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Interpretive Methodologies and Methods: Introduction and Overview

Member rate £492.50
Non-Member rate £985.00

Course Dates and Times

Sunday 10 July 2016

One-day, five hour course

Room 304

Faculty of Social Sciences

Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies

Lossi 36, Tartu

Dvora Yanow

Wageningen University and Research Center

Interpretive (-qualitative) approaches in the social sciences position meaning as a fundamental element of social (inter-) action, reflecting late 20th century developments in the philosophy of (social) science.  Since the late 1970s, pushing back against the so-called behavioral(ist) revolution, political and other social scientists have increasingly turned, once again, to generating data through one or more of three methods—observing, with whatever degree of participation; talking to people, which includes formal interviews as a subset; and the identification and close ‘reading’, literal and/or figurative, of research-relevant documents and visual materials—retaining the word (or visual) form of those data for analysis, rather than translating them into numbers for statistical analysis.  When done in keeping with ideas from phenomenology, hermeneutics, and/or related ways of seeing and knowing, these have become known as interpretive research methods. This short course will give an overview of the background out of which interpretive analytic approaches developed, pointing to what methods are included in these approaches.

Instructor Bio

Dvora Yanow is a political/policy/organisational ethnographer and interpretive methodologist. Her research and teaching are shaped by an overall interest in the generation and communication of knowing and meaning in organisational and policy settings.

Current research engages state-created categories for immigrant groups, citizen-making, and race-ethnic identity; research regulation (ethics board) policies; practice studies; science/technology museums and the idea of science; and built space/place analysis. 

Her most recent book, Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes (Routledge 2012), written with Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, is the first volume in their co-edited Routledge Series on Interpretive Methods. A second edition of their co-edited Interpretation and Method was published by ME Sharpe/Routledge in 2014.

As part of a new podcast series, New Books in Interpretive Social Science, hosted by Nick Cheesman (Australian National University), Dvora and Peri talk about their book and discuss what interpretive methods are and why they matter. Listen to the podcast here
Day Topic Details
Session Two: 13:00-15:30 Implications of Interpretive Analysis for Research Design and Other Issues

Methods for generating data

Methods for analyzing data

Session One: 09:30-12:30 Introduction to Interpretive Analysis

The interpretive turn in empirical research methods

Why ‘interpretive’ rather than ‘qualitative’?

Methods versus methodolog

Phenomenology, hermeneutics, etc.

History of ideas

Day Readings

Yanow, Dvora and Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, eds. 2014. Interpretation and method: Research methods and the interpretive turn, 2nd ed. Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.

Please read at least the book and section introductions and chs. 1, 2, 24, and 25. Other chapters take up different angles on interpretive methodological issues (Part I) and specific methods of data generation (Part II) and analysis (Part III). In re. chapters that engage empirical issues (Parts II and III of the book), these authors work in the field of policy studies, broadly construed:  Maynard-Moody and Musheno, Orsini, Pader, Schmidt, Soss, Yanow. Others work in international relations—Jackson, Lynch, Oren, Weldes, Wilkinson—and comparative government—Danjoux, McHenry, Schaffer, Shehata; Brandwein works in public law.



Agar, Michael. 2013. The lively science: Remodeling human social research.  Minneapolis, MN: Mill City Press. [a most readable, relatively short exploration of why the methods we need as humans to study other humans are not the same as the methods needed for natural and physical science, from the author of the acclaimed The professional stranger and experienced analyst of US drug policies; online copy available for purchase at amazon, etc., and the author’s webpage]


Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine and Yanow, Dvora. 2012. Interpretive research design: Concepts and processes. New York: Routledge.  Esp. chs. 1-4.


On ethnography

Petryna, Adriana. 2013. Life exposed:  Biological citizens after Chernobyl, with a new introduction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, chapter 1: 16-20. A nice account of an ethnographic research design in the published work; download available at

Schatz, Edward. 2009. Political ethnography. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press. On positionality, see chapters by Pachirat, Zirakzadeh.

On framing

van Hulst, Merlijn J. and Yanow, Dvora. 2014. From policy ‘frames’ to ‘framing’: Theorizing a more dynamic, political approach. American Review of Public Administration DOI: 10.1177/0275074014533142 (online 30 May). Draws a distinction between a social movements approach to frames and a policy analytic engagement with framing.

On metaphor analysis, category analysis, built space analysis

Yanow, Dvora. 2000. Conducting interpretive policy analysis. Newbury Park, CA:  Sage.

Additional reading lists are available at and