Category Archives: Chapter Readings

Maxwell – Chapter 2

Maxwell’s Chapter 2: Setting Goals


When we talk about goals we mean motives, desires and purposes. Goals answer two main actual functions: Guide the design decisions, and justifying the relevance of the whole study (page 23).

According to the author there are three main kinds of goals in a proper study.

Personal goals refer to the things that matter to the researcher in a subjective way. Trying to avoid or ignore them is whether futile or just counterproductive. When researchers try to hide their personal goals to others, they often feel that only they are failing to live up to the goal of scientific neutrality (page 25). On the other hand, the lack of personal goals would cut a major source of insights; therefore it’s highly recommendable to systematically monitor the researchers’ personal goals, their subjectivity (page 28). Most importantly, the lack of personal goals would severely diminish the motivation of the researcher, which plays a major role in any long distance race such as a research study. Another important feature of personal goals is how they help to answer the question “Why do I want to do a qualitative study?”. It is a key question to check the compatibility and pertinence of other goals, the research question and the actual activities involved in doing the qualitative study all together (page 26).

Practical goals such as administrative or policy goals are focused on accomplishing some need or specific objective. Maxwell argues that the research question has to ask directly about how to accomplish those practical goals. The researcher needs to frame the research question in ways that help the study achieve the practical goals. This issue, along with the intellectual goals will be developed in Chapter 4.

Goals that Qualitative Research Help you Achieve

Quantitative and qualitative research methods have different strengths and logics. A key difference between the two approaches is the distinction between “variance theory” and “process theory”. Quantitative research tends to see the world in terms of variables and statistical relationships between them. Process theory however tends to see the world in terms of people, situations, events and the process that connects these. This process implies an inductive approach and emphasis on descriptions rather than numbers (page 30). These elements influence the king of intellectual goals most convenient for a qualitative research method; such as the meaning of certain events or experiences, the features and influences of contexts on people, the processes by which events take place, the identification of unanticipated phenomena, and developing causal explanations for them (page 31).

The author also points out that researchers need to recognize the innate difference between qualitative and quantitative research methods: quantitative research tends to focus on whether there is a direct correlation between variable x and y, whereas qualitative research technique the researchers explore to which degree variable x play a role in causing y. Regardless of the differences of techniques, both approaches need to identify and situate threats to validity. (Page 31, the author further discusses this topic in Chapter 6)

Another goal that qualitative research helps you achieve is generating results and theories for the service of the people you are studying and future researchers. The results have to be clear, credible and understandable. Furthermore, the research should strive to achieve to improve the existing practices, protocols, or policies regarding the field/topic you are studying and not just reiterate the facts of the relationship between two variables. This technique is called “formative evaluation” (Page 32). It is more important to comprehend the processes that happen in your research and how the participants of your research understand it, than to excessively compare and contrast the situation of your study to others to establish a comparison (Page 32). Lastly, it is important to engage in grassroots and community-lead action with the participants to further create allegiance and solidarity with the community you are doing the work with.

To help us put the discussion of research goals into context, look at Example 2.3 – “Deciding on A Dissertation Topic” on page 33. This example describes the process one doctoral student took with regards to deciding on a topic for her dissertation. The issues the student, Isabel, took were her motivation to pursue her study, the responsibility she felt on making the research. She also expressed that she chose to disregard other people’s opinion on her to keep her centered and focused on her research.

Maxwell Chapter 5 – Methods

Maxwell’s Chapter 5 focuses on the design of the Methods section of your research.

The focus is on how to design the use of specific approaches and methods in a qualitative study, not on how to actually do the research itself. The author stresses there is no “cookbook” or cut and dry method for doing a qualitative research study. There are general guidelines for different approaches but the subject you are researching and your available resources will guide the exact method you use.

Below is an outline style rundown of the important parts of the chapter.

More and Less Structured Approaches:

  • Any substantial prior structuring of methods leads to a lack of flexibility to respond to emergent insights, and can create methodological tunnel vision in making sense of data.

Conducting a Qualitative Study has Four Main Components:

  1. The research relationships that you establish with those you study
  2. Selection: what settings or individuals you decide to observe or interview, and what other sources of information you decide to use
  3. Data collection: how you gather the info you will use
  4. Data analysis: what you do with this information to make sense of it

Negotiating Research Relationships:

  • The researcher needs to interact with people to collect data, and these relationships create and structure this interaction. Ongoing contact continually restructures these relationships.
  • Negotiating entry= allows the researcher to ethically gain the information that can answer your research questions.
  • Example 5.1 on Page 94 gives a good narrative of how a researcher prepared for his study

Site and Participant Selection:

  • Where to conduct your research and whom to include in it (sampling)
  • In qualitative research, the typical way of selecting settings and individuals is neither probability sampling nor convenience sampling. It falls into a third category, which can be called purposeful selection or purposive sampling: particular settings, persons, or activities are selected deliberately to provide information that is particularly relevant to your questions and goals

Decisions About Data Collection:

The Relationship Between Research Questions and Data Collection Methods

  • There is no way to mechanically convert research questions into methods. Your methods are the means to answering your research questions, not a logical transformation of the latter. The method selection depends not only on your research question, but on the actual research situation and on what will work most effectively in that situation to give you the data you need.
  • Figure 5.1 on Page 109 shows an example of how collected data is organized from an interview-based study.

Using Multiple Data Collection Methods

  • Collecting data using multiple methods in qualitative research is common.
  • Mixed-methods research: joint use of qualitative and quantitative methods in a single study
  • Different purposes: 1. Triangulation- using different methods as a check on one another, seeing if methods with different strengths and limitations all support a single conclusion. 2. Gain information about different aspects of the phenomena that you are studying. Different methods are used to broaden the range of aspects or phenomena that your address, rather than simply to strengthen particular conclusions about some phenomenon.
  • The use of generalized, present-tense, and specific, past-tense questions as with the joint use of observations and interviews can address the same issues and research questions but from different perspectives. The goal is to gain a greater depth of understanding rather than simply greater breadth or confirmation of the results of a single method.

Decisions About Data Analysis:

Strategies for Qualitative Data Analysis:

  • Different strategies and tools can be used for qualitative analyses
  • First step is reading the interview transcripts, observational notes, or documents, and listening to tapes you are analyzing. During this you should write notes on what you see and hear.
  • Analytical options: memos, categorizing strategies, and connecting strategies (narrative analysis).
  • The distinction between categorizing and connecting strategizes is basic to understating qualitative data analysis. The distinction involves two different modes of relationship: similarity (resemblances or common features) and contiguity (juxtaposition in time and space, the influence of one thing on another, or relations among parts of a text; their identification involves seeing actual connections between things, rather than similarities and differences).
  • Categorizing analysis begins with the identification of units of data that seem important or meaningful in some way. This often called “open coding”, which involves reading the data and developing your coding categories based on what data seems most important.
  • Figure 5.2 (Page 117) and Example 5.4 (Page 118-119) show example data and provides a narrative on how the data would be analyzed.

Computers and Qualitative Data Analysis:

  • Software designed for qualitative data analysis is now widely used and is almost obligatory for large-scale projects.
  • The main strength of such software is in categorizing analysis and many current books on using computers for qualitative data analysis focus almost entirely on coding. 

Although this chapter does not provide detailed steps for crafting the method of your research study, it gives a good overview of how to go about creating your own method. Qualitative research is more “loose” than quantitative research, and your method should reflect the way you are planning to get the richest information with the time and resources you have available.

By Benjamin Young, Marissa Levitan, & Christina Markoski

Maxwell Chapter 6- Validity

In Maxwell’s chapter on validity he uses the definition “the correctness or credibility of a description, conclusion, explanation, interpretation, or other sort of account” (page 122).

One point that he stresses is that validity, “is not a commodity that can be purchased with techniques” (Brinberg and McGrath, 1985) meaning that the validity of your research isn’t based on the methods that you used.  Rather, validity depends on how your conclusions relate to reality- validity is a relative concept.  Simply put, validity is proven through evidence, not methods (page 121).

The purpose of proving validity is to answer the question, “Why should we believe it?” about your research.  Validity doesn’t necessarily prove that your research is the ultimate truth about phenomena, but it gives people reading it a reason to believe that your research is credible (page 122).

Maxwell next explains a key concept for validity- the validity threat which is essentially a way that you might be wrong.  A validity threat is therefore an alternative explanation, interpretation or conclusion than the one you have put forth (a “rival hypothesis”).  For example:
-The people you interviewed aren’t presenting their actual views
-You have ignored data that didn’t fit your interpretation
-There is a different theoretical way of making sense
Validity manes that you are conceptualizing these threats, acknowledging them, using different strategies to discover if they impacted your research, and dealing with them (page 123).

While quantitative researchers can often use manipulations or controls to deal with validity concerns prior to conducting their research, qualitative researchers have to address most of their validity threats after the research has begun (page 123).

It’s important when we’re writing our proposals that we don’t just stick in a bunch of terms relating to validity like “triangulation” and “bracketing” but that we actually demonstrate that we’ve thought these issues through and thoughts about how we will deal with them in regards to our specific research (page 123).

Next Maxwell went into the two types of threats to validity that are most common in qualitative studies: researcher bias and reactivity.

Researcher Bias: Maxwell defines this as “the selection of data that fit the researcher’s existing theory, goals, or preconceptions, and the selection of data that “stand out” to the researcher.” We have already talked about the fact that we can’t completely eliminate our theories, beliefs and perceptual lenses as researchers.  However, in our proposals when we are discussing validity we should explain our possible biases and how we will deal with them during our research (page 124).

Reactivity: Maxwell defines this as “the influence of the researcher on the setting or individuals studied.”  Again, eliminating the actual influence of the researchers is impossible but what’s important is understanding how you are influencing the situation.  An interesting point is that in natural settings an observer isn’t as likely to influence participants’ behavior as in an interview setting (known as reflexivity) (page 125).

Validity Tests: on pages 126-130 Maxwell provides a checklist for some of the most important strategies that can be used to attempt to guarantee validity. Page 126, lists other authors that have compiled more extensive lists on the same subject.

– Intensive, Long-term Involvement
– Rich Data
– Respondent Validation
– Intervention
– Searching for discrepant evidence and negative cases
– traingualation- collecting info from a diverse range of individuals and settings, using a variety of methods.
– Comparison

From pages 130-134 there is a very important table- the Validity Matrix for a study that is a great reference point for any study you will be interested in conducting.

Questioning the research design’s validity is a systemic application process to approach research questions (John Platt, 1973). The researcher should first devise alternative hypotheses and “think about all the ways a given conclusions could be wrong” (p. 135). This is important because it allows the research to infer knowledge from the research and to understand the data from all angles. Next, the researcher should integrate and address validity threats in all aspects of the research design. Finally, to identify strategies for validity threats, the researcher should refer to to Maxwell (2004) Using Qualitative Methods for Casual Explanation and Qualitative Research Design (2005).

It would be an excellent idea to complete Exercise 6.1 (p. 136), a companion to Memo 6.1 and the matrix, Figure 6.1. This exercise will help the researcher to identify and deal with validity threats present in their study. It’s certainly worth a look.

Finally, when discussing validity, generalization must be mentioned (p.136-138). Maxwell directs the reader to Polit & Beck (2010). Generalization “refers to extending research results, conclusions, or other accounts that are based on a study of particular individuals, settings, times, or institutions to other individuals, settings, times, or institutions than those directly studied”. There are two kinds of generalization: internal, and external. An in-depth explanation can be found on p. 137.

It is also important to mention Becker (1991) when discussing generalization of qualitative research. Becker states that “generalizations are … about a process, the same no matter where it occurs, in which variations in conditions create variations in results. Qualitative research also lends itself to “face generalization”, which, according to statistician Judith Singer, means that there is no obvious reason not to believe that the results can be applied more generally.

Interviewing Women (Article)

Interviewing Women authors Shulamit Reinharz and Susan E. Chase examine the role of women as “perceivers” when it comes to social research and look at how women have been traditionally disregarded as worthy interview subjects by men (p. 222).  Women had been perceived by others, but not given the opportunity to be heard.  In this research, Reinharz and Shulamit address the issue of “gynopia,” which is the inability to see women in social settings and traditional social sciences (p.222).

Reinharz and Chase discuss the notion that interviewing women can’t be a “one-size-fits-all” approach –an interesting notion applicable to the concept of interviewing in general. Interviewers need to take into account the race, ethnicities, classes, sexual orientations, ages, disabilities or abilities of their interviewees. The authors mention that women in general have many different life experiences and varied ways in communicating with the researcher. There is a “missing tradition” in terms of interviewing women because throughout the 19th and (much of) the 20th Century, the majority of men did not have an interest in interviewing women, unfortunately leading to male perspectives and untested, unexamined assumptions about the lives of women (p.223).

A different narrative emerges when women who are usually silenced are given a voice to speak.  Reinharz and Chase describe the story of a researcher who wrote about her experiences in interviewing homeless women. She found these women had certain needs and hopes that hadn’t been heard because no one cared to hear them or ask. The perspectives of these women had been completely disregarded; therefore, it is important to allow those the opportunity to have a voice who may not otherwise have had that chance. Reinharz and Chase’s article also describes how women interviewing other women can cause the reviewer to participate in their own self disclosure and sometimes have mirroring experiences with the interviewee. The interviewing process can affect the researcher herself, causing her to relive or recount her own similar past experiences (p.226-227).

Reihnarz and Chase discuss (p. 228) how female interviewers may establish connections or “sisterly bonds” with female interviewees and they offer examples of how these bonds occur through the interview process (a study of single women involved with married men whereby some  interviewees cried and expressed gratitude to the interviewer for the sense of release the interview provided). The authors indicate a major drawback in treating this type of relationship as an “ideal research relationship” is that either party may not want or need to continue the relationship past the research. Also, this type of relationship may be condescending to the interviewee. The authors distinguish between “rapport” (which they view as a necessary ingredient for interviewing and define as strong listening skills) and “intense bonding” (which they describe as a promise of future support or friendship). They further indicate that researchers have a responsibility to fully articulate the expectation of the research and set boundaries to the research process. If an intense bond forms, that should be considered a “serendipitous event” and not the norm.

On p. 230 the authors share some of the issues that may arise with women interviewees including social location and subjectivities. Some social scientists argue that due to the heavy responsibilities of working class women of color, they may be less willing and more skeptical to participate in social research. Also, the fact that an interviewer may share the same ethnicity as their interviewee does not mean that the interviewer will fully identify with the ethnic identity of that interviewee. For other interviewers, ethnicity may be an inhibiting factor while for others it may be liberating. According to the authors, what feminist researchers should share is a commitment to reflect upon the complexities of their own and participants’ social locations and subjectivities.

In the section Men Interviewing Women (p. 232), Reinharz and Chase indicate that women may feel more inclined to share personal details of their experiences with women instead of men, suggesting that gender affects voluntary sharing of personal experience. Gender can also affect where interviews take place and, at times, a male interviewer may decide not to conduct the interview himself. Basically, the same methodological principles apply when men interview women as it does when women interview women: the researcher must take into account his/her own social location and how they may affect the research relationship.

The authors conclude the article by indicating that interpreting women’s words and stories requires a delicate and reflexive balancing act. Researchers need to understand and respect participants’ interpretations of their lives especially if those interpretations differ from their own lives. Finally, the researcher needs to be open to how these interpretations may change over time.

Chapter 11: “Turning the Story” and Conclusion


This chapter focuses on “turning the story” from studies and using a different approach to conduct a qualitative study. The author describes Figure 11.1 (p. 270) as encompassing the three main factors of a qualitative study.  The combination of  the following are components of a qualitative study and can be changed to turn the story: Approach to Inquiry, Research Design, and  Assumptions, Worldviews, & Theories .

The author uses the gunman case study in Appendix F as reviewed in Chapter 5  to show us how researchers can turn a study from one type to another type and perform completely different studies.  Essentially, the main way for researches to approach telling different stories from one study is by reverting back to the general problem or issue that the study addresses.  Refining and revision of the main issue or problem leads to a new study with a different approach.


A Case Study

The initial case study is about campus reaction to a gunman incident  where a student  tried to shoot a gun at his classmates.   After discussing the initial problem of campus violence and explaining the events that happened during the attempted attack,  the researchers gathered data with interviews, observations, documents, and audiovisual materials.  The layering of themes that came up during the study  (ex: denial, fear, safety, campus planning)  boiled down to a psychological theme and organizational theme which were addressed in  the study.

A Narrative Study

The narrative study that  could emerge from the initial case study focuses on the teacher who was present at the time of the attempted attack. He and the student were both African American and the author proposes how the story could be turned into a narrative of the professor.  If the researcher wanted to do this, the approach would have been to restory the stories into an account of the gunman that followed a chronology of events.   The researcher would have examined life events, or epiphanies, picked out from storied told to him by the professor.  The story would have different themes from the original study (ex: race, discrimination, marginality).  The study could have taken a plethora of routes depending on which story the researcher wanted to get.

A Phenomenology Study

Narrative study involves studying a single individual as in a biography but on the other hand a phenomenology study involves studying several individual students and examines a psychological phenomenology. The phenomenon that you are study could involve studying human experiences and feelings such as fear. One can engage in extensive interviews and use the steps described in Moustakes (1994) to analyze them. While writing the results you can include a description of your own experiences and then proceed to describe the significant statements of the people that you interviewed. These statements can then be clustered into broader themes and finally ending with a long paragraph combining both textual (what they experienced) and structural descriptions (how they experienced).

A Grounded Theory Study

Grounded Theoretical study involves developing a theory around a process. The researcher’s intent would be to develop or generate a theory. The results section can be presented as a visual model which includes casual conditions that influenced the central category, intervening factors and strategies surrounding it.  One can validate their hypothesis by judging the thoroughness of the research. For an example refer the gunman example listed in the chapter.

An Ethnography Study

Ethnography involves creating a description and understanding the workings of a ‘culture sharing group’. It involves looking at a particular incident and how it triggered responses from the members of the community.  By doing this one can study micro cultures in the group and observe shared patterns of behavior.  This data collection would depend heavily on interviews and observations.


The focus of the study helps shape its design. The differences between the five approaches to inquiry, in terms of foci, are clearly outlined in Table 4.1 of this book.  For example, a single case study of an individual can be studied either as a biography or a case study. A small bounded system such as an event, a program, or an activity can be approached as a case study whereas a cultural system, including cultural behavior, language and artifacts, should be studied as ethnography.

Qualitative research has a predominant interpretative element because what we write or produce in the research comes from our personal experiences and our role in the research process. The findings of the research are as interpreted by us and the participants, readers and others reading our writing will have their own interpretations. The language used in the research design procedure of a study depends on the approach to inquiry. The appropriate terms to be used in various phases of qualitative research are discussed in chapters 6 and 9. Appendix A in this book also illustrates a list of words that researchers might use for their research design.

The participants who are studied reflect the approach to research. This is explained in Chapter 7 which also highlights the differences between various approaches depending on the extent of data collection. The approaches to inquiry vary greatly in the data analysis phase, ranging from unstructured (ethnography, narrative, interpretative) to structured approaches (grounded theory, phenomenology, case study). These procedures define the overall structure of data analysis and the extent to which the data would be described during analysis (Chapter 8). The final written research and the rhetorical structures used in the narrative also depend on the approach to inquiry (Chapter 9). The kind of approach adopted also defines the criteria to judge the quality of the study (Chapter 10).

Creswell recommends designing one’s study based on one of the approaches described in this book. He also suggests that even though one might choose to mix together different approaches, but it is important that those approaches be sorted out first before combining. According to Creswell, a study designed using one on the approaches enhances the sophistication of the project and conveys a standard of methodological expertise.


Creswell Chapter 9

Writing a Qualitative Study

“Writing and composing the narrative report brings the entire study together” (213).  In this chapter, the author begins with four writing issues: reflexivity and representation, audience, encoding, and quotes. Then he takes each of the five approaches to inquiry and assesses two writing structures: the overall structure and the embedded structure. Finally, he compares the narrative structures for the five approaches in terms of four dimensions.

Please review P.213 – P.214 for the Questions for Discussion of this chapter.

“…qualitative writing has been shaped by a need for researchers to be self-disclosing about their role in the writing, the impact of it on participants, and how information conveyed is read by audiences” (214). Several writing strategies are introduced in the beginning of this chapter as the followings.

Reflexivity and Representations in Writing

“…qualitative researchers today are much more self-disclosing about their qualitative writings than they were a few years ago” (214). The author consider that our writing is a reflection of our own interpretation based on the cultural, social, gender, class and personal politics that we bring to research. Indeed, writings are co-constructions, representations of interactive processes between researchers and the researched (Gilgun, 2005).Moreover, the concern about the impact of the writing on the participants is increased. Weis and Fine (2000) discuss a “set of self-reflective points of critical consciousness around the questions of how to represent responsibility” in qualitative writings. And followings are the major questions that should be mainly considered by all qualitative researchers about their writings:

  • Should I write about what people say or recognize that sometimes they cannot remember or choose not to remember?
  • What are my political reflexivities that need to come into my report?
  • Has my writing connected the voices and stories of individuals back to the set of historic, structural, and economic relations in which they are situated?
  • How far should I go in theorizing the words of participants?
  • Have I considered how my words could be used for progressive, conservative, and repressive social policies?
  • Have I backed into the passive voice and decoupled my responsibility from my interpretation?
  • To what extent has my analysis (and writing) offered an alternative to common sense or the dominant discourse?

Reflexivity means that the writer is conscious of the biases, values, and experiences that he or she brings to a qualitative research study. The author thinks it is combined by two parts. The first part is the writer’s own experiences with the phenomenon being explored and the second part is how is the researcher’s interpretation of the phenomenon shaped by these past experiences.

Audience for Our Writings

“A sense of an audience peering over the writer’s shoulder needs to pervade the writing and the written text” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). How the findings are presented depends on the audience with whom one is communicating (Giorgi, 1985). A small example for this strategy please see page 217.

Encoding Our Writings

“A closely related topic is recognizing the importance of language in shaping our qualitative texts” (217). Richardson’s (1990) study of women in affairs with married men illustrates how a writer can shape a work differently for various audiences. Details of the research and how this research inspired Creswell’s thoughts are mentioned in p. 217 – p.219.

Quotes in Our Writings

“In addition to encoding text with the language of qualitative research, author bring in the voice of participants in the study” (219).  And the author also found that Richardson’s (1990) discussion about three types of quotes most useful. The first one is short eye-catching quotations; second one is combination of embedded quotes and briefly quoted phrases within the analyst’s narrative; the third one is a type of quote that is the longer quotation used to convey more complex understandings.  These three types’ characteristics are shown on this book at pg. 219.

Overall and Embedded Writing Structures

Creswell notes that there are two writing structures a qualitative researcher must consider when writing their report – the overall writing structure, and the embedded structure. By overall, he means the general feel, narrative and design of the report, and by embedded, he means the rhetorical structure, and the use of language and figurative devices to explore the details of the story.

A chart outlining the overall and embedded writing structures for the five approaches is on pgs. 221 – 222.

The overall writing structure in narrative research is rather flexible. It can mimic an actual narrative, following the chronology of a story, or be closer to a dissertation, with an introduction, literature review and the like. It can focus on brief episodes or themes, or raise questions that are answered throughout the report. (223)

The embedded structures in narrative research will tie into the general strategy. Narrative like reports may use the progressive-regressive method, which starts at a key event and works backwards and forwards. They key event may be an epiphany that serves as a culmination of the story. Other embedded structures may be the use of dialogue, transitions or foreshadowing. (225)


Those who are writing about phenomenology stick to a tighter overall structure. The organization helps readers better understand sensitive topics and experiences. Three models are discussed on pgs. 226-227, but all three models involve describing the research process and presenting data. The embedded structure is used to further help the reader understand the phenomena in question. A writer can present the essence of an experience through a short paragraph, invoke a discussion to educate the reader, explain their personal inspiration for choosing the study, or using significant statements and a table of meaning to get the details across. (228) The goal is that the reader should come away with the feeling that, “I understand better what it is like for someone to experience that.” (227)

The overall structure in grounded theory is to best explain how the author developed the theory. Each element is discussed in detail on p.229, but much of the writing in each section (literature review, methodology, findings, etc.) must describe the evolution of the study as the author came closer to understanding the theory. The report must include the relationships among categories, key concepts and open coding and diagrams. (230) Much of the report involves writing and revising, allowing ides to emerge as the theory develops.

The embedded structures within a grounded theory report are based on the extent of data analysis. One structure may involve an analysis of key stages or categories in the theory, or another may focus on the relationships and follow a logic diagram to present the theory in a visual model. (231) Another tactic is use emotions or moods in discussion, ask questions, and use unexpected definitions, all to lead a reader into the topic. (232)

The author goes on to explain the different styles of writing ethnographies and states that many ethnographies are written as realist tales, confessional tales, and impressionistic tales.

•     In a realist style of tale, a writer provides direct, matter-of-fact portraits of studied cultures without much information about how the ethnographers produced the portraits.

•     A confessional tale takes the opposite approach and the researcher focuses more on his or her fieldwork experiences than on the culture.

•     The impressionistic tale has elements of both realist and confessional writing and presents a compelling and persuasive story.

You can find more details on this on pages 192-193

Creswell then explains the embedded rhetorical structure of ethnographies. According to him, ethnographers use embedded rhetorical devices such as figures of speech, also known as “tropes.” Some of these tropes are metaphors, synecdoches, storytelling, and irony. Another important note that Creswell mentions is the importance of using “thick description” in writing qualitative research. To see an example of this go to page 194.

For case studies, Creswell mentions that he is reminded by Merriam (1988) that “there is no standard format for reporting case study research.” But he still goes on to mention an approach suggested by Stake (1995). On pages 195-196, there is an outline of this approach and I suggest for anyone who is doing a case study to take a look at this.

When it comes to embedded rhetorical structure, Creswell suggests “approaching the description of the context and setting for the case from a broader picture to a narrower one.” (196)

He also suggests that researchers need to be cognizant of the amount of description to use in their case study versus the amount of analysis and interpretation or assertions; and that this is basically up to the writer to decide.

Finally turn to pages 197-198 to see a very short conclusion of Creswell’s comparison of narrative structures.

Chapter 6: Introducing and Focusing the Study

Chapter 6 of Creswell’s Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design is all about writing the best introduction to your study as possible. It gives an overview of the introduction section and then goes into details about the subparts that make it up. A good qualitative introduction begins with the identification of a clear problem that needs to be studied. It then advances the primary intent of the study, called the purpose of the study. It sets the stage for the entire article and conveys what the author hopes to accomplish in the study. Of all parts of a research project, the purpose statement is most important.

The Research Problem Statement

Qualitative studies begin with an introduction advancing the research problem or issue in a study. The purpose of a research problem in qualitative research is to provide a rationale or need for studying a particular issue or problem. An example of various research problem statements can be found on page 132 figure 6.1, the 5 elements of a good introduction: the topic, the research problem, the evidence, and the importance of the problem for select audiences. At this point the introduction proceeds onto the purpose statement.

The Purpose Statement

The purpose statement provides the major objective or intent, or “road map,” to the study. The purpose statement needs to be carefully constructed and written in a clear and concise language. An example of a purpose statement script is found on page 135.

On page 136 table 6.1 contains a chart with “Words to use in Encoding the Purpose statement” as well as several examples of purpose statements that illustrate the encoding and foreshadowing of the 5 approaches to research on page 137.

The Research Question

The intent of the qualitative research question is to narrow the purpose statement into several specific questions that will be addressed in the study. Qualitative research questions are open-ended, evolving, and nondirectional. It restates the purpose of the study in more specific terms and typically start with a word or how rather than why.

The Central Question

The author recommends that a researcher reduce her or his entire study to a single, overarching central question and several subquestions. Examples can be found on page 139-140.


Subquestions further specify the central questions into some areas for inquiry. Suggestions for writing these subquestions can be found on page 140-141.

If you follow the directions in this chapter, your study’s introduction should be interesting, informative, and provide a backdrop for the rest of the research report. Good luck!

 — by Benjamin Young, Christina Markoski, & Marissa Levitan

Chapter 5

Chapter five expands on the five different qualitative studies by giving example to each method—narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnographic, and a case study. We will discuss each study by elaborating on the key highlights of the discussion.

A Narrative Study: “Living in the Space between Participant and Researcher as a Narrative Inquirer: Examining Ethnic Identity of Chinese Canadian Students as Conflicting Studies to Live By” – Appendix B

Elaine Chan, who is an assistant professor of Diversity and Curriculum Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, conducted a two-year long study at a Toronto middle school following the experiences of Ai Mei Zhang, an immigrant student from China in a close-examination setting. Chan used school-based narrative inquiry to research the ways in which expectations of academic performance and social behavior by teachers, peers at school, and parents at home played out in the life of an immigrant student. Ai Mei immigrated ot Canada five years prior to the start of the study and she did not speak a single word of English when she moved. In the discussion of the study in Appendix B, Chan reveals that Ai Mei experienced bullying and pressures from her peers, along with experiencing conflicting sentiments from her family, and acquaintances.

Chan has used narrative inquiry to explore the “interaction of student, teacher, and parent narratives, a story of interwoven lives” (page 304, Appendix B) in a Canadian context where she and her family are first generation immigrants. The researcher has also partaken in the family life of Ai Mei, and particularly notes the influence- for better or worse, Ai Mei’s mother had on her self-esteem and participation in the Toronto cultural platform. Chan states: “The interaction between Ai Mei and her mother highlighted the potential for tensions to develop when expressing differences in perspective about the value of certain kinds of behaviors over others” (Page 314) Ai Mei’s mother has criticized her for being too short, or not for helping her with household chores and Chan argues that this effected her self-esteem and could hinder her immersion into the multicultural English-speaking Toronto cultural landscape during her school-formation years. Chan also researched Ai Mei’s positionality within the classroom as she observed Chan during every homeroom classes for two-years straight. Chan also participated in school field trips, class activities, and other collective experiences that Ai Mei was a part of.

The method and approach of narrative inquiry, as Chan states: “facilitated the identification of the many nuances of living as an immigrant student in a North American school contest, and provided a framework in which to ponder these complexities.” (page 318) The narrative approach, as we see, close-examined a singular experience of one immigrant student, yet offers an indicative example to the experiences of immigrant students anywhere. In the conclusion part of her study (page 322), Chan puts forward that this study can offer tremendous value of insight to educators and policy makers who need to be well-versed and informed about students who come from immigrant backgrounds and to best accommodate their needs to succeed in both academic, and social life.

A Phenomenological Study—Cognitive Representations of Aids (Appendix C)

This study, conducted on a sample of 58 people- of which 41 were men and 17 were women, aimed to unpack the ways in which people who live with AIDS imagine their disease, and how these can be useful in understanding the medication adherence and other health behaviors of the individuals. The researchers E. Anderson and Margaret Spencer, studies 58 individuals and surveyed them to get statements regarding their experiences living with AIDS. Out of 175 statements, they concluded 11 themes, which were evaluated through the phenomenological point of research. In phenomenology, the researchers transcends the precedent knowledge and research in order to understand the phenomenon at a deeper level: they attempt to approach the issues with a sense of “newness” in order to pull out data that is more indicative and significant. (Page 331)

In this study, Anderson and Spencer used the Self-Regulation Model of Illness Representation, meaning that the patients are the “active problem solvers whose behavior is a product of their cognitive and emotional responses to a health threat” (Page 328). After surveying and interviewing the patients about their conception of their condition, they specified the attributes to illness representation under five categories: 1)identity, 2) time line, 3) perceived cause, 4)consequences, 5)controllability. By looking at the attributes, researchers were able to hypothesize how these findings could indicate an adherence to therapeutic regiments, engaging in high-risk sexual and safety behaviors, and an overall enhanced quality of life.

Amongst the participants, some focused on the final outcome of death by AIDS, while others treated AIDS as a chronic illness such as cancer or diabetes. The difference in attitudes and approach indicate a relationship with their condition. Participants who expressed pessimism and hopelessness has a different relationship to coping with their condition than participants who were more optimistic and hopeful of their condition. Examples of such approaches include someone describing their experience as a “skeleton crying” (page 335), or “death, just death” (page 333), while others chose to forget or push aside their condition. Another group of participants were able to recoup with their condition with time, or chose to turn to a higher power. The study concluded that the ways in which a person imagines AIDS might “influence medication adherence, high-risk behavior, and quality of life” (page 344)

Grounded theory approach consists of face to face interviews and uses the Strauss & Corbin approach (117).  This approach consists of “coding, concept development, constant comparisons between data and the emerging concepts, and the formulation of a theoretical model.”  According to the researcher, the grounded theory is the phase in which you develop your theory.  This is where a behavior process is understood and analyzed in order to develop the theoretical model which advances phases (117).

Defining features of a grounded theory approach include: understanding a behavior process, and then watching a theory emerge.  This theory helps develop the framework for the study.  The collection of data includes conducting a plethora of face to face interviews.  Data is analyzed using the Strauss and Corbin approach.

3 Theoretical phases in the behavioral process of integrating activity into a lifestyle: An initiation phase A transition phase Integration phase

Ethnographic study is useful for studying culture sharing groups. This is where you can take data sources, analyze the data and identify themes.  Themes are developed in order to understand how subcultures work. (pg. 118)

For example, in (Haefnler, 2004; see Appendix E), the researcher used the Ethnographic method for researching the lifestyle of the “straight edge movement”.  The researcher’s ethnographic data included interviews with members of the group, researcher participated in movement, gathered music lyrics from popular culture music, and analyzed behaviors and beliefs in order to understand the culture.

Core elements of ethnography include (119): identifying your study (finding your culture sharing group), describing the group in terms of its members and then using this knowledge to create a theme about the behavior of the group.  You will want to find the appropriate theory that applies to your ethnographic study, and figure out the critical approach to take.

During an ethnography study, the researcher must position oneself in the study: observer or participant? This researcher participated in the movement of his study. The researcher also engaged in fieldwork by engaging in in-depth interviews with members of the movement.  Here you also analyze emic & etic data. Emic data is how people “think”, how they perceive and categorize the world, and etic data focuses from the local observations, categories, etc to those of the anthropologist.

In a case study, you analyze data for a specific theme. This data is aggregated into large clusters of ideas, and providing specific details that supports the theme (p.293).  Case studies use one specific case that could be applicable to other similar cases. The intent of the case study is not to just be completely intrinsic/ it could be used to look at other similar cases involving a similar subculture. (pg. 120) (ex: a case of gun violence in one school which can be looked at in a larger picture). A case analysis can be ended by presenting assertions using collected data responses.  Assertions can also be grounded in literature support.  The literature can be “a larger explanation for our descriptive and thematic analyses.” (pg. 121).

Differences Among the Approaches

This section of Chapter 5 helps differentiate the 5 approaches to conducting a qualitative study by highlighting the central purpose of each one.  Table 5.1 (p. 122) illustrates the focus of each approach by breaking them down to their basic principles.  A narrative study will focus on an individual who illustrates a particular experience by gathering data though observations and conversations (See p. 112 for the narrative study on Ai Mei Zhang). Phenomenological studies are rooted in the lived experience, or essence, of the individuals studied through interviews like in Anderson and Spencer’s study on AIDS patients (p. 114).  Grounded Theory involves the creation of a theory through data collected and organized relative to a theoretical model. Ethnographic studies focus on culture-sharing groups and their behaviors, like sXe movement (p. 118). A case study focuses on an issue and the surrounding details that contributed to or led up to the issue.

The main way to effectively understand and employ each of the five approaches is to think about what your study intends to accomplish. The context of your idea for a study would help point you in the right direction as to which approach to take.  Other factors to consider when choosing an approach to your  study are outlined on page 124.   These factors include audience opinion, your qualifications and comfort as a researcher, and scholarly contribution to the specific field you are studying.

The importance of understanding each of these approaches is critical to the work  we’ll be doing because the data collection is different for each approach and the work the researcher does with  the data  varies also. As discussed in class, the approaches are employed as a means to show what exactly we are trying to research.   Fittingly, it is important to find the smaller, more refined research question out of the bigger ideas we initially have.

CHAPTER 4: Five Qualitative Approaches to Inquiry


In this chapter Creswell guides novice researchers (us) as we work through the early stages of selecting a qualitative research approach. The text outlines the origins, uses, features, procedures and potential challenges of each approach and provides a great overview. Why identify our approach to qualitative inquiry now? To offer a way of organizing our ideas and to ground them in the scholarly literature (69). The author includes a chart on page 104 that provides a convenient comparison of major features.



In contrast to the other approaches, narrative can be a research method or an area of study in and of itself. Creswell focuses on the former, and defines it as a study of experiences “as expressed in lived and told stories of individuals” (70). This approach emerged out of a literary, storytelling tradition and has been used in many social science disciplines.

Narrative researchers collect stories, documents, and group conversations about the lived and told experiences of one or two individuals. They record the stories using interview, observation, documents and images and then report the experiences and chronologically order the meaning of those experiences. Other defining features are available on p. 72.

These are the primary types of narrative:

  • Biographical study, writing and recording the experiences of another person’s life.
  • Autoethnography, in which the writing and recording is done by the subject of the study (e.g., in a journal).
  • Life history, portraying one person’s entire life.
  • Oral history, reflections of events, their causes and effects.

For all of the research approaches, Creswell first recommends determining if the particular approach is an appropriate tool for your research question. In this case, narrative research methodology doesn’t follow a rigid process but is described as informal gathering of data.

The author provides recommendations for methodologies on pps 74-76 and introduces two interesting concepts unique to narrative research: 1) Restorying is the process of gathering stories, analyzing them for key elements, then rewriting (restorying) to position them within a chronological sequence. 2) Creswell describes a collaboration that occurs between participants and researchers during the collection of stories in which both gain valuable life insight as a result of the process.

Narrative research involves collecting extensive information from participants; this is its primary challenge. But ethical issues surrounding the stories may present weightier difficulties, such as questions of the story’s ownership, how to handle varied impressions of its veracity, and managing conflicting information. For further reading on the activities of narrative researchers Creswell recommends Clandinin and Connelly’s Narrative Inquiry (2000).


Phenomenology is a way to study an idea or concept that holds a common meaning for a small group (3-15) of individuals. The approach centers around lived experiences of a particular phenomenon, such as grief, and guides researchers to distill individual experiences to an essential concept. Phenomenological research generally hones in on a single concept or idea in a narrow setting such as “professional growth” or “caring relationship.”

The evolution of phenomenology from its philosophical roots with Heidegger’s and Sartre’s writing often emerges in current researchers’ exploration of the ideas (77). In contrast to the other four approaches, phenomenology’s tradition is important for establishing themes in the data. In addition to its relationship to philosophy, another key phenomenology feature is bracketing, a process by which the researcher identifies and sets aside any personal experience with the phenomena under study (78).

Phenomenology has two main subsets. Hermeneutic, by which a researcher first follows his/her own abiding concern or interest in a phenomenon; then reflects upon the essential themes that constitute the nature of this lived experience; describex the phenomenon; crafts an interpretation and finally mediates the different resultant meanings. The second type, transcendental, is more empirical and focused on a data analysis method outlined on page 80.

Cresswell favors a systematic methodology outlined by Moustakas (1994) in which participants are asked two broad, general questions: 1) What have you experienced in terms of the phenomenon? 2) What context of situations have typically influenced your experiences of the phenomenon? For some researchers, the author believes phenomenology may be too structured. He also mentions the additional challenge of identifying a sample of participants who share the same phenomenon experience.

Creswell recommends two sources for further reading on phenomenology: Moustakas’s Phenomenological Research Methods (1994) and van Manen’s Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy (1990).


Grounded theory seeks to generate or discover a theory-a general explanation– for a social process, action or interaction shaped by the views of participants (p. 83). One key factor in grounded theory is that it does not come “off the shelf” but is “grounded” from data collected from a large sample. Creswell recommends an approach to this qualitative research prescribed by Corbin & Strauss (2007).

The author describes several defining features of grounded theory research (85). The first is that it focuses on a process or actions that has “movement” over time. Two examples of processes provided include the development of a general education program or “supporting faculty become good researchers.” An important aspect of data collection in this research is “memoing.” In which the researcher “writes down ideas as data are collected and analyzed,” usually from interviews.

Data collection is best be described as a “zigzag” process of going out to the field to gather information and then back to the office to analyze it and back out to the field. The author discusses various ways of coding the information into major categories of information (p. 86).

Another approach to grounded theory is that of Charmaz (2006). Creswell notes that Charmaz “places more emphasis on the views, values, belief, feelings, assumptions and ideologies of individuals than on the methods of research.” (p. 87)

The author states that this is a good design to use when there isn’t a theory available to “explain or understand a process.” (p. 88). Creswell further notes that the research question will focus on “understanding how individuals experience the process and identify steps in the process” that can often involve 20 to 60 interviews.

Some challenges in using this design is that the researcher must set aside “theoretical ideas or notions so that the analytic, substantive theory can emerge.” (p. 89) It is also important that the researcher understand that the primary outcome of this research is a “theory with specific components: a central phenomenon, causal conditions, strategies, conditions and context, and consequences,” according to Corbin & Strauss’ (p. 90). However, if a researcher wants a less structured approach the Charmaz (2006) method is recommended.


Ethnography is a qualitative research design in which the unit of analysis is typically greater than 20 participants and focuses on an “entire culture-sharing group.” (Harris, 1968). In this approach, the “research describes and interprets the shared and learned patterns of values, behaviors, beliefs, and language” of the group. The method involves extended observations through “participant observation, in which the researcher is immersed in the day-to-day lives of the people and observes and interviews the group participants.” (p. 90).

Creswell notes that there is a lack of orthodoxy in ethnographic research with many pluralistic approaches. He lists a number of other researchers (p.91) but states that he draws on Fetterman’s (2009) and Wolcott’s (2008a) approaches in this text.

Some defining features of ethnographic research are listed on pages 91 and 92. They include that: it “focuses on developing a complex, complete description of the culture of a group, a culture-sharing group;” that ethnography however “is not the study of a culture, but a study of the social behaviors of an identifiable group of people;” that the group “has been intact and interacting for long enough to develop discernable working patterns,” and that ethnographers start with a theory drawn from “cognitive science to understand belief and ideas” or materialist theories (Marxism, acculturation, innovation, etc.)

Some types of ethnographies include “confessional ethnography, life history, autoethnography, feminist ethnography, visual ethnography,”etc., however, Creswell emphasizes two popular forms. The first is the realist ethnography-used by cultural anthropologists, it is “an objective account of a situation, typically written in the third-person point of view and reporting objectively on the information learned from participants.” (p. 93). The second is the critical ethnography in which the author advocates for groups marginalized in society (Thomas, 1993). This type of research is typically conducted by “politically minded individuals who seek through their research, to speak out against inequality and domination” (Carspecken & Apple, 1992). (p. 94).

The procedures for conducting an ethnography are listed on p. 94-96. One key element in these procedures is the gathering of information where the group works or lives through fieldwork (Wolcott, 2008a); and respecting the daily lives of these individuals at the site of study. Some key challenges in this type of research are that one must have an “understanding of cultural anthropology, the meaning of a social-cultural system, and the concepts typically explored by those studying cultures. Also, data collection requires a lot of time on the field. (p. 96)


In case study research, defined as the “the study of a case within a real-life contemporary context or setting” Creswell takes the perspective that such research “is a methodology: a type of design in qualitative research that may be an object of study, as well as a product of inquiry.” Further, case studies have bounded systems, are detailed and use multiple sources of information (p. 97). Creswell references the work of Stake (1995) and Yin (2009) because of their systematic handling of the subject.

The author draws attention to several features of the case study approach, but emphasizes a critical element “is to define a case that can be bounded or described within certain parameters, such as a specific place and time.” Other components of the research method include its intent-which may take the form of intrinsic case study or instrumental case study (p. 98); its reliance on in-depth understanding; and its utilization of case descriptions, themes or specific situations. Finally, researchers typically conclude case studies with “assertions” from their learning (p. 99).

The text touches on several types of case studies that can be differentiated by size, activity or intent and that can involve single or multiple cases (p.99). In instances of collective case study design where the researcher may use multiple case studies to examine one issue, the text recommends Yin (2009) logic of replication be used. Creswell goes on to point out that if the researcher wishes to generalize from findings, care needs to be taken to select representative cases. This could be useful, time-saving information for class members considering this method.

In outlining procedures for conducting a case study (p.100), Creswell recommends “that investigators first consider what type of case study is most promising and useful” and advocates cases that show different perspectives on a problem, process or event.” Data analysis can be holistic (considering the entire case) or embedded (using specific aspects of the case).

Some of the challenges of case study research are determining the scope of the research and deciding on the bounded system and determining whether to study the case itself or how the case illustrates an issue. In the instance of multiple cases, the author makes the somewhat counter intuitive assertion that “the study of more than one case dilutes the overall analysis” (p. 101).


Creswell gives an overview of the commonality of the five research methods (p. 102) before explaining key differences among more similar seeming types of research, e.g. narrative research, ethnography. Here the author underlines that “the types of data one would collect and analyze would differ considerably.” He uses the example of the study of a single individual to make his argument, recommending narrative research instead of ethnography, which has a broader scope and case study, which may involve multiple cases.

In considering differences, Creswell puts forth that the research methods accomplish divergent goals, have different origins and employ distinct methods of analyzing data – the author underlines the data analysis stage as being the most exaggerated point of difference (p. 103). The final product, “the result of each approach, the written report, takes shape from all the processes before it.

In Table 4.1 (p. 104) Creswell provides a framework table that contrasts the characteristics of the five qualitative approaches. Given its stated suitability for both “journal-article length study” and dissertation or book-length work, class members may find it a handy reference for the mini study assignment and beyond.

Tricia Chambers, Eric Lugo, Kathryn Lineberger

Chapter 3: Designing a Qualitative Study

Chapter three begins with a great metaphor to help better understand was qualitative research actually is. Think of qualitative research as an intricate fabric composed of minute threads, many colors, different textures and various blends of materials.

Some terms brought up to further research are constructivist, interpretivist, feminist, and postmodernist, all terms frequently used in qualitative research. (p. 42)

Characteristics of Qualitative Research: two great books to reference for different sets of definitions are listed on p 43, SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research and Morse and Richards.

Qualitative research begins with assumptions and the use of interpretive/theoretical frameworks that inform the study of research problems addressing the meanings of 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 both inductive and deductive and establishes patterns and themes. The final written report or presentation included voices of participants, the reflexivity of the researcher, a complex description and interpretation of the problem and its contribution to the literature or a call for change.

The author states that it is easier to move from a general definition to specific characteristics found in qualitative research.

Pages 45-47 explores common characteristics of qualitative research and the table 3.1 on page 46 provides three introductory qualitative research books.

Common Characteristics:

  • Natural setting
  • Researcher as a key instrument
  • Multiple methods
  • Complex reasoning
  • Participants meanings
  • Emergent design
  • Reflexivity
  • Holistic account

When to use qualitative research: we conduct qualitative research because a problem or issue needs to be EXPLORED. We use qualitative  research for a topic with many variables that need to be explored in depth. (p 48)

Page 49 dicussed what qualitative research studies require of us; commitment to extensive time in the field, engage in complex, time-consuming processes of data analysis, writing long passages and participate in a form of social and human science research that does not have firm guidelines.

Essentially, research design can be defined as the plan for conducting the study. It is important to note that there is absolutely no agreed upon structure for how to design a qualitative study, but that there are paths that one can take to determine the appropriate format. Examples of how to design a qualitative study can be found on page 50 of this chapter and include reading a study (Weis & Fine, 2000); understanding the broader issues (Morse & Richards, 2002); and guidance from a how to book (Hatch, 2002). Creswell, however, supplies his own method that consists of three components that guide section. These are: preliminary considerations prior to beginning a study; the steps engaged in during the study; and elements that flow through all the phases of research.

In the first section, preliminary considerations, Creswell states that research, whether quantitative or qualitative, generally follows the scientific method. For a quick refresher, the scientific method consists of a statement of the problem, hypotheses, data collection, results, and discussions. In this section, the idea of the methodological congruence (Morse & Richards, 2002) is introduced. When designing a research study, the purpose, questions, and methods of research should all be interconnected and interrelated; the design should be a cohesive whole instead of fragmented pieces.

Qualitative research will also include a literature review after a statement of the problem to help flesh out why it is a problem and what has been researched previously. Creswell provides an excellent explanation of how a literature review can work depending on the study design on pages 50 and 51.

Lastly, when beginning the research design, it is important to consider yourself as a researcher. Your personal history, assumptions, and interests will help situate yourself in your own research and the larger body of research previously conducted on your topic (p. 51).

The next section details steps in the process of designing a qualitative study. This section is extremely important and should be considered a ‘must-read’ for everyone in the class (pages 51 to 53). Here are some key points:

  • Keep research questions open-ended; first speak with individuals and then design your questions for the interview process; allow your questions to evolve and become more refined
  • There are four basic sources of qualitative information: interviews, observations, documents, and audio-visual materials
  • There are “no ‘right’ stories, only multiple stories” (p. 52).

Creswell also goes into great detail discussing the method of analysing data once it’s been collected. This can be found on page 52 as well, and should be read.

Validating data once it’s been collected and organized is also extremely important. Data can be confirmed via triangulation or peer review (p. 53). Various standards have been determined for validating data in Howe & Eisenhardt (1990), Lincoln (1995), and Marshall & Rossman (2010), however, Creswell has created his own list. This list, which begins on page 53 and continues through to page 55, contains a lot of excellent information to help ensure a rigorous study through data collection, researcher assumptions, inquiry method, study focus or concept, and data analysis.

Final considerations for designing a qualitative study are two-fold: ensuring that a narrative comes out of the data collection and analysis (p. 55) and ethical considerations (p. 56 onwards). Researchers must be sensitive to participants, sites, stakeholders, and publishers of their research. Creswell cites Weis & Fine (2000) as a resource for more information on the topic, and also provides his own preferred approach. This approach can be found on pages 58 to 59, Table 3.2. This table is essential for understanding potential ethical issues and solutions at all stages of the research process. It is also important to seek research approval from various boards and societies, and to remember to not conduct “the worst study of all time”, as discussed in the first class.

While the author stresses on page 61 that there is no set format for what the final written product of a qualitative study should look like, he does provide four examples of how to structure a proposal.  This is particularly of interest to us as we will be writing our own proposals for this course.

The first proposal format presented in the chapter is the author’s own preferred format- a traditional approach which includes sections for the introduction, procedures, ethical issues, expected outcomes, etc. (see Example 3.1 on page 61).

The next format highlighted on page 62 is very similar, but puts a focus on advocacy for the group of individuals that is being studied (see Example 3.2 for the full structure of the “transformative” format).

Page 63 discusses the “Theoretical/Interpretive” format and as the name suggests, this format is best for qualitative studies that use a theoretical lens.  This format has a few unique sections including the ethical and political considerations of the author as well as a personal biography (see full proposal layout on page 63).

The last proposal format is organized around 9 arguments that the researcher needs to align.  The author says that these 9 points are the most important to include in a proposal and touch on topics like purpose, data collection, analysis, ethics, etc. (see Example 2.4 on page 64).

Lastly, the author explains that these format examples only cover a qualitative research proposal.  When writing up a complete qualitative study, many other sections will need to be included, and it’s more difficult to create a standardized format.

Courtney Kurysh, Sadia Mehmood, and Lauren Wolman

Chapter 2

Chapter 2. Philosophical Assumptions and Interpretive Frameworks


“Whether we are aware of it or not, we always bring certain beliefs and philosophical assumptions to our research” (pg. 15). Various philosophical assumptions and theoretical and interpretive frameworks are highlighted in this chapter. The process of qualitative research compiled by Denzin and Lincoln in 2011 is included five phases (pg. 17):

  1. The researcher as a multicultural subject;
  2. Theoretical paradigms and perspectives;
  3. Research strategies;
  4. Method of collection and analysis;
  5. The art, practice and politics of interpretation and evaluation.

The author also mentions three reasons why philosophy is important (pg. 18):

a. It shapes how we formulate our problem and research questions to study and how we seek information to answer the question.

b. These assumptions are deeply rooted in our training and reinforced by the scholarly community in which we work.

c. Reviewers make philosophical assumptions about a study when they evaluate it.

Writing philosophical assumptions into qualitative research, it says that in some qualitative studies they remain hidden, but actually they could be shown in various sections of qualitative studies where the audiences may ask about the underlying philosophy of study.

Qualitative research implies four profoundly important philosophical assumptions (page 21): Qualitative researchers assume multiple realities, formed or dependent on the subjective experiences of the people studied (ontological and epistemological assumptions respectively). Qualitative researchers proceed from the ground up collecting and analyzing data inductively, revealing their values and biases on their way up to a greater theory which would encompass all the findings (methodological and axiological assumptions respectively).

The assumptions mentioned are embedded within the following interpretative frameworks (pages [23,30]):

Pstpositivism: Its inquire implies a series of locally related steps and multiple levels of data analysis that resemble a scientific report or quantitative research. This framework tends to be reductionistic, logical, empirical, and deterministic.

Social Constructivism: It is more open to complexity. It relies on the participants’ perceptions through social and historical frames; there is a social construction of meaning.

Transformative Frameworks: It understands knowledge as basically non neutral and uses it to change society. The purpose of knowledge construction is to aid people to improve society through participatory and emancipator actions.

Postmodernist Perspectives: Devoted to power relations in the social sphere the individual or even the language, postmodernisms uses “deconstruction” as a tool to analyze communication.

Pragmatism: Nothing is more important than solving the problem, finding what works. Methods are secondary.

Feminist Theories: Center on making problematic the diverse situation of women and the institutions that frame those situations. It’s goals are to find collaborative and nonexploitative relationships to conduct transformative research.

Critical Theory: Critical theory perspectives are concerned with empowering human beings to transcend the constraints placed on them by race, class, and gender (p30). If one wants to dive deeper into this theory he gives suggestions about some central themes to explore, which could certainly help in guiding research. Critical race theory (CRT) is then discussed and this theory focuses theoretical attention on race and how racism is deeply embedded within the framework of American society (p31). This theory encompasses three main goals. The first goal is to present stories about discrimination from the perspective of people of color, as a second goal CRT argues for the eradication of racial subjugation while simultaneously recognizing that race is a social construct, and finally the third goal of CRT addresses other areas of difference, such as gender, class, and any inequities experienced by individuals (p31-32).

Queer theory: It is characterized by a variety of methods and strategies relating to individual identity. On pages 32 and 33, a good overview of the queer theory stance is given in bullet points. I found this overview very helpful in understanding the theory and how it relates to the topic of identity.

Disability theories: In this section Creswell states that disability inquiry addresses the meaning of inclusion in schools and encompasses administrators, teachers, and parents who have children with disabilities (p33).

Towards the very end of the chapter a table is given which links the philosophical assumptions of ontology, epistemology, axiology, and methodology with the interpretive frameworks. The table is helpful in understanding how these philosophical assumptions take different forms given the interpretive framework used by the inquirer. The table can be found on pages 36 and 37.