Chapter 3.2: Dialogic and Positivist Research in the Social Sciences

  • Eugene MatusovEmail author
  • Ana Marjanovic-Shane
  • Mikhail Gradovski


In this chapter we continue to compare and contrast dialogic and positivist research in the social sciences, and we attempt to carve legitimate territory for both the positivist and dialogic research approaches. We claim that dialogic research focuses on dialogic meaning making as an encounter of two or more consciousnesses about another dialogic encounter. Thus, in dialogic research, an encounter of two or more unique consciousnesses is both the focus of research and the way of doing research. In contrast, in conventional positivist research in social sciences where the research participants’ voices and subjectivities are finalized into statements of findings only to be verified and generalized, they become predictable and stable “things” among other things and, thus, ironically, they stop being truly voices and subjectivities—they become objective voices and objective subjectivities. We describe dialogic research stances: dialogic subjectifying, dialogic problematizing, and dialogic finalizing. In addition, we discuss the status of disagreement in positivist research method and in dialogic research art, claiming that, while agreement is necessary in the positivist approach as a proxy for truth, dialogic research art is about arriving at unique and authorial judgments where the researchers, research participants, and research audience explore their multiple, permanent, and necessary differences and disagreements, taking responsibility for these judgments. We also analyze the legitimacy, importance, and limitations of the positivist approach in social science, providing examples when its approach is necessary and legitimate, and drawing a boundary of its legitimacy whenever it is necessary to objectivize human subjectivity and reduce dialogic meaning making to pattern recognition and pattern production, that is, to describe apparent potentially universal forms and structures, and process dialogues without focusing on authorial meaning making. Similarly, we describe and analyze the legitimate “territory” of dialogic humanistic research and its boundaries.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eugene Matusov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ana Marjanovic-Shane
    • 2
  • Mikhail Gradovski
    • 3
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Independent ScholarPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.University of StavangerStavangerNorway

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