Making Discursive Space in Psychology for Qualitative Report-Writing

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Composing a publishable qualitative report often has been difficult for psychologists, because the formats and writing styles that suit the diverse forms of qualitative inquiry differ substantially from the traditional norms for research reports of quantitative laboratory experimentation, popularly termed APA style. I locate psychologists’ expectations for composing any type of empirical report in the historical practices of report-writing and rhetoric in both the natural and human sciences generally and psychology specifically. This history implicates contestable issues pertaining to the discipline's methodological consensus that came to prominence after World War II. Next I report the challenges encountered by some student and faculty investigators from a previous generation when they composed reports of their qualitative work; their challenges illustrate past barriers erected by the traditional view of psychological science. Then I discuss practical steps in writing qualitatively, including innovative forms and potential problems of representing marginalized groups. I conclude by addressing both the potential for developing a rhetorical approach in psychology that is congruent with qualitative inquiry and the implications for methodology and report-writing.

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