6 Pages

Epilogue: Expectations, Auto-narrative and Beyond

WithMarilyn Strathern

Towards the end of these encounters with the interview, we are given a glimpse of a history lying behind attempts to improve standards for qualitative data collection. Such attempts have been introduced, for example, into the devising of mixed methods approaches in health services research, where the well-meaning expectation is that different methods should be aligned with one another. When it comes to ‘qualitative’ research, what is at issue is the scrutability of the questions posed and the rigour of the data they are meant to elicit. Qualitative research, in this view, needs to be protected against bias and needs to enhance the reliability of its findings. There is puzzlement when its practitioners resist: it should, after all, always be possible to construct hierarchies of evidence and provide indicators for assessment. Now what comes out of Greene’s account (chapter 10) is not resistance to the search for rigour but an understanding of some of the consequences of trying to effect such an alignment, of zeal misplaced. The division between quantitative and qualitative research works in certain contexts, and often works well as a blunt reminder of diversity in social science approaches. But when the ‘qualitative’ in qualitative research is regarded as though it were signalling just another variant of quantitative research, truly the search for rigour by measurement has ‘not got it’. So what other expectations might there be?