Previous slide Next slide Back to the first slide View text version


In other words, just as some case studies can be positivist and other case studies can be interpretive -- and here it would be misplaced to argue over which approach is the right one -- I believe the same is true for surveys. Some surveys can be positivist and some surveys can be interpretive -- and again, there is no need to fight over which approach is the right one.

In the context of interpretive research (in the above diagram), we are dealing with a subject matter that has no counterpart in the subject matter of the positivist, natural-science model of research. In the natural sciences, atoms, molecules, and electrons do not develop their own understandings of each other (Schutz), but when we are dealing with the life world, our subject matter includes people -- and people do develop their own understandings of each other and the world around them, with the result that these subjectively created understandings form part of the subject matter for us, in our roles as researchers, to observe and explain. And the subjective understandings that these individuals themselves hold -- these understandings come to sediment over time and take on a life of their own, to the point where they remain in the organization even when the people change. Of course, this is part of the idea behind the term “socially constructed reality,” and the organization structure itself is a good example of a social construction that endures even when different generations of people come and go. And over time, these social constructions can shape the individuals who enter the organization, just as these individuals can, in turn, come to influence and shape the social constructions that they come in contact with -- and of course, this is one of the themes behind structuration theory.