Theses and Dissertations: A Guide to Planning, Research, and Writing

By R. Murray Thomas; Dale L. Brubaker | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
Modes of Interpretation

"I've heard that I could use hermeneutics for explaining the meaning of my project. But what precisely are hermeneutics?"

The task of interpretation involves describing the meanings you derived from-- or attributed to--the information you collected. Those meanings take the form of answers you found for the explicit and implied questions that your research was designed to resolve. Explicit refers to questions or hypotheses that you specifically stated earlier that your project would address. There can be two sorts of explicit questions. The first consists of the original issues you intended to investigate. The second involves unanticipated questions or issues that emerged during the process of conducting the research, questions you then intentionally adopted as further matters to be included in the study. The term implied questions concerns material you include in your interpretation as answers to questions which were never directly asked. The following example illustrates the distinctions among these three sorts of questions--the original and emerging explicit questions, and implied questions

Imagine a study titled "Ways of Conducting a Census: A Comparative Analysis" in which the author in the opening pages of her dissertation explains that she initially designed her research to answer this three-part question:

What are common methods of conducting a population census, what criteria have most frequently been used for evaluating those methods, and which methods are judged best and which poorest when they are assessed by means of such criteria?

However, in the process of collecting data to answer that query, she is obliged to recognize that a variety of social and cultural conditions influence the census methods adopted in a particular society. Consequently, explaining why a given method was chosen calls for describing how influential conditions within each society affected that choice. Thus, she adds a further question that she would attempt to answer:

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