Objective Data Sets in Qualitative Research
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSynthese. 2020 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02630-2
Qualitative researchers sometimes talk about objectivity in relation to qualitative data sets. In this paper, I defend a reconstructed notion of objective qualitative data sets that may serve as a useful and reachable guiding ideal in qualitative data generation. In the first part of the paper, I develop the ideal. According to it, a qualitative data set is objective to the extent that it, in conjunction with true assumptions, possesses a combination of good-making features (epistemic values, epistemic virtues) in virtue of which the data set is suited to serve as evidence base for a satisfying answer to the research question under study. In the second part of the paper, I examine and reject two possible lines of objection to this ideal: One is that it picks out the wrong good-making features. The other is that the very focus on good-making features is misguided: the objectivity of a qualitative data set should instead be seen as a matter of how it was generated or evaluated.