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How do you

see life?
Features of Qualitative
Research (Hoepfl)
•  Natural setting as source of data
•  Researcher acts as human instrument
•  Inductive data analysis
•  Reports are descriptive
–  Incorporating “voice”
•  Interpretive
–  Aimed at discovering meaning
•  Pays attention to unique cases
•  Emergent design
•  Judged using special criteria of
trustworthiness 2
Qualitative Designs

In Qualitative Research:
Ø  We do not test hypothesis or previous
Ø  We may try to develop new theories
based on what happens in specific
Ø  We do not try to generalize our findings.

• 3 3
Qualitative Research

Ø  Answer research questions rather

than test a hypothesis.
Ø  Seldom look at the effectiveness of an
Ø  Examine the perceptions, actions, and
feelings of participants.

• 4 4
It is is knowing others’ experiences
that we can understand them better

Research process is Research process is

deductive. inductive.
Measure objective facts. Social reality, meaning is
Focus on variables. Focus on in-depth
Value-free research. Values are present &
explicit (empathy).
Independent of context. Contextual importance.
Many cases, subjects. Few cases, participants.
• 6

Statistical analysis Thematic analysis

Objective instruments of Researcher as the central

data collection. tool for data collection.

Highly structured research Loosely structured

process. research process.

Researcher is detached Researcher is immersed

(outsider). (insider).
(Adapted from Neuman,
1997: 14) • 7

result oriented process oriented

particularistic and holistic perspective


objective “outsider view” subjective “insider view”

distant fr data and closeness to data

generalized by population generalization by

membership comparison of
properties and contexts
of individual organism
• 8

Deductive thinking (Quantitative)




• 9
Inductive thinking (Qualitative)




• 10
Characteristics of Quantitative and Qualitative
Research in the Process of Research
Quantitative Steps in the Qualitative
Characteristics Research Process Characteristics
• Descriptive/Explanatory • Exploratory/
Identifying a Problem •  Understanding
• Major Role •  a Central Phenomena
• Justify Problem Reviewing the Literature • Minor Role

• Justify Problem
• Specific
and Narrow
• General and Broad
• Measurable/Observable Specifying a Purpose
• Participants’ Experience
• Pre-determined
• General, emerging form
Instruments Collecting Data • Text or image data
• Numeric Data
• Small Number
• Large numbers
Analyze and • Text Analysis
• Statistical
• Description and Themes
• Description of Trends Interpret Data
• Larger Meanings of Findings
• Comparisons/Predictions
• Flexible and Emerging
• Standard and Fixed
Report and Evaluate • Reflexive and Biased
• Objective and Unbiased

What is Qualitative Research?
Qualitative research locates the
researcher in the world. It consists of
a set of interpretive, material
practices that make the world visibIe.
These practices transform the world.
They turn the world into a series of
representations (story, portrait) to
the self.

What is Qualitative Research?
Qualitative research involves an
interpretive, naturalistic approach to
the world. This means that qualitative
researchers study things in their
natural settings, attempting to make
sense of, or interpret, phenomena in
terms of the meanings people bring
to them. (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 3)

What is Qualitative Research?
•  Qualitative research begins with assumptions, a
worldview, the possible use of a theoretical lens, and the
study of research problems inquiring into the meaning
individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human
problem. To study this problem, qualitative researchers
use an emerging qualitative approach to inquiry, the
collection of data in a natural setting sensitive to the
people and places under study, and data analysis that is
inductive and establishes patterns or themes. The final
written report or presentation includes the voices of
participants, the reflexivity of the researcher, and a
'complex description and interpretation of the problem,
and it extends the literature or signals a call for action.
What is Qualitative Research?
•  worldview and theoretical lens
•  meaning to a social or human problem
•  natural setting
•  inductive
•  patterns or themes
•  voices of participants
•  complex description and interpretation of
the problem 15
Characteristics of Qualitative
•  Natural setting (field focused), a source
of data for close interaction
•  Researcher as key instrument of data
•  Multiple data sources in words
or images
•  Analysis of data inductively,
recursively, interactively
•  Focus on participants' perspectives,
their meanings, their subjective views 16
Characteristics of Qualitative
•  Framing of human behavior and
belief within a social-political-historical
context or through a cultural lens
•  Emergent rather than tightly prefigured
•  Fundamentally interpretive inquiry-
researcher reflects on her or his role,
the role of the reader, and the role of the
participants in shaping the study
•  Holistic view of social phenomena 17
Qualitative Research
is useful for…
researcher who wants to understand
human experience.

finding a universal meaning of an experience.

the reduction of context specific information to a more

general understanding of the phenomenon is desired.

a researcher who is willing to become closely entwined

with the research.
Where do I start?

Stage 1:
Stage 1: Whose experience?
Principals Men/Women Principals

Integrated/Stand-alone school principals

Teachers Neophytes, Middle-of-the-Road, Retired,


Students Junior, Senior High School students

ALS students, SPED students
Non-readers/Frustration Readers/Gifted
Tardy, absentee 21
Stage 2

Stage 2: What layer of experience?

Principals Preparations for leadership role

Strategies in handling hostile faculty

Relationship with local leaders

Responding to challenges of the

K-12 curriculum
Dilemmas in transferring to another
Challenges in transforming a low-
performing to a highly school 23
Stage 2: What layer of experience?
Teachers The jitters of first year experience

The dilemmas of retirement

Blaming in the profession

The outstanding teachers

Challenges in using the mother

Home visit experience
Stage 2: What layer of experience?

Students Frustrations of non-readers

Number anxieties

Understanding the bullies

Into thy hands: Emotional wounds

of corporal punished students
Thoughts of a retained student
Stage 3

Stage 3:
What questions to ask?
Questions Concerns

What stories does a school principal tell Questions about life experiences of an
us about carpet evaluation? individual and how they unfold over time

How do four principals share problems of Questions about developing in-depth

teacher non-cooperation during carpet understanding about how different
evaluation? cases provide insights into an issue or a
unique case

What theory explains principals’ ability to Questions about experiences over time
encourage teacher participation and or changes that have stages and phases
cooperation in carpet evaluation?
What culture can be observed in schools Questions about culture-sharing
during carpet supervision? patterns in a certain environment
What does carpet evaluation success Questions about what is at the essence
mean to principals who encounter that all persons experience about a
roadblocks in the process? phenomena
Stage 3:
What questions to ask?
Questions Concerns Question Typology
What stories does a school Questions about life experiences Chronological Question
principal tell us about carpet of an individual and how they
evaluation? unfold over time What happened?
How do four principals share Questions about developing in- In-depth Descriptive
problems of teacher non- depth understanding about how Question
cooperation during carpet different cases provide insights
evaluation? into an issue or a unique case
Why did it happen?
What theory explains Questions about experiences over Process Question
principals’ ability to encourage time or changes that have stages
teacher participation and and phases How did it happen?
cooperation in carpet
What culture can be observed Questions about culture-sharing Description Question
in schools during carpet patterns of values, behavior,
supervision? language and culture in a certain In what way is it
environment happening/done?
What does carpet evaluation Questions about what is at the
Quantitative vs Qualitative
Purpose Statements
and Research Questions
Quantitative Qualitative
hypotheses Only research questions

multiple variables single concept—a central

test theories share ideas and build general
close-ended stance; hypotheses and open-ended stance and often
research questions changes the phenomenon being
studied or at least allows it to emerge
during the study.
measure differences and the deep understanding of the views of
magnitude of those differences one group or single individuals.
among 2 or more groups 29
The Central Phenomenon

Writing Qualitative Purpose
•  A purpose statement in qualitative
research indicates the intent to explore or
understand the central phenomenon with
specific individuals at a certain research site.


•  Use key identifier words to signal the reader,

such as “The purpose of this study is . . .”
•  Consider mentioning that the study is
“qualitative” since audiences may not be
familiar with qualitative research.
•  Become familiar with qualitative research
designs, and indicate the type of research
design you plan to use in your study.

•  State the central phenomenon you plan to

•  Use words that convey intent about the
exploration, such as explore, discover,
understand, and describe.
•  Mention the participants in the study.
•  Refer to the research site where you will
study the participants.
Sample Script

•  The purpose of this qualitative study will be

to (explore/discover/understand/ describe)
(the central phenomenon) for (participants)
at (research site).
•  The purpose of this qualitative study is to
describe classroom learning using the
Internet for five high-school students
participating in a sign language class.

Sample Script

•  The central phenomenon: classroom

learning using the Internet
•  The participants: five high-school students

•  The research site: a class in sign language

at X high school

Writing Qualitative Research
•  Research questions in qualitative research
help narrow the purpose of a study into
specific questions.
•  Qualitative research questions are open-
ended, general questions that the researcher
would like answered during the study.

Qualitative Research Questions:
•  Expect your qualitative questions to change and to
emerge during a study to reflect the participants’
views of the central phenomenon and your growing
(and deeper) understanding of it.
•  Ask only a few, general questions. Five to seven
questions are enough to permit the participants to
share information. Using only a few questions
places emphasis on learning information from
participants, rather than learning what the
researcher seeks to know.
Qualitative Research Questions:
•  Use neutral, exploratory language and refrain from
conveying an expected direction (or nondirectional
outcome. Use action verbs such as generate,
discover, understand, describe, and explore
instead of words conveying cause-and-effect
relationships, such as affect, relate, compare,
determine, cause, and influence.
•  Design and write two types of qualitative research
questions: the central question and subquestions.

The Central Question

•  overarching question
•  state the most general question you can
The is to open up the research for participants to provide
their perspectives and not to narrow the study to your
perspective. When you write this question, place it at the
end of the introduction to your study, and state it as a brief
question. If you are more comfortable thinking about this
question from a quantitative perspective, consider it as a
single, descriptive question, such as a single dependent
variable. 39
The Central Question: Strategies

•  Begin with the word how or what rather than why

so that you do not suggest probable cause-and-
effect relationships as in quantitative research (i.e.,
“why” something influences something) but instead
suggest exploration in qualitative research.
•  Specify the central phenomenon you plan to
•  Identify the participants in the study.
•  Mention the research site for the study.
The Central Question: Strategies

•  Write the central question in such a way that

it provides some direction for the study but
does not leave the direction wide open.
•  When a central question is too open, readers and
audiences for a study will not have enough information to
understand the project.
•  When the central question is too specific or too laden with
assumptions, it does not offer enough latitude for
participants to express themselves, and it can shape too
dramatically the views of participants in one direction or
The Central Question: Sample Script

•  What is (the central phenomenon) for

(participants) at (research site)?
•  What is creativity for five students at
Roosevelt High School?
–  Beginning word: “What”
–  Central phenomenon: creativity
–  Participants: five students
–  Research site: Roosevelt High School
The Central Question: Sample Script

Issue Subquestions

•  questions that narrow the focus of the

central question into specific questions (or
issues) the researcher seeks to learn from
partici- pants in a study.
•  A script for an issue subquestion is:
What is (the subquestion issue) for
(participants—optional information) at
(research site—optional information).
Issue Subquestions

•  If you state the participants and research

site in the central question or purpose
statement, you do not need to repeat them
in the subquestions. You would state the
subquestions immediately after the central
question as follows:

Issue Subquestions
•  What is self-esteem for high school
students? (central question)
– What is self-esteem as seen through
friends? (subquestion)
– What is self-esteem for the participant’s
family? (subquestion)
– What is self-esteem as experienced in
extracurricular activities in school?
Issue Subquestions

Procedural Subquestions
•  indicate the steps to be used in analyzing the
•  Used less frequently than issue questions
because the procedures for a qualitative study
will evolve during a study.
•  However, if the researcher knows the general
steps to be taken later in the analysis,
procedural subquestions can be written. They
provide those reviewing a study with a more
precise understanding of the steps than do
issue subquestions. 48
Procedural Subquestions: Script

•  To study this central question, the following

questions will be addressed in order in this
•  (What question will be answered first?)
•  (What question will be answered second?)
•  (What question will be answered third?)

Procedural Subquestions: Sample
•  What are students’ experiences with
weapons in high schools? (central
– What are the categories of experiences
of students? (subquestion)
– What process occurs that reflects these
experiences? (subquestion)
– What propositions or hypotheses reflect
the relationship among the categories?
(subquestion) 50
Stage 4

Stage 4

Stage 4:
What design to have?

Questions Concerns Question Typology Design
What stories does a
Stage 4:
Questions about life
Chronological Question Narrative
school principal tell us
about carpet evaluation? What design to
experiences of an
individual and how they
What happened?
unfold over time
How do four principals Questions about In-depth Descriptive Case Study
share problems of developing in-depth
teacher non-cooperation understanding about
during carpet how different cases
evaluation? provide insights into an Why did it happen?
issue or a unique case

What theory explains Questions about Process Question Grounded Theory

principals’ ability to experiences over time or
encourage teacher changes that have
participation and stages and phases How did it happen?
cooperation in carpet
What culture can be Questions about Description Question Ethnography
observed in schools culture-sharing
during carpet patterns of values, In what way is it
supervision? behavior, language happening/done?
and culture in a
certain environment
What does carpet Questions about what is Essence Question Phenomenology
evaluation success at the essence that all
mean to principals who persons experience
encounter roadblocks in about a phenomena What is the meaning 54
What are the qualitative

•  Narrative research
•  Phenomenology
•  Ethnography
•  Grounded Theory
•  Case Study
Qualitative Designs
and Uses

Exploring meaning Exploring cases for in-

or essence of lived depth description

Ethnographic Narrative
Research Research

Qualitative Designs
and Uses

Exploring common
Exploring the shared Exploring individual
experiences of
culture of a people stories to describe
individuals to
group the lives of people
develop a theory

Ethnographic Grounded Theory Narrative

Research Research Research

Narrative Research

•  Narrative research: begins with the

experiences as expressed in lived and told
stories of individuals
•  Can take the form of biographical studies, life
histories or oral histories.
•  Collecting stories and “restorying them

Narrative: Sample Abstract
•  In my research, which has involved collecting
women’s accounts of becoming mothers, I am
seeking to understand how women make sense
of events throughout the process of child
bearing, constructing these events into
episodes, and thereby (apparently)
maintaining unity within their lives
Miller, T. (2000). Losing the plot: narrative construction and longitudinal
childbirth research. Qualitative Health Research, 10, 309-323.

Phenomenological Research
•  Describes the meaning for several
individuals of their lived experience of a
certain phenomena.
•  Can center around basic broad questions:
– “what have you experienced in terms of
the phenomena”
– “what contexts have influenced your
experience of the phenomena”

Phenomenology: Sample Abstract
•  Given the intricacies of power and gender in
the academy, what are doctoral advisement
relationships between women advisors and
women advisees really like?

Heinrich, K. T. (1995). Doctoral advisement

relationships between women. Journal of Higher
Education. 66, pp. 447-469.

Grounded Theory Research

•  Employed in situations where it is perceived

as necessary to go beyond description and
generate theory.
•  Use of the constant comparative method
•  Can lead to follow up quantitative research

Grounded Theory : Abstract
•  The primary purpose of this article is to
present a grounded theory of academic
change that is based on research based by
two major research questions:
– What are the major sources of academic
– What are the major processes through
which academic change occurs?
Conrad, C.F. (1978). A grounded theory of academic
change. Sociology of Education, 51, 101-112. 63
Ethnographic Research
•  This kind of research focuses on an entire
cultural group: describes their shared
patterns of values, behavior, language and
•  Field work as method of data collection.

Ethnography: Sample Abstract
•  This article examines how the work and the
talk of stadium employees reinforce certain
meanings of baseball in society, and it
reveals how this work and talk create and
maintain ballpark culture

Trujillo, N. (1992). Interpreting (the work and talk

of) baseball. Western Journal of Communication,
56, 350-371.
Case Study Research

•  This kind of research involves the study of

an issue explored through one or two
cases within a setting or context.

Case Study: Sample Abstract
The purpose of this study was to take a look into
education through the eyes of three teachers who
are facing their final year as professional
educators. The overarching goal was to determine
how they have seen children, teachers,
administration, policy, and testing change across
the thirty year span of their work as teachers in
public schools. Through their comments they give
a considerable amount of insight into the
transformation education has experienced in the
last three decades. But unexpectedly, they reveal
as much about our changing society than they do
education itself.
What Research Approach?:
The Shooting Incident
Case Narrative Phenome- Grounded Ethno-
Study nology Theory graphy
Campus Confrontati The Theory of Getting Back
Respons on of Meaning of the Surreal to Normal:
e to a Brothers: Fear for Experiences An
Student An Students for Students Ethnography
Gunman Interpretive Caught in a in a Campus of Campus
Biography Near Gunman Resilient
of an Tragedy on Incident Response to
African- Campus a Gunman
American Incident
What Research Approach?
Case Study Narrative Phenome Grounded Ethnography
nology Theory
What happened? What are the life What fear did What theory explains How did this incident
experiences of the students the phenomenon of the produce predictable role
the African experience? "surreal" experiences of performance within
American the students affected groups?
instructor of the immediately following
class? the incident?
Who was involved in How do these How did they What were these Using the entire campus
response to the experiences experience it? experiences? What as a cultural system or
incident? form and shape caused them? What culture-sharing group, in
his reaction to strategies did they use what roles did the
the incident? to cope with them? individuals and groups
What themes of What meanings What were the
response emerged did they consequences of their
during the 8-month ascribe to this strategies?
period? experience?
What theoretical What specific interaction
constructs helped us issues and larger
understand the conditions influenced
campus response their strategies?
and what constructs
developed that were
unique to this case? 69
Case Narrative Phenomeno Grounded Ethnography
Study logy Theory
What Research Approach?
Explicati Descriptio Exploring the Identifying open Build rapport with
on of n of phenomenon coding the community to not
Problem Incident and categories marginalize or
philosophical disturb
orientation of

Descripti Situating Description of Narrowing to Explored the cultural

on of the own fears and central category themes of the
Context individual experiences into major "organization of
or within his (epoche) feature of theory diversity" and
Setting historical "maintenance"
and the backgroun activities of
Process d individuals and
groups within the
Case Narrative Phenomeno Grounded Ethnography
Study logy Theory
What Research Approach?
Discussi Life Locating Constructing detailed description
on of events significant factors in a of the campus, an
Importan and statements or model (axial analysis of the
t Themes epiphanie quotes about coding) cultural themes of
s culled the meaning of "organizational
from the fear diversity" and
story maintenance

Lessons Restoryin Description of Theoretical Pattern of Culture

Learned g the story what they proposition
experienced explaining the
and how they surreal
experienced it experiences of
to form the the students
essence (selective

Step 5

Step 5: Where to source the data?

Types of Qualitative Data

•  Observations
•  Interviews and questionnaires
•  Documents
•  Audiovisual materials

Qualitative Designs

In Qualitative Research:
Ø  We often rely on data collected from
interviews, observations, and content
analysis of newspapers, books, videos,
case records, and other already
developed documents.
Ø  We usually do not know or try to
develop response categories prior to
conducting the study.
• 75 75
Qualitative Data Collection
Forms Type of Data Definition of Type of Data

Observations Fieldnotes and Unstructured text data and

drawings pictures taken during
observations by the

Interviews and Transcriptions Unstructured text data

questionnaires of open-ended obtained from transcribing
interviews or audiotapes of interviews or
open-ended by transcribing open-ended
questions on responses to questions on
questionnaires questionnaires
Forms of Qualitative Data
Forms Type of Data Definition of Type of
Documents Hand-recorded Public (e.g., notes from
notes about meetings) and private
documents or (e.g., journals) records
optically scanned available to the researcher
Audiovisual Pictures, Audiovisual materials
materials photographs, consisting of images or
videotapes, sounds of people or places
objects, sounds recorded by the
researcher or someone
else 77
The Process of Observing

Figure 7.5 summarizes the steps listed

above in a checklist you might use to
assess whether you are prepared to
conduct an observation. The questions
on this checklist represent roughly the
order in which you might consider them
before, during, and after the observation,
but you can check off each question as
you complete it. 78
• Interview Protocol:
Perspectives on Deafness
Can you describe how you first became aware of your deafness

How do you see yourself today, in terms of your deafness?


What does your deafness mean to you?


Can you describe any particular (difficult or traumatic) experience in

4. your life related to your deafness?

Can you describe how you fit into deaf culture?


To what extent do you consider yourself active in both the deaf world
6. and the hearing world?
Checklist for Interviewing

•  _____ Who will participate in your interviews?

•  _____ What types of interviews are best to conduct?
•  _____ Is the setting for your interview comfortable and quiet?
•  _____ If you are audiotaping, have you prepared and tested the equipment?
•  _____ Did you obtain consent from the participants to participate in the
•  _____ Did you listen more and talk less during the interview?
•  _____ Did you probe during the interview? (ask to clarify and elaborate)
•  _____ Did you avoid leading questions and ask open-ended questions?
•  _____ Did you keep participants focused and ask for concrete details?
•  _____ Did you withhold judgments and refrain from debating with participants
about their views?
•  _____ Were you courteous and did you thank the participants after
concluding the interview? 80
Step 6

Step 6: How many

When does sampling occur?

Before data collection After data collection

has started

Maximal Variation Opportunistic

Sampling Sampling
Critical Sampling Confirming/
Extreme Case Sampling Disconfirming
Homogeneous Sampling Sampling
Typical Sampling Snowball Sampling
Sampling 83
Sample Size or
Number of Research Sites

•  It is typical in qualitative research to study

a few individuals or a few cases. This is
because the overall ability of a researcher
to provide an in-depth picture diminishes
with the addition of each new individual or
•  One objective of qualitative research is to
present the complexity of a site or of the
information provided by individuals. 84
Sample Size or
Number of Research Sites
•  In some cases, you might study a single
individual or a single site.
•  In other cases, the number may be several,
ranging from 1 or 2 to 30 or 40. Because of the
need to report details about each individual or
site, the larger number of cases can become
unwieldy and result in superficial perspectives.
•  Moreover, collecting qualitative data and
analyzing it takes considerable time, and the
addition of each individual or site only
lengthens that time. 85
Stage 6:
How many selections?
Question Typology Design Selection Product

Story-Oriented Narrative 1-2 informants Restorying:

What happened? Generalization
Issue-Oriented Case Study 1 to multiple Lessons Learned

Why did it happen?

Process-Oriented Grounded 20 or more Theory

How did it happen?

Essence-Oriented Phenomenology 3-13 Collective Description

What is the meaning

of what happened? 86
Conceptualizing and
Designing a Qualitative
Are you
ready for
the journey
in the
realm of
•  As a group activity, to plan a qualitative
study on the topic _______________
(e.g. student leadership; drug addiction
school, dropout, learning challenge, etc)
•  To cover some basic ideas about
qualitative research (set all of us on the
same footing)
•  To introduce the idea of traditions or
“types” of qualitative research

What we need to know to develop
this plan:
ü  What is qualitative research?
ü  What types of problems are best suited for
qualitative research?
ü  How to write a qualitative purpose statement and
research questions
ü  What tradition or type of qualitative research best
fits our research problem?
ü  What types of qualitative data we should collect?
ü  Identifying our procedures for analyzing the data
ü  Assessing our software packages that will help
with data analysis
What is qualitative research?
Qualitative research is an inquiry
approach in which the inquirer:

•  explores a central phenomenon (one

key concept)
•  asks participants broad, general
•  collects detailed views of participants
in the form of words or images
What is qualitative
Qualitative research is an inquiry approach in
which the inquirer:

•  analyzes and codes the data for description

and themes
•  interprets the meaning of the information
drawing on personal reflections and past
•  and writes the final report that includes
personal biases and a flexible structure.
(adapted from Creswell 2002, p. 58)
What do we need to keep in mind
when designing a qualitative study?

•  Focus on process as well as outcomes

•  Let the design emerge
•  Use inductive reasoning
•  Develop a complex picture of the phenomenon
(studying many ideas with few participants and
•  Discuss the context of the phenomenon
•  Follow the “scientific method”
(e.g., problem, questions, method, results) 93
Starting our plan

•  Let’s provide a title for

our project

Start with a research topic and a
research problem
•  Identify the subject area or topic for the
•  Specify the research problem: The practical
issue that leads to a need for your study.
•  Complete these sentences:
–  “The topic for this study will be…”
–  “This study needs to be conducted
•  Let’s write down the topic and
the research problem leading
to our study

Now we will write a good
qualitative purpose statement:
•  What it includes:
– Single sentence
– “The purpose of this study . . .”
– Central phenomenon
– Qualitative words (e.g. “explore,”
“understand,” “discover”)
– Participants
– Research site
Let’s stay away from
quantitative language that
might mislead readers

•  What is NOT included in this

– Not a comparison
– Not relating variables
– Not proving hypotheses
– Not measuring variables
Here is a script for a good
qualitative purpose statement:

“The purpose of this qualitative study (replace

later with type of qualitative tradition)
will be to ______ (understand, describe,
develop, discover) the ________ (central
focus) for _______ (participants: person,
process, groups) at ______________(site)."

Writing good qualitative research
•  Questions narrow the purpose
•  Two types:
–  Central question
•  The most general question you could ask

•  Sub questions
–  Sub-divides central question into more
specific topics questions
–  Limited number
Use good qualitative wording
for these questions
•  Begin with words such as “how,” “what,”
•  Tell the reader what you are attempting to
“discover,” “generate,” “explore,” “identify,” or
–  Ask “what happened?” to describe an event
–  Ask “Why did it happen?” to describe an issue
–  Ask “What happened over time?” to explore a
–  Ask “In what way did it happen?” to identify a
culture –sharing pattern
–  Ask “What was the meaning to people of what
happened?” to understand 10
Avoid words such as:

–  “relate”
–  “influence”
–  ”impact”
–  “effect”
–  “cause”
Scripts to help design qualitative
central questions and sub-
Central Question Script: (usually write only one)
“What does it mean to ______________ (central
“How would _________ (participants) describe
__________ (central phenomenon)?"
Sub-Question Script:
“(What) ______________ (aspect) does ______
(participant) engage in as a _____________(central
phenomenon)?” 10
•  Write the purpose statement,
central question, and sub-
questions for our qualitative

Let’s design the methods for this
qualitative study. What to include:
•  Data collection
•  Data analysis
•  Data representation
•  Data interpretation
•  Data validation
•  The type of qualitative “tradition”
we will use in our methods
What criteria will we use to select
a tradition?

•  Intent or focus
•  Audience
•  Personal training/skills
•  Personal comfort level with
Now, let’s select a tradition for
our study

•  Choose a qualitative tradition for

our research problem.
•  Tell why we chose it and how it
relates to the study’s purpose.

Within this tradition, what data will
we collect?

•  Who will be studied?

•  What information will be

Four considerations for selecting
people/sites to study:
•  Can the people and sites help us learn
about our central phenomenon?
(purposefully select people and sites)
•  How many people and sites should we
study? (keep sample size small)
•  Do we have access? (gain access)
•  Do we have permissions (obtain
permissions) 10
What types of information can be
collected in qualitative research?

•  Observations
•  Interviews
•  Documents
•  Audio-Visual Materials

If we choose to observe, how do
we do it?
•  Create an observational protocol
–  Record descriptive notes
–  Record reflective notes

•  Decide on your observational stance

•  Enter site slowly
•  Conduct multiple observations
•  Summarize at end of each observation
If we choose to interview, how do
we interview?
•  Decide on the type of interview to use
–  Individual
–  Focus group
–  Telephone
–  e-mail
•  Create an interview protocol
•  Ask open-ended questions (5-7)
–  allows the participant to create options for
–  participants can voice their experiences and
•  If possible, tape record and transcribe for analysis
•  Let’s write down in our plan our
data collection approach
1)  Sites to be studied
2)  People to be studied
3)  Permissions needed
4)  Types of data to be collected
5)  Forms needed for data collection
Once we collect the data, how will we
analyze it? The overall process

Codes the Text for Codes the Text for

Description to be Used Themes to be Used
in the Research Report in the Research Report

The Researcher Codes the Data (i.e., locates text

segments and assigns a code to label them)
Interactive Simultaneous
The Researcher Reads Through Data
( i.e., obtains general sense of material)

The Researcher Prepares Data for analysis

( e.g., transcribes fieldnotes)

The Researcher Collects Data (i.e., a text file, such as

fieldnotes, transcriptions, optically scanned material)

More specific steps in the analysis

•  Exploring the database

•  Coding the data
•  Developing findings - a description and
•  (Re) presenting the description and themes
•  Interpreting the findings
•  Validating the findings
How do we first explore the

•  Obtain a general sense of the data

•  Write down memos on hard copy
•  Think about the organization of the
•  Consider whether more data are
Then we engage in the coding
process that involves several steps:
Divide text Label Reduce Collapse
Initially read
into segments segments of Overlap and codes into
through data
of information information redundancy themes
with codes of codes

Many Many Codes

Pages Segments 30-40 reduced
codes Reduce Codes to
of Text of Text to 20 5-7 Themes

How do we divide the text into
segments? (actual coding)
•  Transcribe the interview
•  Initially read through for general meaning
•  Determine coding frame (sentence, paragraph, or
phrase) and determine what the person is saying in
the coding frame
•  Assign code labels in left margin
–  Use in vivo coding (their words) when possible
–  Do not over code - practice “lean coding”
–  Stay away from interpreting comments
(10 sec rule)
•  Look for overlap among codes
•  Combine codes into 5-7 themes 11
What are themes?
•  Themes are broad categories of information
(codes grouped together)
•  Themes can describe a setting
•  Themes can describe what occurred
•  In the 5-7 themes, have some be: a) what you
would expect; b) what you would not expect
(unusual themes)
•  Themes can also be related (chronology,
grounded theory model)

•  Let’s practice the coding

•  Describe the procedures we
will use for analyzing the data

In this analysis process, should we use a
computer program to help?

Some computer programs available:

•  Demonstration of the basic features of
N6 including:
– entering documents (we will enter
the department chair project we
have coded)
– coding texts
– tree diagram
– searching codes

How will we report our findings?
(What topics do we present in the
•  We might describe the setting
•  We might identify and discuss 5-7 themes (including multiple
perspectives, good quotes, useful dialogue, even metaphors or
•  We write in detail
•  We try to make the narrative as realistic as possible (even note
•  We report the narrative in a way consistent with our tradition
–  Narrative – typically a chronology
–  Phenomenology – typically description building toward the essence
of the phenomenon
–  Ethnography – description of the setting and cultural themes that
display the way culture-sharing works
–  Grounded theory – categories of information leading to a theoretical
–  Case study - description of the case and themes of the case

As we present these findings,
what visual presentations can we
use to convey them?
•  Create a visual image of the information
in a “comparison” table
•  Depict physical layout of the setting
•  Describe personal or demographic
information for each person or site
•  Present a model of a theory

At the end of our study, what
interpretations can we make?
(Discussion section of studies)
•  Interpretation is stepping back – asking what all of
this means; it is not neutral
•  Options:
–  We can give our own personal reflection (based
on our experiences, history)
–  We can compare our findings with the literature
–  We can summarize in a general sense what we
•  We also need (as shown in scholarly discussion
–  Raise potential limitations in our study
–  Make suggestions for future research
–  Discuss the practical implications for our study 12
How do we know that our
interpretation (or themes, or
questions, or the entire research
report) is accurate?
•  Member checking: Members check the
accuracy of the account
•  Triangulation: Looking for themes across
different types of data; different researchers;
different participants
•  Others: peer review, external audit, report
disconfirming evidence, clarify researcher’s
stance, thick description, prolonged time in
the field 12
Let’s put it all together – What
topics are addressed in a proposal
for a qualitative study?
•  Introduction
– Statement of the problem (including
– Purpose of the study
– Research questions
– Delimitations and limitations

A qualitative proposal (cont’d)
•  Procedures
–  Characteristics of qualitative research
–  Qualitative research strategy
–  Role of the researcher
–  Data collection procedures
–  Data analysis procedures
–  Strategies for validating findings
–  Narrative structure 12
A plan for a qualitative proposal

•  Anticipated ethical issues

•  Significance of the study
•  Preliminary pilot findings
•  Expected outcomes
•  Appendices (interview questions,
observational forms, timeline, and proposed

•  Let’s review the plan we have
developed collectively and share
plans that you have developed on
your own