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Conducting Hermeneutic Research

From Philosophy to Practice


Nancy J. Moules, Graham McCaffrey, James C. Field and Catherine M. Laing

Conducting Hermeneutic Research: From Philosophy to Practice is the only textbook that teaches the reader ways to conduct research from a philosophical hermeneutic perspective. It is an invaluable resource for graduate students about to embark in hermeneutic research and for academics or other researchers who are novice to this research method or who wish to extend their knowledge. In 2009, the lead author of this proposed text was one of three co-founders of the Canadian Hermeneutic Institute. The institute was created as a means of bringing together scholars of hermeneutics and hermeneutic research across disciplines in creative dialogue and conversations of philosophy, research, and practice. An outcome of this was the launch of the Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, with Nancy J. Moules serving as Editor. The work of the institute and the journal make clear that people (both students and professors) seek practical guidance on how to conduct hermeneutic research. This book is a must read for this audience.
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Chapter 6. Conducting Interviews in Hermeneutic Research

The Conversational Nature of Interviews


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Data in hermeneutic studies are often (though not exclusively) gathered through interviews and cultivated in interpretive analysis. In this chapter, we discuss the conduct, complexity, and nuances of interviewing. Despite claims made by some that there is such a thing as a “hermeneutic interview” (Geanellos, 1999; Vandermause, 2011), we maintain that there is not a distinctively unique entity called a hermeneutic interview. Alternately, we claim that there are good interviews that generate good data, interviews that are conducted thoughtfully, openly, and deliberately to create space for understanding of the topic under inquiry. Conducting interviews in hermeneutic research is a skillful and practiced art, what Kvale and Brinkmann (2009) termed a “craft” that involves “intellectual craftsmanship.” By this, they described craftsmanship as a “mastery of a form of production, which requires practical skills and personal insight acquired through training and extensive practice” (p. 86).

Interviews take on particular significance for hermeneutic research, based on the importance of language and conversation in the philosophical background. Heidegger regarded language as a house of being, a house that is big enough to hold many worlds, not just a house that includes some and excludes others. In this regard, we see data for human research as arising from a gathering and harvesting of experience. Heidegger (1975) further suggested that ← 87 | 88 → language or legein is connected to the German word legen, which means to lay down and lay before:...

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