UR — Intercultural Dimension in Research

COURSE: Understanding Research– UR

FORUM: Elaborating the logics of research approaches

GROUP: Indian Ocean

TOPICS: Research, CCC, qualitative, quantitative

Step 2 – Part 1

Keywords: essentialist, Hoofstede

Link to blog

Link to forum


Bryman seems to view a mixed approach favourably. I haven’t finished my readings yet, but I believe that it is difficult to do a qualitative research without even considering quantitative researches, at least in the literature overview that would introduce the research. For example, if we started out saying “An increasing number of students are going abroad for part of their studies”, we would implicitly acknowledge findings of quantitative research studies, even if we had chosen a qualitative approach. This is a problem I had when reading the two qualitative papers. I thought they were not clear – unless one was willing to check out the primary sources – as to whether such sources were the result of qualitative or quantitative research. My take on this is that in the end it does not matter much, unless we want to discuss the semantics of these two approaches. In my view, we can always find inadequacies in both research strategies. For example, as pointed out in my post above about meaning and in the thread on Wiers-Jenssen, qualitative researchers apparently ignore the “intercultural dimension” based – I assume – on the difficulty in expressing it as a variable. As discussed earlier in the program, Hoofstede did an amazing job in identifying cultural categories. However, his taxonomy is based on the view of cultures as sealed entities. Today’s reality and other more recent approaches to intercultural communication suggest that people may not necessarily fit into any pre-conceived category. Hoofstede’s view of culture(s) is strictly essentialist and base on the assumption that ‘culture’ is a concrete social phenomenon which represents the essential character of a particular nation. It seems that a quantitative approach sacrifices richness of narratives and experiences by favouring instead clarity and generalizability. Conversely, qualitative research emphasizes and appreciates a plethora of intercultural nuances, but may face a difficult task at synthesizing the information. In a nutshell, qualitative research provides data on which to make decisions, whereas qualitative research presents the context in which human experience evolves, without necessarily advocating for broader applicability of the findings.

One last personal comment on Hoofstede. Over the years, I have become increasingly sceptical of any attempt that tries to reduce intercultural differences to a set of predictable and measurable variables. Even when such variables are indeed helpful in understanding the maze of cultural issues affecting communication, cognition and behaviour, they act as essentialist categories that may hamper the acceptance of culture as open-ended experience over the idea of it being just the sum of certain characteristics. Now that I am learning about epistemological and ontological differences, I am realizing that my scepticism has also a philosophical depth and that Hoofstede’s approach is clearly anchored in the scientific positivist paradigm.



You can find more on this topic at my e-portfolio (click here and scroll down to THE INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION DIMENSION IN GLOBAL LEARNING)


Resources on Geert Hoofstede:




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