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The scope and nature of qualitative research

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    Humanistic Research

    Natural Science Research

    Individuals and relations

    Properties or attributes of objects

    Development is of interest to the

    Objects normally are not assumed to
    change during course of study

    Intensive study of small number of

    Objects/individuals studied in natural

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

    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,
    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.


    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

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




    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)


    Relevance to case
    shared understanding

    Qualitative research in education includes:
     field research in communities, schools, and
     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
     interview and observational research
     Narrative, life history, and biographical studies

    Other names for qualitative research
     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

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