Posts Tagged ‘hermeneutic circle’

Research Tips: The Hermeneutic Circle

Hermeneutic Circle Literature Review

          As a methodologist, research methods continue to offer fascination for discovery.  Additional research yielded an article by von Zweck, Paterson, and Pentland (2008) that focused on the hermeneutic circle literature review method as presented in the course’s Week 1 readings.  The goal of this literature review will be to offer some additional insights by these three authors.

          According to von Zweck, Paterson, and Pentland (2008), their study demonstrated the

flexibility and utility of hermeneutics for gathering and interpreting information from a range of sources. . . . It is hoped that beginning researchers will gain understanding of the rigour and adaptability offered by this approach and consider hermeneutics as a credible strategy for using mixed methods in their own work. (Zweck et al, 2008, para. 1)

This quote offers credence the enhanced veracity and validity by the use of multiple research methodologies in which to interpret data, using the best that each technique offers along this continuum (Plano Clark & Creswell, 2010).  What is of most interest is the realization by the lead researcher, von Zweck (2008) of the following.

The basis of Heidegger’s circle of understanding is the hermeneutic circle, a process that explains “how what is understood forms the basis for grasping that which still remains to be understood.” (Bontekoe, 1996, as cited in von Zweck, Paterson, & Pentland, 2008, p. 119)

By including the researcher as part of the process, this methodology offers an experiential element that aids in understanding.  This supports the argument put forth by Leedy and Ormrod (2010) that research is much more than simply gathering data.

            The hermeneutic approach suggests a debate regarding the values of the integration of both enculturation and acculturation in an attempt to look at a holistic picture of research to gain a more inclusive and broader understanding of the subject for study.  According to von Zweck, Paterson, and Pentland (2008), this study afforded the opportunity to use Heidegger’s circle of understanding where “new information was integrated with previous knowledge as the study progressed to create an enlightened view of the acculturation process” (p. 119).

            By contrast, Erdi, Ujfalussy, and Diwadkar (2009) suggested that

This notion means that the definition or understanding of something employs attributes which already presuppose a definition or understanding of that thing. The method is in strong opposition to the classical methods of science, which do not allow such circular explanations.  (p. 414)

As a result, a reasonable conclusion suggests that certain disciplines will benefit from this circuitous route of research, logic, and critical thinking while others may not.

          Consequently, the idea of research is to build a bridge from what we know to what we hope to discover (see Figure 1).  The hermeneutic approach offers yet another technique in which to enhance the meaning of the data as the greater body of knowledge is advanced. 

          As offered within this discussion, research methods continue to offer fascination for discovery to broaden the research tools and techniques available.  The research offered by von Zweck, Paterson, and Pentland (2008) focused on the unique benefits and advantages that the hermeneutic circle literature review method offers, by contrast to the suggestion that some disciplines may struggle with this non classical approach (Érdi, Ujfalussy, & Diwadkar, 2009).  Their hope is that the application of this method will yielded an additional depth and understanding to the field of research. 


Érdi, P., Ujfalussy, B., & Diwadkar, V. (2009). The schizophrenic brain: A broken hermeneutic circle. Neural Network World, 19(5), 413-427. Retrieved from

Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2010). Practical research: Planning and design (9th ed.). New York: NY: Pearson.

Plano Clark, V., & Creswell, J. (2010).  Understanding research: A consumer’s guide.  New York, NY: Pearson.

von Zweck, C., Paterson, M., & Pentland, M. (2008, March). The use of hermeneutics in a mixed method’s design. The Qualitative Report, 13(1), 116-134. Retrieved from

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Dr. Cheryl Lentz
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September 24th, 2011 by admin