Qualitative Research Series: An Introduction

Courtesy of Flickr User: Penny Coutas

Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting different aspects of the qualitative research process through a series of blog posts related to its challenges and rewards.  As the original catalyst for this blog was a semester-long project on qualitative inquiry, it seems fitting that we conduct a special series of posts to further explore some of the findings of that study and continue our own learning.

While our original purpose was preparing for dissertations that would involve qualitative research, we also had a second goal that related to the reputation of qualitative.  That purpose was to professionalize and sophisticate our qualitative practice to gain confidence in our work.  Qualitative work is sometimes problematic for researchers because (depending on the field), it can be seen as secondary to quantitative.  In the IRB process, one needs to be very clear and detailed as to how the qualitative process will be conducted.  If you are friends with those in the engineering or the sciences, you sometimes get the “How exactly do you do analysis?” question.  There is an assumption that qualitative research has no right answer, ergo it is not a valid hypothesis that can be proven with numbers.  This constant comparison is not fair to either genre, but I think it highlights the possibility for more understanding of what qualitative is and how it can be leveraged to enhance research to tell the story behind the numbers.

We had experienced and then confirmed the apologetic nature of qualitative researchers who worry about their work measuring up to the hard science of numbers.  However, the more we learned and worked through the literature, the more we realized that qualitative research is a much more advanced and scientific genre than we previously understood.  From coding templates to protocols to software, there exist countless resources and tools for qualitative researchers to utilize for advanced data analysis and comparison.  We hope through this series, we can explore some of the debates that arose during our interviewing of our qualitative experts, the methodology and process refinements we made, and how our own research is coming with regard to the use of qualitative models.

So, come join the discussion and share your own thoughts on the qualitative research debate and it s function in research.  Throughout this series, we will be highlighting some of the best practices, processes, and professionals who deal with the issue of qualitative research.  The result should be a lively discussion about the need to gain a “thick, rich” (Geertz, 1973) view of your research rather than the hard facts that sometimes obscure hidden truths.

Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.


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