Document Type


Publication Date

January 2000


Criteria, Narrative, Research, Ethnography


In the social sciences, we usually think of criteria as culture-free standards that stand apart from human subjectivity and value. The author argues in this article, however, that conflicts over which criteria to apply usually boil down to differences in values that are contingent on human choices. The demand for criteria reflects the desire to contain freedom, limit possibilities, and resist change. Ultimately, all standards of evaluation rest on a research community’s agreement to comply with theirownhumanly developed conventions. The author ends by considering the personal standards that he applies to works that fall under the new rubric of poetic social science.