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Common understandings of “objective” research include values such as “factual” and “interpretive neutrality”. There is a growing consensus that the person, the “subject”, doing the research counts as much as if not more in the interpretive outcomes than the “facts” alone, and that “interpretive neutrality” is not possible.

The presentation offers an alternative framing of “objective research” as the grounded, intentional and savvy analysis of an “object” in conversation with a community of peers/experts for the purpose of creating knowledge.

Following Ferraris’ ontology, three classes of “objects” exist (1) Natural objects: exist whether or not a person notices them. Example: table, tree. (2) Ideal objects: exist even though only a mind can conceive of them. Example: triangle, consciousness. (3) Social objects: only exist in a social context. Example: documents (authored by a person for a reader in a specific context for a purpose).

Thus, within any curriculum, research assignments could be considered objective while still engaging the full hermeneutical persona of the author. What may differ is the function of documents in the research process. Information literacy would then include matching the type of library resources to the function it serves in the assignment.


Presented at the Michigan Academy, Saginaw Valley State University, University Center, Michigan