Research Design & Methods

What is Your Meaning of “Qualitative Research”?

There is good reason to wonder what researchers mean when they talk about “qualitative research.” This is not a trite bemusement. Indeed, there is Qualitative Meaningoften an unspoken underlying premise in most discussions of “qualitative research” that researchers harbor a mutually agreed-to concept of what qualitative research is, when in fact this is not the case. Attend a qualitative research conference session and you will find that the presenter predictably delves into the particular subject matter without a hint of the researcher’s definition of “qualitative research,” leaving attendees with the arduous (and misguided) task of linking their own concept of qualitative research with the presenter’s discussion.

There are a number of ways that researchers may conceptualize or define qualitative research. For instance, some may define qualitative research simply by its unique set of methods, e.g., focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, ethnography; whereby, a focus group study is deemed qualitative research regardless of the skills of the moderator or how the data are treated or reported to end users. Similarly, qualitative research may be understood solely by the interview format, e.g., a semi-structured in-depth interview (IDI) constitutes qualitative research while a structured IDI not so much (and actually leans towards a more quantitative approach).

Another understanding of qualitative research may center on the intent or types of questions being asked. For example, I have heard quantitative researchers refer to their design decisions (such as weighing project costs with research quality) as qualitative research. And some researchers may think that any approach that is self-reflective in nature (such as autoethnography) is qualitative research. Some researchers also use labels Read Full Text

Distinguishing Qualitative Research Methods from Paradigm Orientation

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 17-20).

A good deal has been written about paradigms in qualitative Method from Paradigm Orientationresearch as they relate to assessing quality (Greene, 1994; Lather, 2004; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Morrow, 2005; Patton, 1978; Ponterotto, 2013; Rolfe, 2006). Some scholars, such as Rolfe (2006), start from the premise that

“any attempt to establish a consensus on quality criteria for qualitative research is unlikely to succeed for the simple reason that there is no unified body or theory [i.e., an accepted paradigm], methodology or method that can collectively be described as qualitative research; indeed, [I believe] that the very idea of qualitative research is open to question” (p. 305, emphasis in original).

Rolfe opines that “if there is no unified qualitative research paradigm, then it makes little sense to attempt to establish a set of generic criteria for making quality judgments about qualitative research studies” (2006, p. 304). This line of thinking, however, confounds attention to methods and Read Full Text

Case Study Research: An Internal-External Classification

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 295-298).

Janet Salmons recently posted an article “Case Studies: What Types Get Published?” in which she discusses her review of over 100 articles published in 2017 with “case study” in the title. She finds that the majority of these articles do “not include any discussion of the type of case study or specific methodological foundations” and indeed “the term ‘case study’ is being used to broadly describe a study that is conducted in a particular setting, such as a school or organization.”

Salmons mentions the work of Robert Yin and Robert Stake. The typologies of Yin (2014) and Stake (1995) are “two key approaches” in case study research that “ensure that the topic of interest is well explored, and that the essence of the phenomenon is revealed” (Baxter & Jack, 2008, p. 545). Yin (2014) outlines four fundamental types of case studies on the basis of the number of cases and units of analysis in the study design. Specifically, Yin’s typology consists of two types of Read Full Text