Boolean Classes and Qualitative Inquiry

WCER Working Paper No. 2006-3

Mitchell J. Nathan and Kristi Jackson

April 2006, 11 pp.

ABSTRACT: The prominent role of Boolean classes in qualitative data analysis software is viewed by some as an encroachment of logical positivism on qualitative research methodology. We articulate an embodiment perspective, in which Boolean classes are viewed as conceptual metaphors for apprehending and manipulating data, concepts, and categories in the same way we perceive and manipulate worldly objects and containers. Drawing on examples from seminal approaches to qualitative methods, we demonstrate how one central aspect of qualitative research practices—the process of coding data—can productively be viewed as collecting and containing concepts and categories in this embodied sense. We discuss the implications of this view for coding and for bridging qualitative and quantitative methods of inquiry.

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keywords: Embodiment Theory; Research Methodology; Qualitative Research