The scope and nature of qualitative research

THE SCOPE AND NATURE OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH SFR780 GOODWIN

TWO CULTURES OF RESEARCH*
Humanistic Research

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Natural Science Research

Individuals and relations

Properties or attributes of objects

Development is of interest to the
researcher

Objects normally are not assumed to
change during course of study

Intensive study of small number of
individuals

Objects/individuals studied in natural
surroundings

Study many specimens, sample from a
population. Goal is to make valid
generalizations from sample data to
population

Objects studied in an artificial situation,
experiment, questionnaire

Explanations based on cause and effect
relations, fetch explanation from the past
for the state of things. Object has no will
of its own

Mainly study quantities

Understanding is the goal. Explanations,
if any, are usually in terms of intentions,
accomplishments
Mainly study of qualities

*Snow, C. P. (1959). The Two Cultures and the Scientific
Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Qualitative Research in Education generally includes
approaches to inquiry that depend on:
 elaborated and developed accounts of our experiences with others,
 our thoughts and total understanding about our experience during the research process, and
 what we feel in our hearts. What is happening and why?
 In other words, what we experience inside and out when
learning more or gaining a deeper understanding becomes
a central part of the research process.
 (the above, all in relation to some topic of interest,
phenomenon, or object of study)
 Subjectivity in the participants and in the researcher is taken seriously.
 It’s takes the meaning of experience seriously into account as part of the understanding.

QUALITATIVE DATA SOURCES

Observation: as participant; as non-participant

Observational records:


Interviews: structured; semi-structured; unstructured (open) 





field notes (rich, thick description; reflection, memos; beginning of analysis) Own research journal work, like field notes, but perhaps more autobiographical Audio and video recording

Note taking vs. audio or video recording (transcription)
Guidelines: listen, focus, wait, be open-ended, follow-up, empathysympathy for other’s perspective. With children: also use their words and phrasings.
Interviewing for information and interviewing for feeling.
Group interviews: focus groups (facilitation)
Email and other digital forms
Questionnaires

Records and documents: Archival data; journals; maps; artifacts.

VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

Validity




Reliability

Trustworthiness: credibility (account for complexity, detailed case examples); transferability (detail context, data representation); dependability (consistency/stability of data); confirmability (reflexivity; triangulation). Descriptive: accuracy

Interpretive: accurate portrayal of participant perspective
Theoretical: how the research relates to the bigger picture
Evaluative: is the researcher bias clear, articulated

Consistency in data collection; methodology (e.g., interview/observation methods)

Generalizability

Relevance to case
shared understanding

Qualitative research in education includes:
 field research in communities, schools, and
classrooms
 case study research (e.g., local culture, individual
community, single institution, local school, single
classroom, a group, an individual)
 ethnography (cultural study)
 document and content analysis, including historical
studies
 interview and observational research
 Narrative, life history, and biographical studies

Other names for qualitative research
interpretive
 naturalistic
 phenomenological
 descriptive or narrative
 subjective

Qualitative research may relate to theoretical concerns, such as
symbolic interactionism
 constructivism
 ethnomethodology
 nature of self

Qualitative researchers
 have fun – involves interaction, connection
 work diligently – to get it right
 are sustained by search for authenticity, search for deeper meaning, understanding, truth
 also may experience some uncertainty since the inquiry is likely to be at least somewhat open-ended
 experience satisfying insight just as in measurement
research

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