Using Narrative Construction to Prepare the Ground for Hermeneutic Dialogue

  • Justin Gagnon McGill University


Hermeneutic research methodologists have recommended that when conducting interviews investigators should minimize the imposition of their pre-understandings on the conversation, as this would restrict the range of possible understandings that dialogue may produce. Instead, the phenomenon under investigation should determine the direction of conversation. This position paper argues that the iterative construction of a narrative enables increasingly focused, in-depth discussions with experts in the clearing where the interlocutors' shared horizons of understanding converge. Hermeneutic dialogue involves navigating one’s own pre-understanding and exploring new branches of possible understandings that emerge from conversation. This navigation demands reflexivity and adaptability, as well as an openness toward the complexity of a living understanding informed by a diversity of perspectives. To illustrate how narrative construction informs an increasingly refined understanding, and how this understanding subsequently frames dialogue with interview subjects, this paper draws on a historical case study of electronic medical records implementation policy.