Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

As a matter of fact...: Ways of Knowing the Human and Constructing Evidence in the Social Sciences

Dr. Sarah T. Rickson.

Knowing the human involves matters of fact and matters of debate about the existence (or not) of facts, as well as the selection, construction, and evaluation of evidence over a range of types and sources. In social science research, as in the humanities, there are concerns about strength or power of analysis, credibility, and verification that also are critical to claims of knowledge. Debates about the foundation of evidentiary claims abound both within and between disciplines.
In this paper the argument will be illustrated through a life history and issues of self, gender and aging; cases are selected with evidence from across the social sciences and humanities. Selected cases are constructed from evidence including fiction, biography autobiography, literary criticism, oral histories based on “facts” from documents, interviews, surveys, newspapers and historical archives. These examples are used to consider the debates around disciplinary domains and what “counts” as evidence. It will be argued that knowledge of the human is enriched by this interface of these domains: it suggests that power of analysis can be enhanced through the critical, systematic and transparent use of evidence sources. It is further argued that additional richness and insight about the human is possible with the judicious use of qualitative nuance and meaning The paper suggests using the potential of and, going beyond an either or approach, to use tools of triangulation and the art of bricollage to understand the human.


Dr. Sarah T. Rickson  (Australia)
Senior Lecturer in the Social Sciences
School of Arts,Media and Culture
Griffith University

  • Social science methodology
  • Social construction
  • Life History
  • Triangulation
  • Bricoleur
  • Qualitative evidence

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)