Ways of Working in the Interpretive Tradition

  • Angela ThomasEmail author
  • Michael Corbett


The kinds of specialised questions that tend to be generated in educational contexts are intimately connected to professional practices, with the aim of understanding the complexities of social, discursive and textual practices within those contexts. This chapter presents an analysis of a range of difficult-to-categorise qualitative work that spans grounded theory, through post-structural analysis to structural linguistics, and which the authors in this section have used to address such complex and contextualised questions. What draws the work together is the notion of interpretation. The social, linguistic and psychological phenomena which form the heart of these questions raises challenges for researchers as they develop interpretive analyses that honours agency, multiplicity and difference. This chapter showcases and analyses the approaches of nine researchers as they undertake this kind of interpretive work. In the process, it also highlights the evolution of research methods, as new ‘emerging’ and continuously expanding forms of educational research driven by an ever-increasing range of educational problems, contexts, and interpretive tools to understand them.


  1. Archer, M. S. (2000). Being human: The problem of agency. Cambridge, U.K., New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Biesta, G. (2007). Why ‘what works’ won’t work: Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research. Educational Theory, 57(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biesta, G. J. J. (2010). Why ‘what works’ still won’t work: From evidence-based education to value-based education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29(5), 491–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Biesta, G. (2015). On the two cultures of educational research, and how we might move ahead: Reconsidering the ontology, axiology and praxeology of education. European Educational Research Journal, 14(1), 11–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blumer, H. (1986). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Cambridge, United States: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1990). In other words. Palo Alto, United States: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1992). The logic of practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Clarke, A. E. (2005). Situational analysis: Grounded theory after the postmodern turn. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications Inc.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2011). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  11. Giddens, A. (1976). New rules of sociological method: a positive critique of interpretative sociologies. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Giddens, A. (1979). Central problems in social theory: Action, structure and contradictions in social analysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Glass, G. V. (2016). One hundred years of research prudent aspirations. Educational Researcher, 45(2), 69–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Kendall, J. (1999). Axial coding and the grounded theory controversy. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 21(6), 743–757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kvale, S. (2008). Qualitative inquiry between scientific evidentialism, ethical subjectivism and the free market. International Review of Qualitative Research, 1, 5–18.Google Scholar
  17. Lather, P. (1991). Getting smart: Feminist research and pedagogy within/in the postmodern. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Lather, P. (2004). This is your father’s paradigm: Government intrusion and the case of qualitative research in education. Qualitative Inquiry, 10(1), 15–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Latour, B. (2007). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.Google Scholar
  20. Law, J. (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Lazarsfeld, P. F. (1961). Notes on the history of quantification in sociology-trends, sources and problems. Isis, 52(2), 277–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mills, C. W. (2000). The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Murphy, M. (Ed.). (2013). Social theory and education research: Understanding Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and Derrida. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Neilsen, L. (1994). A stone in my shoe: Teaching literacy in times of change. Winnipeg: Peguis.Google Scholar
  25. Parsons, T. (1950). The social system. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  26. Saint Pierre, E. (2014). A brief and personal history of post qualitative research: Toward ‘post inquiry.’ Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 30(2). Retrieved from
  27. Wrong, D. H. (1961). The oversocialized conception of man in modern sociology. American Sociological Review, 26(2), 183–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TasmaniaLauncestonAustralia
  2. 2.School of EducationAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada

Personalised recommendations