The Potential Contributions of Quantitative Research to Symbolic Interactionism

Jeffery T. Ulmer, Mindy S. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Symbolic interactionism is often mischaracterized as a perspective that rejects quantitative research. We argue that the rich conceptual tradition of symbolic interactionism allows for the use of quantitative data and statistical analysis within a pragmatist epistemology and that this is desirable, especially in conjunction with qualitative data. We discuss types of quantitative data and their appropriate uses and then describe types of contemporary multivariate statistical methods and what they offer. To illustrate these data and analytic techniques, we draw from examples in our area of specialization, criminology, and from our own quantitative work. Researchers can use quantitative data and methods in the service of six core symbolic interactionist concerns - meaning, variation, comparisons, situations, contexts, and probability - and we contend that quantification and statistics pose no threat to the interactionist perspective. In fact, the principled, critical use of quantitative research can enhance it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-552
Number of pages22
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Nursing
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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