Words and Numbers in Constructionist Research

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In this paper, I discuss how numbers and words are used in constructionist research. I begin by challenging the simple pairing of qualitative research with constructionism by briefly highlighting the variations in both approaches. I then describe three possibilities for the use of words in constructionist research: 1) words as constructive of social conditions, 2) words as constructive of types of people, morality, and emotions (Loseke 1999), and 3) words as reflexively connected with concrete conditions (Gubrium and Holstein 1997). Concerning the use of numbers, I offer five typologies: 1) objectivist use of numbers to confirm the existence of a priori social conditions, 2) deconstructing numbers to point to their fallacies (i.e., how they got it wrong), 3) revealing numbers as constructions in their own right, 4) contrasting numbers with subjective or lived experiences (i.e., how it feels), and 5) the use of numbers in combination with words in the context of mixed-methods research. I end by considering the implications of my analysis, particularly for combining qualitative and quantitative data in the study of social problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-246
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Sociologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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