Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Inner Process of Collective Interpretation in Qualitative Research

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Inner Process of Collective Interpretation in Qualitative Research

Article excerpt


Analysis in qualitative research opens an intersubjective dialogue between the researcher and the voice of the informants who participated in the project. As qualitative researchers, we have chiefly addressed the interest in including the grounds upon which we justify our interpretation in our final reports, explicitly explaining the process that makes the construction of scientific knowledge possible.

However, this interest in transparency fails to address the analysis process when it is performed collectively by multiple researchers. The objective of this article is to offer a detailed reflection on the negotiation strategies required in the collective analysis of qualitative information. To that end, we use our experience in the "Learning of citizenship: Discourses, experiences and educational strategies" R&D project as a source of concrete examples that illustrate these strategies.

The development of this project included personal interviews that subsequently became part of a common corpus for later joint analysis by the research team.

Collective analysis must be understood from a flexible perspective in which intersubjectivity expands its possibilities. In this article, we provide the strategies that were put into practice to advance collective analysis and create a final report. The negotiation of meaning led to two lines of results, demonstrating both the agreements reached and the divergences which will be subject to further studies.

The sections below cover the following: a) justification of the need to take a collective approach to the analysis of qualitative information; B) presentation of our project, which serves as a framework for contextualizing our collective analysis experience; C) the negotiation of meaning strategies used, taking examples and references from the analysis performed; D) final discussion.

Collective Knowledge as an Imperative in Qualitative Research

Interpretive epistemology focuses on the relational dimension in the production of scientific knowledge. Research is a process of interaction between researcher and informants (Flick, 2007; Vasilachis de Gialdino, 2006), a dialogic output based on the relationship between the two agents with the assumption of the principle of equality as a necessary condition in the interaction (Seidman, 2013; Vasilachis of Gialdino, 2009).

From an interpretive research standpoint, constructing meaning responds to a dialogic approach in which different voices interweave to shape intersubjective knowledge about the social experiences and worlds being studied. This collective nature of the knowledge generated through interpretive research not only refers to that which is constructed between researchers and informants, but necessarily implies the idea of community among researchers who develop a project together. The challenges and problems posed require a dialogue of knowledge when it comes to the interpreting meanings from different disciplines that must interlink. Thus it is considered by the various calls for research funding, which evidences the need to build diverse work teams that adhere to the interdisciplinary approach to knowledge. In the European context, for example, the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation underscores collective, dialogic and interdisciplinary aspects as criteria for evaluating projects (European Commission, 2014):

How should transdisciplinarity be addressed and evaluated in proposals?
In the context of Horizon 2020, transdisciplinarity refers to
approaches and methodologies that integrate as necessary (a) theories,
concepts, knowledge, data, and techniques from two or more scientific
disciplines, and (b) non-academic and non-formalized knowledge. In this
way, trans-disciplinarity contributes to advancing fundamental
understanding or solving complex problems while fostering multi-actor
engagement in the research and innovation process. … 
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