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EDUC.7040: Qualitative Research Methods/ Weekly Reading

What is Qualitative Research?

Welcome to the EDUC 7040 Qualitative Research LibGuide! These readings and links are intended to provide an overview of the week's concepts. The goal is to introduce and highlight the most important concepts to facilitate your understanding of the content described in more detail in the textbook. We will have an opportunity to discuss and respond to the textbook readings in the Blackboard weekly posts.

Qualitative research is a complex topic that defies a simple definition because it encompasses so many concepts, methods, and philosophies. In broad terms, qualitative research is about finding meaning beyond that which can be described with numbers. Often we think of qualitative research as referring to methods such as case studies, field observations, interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups; however, qualitative research can also incorporate a variety of methods of interpreting, evaluating, and theorizing about social concepts, both broad and narrow. Qualitative research is practiced in diverse disciplinary fields and interdisciplinary arenas, and it is applied to multiple kinds of social issues and problems. Qualitative researchers often examine artefacts produced by a culture or group. While this may call to mind archeological digs featuring shards of pottery or weapons, today artefacts may encompass any cultural material from advertisements to digital archives.

Qualitative researchers seek to describe or evaluate research subjects or topics in ways that offer more flexibility than quantitative research. This flexibility is simultaneously the most beneficial and most problematic aspect of qualitative research because with almost limitless choices (of what we can study and how we can study it), researchers must contend with seemingly limitless terminology about the paradigms, perspectives, and philosophies that guide those choices. Each qualitative researcher must develop their own set of methodological principles with reference to the history of this methodology, their disciplinary focus, and the problems that they study. This guide will introduce key concepts in qualitative research and provide links for further exploration.

In short, qualitative researchers seek to understand the tacit or implicit issues within cultural practices and social contexts. The goals of qualitative research can be:

  1. descriptive (to illustrate the actions and activities found in lived experience);
  2. interpretive, (to offer explanations and provide meaning related to an understanding of the lived experience); 
  3. evaluative (to compare the experience to other desired outcomes or expectations); or,
  4. theoretical (to develop broader ideas and generalizations from understanding of the experience).

Qualitative vs. Quantitative - Dr. Leslie Curry

Dr. Leslie Curry, “Fundamentals of Qualitative Research Methods: What is Qualitative Research (Module 1)”

“It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” - William Bruce Cameron, Professor of Sociology, 1963


Why Go Qualitative?

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Fundamentals of Qualitative Research

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Continue On...

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