Although the number of multilingual qualitative research studies appears to be growing, investigations concerned with methodological issues arising from the use of several languages within a single research are still very scarce. Most of these seem to deal exclusively with issues related to the use of interpreters and translators in qualitative research (e.g., Temple & Edwards, 2002; Temple, Edwards & Alexander, 2006; Edwards, 1998; Temple & Young 2004). Methodological investigations going beyond pure translation dilemmas in qualitative research are, however, almost non-existent. The reason for this seems to be simple: the situation where the researcher possesses mother-tongue fluency in all or most of the languages used in a particular study – and, thus, is in a position to probe interpretational and representational problematics related to the multilingual character of this study with an adequate depth – is very rare. The author of this paper has used her recent qualitative research work in the area of Information Systems as the basis for a meta-study1 1 While the Information Systems studies providing the empirical basis for this paper were on specific IT methodologies, the “overlying” study (reported in this paper) was rather carried out at a “meta-level” – observing and analyzing the process of interviews carried out in the original studies and the role of the language in this process. In this sense, the author of this paper is following the original Greek meaning of the prefix “meta”, namely “about” – “study about a study”. in which she investigates selected methodological issues resulting from the use of five different languages within the frame of a single research work. This paper specifically focuses on challenges encountered and observations made concerning three different issues, namely, how to choose the interview languages in a situation where the prospective interviewees have very diverse ethnic backgrounds, which languages to use for the data analysis in a situation where the data has been collected in several different languages, and how to determine the most appropriate stage of the research for transitioning from the languages used to collect and analyze the data to the language of the final research product. Although this meta-study is based on an Information Systems research work and is, thus, specifically addressing qualitative Information Systems researchers conducting multilingual research and encountering language-related issues in their work, this study might also be of interest to any researcher using qualitative research methodologies and employing more than one language to collect data, conduct data analysis, and craft the final research product.
Multilingual Research, Inquiry Language, Source Language, Target Language, Mediating Language
Computer Sciences | Education
Software and Cyber-Physical Systems
Handling interpretation and representation in multilingual research: A meta-study of pragmatic issues resulting from the use of multiple languages in a qualitative Information Systems research work. (2012). Qualitative Report. 17, (42), 1-21. Research Collection School Of Information Systems.
Available at: http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/sis_research/1680
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