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

12 thoughts on “Chapter 6: Introducing and Focusing the Study

  1. Lauren Wolman

    This chapter summary was great at getting me thinking about the specifics of my research, especially the question of why this topic should be researched and what it will accomplish.

    Going forward, I definitely need to begin forming research questions and other more solid ideas about my study and its importance.

  2. Brandyce Pechillo

    This is definitely a chapter I will find useful once I actually have my specific “purpose” or “aim” and am ready to begin fleshing out my research paper and goals.

    I’m not ready for this chapter yet, but I will come back to this soon to help me gain an even narrower focus.

  3. Eric

    I am also reviewing this chapter carefully, as I assess the different options I have for my research topic. I think that conceiving the potential research questions and subquestions of the various topics is helpful in choosing which direction I will go in. Additionally, I think that having a specific question in mind will help determine which approach it take.

    For instance three questions I am pondering and their potential respective approaches are:
    1) Does the 25th Street Plaza contribute to a sense of community at Baruch College?; (Possibly Narrative approach)
    2) Does one’s perceived moral obligation to one’s employer affect one’s engagement in time theft?
    (Possibly phenomenological approach) and
    3) What public relations lessons can be learned from a comparison of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Ralph Lauren’s handling of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? (Case study (multiple) Approach)

    Do you think these questions are sufficiently focused?

    (Hopefully I will decide sooner than later).

  4. Priyanka Dave

    A very important chapter for my study. Before reading this post I did not have a clear idea about the differences between a research problem statement, purpose statement and research question. I will follow the steps provided in this chapter. It is great that I can also refer to the various terms provided while wording the introduction to my mini study. Using this chapter, I have to organize the following variables:
    – patient’s trust
    -patient’s confidence
    -patient’s decision making capability
    – doctor-patient relationship
    – patient’s openness about their condition

    Will have to revise this chapter and study the concepts thoroughly to derive meaning from the above factors.

  5. Odalis Ortiz

    This is a great chapter summary and I found the examples of purpose statements in the chapter itself to be especially helpful in clarifying encoding. The information related to research question is also useful and the concept of subquestions will help me narrow down my issue to the least common denominator. The entire chapter is critical to understanding how to formulate my research question.

    My challenge will be to identify the main problem in my mini-study, which I believe I should have in place prior to formulating the research question.

  6. Selcuk Pir

    You state that a good qualitative study starts with the discussion of a “problem” that needs to be studied. My research for my thesis does not necessarily revolve around a problem per se, but an analysis of arhival data and see weather or not they are indicative of any modern day phenomena. Does that mean that, because I am not talking about a “problem”, my research is not a “good” qualitative research? I do think that if I deliniate the issues at hand and propose a good purpose statement, I will be able to convey a strong proposal. But again a good research question and set of subquestions will help in concretizing a proposal.

  7. Marvin More

    This has been a very helpful chapter. I am currently in the process of forming a research question and this chapter definitely answers a lot of questions I have.

    I need to dive deeper into the chapter to see if I can find an overall aim or problem to focus on. I have decided change my topic to corporate image. Now I think my next step is finding an issue and I am hoping this chapter will help me narrow down a specific issue

  8. Tricia Chambers

    This chapter helps deepen my understanding of the five approaches as it enhances the explanations found in other parts of the book with examples. The summary itself was a good guide.

    In my own study, I will pay close attention to this chapter—in particular I will look for decision patterns and how the goals of my study align with those illustrated. However, I cannot say the chapter has helped narrow the options for examining what drives employees to engage with company compliance, rather it has shown the benefit of phenomenological study, an approach I had previously overlooked.

  9. Benjamin Young Post author

    Selcuk! The research “problem” is that you don’t know yet whether or not there are modern day phenomena in the archival data. It’s a good research question I think.

  10. Dhanya Hemanth Raj

    I think this chapter helped me the most, because it explains how to start your study and how to have a focus in your study. It will help me in framing my own research question. Since I have only a vague idea of what I am going to do, reading through this chapter has given me more clarity on how I should approach focusing my study on the applicability of nudges in Marketing.

  11. Dhanya Hemanth Raj

    The part about research question was very interesting, you stated that qualitative research question is open ended and non directional. Would it be possible to explain further the differences between a quantitative and qualitative research question? When I write my introduction this weekend I just want to make sure that its the later and not the former. Are the differences listed in the text? perhaps the page number would help me in reading about it, Thank you and you have a very well written summary here! enjoyed reading it.

  12. Benjamin Young Post author

    In general – and this is from what I gather, not necessarily a page I can turn you to – a qualitative research question asks “why” or “how” or seeks to explain something. Where as a quantitative research question is interested in measuring something and making deductions based on the measurement. Hope that helps.

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