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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 9. The Rigor and Integrity of Hermeneutic Research

Validity in Hermeneutic Work


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Rigor is less about adherence to the letter of rules and procedures than it is about fidelity to the spirit…of the work. (Sandelowski, 1993, p. 2)

We work from the premise that hermeneutic research is difficult, sophisticated, rigorous, and, most importantly, credible and relevant. Hermeneutics, like many qualitative research methods, is frequently asked to live up to the ways, means, and methods of the natural sciences and is evaluated by the same criteria. This application of criteria of acceptability and soundness is flawed in that the value, legitimacy, and integrity of hermeneutic research must be re-conceptualized and discerned by different regards than is natural scientific inquiry. In this chapter, we examine the difficulty, importance, and obligation of speaking to, and demonstrating, rigor in hermeneutic research.

The word rigor is defined in Webster’s dictionary as a strictness or inflexibility; exactness in precision or accuracy; or rigidity. In this consideration of the word, it cannot be applied to hermeneutic work, for hermeneutics is quite the opposite of strict, inflexible, precise, exact, or rigid. However, like many words, there are different definitions that apply. Another definition of rigor is the “quality of being careful” (Merriam-Webster, online). Rigor in ← 171 | 172 → hermeneutics is the careful attention to the treatment of topics such that the work engenders trustworthiness and believability. Rigor in this context does not show itself in a strict adherence to an...

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