It has recently become more acknowledged that there is a quality of “messiness” to the qualitative research process. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the fieldpath approach—a hermeneutically inspired framework—to account for the non-linearity, uncertainty and ambiguity of the research process.
This conceptual paper reviews how the scope of hermeneutics has been partly misunderstood. The paper discusses how the scope of hermeneutics has lately been expanded by works such as Günter Figal’s (2010) Objectivity: The Hermeneutical and Philosophy.
The fieldpath approach proposes that a heightened relation to materiality enables the messiness of the process to be preserved, while at the same time offering a way to find one’s footing in the midst of ontologically incomplete phenomena that are still—in a processual fashion—forming and becoming.
This is a conceptual paper. In addition to the research mentioned here, more studies would be needed to legitimise, test and refine the approach.
Objectivity provides an additional criterion for researchers to lean on when facing the non-linearity and unexpected turns inherent in the qualitative research process.
The stress on materiality involves an ethical dimension. Post-human ethics are concerned with the future environmental consequences and sustainability of the material world. The way that matter matters in our methodologies is of primary importance.
First, the paper emphasises that hermeneutics, contrary to the common perception, does offer criteria for evaluating between interpretations. Second, it introduces the notion of hermeneutic objectivity, which stresses the importance of materiality for interpretations. Third, it introduces the fieldpath approach, which, based on the previous criterion of hermeneutic objectivity, allows for the messiness of the research process, while also preserving a tight grip on the hermeneutic imperative of “understanding in a new way”.
Salovaara, P. (2018), "Accounting for the messiness of the research process: the fieldpath approach", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 315-332. https://doi.org/10.1108/QROM-06-2017-1536Download as .RIS
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