Psychology in the 21st century
Psychology in the 21st century

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Psychology in the 21st century

2.3.4 Symbolic data

The fourth kind of data is essentially symbolic – symbolic creations of minds, such as the texts people have written, their art, what they have said (recorded and transcribed), the exact ways they use language and the meanings they have communicated. These symbolic data are the products of minds, but once created they can exist and be studied and analysed quite separately from the particular minds that created them. These kinds of data are used to provide evidence of meanings, and the processes that construct and communicate meanings. You may meet an example of this kind of data, and how it is used, where the language – the actual form of words – used to describe an identity is shown to give a specific meaning to that identity. And the aim of the research is to understand the process of meaning-making rather than understand the inner world of the particular person who spoke the words. The point about these approaches is that they see language as constructive – the speakers (or writers), those with the inside viewpoint, are not always aware of what they are constructing. In general we could say that this fourth kind of data is analysed from an outsider viewpoint that attempts to take the insider viewpoint seriously, but does not privilege it.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371