Gary Shank (2002) elaborates on three ways of enabling seeing what would not ordinarily be seen, namely by making use of a mirror; a window; and a lantern.
The use of a mirror enables the enquirer to view what s/he ordinarily cannot. Shank revisits the Latin origin ‘speculum’, meaning reflector or mirror; and makes a case for reflective-based empirical enquiry originally being speculative.
Windows, as transparent portions of walls enables looking through. Shank points out that a microscope is a special kind of window that gives a magnified view of small things; whereas a telescope gives a magnified view of distant things. Both enhance the way of seeing. However, if the lens or pane is smudged then a true view is not feasible. The more the window restricts the view, the more bias/distorted the view. Because of uncertainty the enquirer can only be relatively sure, therefore the reliability, validity and generalisablility of the results of an enquiry. An aim of research is to eliminate error. Therefore the emphasis on transparent recording and reporting in research.
Lanterns enable the shedding of light in dark corners—illumination. Qualitative researchers have been crafting conceptual tools to achieve insight and understanding. The goals of qualitative research “are insight, enlightenment, and illumination” (Shank, 2002:11). Qualitative researchers are concerned with meaning: “searchers and discoverers and reconcilers of meaning where no meaning has been clearly understood before”—“a systematic empirical inquiry into meaning”.
Shank, G.D. 2002. Qualitative research—a personal skills approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.
A second revised and updated edition is available