Qualitative Research or Theological Methodology?

One helpful response to my earlier entry regarding qualitative research raised the challenges of the role or voice of theological studies/disciplines.  To what extent do the more dominant disciplines in qualitative research integrate the meaning of “interdisciplinary” when working with theological studies.  Certainly practical theology has spent considerable energy in general wrestling (maybe even rescuing in some perspectives)  theological disciplines from being overwhelmed or subsumed entirely by the human sciences. Even when working with methodology we face considerable struggles with constructing research projects that weave cohesive methods “interdisciplinarily.” For qualitative research, however, we must ask if theology is actually more dependent on the centrality of the human sciences, than of course they perceive their needs of theological methods of critical reflection.  For research questions themselves we find we can weave theology and the human sciences more readily than we might be able to  do with the methodologies themselves.  Of course some methods are more readily integrative, like perhaps clinical or phenomenological methods.  Similarly, it seems that in teaching qualitative research, we may need to help students construct research projects that sustain the critical exchange between disciplines, even wherein we might need to rely heavily on the designs of another field in the human sciences.  It is not a territorial exchange tagged in quantifiable measures per se.  The measures are in the heuristic designs, the data collection/analyses, and theory building or use.  Whether a study or practical theological methodology for qualitative research is confessionally oriented enough seems like a more difficult question to evaluate itself.  The research question, data collection tools, process of analysis, and in particular then the theory building or employment of new theory all hold incredible capacity of theological development and interdisciplinary impact directly.

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