Thinking Qualitatively: Hermeneutics in Science
James A. Anderson University of Utah
This chapter redraws the science of human inquiry in the image of an old but now re-emerging paradigm often called "qualitative research" but is, perhaps, better called "hermeneutic empiricism" or simply "hermeneutic science." This is the science of Charles Sanders Peirce, Max Weber, George Herbert Mead, John Dewey, and Talcott Parsons and the researchers in the Chicago School.1
Communication scholars employing a hermeneutic science approach seek to test their theories in light of daily events, in commonly-placed situations, framed by the interaction of their participants. This approach focuses on the "accounts of everyday life" ( Stacks, Hickson, & Hill, 1991, p. 306). Hermeneutics is the method through which theorists seek to discover the "conscious experience of communication."
To understand qualitative thinking we must first examine its general philosophical approach and the phenomenological assumptions undergirding hermeneutic research. Qualitative approaches to research progress from some combination of the following underlying assumptions: