Education-line: Gomm, R., Hammersley, M. 2001 Thick ethnographic description and thin models of complexity

TitleThick ethnographic description and thin models of complexity
NotePaper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Leeds University, 13-15 September 2001. The text is in the Education-line internet document collection at:
AbstractQualitative researchers have sometimes argued that their approach is superior because it captures the complexity of the social world, as against the oversimplified picture provided by systems theory, and/or the reified measurements produced by highly structured methods of data collection. In this paper, we examine these arguments, suggesting that all analysis involves both data reduction and theoretical abstraction. Moreover, in practice, even qualitative analysis frequently seems to rely on a view of theoretical knowledge which assumes that simple mechanisms underlie complex appearances. This is true, for example, of most formulations of analytic induction. However, in his book "Tricks of the Trade", and elsewhere, Howard Becker also interprets this approach as a kind of narrative analysis, in which contingency plays a key role. There are parallels between his discussion and complexity theory, and we shall explore their implications for the relationship between qualitative and quantitative method in social and educational research (author abstract)
Publication date2001