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Interpretative methods play a fundamental role in social research but are usually underrepresented in health research, in the media and in political decision making processes. Nevertheless, all data, whether coming from quantitative or qualitative research requires a process of interpretation in order to be meaningful. In other words, whether we have complex interviews or an apparently simple number, people need to make sense out of the given information and they do so in a process of interpretation. The process can be controlled or reconstructed by a social researcher using qualitative analytical tools. This analysis always bears the risk of false interpretations, so it is often thought to be dangerous, subjective and therefore unscientific. Therefore it is possible to find quite a lot of (quantitative and qualitative) research literature which do not make this step of interpretation of data or only offer speculations about the meaning of the findings.
However presenting data without interpretation does not mean that there is no interpretation. People usually give meaning to information interpreting the data presented. Otherwise the information would be meaningless. So whenever we do not just want to present meaningless information, we can propose methodologically controlled ways of how best to interpret data, not leaving it to the reader’s bias of how to understand the information given but offering suggestive arguments for a specific interpretation. The controlled interpretation of data usually is based on the underlying interpretative paradigm. In what follows, I will show the logics of that interpretative paradigm. Secondly I will exemplify the idea of qualitative approach using the example of binge drinking.