From the editorial teams of the NACADA Journal and the NACADA Review
Epistemology and the View from the Review
Is there a hierarchy of knowledge? Another way to ask that question is to ask: Is one theory of knowledge—or epistemology—better than another? Should there be a hierarchy of knowledge? Should there be a hierarchy of knowledge in academic advising research?
Well, the editors of the NACADA Journal and the NACADA Review assert that while there may be more than one way to gain knowledge, the road you take depends on what you wish to find and where you wish to go. To generalize: the NACADA Journal is more aligned with epistemologies that are empiricist; the NACADA Review is more aligned with epistemologies that are interpretivist. Neither is intrinsically superior to the other on the face of it. Rather, the epistemological approach you choose when you do research in academic advising depends on, well, what you wish to find and where you wish to go.
Now, this is starting to sound like something the Cheshire Cat would say! Let’s simplify it a bit.
Empiricist approaches are those that seek to establish a knowledge based on sensory experience. Quantitative social science research methodologies—and most qualitative research methodologies as well—can be thought of as being based on empiricism. Empiricists do experiments, administer surveys, gather data, observe subjects, and generally seek to prove or disprove a hypothesis according to available evidence, to determine what is or is not the case. As with the natural sciences, empirical research asserts that the researcher can be separate from the object of study, at least to some extent.
Interpretive approaches also are interested in what is or is not the case, but are more likely to go beyond that to a discussion of what is good, of what should be the case, and of what the object of our scrutiny means—not intrinsically and for all time—but what it means for us here and now. Generally, we find interpretive approaches in the arts and humanities. Interpretive approaches to knowledge do not assume an unmediated, free-standing, objective reality. Nor do they assume that a given interpretation will last forever.
In academic advising research, the latter approaches remain the road less traveled, but the NACADA Review, the newest journal on the advising research scene, wants to extend a welcome to travelers on the interpretive road. You know who you are! Perhaps you come to advising and advising research from backgrounds in the arts or humanities. If so, your interpretivist methodologies are welcome here. Some of the methodologies that the NACADA Review would be interested in publishing would include, but are not limited to:
- Essays that discuss the interplay between theory and practice, which is known as praxis.
- Critical essays that discuss some aspect of academic advising and provide judgment and analysis.
- Speculative essays that examine questions of value, that provide insight into what the entity under scrutiny can become.
- Historical essays that examine the history of academic advising.
- Philosophical essays that comment on or add to the body of philosophy on academic advising.
- Interpretive essays that use hermeneutical methods to interpret what is meant by some of the discourses of academic advising.
It is important to keep in mind that “interpretive” does not mean some sort of impressionistic untethering from reality. But we, the editors of both journals, feel that we cannot rightly grasp the nature of advising if we only measure it by the yardsticks of positivist, empiricist epistemologies that are home territory to the natural and the social sciences.
The editors of the NACADA Review wish to leave the light on for you to come back home to the interpretive epistemologies, because like many researchers, you may feel that there are some things we cannot say about academic advising without them. The common goal of all research is understanding. Regardless of the epistemologies and research modalities, you wish to use, there is a home for your research in one of the NACADA journals.