Prof. dr hab. Krzysztof Konecki
Katedra Socjologii Organizacji i Zarządzania UŁ
Conclusion of the book: Studia z metodologii badań jakościowych. Teoria ugruntowana. ("Studies in Qualitative Research Methodology. Grounded Theory.") 2000, Warszawa: PWN
When investigating the external world do we investigate the very phenomenon about which we report? Can we be absolutely positive about the description of the external reality being objective? What is the status of our methods of scientific recognition in comparison to cognitive processes of humans at all? Is the very analysis of our cognitive processes the only that is legitimate as our cognitive apparatus (here research and analysis techniques) determinates and sets a limit on what is available to our cognition? These questions show that traditional in our culture imperative of doubt may lead the cognition to come to a stop at the level of critical analysis according to the rule I am thinking; therefore I am. So called external world would be then unrecognisable.
However, our cognitive apparatus has evolved in philogenetic process, when "all the organisms struggled with the data from the environment and, we used to say, they adapted to it. This philogenetic progress of events is a cognitive process because every "adaptation to" a particular data from the external reality (environment) means that the organic system collects a bit of "information about" that data (Lorenz 1977: 36). Life is a cognitive process connected (associated) with collecting, storing and processing of information. Thus, our cognitive apparatus is as objective as reality itself because it constitutes ontological - cognitive unity (forms). Categories of causality, essence, time and space being the basics "tools" for our observation and simultaneous analysis of reality do not exist independent from external reality. Instead, they are its immanent element as they come philogenetically from the interaction of the subject and the object of the cognition. A priori examination (outlook) of reality is an empirical one. Categories of a priori come from the external world. Similarly, the same pertains to the rules of cognition, which serves to gain the certainty (confidence), that what we "see" we see in the form it appears to us. In their basic form, these rules inform both our common sense and scientific recognition. Thus, the result of our recognition is conditioned interactionally in three ways:
That informs our epistemological choices. When we make decisions how to elicit (discover, get at) 'truth' we determinate the character of that truth. I use the concept of truth for the first time. It is not external to us. We are active participants in the process of cognition. This process occurs in our everyday and scientific life. The empirical verification of the thesis or hypothesis we put never brings us to 'the ultimate truth'. This truth is (tied up) associated with what we assume on the very beginning of our research, no matter if these assumptions are of scientific or colloquial character. Social sciences oscillate between two dimensions of truth: scientific and colloquial. But the truth is one. We may discover it empirically, ie. using qualitative methods. However, these methods and the data collected this way complete the 'truth' in a particular form - the one that already exists and pertains (informs) also to our involvement in colloquial dimension of existence.
The most convincing seems to be the statement that we elicit 'final truths' through the analysis of the process of recognition of the world, and the procedures of that recognition are clearly evident in our statements about how the world is. They are the truth, for by objectifying the cognition they show their objectivity as a widely understood recognising mind (see Bateson, 1996, 1972), never feeling fulfilment. As empirical and qualitative researchers, no matter what our practical interests are, we are participants in that 'mind', just like all the developing, continuously and thoroughly reality. What we do when we recognise the world outside is complete the forms, whose outline we intuitively feel, but we are still insecure about its shape when we create particular categories, concepts, its properties and relations between categories. This stimulate our motivation to discover and is a premise of research. What we perceive in the reality that surrounds us (social, organisational or economic) are 'differences', we discover them through comparative analysis. Without the methodology of comparing (read differentiating) the world would be one-dimensioned. Would be 'complete (absolute) mind', but it never be such a one thanks to our continuous searching, procedural failures (mistakes) and continuous comparative analysis. This illusory happiness of continuous recognition, experienced also by researchers, reflects the universal need to recognise, in which the particular researcher must only fulfil his or her role using specific research techniques. He is a part of interaction which occurs between him and the object of recognition. Above (mentioned) description of the qualitative research strategies and techniques shows just how much the researcher is the part of the objective epistemology of reality. He is an element of certain organisation and interaction of recognising mind. Using particular research techniques of data collection (different types of observation, interview, group interview), analysing collected and recorded data, it means 'creating' categories, properties of categories and relations between categories in 'grounded theory methodology sense' (Glaser, Strauss, 1967,Glaser, 1978, Strauss, 1987) she/he just recreates the sense of their prior existence. The existence in differences, namely in interrelations between events, actions, definitions of situations and interactions. In other words, in relations between categories, that is forms. The researcher, utilising the analytic procedure of continuous comparisons, coding (giving labels and linking categories together), category saturation and theoretical sampling, is the one who discovers the differences. Procedures of triangulation allowing us to describe the elements of perceived reality fully and in detail, and "the rule of majority" offering quantitative criteria for the selection of "the most important" categories - these are the procedures which allow us to shape the theoretical description of the world, which, following this rules, can exist in a way prescribed by us. Thus, all these procedures are an immanent part of its recognition process (observation of the world using research techniques), which is also the process of analysis, and the reality researched (Illustration 1). These three dimensions constitute ontological unity, where all-embracing reality is somehow self-analysed (researched) using rules, which she provides herself. These rules are in the centre of our diagram only because they are primary in our analysis and because they are the basis for every process of recognition and theoretical description of the social reality.
Careful (close) analysis of research techniques and methodology the researcher uses may show the basic forms of world recognition and interaction or coexistence of what we call the subject and the object of cognition. The investigation of the world and its procedures reveals much not only about the very world but also about ourselves. It reveals truth about the world itself.
Bateson, Gregory (1996) Mind and nature, A Necessary Unity. Toronto: Bantam Books.
Bateson Gregory (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Collected Essays in Anthropology, psychiatry, evolution and epistemology. New York: Ballantine.
Glaser Barney G. i Anselm. L. Strauss (1967) Discovery of Grounded Theory : Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago : Aldine.
Glaser Barney G. (1978) Theoretical Sensitivity, San Francisco: The Sociology Press.
Lorenz Konrad (1977) Behind the Mirror: A Search for Natural History of Human Knowledge. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
Strauss Anselm L. (1987) Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.