Varieties of Interpretation in Educational Research: How We Frame the Project

Nicholas C. Burbules, David Bridges, Morwenna Griffiths, Paul Smeyers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this overview essay, we develop several claims that are central to the way we organized this book. First, we began by challenging the idea that there are particular approaches to educational research that are “interpretive,” whereas other approaches are not. We argue that all modes of inquiry necessarily involve interpretation, and at various stages of the process. Second, however, the kinds of interpretation arising from different methodologies or theoretical approaches vary, and have only a broad “family resemblance” similarity to each other. Hence, third, we believe that the best approach to exploring the role of interpretation in educational research is to begin with real cases, and to draw from each the particular ways in which interpretation entered into the investigation. This is what we asked the authors in this Handbook to do. Finally, fourth, we examine the various criteria of judgment that might allow us to differentiate “good” interpretations from “bad” ones – and argue that this judgment cannot be made simply on the basis of “right” and “wrong” interpretations, let alone “true” and “false” ones.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Handbook of Interpretation in Educational Research
EditorsPaul Smeyers, David Bridges, Nicholas C Burbules, Morwenna Griffiths
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NameSpringer International Handbooks of Education
ISSN (Print)2197-1951
ISSN (Electronic)2197-196X


  • qualitative research
  • educational research
  • educational researcher
  • research tradition
  • family resemblance


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