The Assumptions of
researchers are concerned primarily with process, rather than
outcomes or products.
researchers are interested in meaninghow people make sense
of their lives, experiences, and their structures of the world.
- The qualitative
researcher is the primary instrument for data collection and
analysis. Data are mediated through this human instrument, rather than
through inventories, questionnaires, or machines.
- Qualitative research
involves fieldwork. The researcher physically goes to the people,
setting, site, or institution to observe or record behavior in its
- Qualitative research
is descriptive in that the researcher is interested in process,
meaning, and understanding gained through words or pictures.
- The process of
qualitative research is inductive in that the researcher builds
abstractions, concepts, hypotheses, and theories from details.
Qualitative Research Paradigms
three basic research paradigms -- positivism (quantitative, scientific
approach), interpretivism, and critical science (Cantrell,
or the scientific approach, we have explored in the early parts of this
science, or the critical approach, explores the social world, critiques it,
and seeks to empower the individual to overcome problems in the social world.
Critical science enables people to understand how society functions and
methods by which unsatisfactory aspects can be changed. We do not
cover critical science in this course.
or the qualitative approach, is a way to gain insights through discovering
meanings by improving our comprehension of the whole. Qualitative research
explores the richness, depth, and complexity of phenomena.
Qualitative research, broadly defined, means "any kind of research
that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or
other means of quantification" (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
acceptance of interpretivism is increasing within human movement sciences,
positivism remains the dominant paradigm, as it does in other social science
Assumptions of Interpretivism
assumption of interpretivism is that the whole needs to be examined in
order to understand a phenomena. Interpretivism is critical of the
positivism because it seeks to collect and analyze data from parts of a
phenomena and, in so doing, positivism can miss important aspects of a
comprehensive understanding of the whole.
proposes that there are multiple realities, not single realities of
phenomena, and that these realities can differ across time and place.
quantitative research, there is no overarching framework for how
qualitative research should be conducted; rather each type of qualitative
research is guided by particular philosophical stances that are taken in
relation by the research to each phenomenon (O'Brien,
Main Types of Qualitative
to shed light on a phenomena by studying indepth a single case example of
the phenomena. The case can be an individual person, an event, a
group, or an institution.
is developed inductively from a corpus of data acquired by a
the structures of experience as they present themselves to consciousness,
without recourse to theory, deduction, or assumptions from other
on the sociology of meaning through close field observation of
sociocultural phenomena. Typically, the ethnographer focuses on a
collection and objective evaluation of data related to past occurrences
in order to test hypotheses concerning causes, effects, or trends of
these events that may help to explain present events and anticipate
future events. (Gay, 1996)
Main Types of Qualitative Data
Collection & Analysis
who are not familiar with qualitative methodology may be surprised by the
sheer volume of data and the detailed level of analysis that results even
when research is confined to a small number of subjects" (Myers,
three main methods of data collection:
to verbally described their experiences of phenomenon.
descriptions by participants
asked to write descriptions of their experiences of phenomenon.
observations of verbal and non-verbal behavior.
begins when the data is first collected and is used to guide decisions
related to further data collection.
communicating--or generating--the data, the researcher must make the
process of the study accessible and write descriptively so tacit knowledge
may best be communicated through the use of rich, thick descriptions"
Criticism of qualitative
studies are tools used in understanding and describing the world of human experience.
Since we maintain our humanity throughout the research process, it is
largely impossible to escape the subjective experience, even for the most
seasoned of researchers. As we proceed through the research process, our
humanness informs us and often directs us through such subtleties as
intuition or 'aha' moments. Speaking about the world of human experience
requires an extensive commitment in terms of time and dedication to
process; however, this world is often dismissed as 'subjective' and regarded
with suspicion. This paper acknowledges that small qualitative studies are
not generalizable in the traditional sense, yet have redeeming qualities
that set them above that requirement."
major strength of the qualitative approach is the depth to which
explorations are conducted and descriptions are written, usually resulting
in sufficient details for the reader to grasp the idiosyncracies of the
ultimate aim of qualitative research is to offer a perspective of a
situation and provide well-written research reports that reflect the
researcher's ability to illustrate or describe the corresponding
phenomenon. One of the greatest strengths of the qualitative approach is
the richness and depth of explorations and descriptions."
Qualitative Exam Part 1 (5%):
and contrast two qualitative research studies in your field and
interest. Include brief summaries of the studies, with relevant
details about the research question and the qualitative methods.
Comment on the strengths and weaknesses of these studies.
Exam Part 2 (5%):
a research question and present a qualitative research design which you
think would be feasible for a Masters thesis or project. Comment on
the strengths, weaknesses, and practical aspects of the design.
Exam Part 3 (5%):
Describe a research question and
a mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative methods) which you think
would be feasible for a Masters thesis or project. Comment on the
strengths, weaknesses, and practical aspects of the design. Make sure that
your method is mixed, that is, that the techniques are meaningfully
- Critical science
- Grounded theory
- Philosophical inquiry
- Action research
- Written descriptions
M. D., Borg, W. R., Gall, J. P. (2003). Educational research: An
introduction. (7th Edition). White Plains, New York:
Longman. Recommended: Skim read:
14: Selecting Sample (pp. 434-511)
15: Qualitative Research Traditions (pp. 475-512)
16: Historical Research (pp. 513-539) .
F., & Biklen, S. (1992). Eight common questions about qualitative
research. In Qualitative research for education: An Introduction
to theory and methods (pp. 39-48). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
on qualitative research.
D. C. (n.d.) Alternative
paradigms in environmental education research: The interpretive perspective.
Guba, E. G., Lincoln, Y. S.
(1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In . K. Denzin &
Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 105-117).
Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.
LeCompte, Millroy, &
Preissle (Ed.) (1992). The handbook of qualitative research in education.
S. (2001). The
journey of a beginning researcher. The Qualitative Report, 6(2).
M. (2000). Qualitative
research and the generalizability question: Standing firm with Proteus.
The Qualitative Report, 4(3/4).
O'Brien, K. (n. d.) Research
paradigms. Latrobe University.