aid in the enhancement oflegitimization. In this regard, post hoc evaluation standards wereintroduced.


Althoughstandards entail a comprehensive approach in evaluating research as awhole, the standards remain chiefly reliant on procedures to beutilized following the completion of research. They usually representa minimally accepted level or a limited gold standard for theinvestigator in the field. Consequently, clashes amid the ‘real’and ‘ideal’ in the achievement of each standard are at timesunavoidable. Those evaluating completed research usually forget thatdecisions, which immensely influence the quality of finishedproducts, may have been made hastily in the field without knowing theresearch outcome or without being capable of seeing the ramificationsof making such a decision. Therefore, the use of standards is usuallyseen as a judgment having a relative worth. This is because thestandards are applied, when it is too late since they are appliedafter the completion of research. This may be too late to makecorrections to problems, which result in poor rating.

Criticsof the Post-hoc Evaluation

Standardsused in the post-hoc evaluation help in determining the extent overwhich reviewers have confidence in the investigator’s competence incarrying research following established norms. Rigor becomessupported through tangible evidence using member checks, audittrails, and memos among others. In case the evaluation has a positiveoutcome, it is assumed that the study is rigorous. This assumptioncan be challenged, which makes the processes in this case have littleinput in the actual achievement of validity and reliability. This canbe challenged because rigor does not depend on special proceduresthat are external to the process of research. Besides, member checkshave been criticized by different methodologists indicating that thechecks are a threat to validity. With member checks, results can beabstracted from individual participants, where there is an exceptionof narrative inquiry. Therefore, the post-hoc evaluation standardsare perceived as not being significant in enhancing legitimization.

Researchershave also proposed the use of verification strategies during theprocess of research as a significant way of enhancing legitimization.Verification strategies during the process of conducting research arecritical in enhancing legitimization because validity and reliabilityare actively achieved. The strategies here include researcherresponsiveness, theoretical sampling and sampling adequacy,methodological coherence, saturation, and active analytic stance.When these strategies are used appropriately, they force theresearcher to ensure validity and reliability of a completedresearch.


Thecapacity of the researcher to respond to different issues such asflexibility, research sensitivity, and creativity is critical inensuring that the results from a study are reliable and valid. Duringthe process of carrying out study, the researcher ensures that hefollows clearly the information provided or observed from theparticipants. It is this data that he obtains from the participantsthat he uses in providing results associated with the data. In orderto ensure reliability and validity of the results associated with aresearch, the investigator has to remain open throughout the researchand be willing to give out any information that may be poorlysupported by the research. Through maintaining openness throughoutthe research and ensuring that the researcher maintains the viewsgiven by participants, the results of the research are likely toattain optimal validity and reliability.


Inorder to attain validity and reliability, it is critical to useverification strategies during the conduction of research. Vitalactivities that constitute verification strategies include samplingsufficiency, creating a dynamic association amid sampling, theorydevelopment, thinking theoretically, theory development,methodological coherence and data collection. The goal ofmethodological coherence is ensuring that there is congruence amidthe research question and components of the technique. Theinterdependence of interpretive research demands that the questionshould match the technique, which matches the data and analyticprocedures. The process may not be linear as the research unfoldsdata may demand different treatment so that the question or methodsmay have to be changed. On the other hand, sample needs to beappropriate, comprising of participants that best represent orunderstands the research topic. This is critical in ensuringeffective and efficient saturation of categories, having optimal dataand least dross. Sampling adequacy that is evidenced by replicationand saturation implies that adequate data for accounting for allelements of the phenomenon that have been received. Throughdefinition, saturating data usually ensures replication incategories. In this case, replication is significant since itverifies and makes certain comprehension and completeness.

Theother strategy entails the collection and analyzing of data. Thiscreates an interaction amid the known and what needs to be known.This pacing and iterative relation amid data and analysis is theessence of achieving validity and reliability. Besides, the otheraspect comprising the verification strategies include theorydevelopment. This aspect moves with deliberation amid a microviewpoint of data and macro theoretical understanding. In thismanner, theory becomes developed through two different mechanisms.The first is as an outcome of the process of research, rather thanadopting as a framework in moving the analysis along, while the otheris as a template for evaluation and further development of thetheory. In this case, valid theories are well developed and informedthey are logical, comprehensive, consistent and parsimonious.Together, these verification strategies interactively andincrementally contribute to and develop validity and reliability,thus ensuring rigor. Therefore, the rigor of interpretive inquirymust be beyond question, provide pragmatic scientific evidence, andbe beyond challenge, which should be integrated into the developmentof knowledge base.

Interpretivescholars also propose truth constellation criteria in enhancinglegitimization since it considers the achievement of validity andreliability. This approach considers the achievement of transgressivevalidity, communicative validity, and pragmatic validity andreliability as interpretive awareness. Communicative validity can beperceived as one criterion of attaining truth. The extent over whichthe researcher has attained a truth claim may be justified in justthree stages in the research process. The first stage of generatingempirical material, communicative validity may be accomplishedthrough establishing community of interpretation. Appel (1972) arguesthat the production of valid knowledge usually claims understandingamid researcher and participants regarding their actions. It isbelieved that truth in research can be achieved through developing anunderstanding via posing questions. It is through posing questionsthat the investigator can gain an understanding of the livedexperience from participants. It is through understanding of thelived experience that high communicative validity can beaccomplished. Besides, when in the process of analyzing empiricalmaterial like interview transcripts, communicative validity may beachieved through striving for coherent interpretations. The principleof coherence is usually grounded on the notion of hermeneutic circle.According to the notion of hermeneutic circle, interpretation can beconstituted through a circular relation amid parts and whole. Throughusing this strategy, interpretations that conflict may be judged withregard to coherence with the empirical material. The vast the numberof sections of the empirical material, which accord with a particularinterpretation, the more coherent it is considered.

Anothercriterion of attaining communicative validity is through a researcherdiscussing his findings with other investigators and professionals inthe area being researched. Although single researchers can contributein adding to some knowledge claims, it is intersubjective judgment,which establishes whether the researcher’s knowledge claim is trueor valid. According to Gadamer (1994), to a large extent, truth canbe attained through a dialogue. Thus, through discussing a knowledgeclaim with other researchers, knowledge can become challenged andrefined. Nevertheless, it is critical to understand thatintersubjective judgment may become influenced by other factors suchas social control of published information.


Despitecommunicative validity enabling investigators in checking thecoherence of their interpretation, it never provides sufficientattention to feasible discrepancies amid what individuals say they doand the reality. Participants in a research do not usually describetheir lived experiences in a manner that is undistorted. According toAlvesson (2003), participants’ accounts are mediated throughimpression management, moral storytelling, cultural scripts, andsocial codes. These mediators can create discrepancies amid livedexperiences and interview accounts. This weakness of communicativevalidity can be mitigated by the pragmatic validity. According toKvale (1989), pragmatic validity entails testing knowledge that isproduced in action. This is an appropriate element of judging theextent over which truth has been attained. One of the ways throughwhich an investigator can achieve pragmatic validity entails askingfollow up questions. Besides, pragmatic validity can be attainedindirectly through observing the reaction of participants at times,the investigator can check for the interpretation of the informationprovided by the participants by checking whether the actions and whatthey say. Participating in an investigation as a participant observeris is also critical in ensuring pragmatic validity.


Communicativeand pragmatic validities are significant criteria of justifying theextent over which truth has been attained. However, these criteriausually encourage the investigator to search chiefly for equivocaland consistent interpretations of lived experiences. For example, inachieving them, it has been argued that the investigator has tostrive for interpretations that are coherent. This implies thatpragmatic and communicative validity criteria may encourage theinvestigator to overlook different forms of complexity, ambiguity,and multiplicity in the investigations of lived experiences. Truth,considered as an indeterminate fulfillment, may aid the investigatorin paying more attention to irresolvable tensions and contradictions.According to Richardson et al (1995), transgressive validity can beperceived as a criterion of judging the extent over which truth hasbeen attained. The primary aim of this criterion is helpinginvestigators in becoming aware of taken-for-granted frameworks. Thisvalidity can be accomplished through three ways according to Lather(1993). One of the ways entails using irony in interrupting anddisturbing researcher’s present interpretation in a manner that theinvestigator becomes aware of the codes, which guide in producingthem. Another criterion involves searching for differences andcontradictions instead of searching for coherence in the livedexperiences. On the other hand, transgressive validity can alsobecome accomplished through considering the lived experiences of bothfemales and males. According to the Western culture, femaleviewpoints are not usually included in the scientific framework.However, through considering both female and male viewpoints in aresearch, transgressive validity can be attained.

Fromthe criteria of attaining validity discussed above, validity can beperceived as an elaboration and specification of how every theory oftruth within the truth constellation tend to correct each other.Through an investigator considering all the three kinds of validity,it is feasible to obtain the element of truth in the research. Thisis critical in enhancing legitimization in interpretive research.

Reliabilityas Interpretive Awareness

Themajor question of validity has been how investigators can be in aposition to justify that their interpretations are truthful withinthe methodological and theoretical perspectives considered. Althoughthe chief question of validity relates to the truthfulness ofinterpretations, the primary question of reliability concerns thefollowed procedure in the attainment of truthful interpretations.Considering truth as intentional fulfillment, a criterion ofreliability like replicability and interjudge reliability of resultsassociated with objective reality, fall outside the field of interestin accomplishing reliability within interpretive approaches.According to the proposed truth constellation, investigators shouldfirst and foremost show how they dealt with their intentionalassociation with the lived experience studied. This implies that theinvestigators need to show how they have been capable of controllingand checking their interpretations throughout the process of carryingout research. Since investigators cannot escape using theirinterpretations, an appropriate criterion of reliability ininvestigating lived experience entails the researcher’sinterpretive awareness. Maintaining interpretive awareness impliesacknowledging and explicitly dealing with subjectivity throughout theresearch process rather than overlooking it. Such form of reliabilitymay be discussed in terms of perspectival subjectivity and biasedsubjectivity. Biased subjectivity usually results in unprofessionalresearch. As Kvale (1996) argues, biased investigators usually takenot of statements, which support their own opinions, tend to ignorecounterevidence, and selectively interpret statements in order tomake justification of their conclusions. Conversely, investigatorsthat exercise perspectival subjectivity are usually more aware of theway their own interpretations become influenced by the particulartheoretical, methodological, and disciplinary perspectives consideredin the study. Therefore, interpretation becomes a strength ratherthan considering it a threat to achieving reliable results. Hence, inachieving the legitimization of the interpretive research, aresearcher should be keen to check on the validity and reliability ofhis/her research.

Hence,the researcher will be required to check validity and reliabilitythrough different aspects. One the aspects that he/she needs to checkis being attentive and open to any variations and complications thatare possible in the lived experiences. This will eliminate thechances of having information that is not justified. The investigatorshould also have some orientation in describing the composition ofthe experiences being investigated he/she should not attempt to giveexplanations first (Guba &amp Lincoln, 1982). Besides, theinvestigator must consider horizontalization, where at first allelements of the lived experiences under investigation must be treatedas being equally significant. The investigator should also search forstructural features of the experience under investigation this issignificant for the attainment of communicative and transgressivevalidity during data analysis (Guba, 1981). Furthermore, theinvestigator must consider using intentionality as a correlationalrule. Through the investigator carrying these checks, it is feasibleto attain legitimization of his/her interpretive research.


Interpretiveresearch is significant as it helps in the presentation of aresearcher’s own constructions and those of participants. Despiteinterpretive researches being prolific in social sciences andincreasingly recognized in multidisciplinary researches, the validityof the interpretive researches have been debated. Besides, theresults of the interpretive research have been criticized in terms ofreliability, validity and the capacity to generalize (Kelliher,2005). Interpretive researches are of value because they help inrevealing information that cannot be revealed by any other method.For instance, there are some meanings that cannot become interpretedor described without having an access to the background knowledgerelevant to the meaning. In such a scenario, the researcher has toparticipate in order to understand the meaning. This makesinterpretive research of immense value to understanding meaningsattached to a particular item. Interpretive research is also valueddue to accepting flexibility. In the interpretive research,interpretive conceptions usually assume that there are no absolutesthis emanates from the reasoning that an unanticipated data mayemerge during the process of developing interpretive conceptions.Interpretive research achieves this flexibility through threedifferent ways observation, using flexible methods for text analysislike the hermeneutic circle, and keeping an open mind. In addition,interpretive research is of importance since it provides a moredetailed data, which is critical in understanding in depth what isactually happening. Interpretive research usually has more detailedinformation since the researcher may dig out information from aparticipant without the participant noticing that he is beingobserved. Legitimization of the interpretive case studies can beenhanced through using a combination of different research methodsand adopting right standards of research. Therefore, throughconsidering the different elements leading to the limitation of theinterpretive research, legitimization of the interpretive researchcan be enhanced. Guba &amp Lincoln (1982) have an opinion that,solving the problem of validity and reliability may help in enhancinglegitimization. Scholars in the interpretive research have theperspective that constellation criteria can be utilized in enhancinglegitimization since it considers the accomplishment of validity andreliability. The approach considers the accomplishment oftransgressive validity, communicative validity, and pragmaticvalidity and reliability. Communicative, transgressive, and pragmaticvalidity and reliability have been suggested as appropriate criteriafor justifying the results generated in interpretive researches.Thus, any interpretive research that is carried out and its resultschallenged, the results can only become legitimized through checkingfor validity and reliability. Although the problem ofgeneralizability is still an issue affecting the legitimization ofthe interpretive research results, there is still a problem becauseeven the use of a combination of methods does not fully eliminate theproblem. A theory specific to the situation can be developed from therepetitive patterns and themes, and may become applicable to similarsituations for generalization.


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