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What theories, beliefs, and prior research findings will guide or inform your research, and what literature, preliminary studies, and personal experiences will you draw upon for understanding the people or issues you are studying? Note to not only report the results of other studies in your review of the literature, but note the methods used as well. If appropriate, describe why earlier studies using quantitative methods were inadequate in addressing the research problem.

Research Questions Usually there is a research problem that frames your qualitative study and that influences your decision about what methods to use, but qualitative designs generally lack an accompanying hypothesis or set of assumptions because the findings are emergent and unpredictable. In this context, more specific research questions are generally the result of an interactive design process rather than the starting point for that process. Questions to ask yourself are: What do you specifically want to learn or understand by conducting this study?

What do you not know about the things you are studying that you want to learn? What questions will your research attempt to answer, and how are these questions related to one another? Methods Structured approaches to applying a method or methods to your study help to ensure that there is comparability of data across sources and researchers and, thus, they can be useful in answering questions that deal with differences between phenomena and the explanation for these differences [variance questions].

An unstructured approach allows the researcher to focus on the particular phenomena studied. This facilitates an understanding of the processes that led to specific outcomes, trading generalizability and comparability for internal validity and contextual and evaluative understanding. Questions to ask yourself are: What will you actually do in conducting this study?

What approaches and techniques will you use to collect and analyze your data, and how do these constitute an integrated strategy? Questions to ask yourself are: How might your results and conclusions be wrong? What are the plausible alternative interpretations and validity threats to these, and how will you deal with these?

Why should we believe your results? Conclusion Although Maxwell does not mention a conclusion as one of the components of a qualitative research design, you should formally conclude your study. Briefly reiterate the goals of your study and the ways in which your research addressed them. Discuss the benefits of your study and how stakeholders can use your results. Also, note the limitations of your study and, if appropriate, place them in the context of areas in need of further research. Chenail, Ronald J.

Introduction to Qualitative Research Design. Nova Southeastern University; Heath, A. The Proposal in Qualitative Research. Leonard Bickman and Debra J. Rog, eds. Writing CSU. Qualitative Research from Start to Finish. New York: Guilford, The advantage of using qualitative methods is that they generate rich, detailed data that leave the participants' perspectives intact and provide multiple contexts for understanding the phenomenon under study.

In this way, qualitative research can be used to vividly demonstrate phenomena or to conduct cross-case comparisons and analysis of individuals or groups. Among the specific strengths of using qualitative methods to study social science research problems is the ability to:. Anderson, Claire.


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It is very much true that most of the limitations you find in using qualitative research techniques also reflect their inherent strengths. For example, small sample sizes help you investigate research problems in a comprehensive and in-depth manner. However, small sample sizes undermine opportunities to draw useful generalizations from, or to make broad policy recommendations based upon, the findings. Additionally, as the primary instrument of investigation, qualitative researchers are often imbedded in the cultures and experiences of others. However, cultural embeddedness increases the opportunity for bias generated from conscious or unconscious assumptions about the study setting to enter into the way data is gathered, interpreted, and reported.

Qualitative methods in social work research

Some specific limitations associated with using qualitative methods to study research problems in the social sciences include the following:. Almost every socio-behavioral study requires you to submit your proposed research plan to an Institutional Review Board. The role of the Board is to evaluate your research proposal and determine whether it will be conducted ethically and under the regulations, institutional polices, and Code of Ethics set forth by the university.

The purpose of the review is to protect the rights and welfare of individuals participating in your study. The review is intended to ensure equitable selection of respondants, that you have obtained adequate informed consent, that there is clear assessment and minimization of risks to participants and to the university [read: no lawsuits! SAGE publications is a major publisher of studies about how to design and conduct research in the social and behavioral sciences. The database also includes case studies outlining the research methods used in real research projects.

This is an excellent source for finding definitions of key terms and descriptions of research design and practice, techniques of data gathering, analysis, and reporting, and information about theories of research [e. Ecological Psychology. Stages of Fieldwork. Shifting Perspectives.

SAGE qualitative research methods [electronic resource] in SearchWorks catalog

Variations in Interview Instrumentation. Wording Questions. Rapport and Neutrality. Process Feedback During the Interview. Grounded Theory.

Books (print)

Different Answers to Core Questions. The Apple of Your Eye. Particularly Appropriate Qualitative Applications. Comparing Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance. Types of Teacher Centers. Interactive and Participatory Applications. Appreciative Inquiry. Summary Checklist. Qualitative Designs and Data Collection. Fundamental Disciplinary Questions.

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The Purpose of Purpose Distinctions. A Typology of Research Purposes. Purposeful Sampling.

Emergent Designs and Protection of Human Subjects. Fieldwork Strategies and Observation Methods. The Human Social Environment. Nonverbal Communication. Mechanics of Gathering Interview Data.

CrossCultural Interviewing.