Advancing Evidence with Interpretive Description
Although I consider it something of a misnomer to reference the products of an interpretive description study as “evidence” in the usual deﬁ - nitional sense of the term, I am conﬁ dent that they can and do play an enormously important role in advancing the nature and quality of evidence from which we are able to draw interpretations about practice and policy decision making in the applied ﬁ elds. In fact, because they have been structured from the outset with an organizational logic derived from a question that has come from the practice ﬁ eld as well as design steps that have been justiﬁ ed on the basis of an understanding of the kind of knowledge that ﬁ eld requires, the ﬁ ndings of interpretive description studies may well be more easily aligned with the wider evidence conversation than are the products of qualitative studies conducted using more conventional methods. However, in order to explain the roles that interpretive description ﬁ ndings might play in an evidence environment, so that we can position our studies in a manner that rings true to the realities of how knowledge works and gets taken up in applied ﬁ elds, we ﬁ rst need to ground our understanding within the larger contexts of the evidence culture and some of the debates surrounding it, which constitute a somewhat complex and evolving conversation. In this chapter, we will reﬂ ect on the evidence culture that has become such a dominant force in health care and other public policy circles, examine some of the challenges around attempts to elevate the contribution of qualitative work within that larger evidentiary conversation, and develop a feel for how and where interpretive description can actually make a meaningful contribution to the knowledge-for-practice enterprise.