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Qualitative Research in Adult, Career and Career-Technical Education


Choosing and Using Qualitative Methods
Approaches and Examples
Annotated Bibliography

This issue of the Practitioner File gives an introduction to qualitative research. It discusses issues in what have been called the “paradigm wars” and ways to assess the quality of qualitative research, provides suggestions for choosing and using qualitative techniques, and describes a variety of approaches and how they are being used in adult, career, and career-technical education. A glossary, annotated bibliography, and list of resources useful for qualitative research are provided.


What Is Qualitative Research?

The sciences and social sciences have long been dominated by quantitative approaches to research, associated with the philosophical tradition of positivism. During the 20th century, however, researchers questioned whether the positivist approaches used in the physical sciences were appropriate for the study of social or human issues (Onwuegbuzie 2000). Alternative orientations such as constructivist/interpretist, critical, feminist, and postmodern/poststructural emerged, and the use of qualitative approaches increased in some disciplines. For example, Barrett and Ahmed (2000) collected and analyzed data on the research methods used by presenters at the Midwest Research to Practice Conferences in adult, continuing, and community education from 1983-1999. They found a strong shift from quantitative methodologies to qualitative and combined methodologies; quantitative methods decreased from 40-50% in 1983-88 to 10% in 1996-99, whereas qualitative methods increased from 15-18% to 30-40%. Lee, Mitchell, and Sablynski (1999) reported an increased use of qualitative methods in organizational/vocational psychology research in the last 20 years, and Christensen (1999) noted a similar change in family and consumer sciences research. In other fields, the movement has been slower, and writers in cooperative education, vocational education, and technology education have advocated expanded use of qualitative techniques (Coll and Chapman 2000; Gregson 1998; Hoepfl 1997).

It is difficult to find consensus on a definition of qualitative research. However, for the purposes of this discussion, some general characteristics may be described. Creswell (1998) defines it as “an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex holistic picture, analyzes words, reports detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in a natural setting” (p. 15). According to Hull (1997), “the purpose of qualitative research is to understand human experience to reveal both the processes by which people construct meaning about their worlds and to report what those meanings are” (p. 14). Characteristics that are most often used to describe it include the following (Eisner 1991; Hull 1997; Lee, Mitchell, and Sablynski 1999; Merriam 2002b; Nasser 2001):

• Qualitative inquiry occurs in natural settings, typically examining a small number of sites, situations, or people over an extended period of time.
• Qualitative inquiry has an interpretive character. The data derive from participants’ perspectives, and researchers attempt to understand the world from participants’ frames of reference and the meaning people have constructed of their experiences.
• Reporting is rich with quotation, narration, and detail—what is termed “thick description.”
• Researchers are themselves the instrument for data collection and analysis through observing, participating, and interviewing. They acknowledge and monitor their own biases and sub-jectivities and how these color interpretation of data.
• Typical techniques are observation, field notes, archival records of events or perspectives (in order to confirm, supplement, or elaborate on primary sources), interviews, and questionnaires.
• The process is inductive; data are collected to build concepts, hypotheses, or theories from observations and intuitive understandings.
• The process is flexible; research designs can be changed to match the dynamic needs of the situation.
• The research problem typically (1) is related to lack of theory or previous research; (2) may be derived from the notion that existing theory may be inaccurate, inappropriate, or biased; (3) may be based on the need to describe phenomena or develop theory; or (4) may involve phenomena that are not suited to the use of quantitative measures.

Differences between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Researchers approach inquiry from a particular philosophical stance or world view, which determines the purpose, design, and methods used and the interpretation of results (Blunt 1994). Creswell (1998) presents five sets of philosophical assumptions that can be used to distinguish between qualitative and quantitative research. The following discussion is not meant to imply a simple dichotomy; Onwuegbuzie (2000) suggests that each represents a continuum on which researchers may be located.

1. Ontological. What is the nature of reality? The positivist research paradigm assumes that there is objective reality subject to natural laws such as cause and effect and there are universal truths that can be discovered through inquiry. An alternative view is that there are multiple socially constructed realities and inquiry seeks to identify limited patterns that may be culturally specific. (Coll and Chapman 2000; Cousins 2002; Garman 1996)

2. Epistemological. What is the relationship between the knower and what is known? How do we know what we know? What counts as knowledge? In the positivist paradigm, the object of study is independent of researchers; knowledge is discovered and verified through direct observations or measurements of phenomena; facts are established by taking apart a phenomenon to examine its component parts. An alternative view is that knowledge is established through the meanings attached to the phenomena studied; researchers interact with the subjects of study to obtain data; inquiry changes both researcher and subject; and knowledge is context and time dependent. (Coll and Chapman 2000; Cousins 2002)

3. Methodological. How do we find out whatever it is that we believe we know or can come to know? In the positivist paradigm, scientific method is the means of discovering knowledge: theory is used to develop hypotheses, relationships among variables are examined through carefully controlled experimental or quasi-experimental methods, numerical data are analyzed, hypotheses are confirmed or disproved through deduction, established facts are used to predict, data represent a specific population and results are generalizable to that population. In alternative approaches, the design often evolves during the research; interpretive analysis is applied to narrative data; meanings are sought in specific social/cultural contexts with the possibility of theoretical generalization; and research strategies aim to uncover relations among phenomena, inductively discovering theory out of categories that emerge from research. (Brewer 2001; Coll and Chapman 2000; Cousins 2002)

4. Axiological. What is the role of values? In positivism, the research process is considered value free and methods are structured to ensure objectivity and lack of bias. Positivists rarely make their own moral or political stances explicit in reporting research. Qualitative researchers believe that inquiry is value bound and research is inevitably value laden and biased because researchers are influenced by traditions, environments, and personalities. They acknowledge their subjectivities and consider the resulting knowledge valid for a particular time and context rather than for all times and places. (Cousins 2002; Rose 2001)

5. Rhetorical. What language and style are used in reporting the research? Reports of quantitative research tend to be written in formal, third-person language that maintains the distance between researcher and phenomenon; data are depicted through tables, graphs, and mathematical models. Qualitative reports use informal, expressive language, metaphor, and narrative. The voices of researchers and participants are evident: “at the heart of qualitative research, the authentic voice of the study’s participants must be represented” (Lee et al. 1999, p. 177). (Hultgren 1993; Nasser 2001)

The Paradigm Wars:
Over or Just Beginning?

Virulent debates have occurred among proponents of qualitative and quantitative research. At the heart of the disagreements are the questions of what is considered legitimate as knowledge and what constitutes legitimate research (Garman 1996). According to Garrison and Shale (1994), the answers to these questions—

were based on the presumption that truth was to be had only through a particular paradigmatic view of science and research. Although there is now wide recognition of the patently false conclusion that knowledge derived from one source is inherently superior, nonetheless “epistemic privilege” and “methodological imperialism” persist. (p. 23)

Like Garrison and Shale, Quigley (1997) asserts that the debate is over ideology, over differing implicit sociopolitical agendas. In adult education, “the underlying research issue for the field is not codification of methods. The deeper issue…is the conflict among ideological understandings of what the practice of adult education should be for…what types of research and research methods should be acceptable to support the competing purposes of this field constitute the growing academic debate” (ibid., p. 5). For Merriam (1991, cited in Blunt 1994), the issue fades in importance against the larger moral imperative of practice; the struggle is a distraction that leaves pressing practice problems unanswered.

Others call for a truce. Rose (2001) suggests that some of the distinctions seem to be breaking down or blurring and points out several ways in which they are no longer so clear cut. Onwuegbuzie (2000) identifies myths on both sides; for example, positivists claim objectivity but they make subjective decisions (e.g., 5% level of significance to test null hypotheses); in social sciences, variables are allowed to explain as little as 2% of variance. On the qualitative side, the assertion that there are multiple contradictory valid accounts of phenomena can lead to lack of attention to or documentation for the rationale for their interpretations. Smeyers (2001) faults quantitative researchers in the social sciences for overemphasizing causality as an explanation for human behavior. But he also takes qualitative researchers to task for failing to acknowledge that the negotiation of meanings can take place only within a framework of shared meanings not open to negotiation. Smeyers, like many others, advocates the use of integrated perspectives and combined methods, arguing that “these different kinds of investigations make it possible to do justice to the full array of educational questions and the various functions research has to fulfill” (p. 491).

Although mixed methods have some disadvantages, such as higher costs, time and labor intensity, and the need for researchers to be skilled in both types, there are advantages: they can complement other findings, expand information, overcome biases, uncover the need for further study, confirm hypotheses, and add texture (Brewer 2001). Bettis and Gregson (2001) suggest that “opening up what constitutes research…will contribute to the rethinking and possible rejuvenation of work force education” (p. 17). Hultgren (1993) adds that “we need a multiplicity of voices and discourses in research” (p. 33), because “no single paradigm provides a fully satisfactory understanding all on its own” (Salomon 1991, cited in Garrison and Shale 1994, p. 25). Ultimately, many agree that the research question should guide the choice of research methods and techniques (Hemingway 2001; Hoepfl 1997; Lee et al. 1999).

Assessing the Quality of Qualitative Research

No matter which research tradition is followed, the quality of the research is paramount if the findings are to be credible and usable. Before discussing standards for judging research quality, it should be noted that “any articulation of criteria is tenuous…each piece of research must be judged within the context of the community of scholars it represents” (Garman 1996, p. 19). In the quantitative community, criteria for assessing the rigor or trustworthiness of research have traditionally included internal and external validity, reliability, and generalizability. Lincoln and Guba (cited in Seale 2002) have articulated similar guidelines for qualitative research:

1. Credibility. How congruent are the findings with what is being observed? Ways to establish credibility include prolonged engagement in the field, persistent observation, collection of sufficient data, triangulation (use of multiple raters, cases, theme interpreters), peer review, member checks (confirmation by participants), and a search for negative instances that challenge emerging hypotheses and demand their reformulation (Hull 1997; Merriam 2002a; Seale 2002). “Good qualitative research seeks disconfirmation” (Lee et al. 1999, p. 181).

2. Transferability. Detailed, rich (or “thick”) description provides sufficient information to enable readers to judge the applicability of findings to other settings that they know (Seale 2002). Hull (1997) and James and Mulcahy (1999) add that the description must also include convincing analysis or interpretation.

3. Dependability. Are the results consistent with the data collected? Are there sufficient accounts of the data and the analysis? This is achieved through an “audit trail”— documentation of the methods, procedures, and decisions made; the sample selection; and explanation of the categories used (Hull 1997; Merriam 2002a). Although replicability of findings may be impossible, if researchers study the same community of research participants at a similar time, the data sets obtained by these researchers and their interpretation should be largely comparable (James and Mulcahy 1999).

4. Confirmability. According to Lincoln and Guba (cited in Seale 2002), trustworthiness is always negotiable, not a matter of final proof that readers are compelled to accept. The confirmability of findings is based on the researcher’s critical self-reflection regarding his or her assumptions, world views, biases, theoretical orientations, values, and epistemological stances (Merriam 2002a). This reflection should also include acknowledgment of dilemmas encountered in the process, including ethical issues (Hull 1997).

5. Authenticity. Acknowledging that research reports represent a temporary consensus on what is considered true, researchers should show that they have fairly represented a range of different realities and help readers develop more sophisticated understandings of the phenomenon being studied and appreciation of the viewpoints of others (Seale 2002).

Although qualitative research has been criticized for lacking rigor in terms of the standards of quantitative research, “‘rigor’ does not necessarily equal quantification. Quantitative research is not synonymous with objectivity and qualitative research with subjectivity. Both research approaches have a degree of subjectivity because both are influenced by human decisions. Each method must be judged against the standard of what it claims to accomplish” (Hemingway 2001, online, n.p.). Garrison and Shale (1994) conclude that both types require rigor in developing knowledge, defining knowledge as the construction of information so that it reduces the complexity of particularization and has meaning for others in similar situations. The method and standard of establishing credibility are relative to the purpose and context of the research. Garrison and Shale urge a dialectical process of conceptualizing both subjective and objective realities and promoting a synthesis, suggesting that empirical observation is meaningless without imaginative engagement of various possibilities.

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Choosing and Using
Qualitative Methods

Deciding when and how to use qualitative methods is an important step in the research process. As a part of this decision, a number of questions need to be explored: What types of problems lend themselves to qualitative approaches? What types of qualitative methods exist? and What are the pitfalls in using qualitative approaches?

Choosing a Qualitative Methodology

“Qualitative research is well suited for the purposes of description, interpretation, and explanation” (Lee, Mitchell, and Sablynski 1999, p. 164), and the reason for choosing a qualitative methodology revolves primarily around the type of question or problem to be explored. Questions that begin with how or what lend themselves to qualitative study (Creswell 1998; Lee, Mitchell, and Sablynski 1999), whereas questions about why are more appropriately approached from a quantitative perspective (Creswell 1998). The how or what questions generally arise because little is known about the problem or phenomenon being studied (Hoepfl 1997; Nassar 2001). Either no theory exists or the existing theory is underdeveloped and cannot explain a phenomenon adequately (Merriam 2002b; Nassar 2001).

Qualitative research can also be used to gain new insights into problems about which information already exists (Creswell 1998; Hoepfl 1997). It can be used to obtain new perspectives on questions that have already been studied or to gain additional information that can be difficult to convey through quantitative methods. It can also be used to identify a variable or variables that might later be tested through quantitative methods (Hoepfl 1997).

The audience for the research might also determine if a qualitative approach is appropriate (Creswell 1998; Nassar 2001). Will the audience understand and support the approach (Nassar 2001)? Some audiences, for example, are more receptive to qualitative research because the findings offer a richness and depth of understanding that is uncommon in quantitative studies (Skinner, Tagg, and Holloway 2000).

Although not discussed directly in the literature, the stance or preference of the researcher also plays a role in whether or not to select a qualitative approach. Since qualitative researchers are interested in understanding “multiple constructions and interpretations of reality that are in flux and that change over time” (Merriam 2002b, p. 4), individuals engaging in qualitative research must be open to multiple ways of viewing what they are studying and comfortable with the assumptions of the qualitative approach (Nassar 2001). They must also be willing to engage in collaborative work with the study participants and present findings from the participants’ point of view (Creswell 1998).

In summary, deciding to select a qualitative approach involves the following factors (Nassar 2001, adapted from pp. 103-104):

• the research problem
• the training and experience of the researcher
• the psychological attributes of the researcher
• the focus of the study
• the needs of the audience

Types of Qualitative Methods

When a qualitative approach seems to make the most sense in terms of these factors, the task becomes one of selecting the qualitative method or methods to be used. A number of different ways of framing qualitative methods exist. Lee, Mitchell, and Sablynski (1999) use purposes (e.g., theory generation, theory elaboration, theory testing, or critical theory), research design (e.g., case study, ethnography, and in-depth interviews), and analytic data techniques (e.g., grounded theory approaches, pattern matching in case study research, and hermeneutic techniques) as a way of categorizing types of qualitative research. Creswell (1998) speaks of the following “five traditions” of qualitative inquiry: biography, phenomenological study, grounded theory study, ethnography, and case study. Merriam (2002b) is the most comprehensive in her discussion of types of qualitative research, suggesting that the following eight approaches are the most common:

Basic interpretive qualitative study. A basic interpretative qualitative study is used when the goal of the researcher is to understand how participants make meaning of a situation or a phenomenon. The researcher serves as the filter for the meaning, using inductive strategies with a descriptive outcome.

Phenomenology. “A pheomenological study focuses on the essence or structure of an experience” (ibid., p. 7). Inner experiences are compared and analyzed to identify the essences of the phenomenon being studied. In one sense all qualitative research is phenomenological in nature but, because of its focus on experience and understanding, phenomenology stands on its own as a type.

Grounded theory. Grounded theory has as its goal the development of a theory through inductive approaches. The theory is “grounded” in the data. Secondary concerns are discovery with description and verification.

Case study. “The case study is an intensive description and analysis of a phenomenon or social unit such as an individual, group, institution, or community. The case is a bounded, integrated system” (ibid., p. 8). The case study is characterized by the unit of analysis— the case—rather than by the topic of the investigation. Because it is the unit of analysis that defines the case study, this approach is sometimes combined with other types of qualitative methods.

Ethnographic study. Ethnography was developed by anthropologists to study human society and culture. In a qualitative ethnographic study, data are interpreted through a sociocultural perspective. According to Merriam (ibid.), “ethnography is not defined by how data are collected, but rather by the lens through which they are interpreted” (p. 9).

Narrative analysis. In narrative analysis, first-person accounts in story form, biography, autobiography, life history, oral history, autoethnography, and life narratives are used in data analysis. Common types of analysis are psychological, biographical, and discourse analysis. The defining feature of this type of qualitative research is that the data are in some form of story.

Critical qualitative research. “Critical qualitative research uncovers, examines, and critiques the social, cultural, and psychological assumptions that structure and limit our ways of thinking and being in the world” (ibid.), with the goal of changing the social context. In this type of research, questions frequently revolve around whose interests are being served and who has the power to make changes.

Postmodern research. Postmodern is the newest form of qualitative research and it challenges other forms. It grows out of the postmodern movement that challenges the routine of the modern world with its emphasis on a reality that is predictable and scientific. Because it is so new, few rules about postmodern qualitative research exist and reports take various forms.

(Information on the eight forms of qualitative research was adapted from Merriam 2002b, pp. 6-10).

As shown by this brief summary of the different forms of qualitative research, not all qualitative research is the same. Great diversity exists among and between the forms and one form should not be confused with or lumped with another, although some qualitative studies combine one or more forms (Merriam 2002b).

Some Pitfalls in Qualitative Research

Engaging in qualitative research demands an understanding of some of the pitfalls associated with doing this type of research. A number of common concerns related to qualitative research are found in the literature. The time and resources involved in collecting and analyzing qualitative data are mentioned frequently (e.g., Creswell 1998; Skinner, Tagg, and Holloway 2000). A related concern involves depending on others for access to documents such as diaries, logs, and other records (Skinner, Tagg, and Holloway 2000).

Training for qualitative research is also a concern, especially when working in an environment where quantitative research is the norm and where qualitative research is not understood or appreciated (ibid.). A lack of training in or understanding of qualitative methodologies leads to other issues. One is applying quantitative methods in analysis of qualitative analysis (ibid.) and another is approaching qualitative research with a quantitative mind set.

Along this line, Brooks (1998) suggests that “most qualitative studies are still based on the same realist and objectivist assumptions as quantitative studies” (p. 276). As an example, she cites a study of organizational learning that she analyzed from two different qualitative perspectives at different points in time. The first analysis was conducted from an empirical perspective even though she was looking for interpretive results. After conducing a later analysis from a narrative perspective, she understood the first was based on quantitative assumptions. In another team-based qualitative research project, the lead researchers found differences in research paradigms among team members to be problematic (James and Mulcahy 1999). Some team members collected much less data than others and tended to be reductionist in their interpretation of data rather than using a more expansive narrative approach. Although training can address part of the issue related to use of quantitative techniques in qualitative research, it also relates to the “psychological attributes of the researcher” (Nassar 2001, p. 103). Not all researchers may be able to adopt the perspective needed for qualitative research.

Another pitfall has to do with inadequate description of how qualitative research studies have been conducted. Two areas in which this frequently occurs are discussion of data reduction techniques and descriptions of interviews. The process of how data were reduced—for example, into themes—is often vaguely described, and information related to interviews (e.g., why were participants selected, steps taken to ensure consistency among interviews) is often limited. Researchers need to provide enough detail for their studies to be replicated either figuratively or literally and so that readers can understand the basis on which inferences have been made (Lee, Mitchell, and Sablynski 1999).

As shown here, qualitative research must be approached with an understanding of some of the complexities associated with it. These include devoting sufficient time and resources to data collection and analysis, sometimes depending on others for access to critical data, acquiring the skills needed to conduct qualitative research, having the ability to assume a qualitative perspective, and providing full and rich descriptions of studies that enable them to be replicated.

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Qualitative Research:
Approaches and Examples

Categorizing qualitative research into different types can be a daunting proposition. One practitioner characterizes qualitative research as “an umbrella concept covering several forms of inquiry that help us understand and explain the meaning of social phenomena with as little disruption of the natural setting as possible” (Merriam 1998, p. 5) and notes that qualitative researchers use a variety of terms (e.g., naturalistic inquiry, field study, participant observation, inductive research, case study, ethnography), sometimes as synonyms for qualitative research, sometimes as specific types of qualitative research. In this section, concern for foundational issues of typology is set aside, or bracketed, and commonly described approaches to qualitative research are characterized and illustrated by examples.

Action Research

In action research, data are collected, analyzed, and interpreted to improve practice and decision making, sometimes with a particular focus on identifying contradictions in practice (Funnell 1996). All those involved in the research participate and collaborate in the study, on the assumption that actors are more likely to be informed by the research and take action as a result if they are actually involved in the conduct of it.

Bitterman, J. E. “Using Qualitative Research Methods: Moving beyond Felt Needs in CME Design and Delivery.” Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 19, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 25-33.

Action-reflection practitioner inquiry involved physicians and continuing medical education (CME) leadership in joint discourse for planning CME programs through phone interviews, rated scaled survey items, and focus group dialogues.

James, P. “Narrative and Cultural Change: Enabling Transformative Learning for Adults.” Australian Journal of Adult and Community Education 37, no. 3 (November 1997): 135-143.

A participatory action research study of male former trade workers studying to be teachers showed how their cultural ideology of toughness, authoritarianism, racism, and sexism was moderated through reflection on culturally specific narratives that influenced a transformation in cultural beliefs and practices.

Mulligan, M. “Course Design as Action Research.” In Qualitative Research Practice in Adult Education, edited by P. Willis and B. Neville, pp. 325-331. Ringwood, Victoria, Australia: David Lovell Publishing, 1996.

The process of redesigning an undergraduate Social Ecology program, although not originally intended as action research, became such as ideas on undergraduate program design flowed into graduate program design, creating the opportunity for a closer articulation between the two programs.

Basic or Generic Qualitative Study

Basic or generic qualitative studies have the essential characteristics of qualitative research (goal of eliciting understanding and meaning, researcher as primary data collection and analysis instrument, use of fieldwork, inductive orientation to analysis, richly descriptive findings) but do not focus on culture, build grounded theory, or intensely study a single unit or bounded system. They “simply seek to discover and understand a phenomenon, a process, or the perspectives and worldviews of the people involved” (Merriam 1998, p. 11).

Hyun, K., and Strauss, S. “‘Place’: Classrooms and Cyberspace—A Discourse Analysis of How Place Shapes Interaction and Learning.” In AERC 2001. Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Adult Education Research Conference, East Lansing, Michigan, June 1-3, 2001, edited by R. O. Smith et al. East Lansing: Michigan State University, 2001. http://www.edst.educ.ubc.ca/aerc/2001/2001hyun.htm

A cross-environmental study focused on how participants in two distinct learning settings communicate and engage in course-related planning and problem solving-activities as members of their particular academic community. One setting was a face-to-face class; the second was the identical course offered online. Discourse analysis suggested significant differences between face-to-face and online course participants in the range of language use and spatio-temporal boundaries.

Juntunen, C. L.; Barraclough, D. J.; and Broneck, C. L. “American Indian Perspectives on the Career Journey.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 48, no. 3 (July 2001): 274-285.

An exploratory qualitative study examined the meaning of career and related concepts for 18 adult Northern Plains American Indians. Interview data were analyzed using consensual qualitative research strategies. Five major topic areas emerged: the meaning of career, the definitions of success, supportive factors, obstacles, and living in two worlds. Differences in the topic areas were noted between participants with postsecondary education and those with secondary education.

Merriam, S. B., and Muhamad, M. “How Cultural Values Shape Learning in Older Adulthood: The Case of Malaysia.” In Qualitative Research in Practice: Examples for Discussion and Analysis, by S. B. Merriam and Associates, pp. 40-57. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

A study to understand how learning by older adults in Malaysia was shaped by non-Western cultural values inductively concluded that older adult learning in Malaysia was nonformal and experiential, communal, and of a religious or philosophical orientation.

Milton, J.; Davis, M.; and Watkins, K. E. “Virtual Learning Communities: Creating Meaning through Dialogue and Inquiry in Cyberspace.” In Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) Conference Proceedings, Arlington, Virginia, March 3-7, 1999, edited by K. P. Kuchinke, pp. 1165-1173. Baton Rouge, LA: Academy of Human Resource Development, 1999. (ED 431 968)

Qualitative analysis of the interactions that occurred within small groups in an asynchronous, web-based distance learning environment used action science tools of dialogue and inquiry. Findings suggested that mutually established, implicit or explicit norms and values were at the heart of the effectiveness of virtual groups as learning communities; a variety of factors contributed to or hindered the development of these groups as learning communities.


“A biographical study is the study of an individual and his or her experiences as told to the researcher or found in documents and archival material” (Creswell 1998, p. 47). Biographical studies include individual biographies, autobiographies, life histories (study of an individual life and its reflection of cultural, personal, and institutional themes and social histories), and oral history (recollections of one or more individuals of events and their causes and effects, collected orally or by consulting writings). Classical biography involves the use of theory, validity and criticism of materials, and distinct hypotheses by the researcher. Interpretive biography assumes that the writer’s biases and values, a result of gender and class, inevitably affect the writing of the biography, which is as much the creation of the biographer as the depiction of the object and must be explicitly acknowledged.

Jones-Ilsley, D. “Feminist Life Stories: Twelve Journeys Come together at a Women’s Center.” 1999. Revised version of “Learning Feminism: Life Histories from a Midwest Women’s Center,” presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, Phoenix, AZ, November 20, 1998. (ED 428 186)

Feminist leadership in a women’s center in a conservative midwest college town was explored through personal narratives of 12 well-educated, middle-class, self-proclaimed feminists. Historical and biographical circumstances of women’s identification as feminists included life patterns of resistance, desires for social and personal transformation, strong senses of place, feelings of spiritual location, and transcendence of dominant cultural ideologies. Although all were feminists, their individual journeys were unique personal transformations; privilege sheltered them from really knowing oppression and gave them only glimpses of the realities of poor women and women of color.

Waterhouse, P. “Autobiography, Experiential Learning and Discourse in Context: A Thesis in Evolution.” In Qualitative Research Practice in Adult Education, edited by P. Willis and B. Neville, pp. 332-350. Ringwood, Victoria, Australia: David Lovell Publishing, 1996.

Used reflective, hermeneutic autobiography to study his own experiential learning about adult learning and the practice of adult literacy during a time of great change, leading to a temporary closure regarding the moral and ethical dimensions of socially constructed “definitions” of adult literacy.

Case Studies

Case studies are “intensive descriptions and analyses of a single unit or bounded system such as an individual, event, group, intervention, or community” (Merriam 1998, p. 19); case studies focus on process, context, and discovery rather than outcomes, a specific variable, or confirmation. Case studies may be multisite or within site; the focus of studies may be intrinsic or instrumental; collective case studies examine more than one case (Creswell 1998). Case studies examine complex phenomena through in-depth analysis of a limited number of details and the interrelationships (Mulenga 2001). Some call case study work field work, field research, or ethnography. Although case studies may be characterized—or even defined—differently, there is general agreement that the essence of a case study lies in its purpose of deriving, through induction, a holistic understanding of a particular bounded system rather than discovering, though deduction, universal, generalizable truths.

Biro, S. C. “Using Qualitative Case Study to Evaluate a Pre-employment Training Program for Adults.” In Proceedings of the 5th Pennsylvania Adult and Continuing Education Research Conference, Indiana, Pennsylvania, March 17, 2001, edited by H. Owens and C. Thompson, pp. 38-44. (ED 450 291)

Case study of the experiences of four adults in a preemployment training program sought to investigate what made education meaningful, identify barriers to learning, and determine whether andragogy was relevant to the subjects. Cooperative learning made a strong impression on the subjects, who deemed it appropriate and helpful; subjects also reported that mentors were valuable.

James, P., and Mulcahy, D. “Meaning Making in Qualitative Research: Issues of Rigour in a Team-based Approach.” Paper presented at the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association Conference, Melbourne, February 1999. http://www.avetra.org.au/abstracts-papers/22_james.pdf

A collective case study was conducted by different study teams to investigate competency-based training at seven large, medium, and small Australian firms. Both positivist paradigmatic/representationalist and constructivist narrative/performative meaning making and modes of knowing were found. It also appeared that in some cases, researchers’ personal epistemological assumptions acted either to privilege or to mask meaning making and modes of knowing representing other epistemological assumptions.

Mills, D. P.; Cervero, R. M.; Langone, C. A.; and Wilson, A. L. “The Impact of Interests, Power Relationships, and Organizational Structure on Program Planning Practice: A Case Study.” Adult Education Quarterly 46, no. 1 (1995): 1-16.

In a multicase study of six extension agents and four extension program developers, three types of factors constrained or enabled planning: organizational structure and culture, available resources, and power relationships. Planning was affected in terms of needs addressed and processes used; personal and organizational interests of adult educators influenced the educational programs offered.


As originally used by anthropologists, ethnography was the study of human society and culture, focusing especially on the beliefs, values, and attitudes of a specific community of people and on their roles in structuring patterns of behavior among the people studied; educational ethnography studies the culture of an educational community (Merriam 1998). Researchers often observe behavior by immersing themselves in the daily life of the community or by conducting one-on-one interviews with community members; observations are then interpreted to discover patterns of behavior and factors that underlie them (Creswell 1998).

Canieso-Doronila, M. L. Landscapes of Literacy: An Ethnographic Study of Functional Literacy in Marginal Philippine Communities. Hamburg, Germany: UNESCO Institute for Education, 1996. (ED 434 986)

In an ethnographic study of the meaning of functional literacy and whether literacy invariably promotes development, 13 marginal Philippine communities were purposely selected to provide a broad sampling from 3 standpoints: (1) major livelihood and form of economic activity (farming, fishing, urban poor, disaster areas); (2) ethnolinguistic grouping (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao); and (3) lifestyle or rhythm of life in the community (traditional, transitional, Moslem Filipino minority, lowland Christian majority, urban poor, developmental). The study demonstrated that the concepts of literacy and numeracy cannot be separated from their social and cultural settings and that standard measures of literacy used in industrialized countries are often inappropriate in other nations.

Hull, G. A. “What’s in a Label?: Complicating Notions of the Skills-Poor Worker.” Written Communication 16, no. 4 (October 1999): 379-411.

Ethnographic study examined the apparent failure of front-line manufacturing workers to read, understand, and follow process instructions in an electronics factory. Explored the significance of the mistakes and a range of explanations for why they occurred; offered an expansive definition of what it means to be a literate, skills-rich worker, and urged vigilance against the tendency in both schools and workplaces to label and mislabel.

Grounded Theory

In grounded theory, the investigator “assumes an inductive stance and strives to derive meaning from the data…a theory that emerges from or is ‘grounded’ in, the data” (Merriam 1998, p. 17). Resulting theory is typically specific rather than global, an abstraction analyzing the process by which particular people respond to a particular phenomenon in a particular situation (Creswell 1998).

Brine, J. “The Use of Grounded Theory within ‘Feminist’ Research.” Paper presented at the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association, Oxford, England, September 1994. (ED 392 930)

One stage of a four-stage feminist research project investigating vocational training for unemployed women evolved the grounded theory that training project achievements should be considered in two categories—(1) immediate and (2) future aims and intentions of workers, trainees, and funders—and that perceptions by the three groups sometimes differed. The dominant relationship was the discourse of equal opportunities.

Jones, S. R., and McEwen, M. K. “A Conceptual Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity.” In Qualitative Research in Practice: Examples for Discussion and Analysis, by S. B. Merriam and Associates, pp. 163-174. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

A study of a group of 10 female college students, aged 20-24 and of diverse race and ethnicity, evolved a grounded theory that intersecting circles representing significant identity dimensions (including race, sexual orientation, and religion) and contextual influences (including family background and life experiences) surrounded a core sense of self.

Rowlands, B. “How Owner/Managers Decide to Participate with New Apprenticeships for the First Time: A Grounded Theory Approach.” Paper presented at the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association Conference, “Future Research, Research Futures,” Canberra, March 2000. http://www.avetra.org.au/papers2000/rowlands.PDF

Work in progress investigating small business decision-making experiences with New Apprenticeships drew on 21 case studies in 3 industries to evolve a grounded theory to explain the role of interactions between dynamic contextual conditions and participation tactics in affecting participation processes and outcomes. Derived an inductive seven-part model of the dynamic nature of New Apprenticeship participation.

Narrative Inquiry

Narrative inquiry is an approach to accessing the meaning of past, present, and future events through alternating processes of inductive reasoning (to value and interpret context, relationships, and action) and linear logic (to analyze the relationship of components to the whole)(Pfahl 2000). Since narrative implicitly involves both writer and reader, it allows them to examine the social construction of experience (Brooks 1998).

Andrews, C. A.; Ironside, P. M.; Nosek, C.; Sims, S. L.; Swenson, M. M.; Yeomans, C.; Young, P. K.; Diekelmann, N. “Enacting Narrative Pedagogy. The Lived Experiences of Students and Teachers.” Nursing and Health Care Perspectives 22, no. 5 (September-October 2001): 252-259.

Through narrative pedagogy, nursing students, teachers, and clinicians shared and interpreted their teaching and learning experiences. Analysis by seven teachers and students identified how the approach decentered skill acquisition and content, enabled them to attend to thinking practices, and raised issues of power, ideology, and the social construction of knowledge.

Mehra, B. “Bias in Qualitative Research: Voices from an Online Classroom.” The Qualitative Report 7, no. 1 (March 2002). http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR7-1/mehra.html

Reflective paper analyzes how instructor and students used narrative and reflection to learn together about the role that “researcher self” and subjectivity play in designing and conducting qualitative research. Systematic and reflective analysis suggested that issues that required more critical thinking and reflection were dealt with better using the power of the written word; since online instruction allowed students to work at their own pace, students’ different written and verbal communication skills and level of understanding of the content could be better addressed in an online classroom.

Pearson, C. A. L., and Chatterjee, S. R. “Outcome Expectations and Learning Effectiveness in an Internationally Oriented Classroom: A Qualitative Assessment.” Journal of Teaching in International Business 12, no. 1 (2000): 61-78.

Autoreflective narrative analysis explored gaps between changing student expectations and innovative pedagogical responses in an international Australian business management classroom. Explored convergences in outcome expectations of a classroom pedagogy against a theoretical model. Findings suggest that student expectations increasingly emphasize practical relevance of the outcome, displacing knowledge acquisition. Pedagogical preferences, in turn, are shifting toward experiential learning.

Naturalistic Inquiry

Naturalistic inquiry is opposed to positivistic, experimental or quasiexperimental inquiry and is characterized by the observation and interpretation of social phenomena, or the generation of meaning in human interaction (Hatch 1985). Data collection methods are typically unobtrusive (e.g., observation, reviewing documents or artifacts). Levels of analysis include domain analysis, taxonomic analysis, and componential analysis, as well as the search for cultural themes.

Cavaliere, L. A. “The Processes of Adult Learning: Failure as Feedback for Motivation.” PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning 6 (1997): 9-17.

Naturalistic inquiry and content analysis were used to examine the lives of successful adult learners. When confronted with failure, these learners engaged in problem solving, visioning, objectifying, emotional, reflecting, partnering, and active learning behaviors that motivated them toward further achievement.

Mortera-Gutierrez, F., and Beatty, P. T. “From Research to Practice in Distance Learning Education: Strategies for Fostering Faculty Development and Improving Instructional Practice.” Paper presented at the 7th Annual Distance Education Conference, Austin, TX, January 25-28, 2000. (ED 437 536)

Naturalistic inquiry explored researcher, practitioner, and participant perceptions of a doctoral field research study, focusing on the gap between instructional design skills and strategies used by distance education instructors. Review and analysis of faculty behaviors, course documents, class interactions, faculty and student perceptions, and literature on effective practices and faculty development. Translating distance learning research into effective instructional practice requires that instructors have sufficient time to become effective distance instructors, are able to risk imperfections, and are willing to be part of a team effort.


Phenomenological studies focus on the essence or structure of an phenomenon, as consciously experienced by those involved. It is important that researchers put aside, or bracket, their prior beliefs concerning the phenomenon lest those prior beliefs interfere with seeing or intuiting the elements or structure of a phenomenon as it is consciously experienced by participants (Merriam 1998). Phenomenology has a basis in philosophy, and philosophical camps include reflective/transcendental phenomenology, dialogical phenomenology, empirical phenomenology, existential phenomenology, hermeneutic phenomenology, and social phenomenology (Creswell 1998).

Borbasi, S. A. “Capturing the Experience of the Clinical Nurse Specialist through Phenomenology.” In Qualitative Research Practice in Adult Education, edited by P. Willis and B. Neville, pp. 251-261. Ringwood, Victoria, Australia: David Lovell Publishing, 1996.

A phenomonological study investigated the everyday lived reality of a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), an experienced, advanced practice nurse. Three broad themes surfaced in the CNS’s existential being-in-the-world: being-in-the-world as a CNS, being-in-the-world in relationship with other health professionals, and being-in-the-world for and with patients.

Dickie, S. D. M. “The Lived Experience of Being a Distance Learner.” Master’s Thesis, Athabasca University, 1999. (ED 434 231)

The author analyzed her own distance learning experiences and those of three other individuals (two females and one male); recorded her own experiences and the personal narratives of her three “co-researchers” in detail; and reflected on all four personal narratives from the standpoint of the symbiotic relationship between distance learning, lifelong learning, and personal development. Derived 10 recommendations including the following: (1) distance learners must take ownership of their learning situation by being responsible for their learning as more independent and self-directed learners; (2) although self-pacing is important, keeping the cohort experience is advantageous; (3) the issue of isolation/connection must be addressed; and (4) although technological tools are an asset, the human element must not get lost.

Gerber, R. “The Concept of Common Sense in Workplace Learning and Experience.” Education + Training 43, no. 2 (2001): 72-81.

Phenomenological study of workplace experience of 56 manufacturing workers revealed 7 different conceptions of “common sense” in workplace experiences: gut feeling, innate ability, knowing how, learning, using others purposefully, demonstrable cognitive ability, and personal attributes.

Mitchell, T. “Present Tense Commentary: A Qualitative Research Technique.” Nurse Education Today 19, no. 2 (February 1999): 151-158.

In Present Tense Commentary, a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, informants conveyed significant events to researchers as if the events were happening now. Used as the third phase of a study of eight nursing students, the approach illuminated their development, socialization into nursing, and total learning milieu as they perceived it; it proved a valuable methodological tool that empowered informants.

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Term Definition


Study of the basic principles governing moral judgment and the place of values (or norms) within the frameworks of philosophical systems (The Macmillan Encyclopedia 2001)

The philosophical theory of knowledge that considers how we know what we know and establishes the nature, basis, and limits of knowledge. (Mayhew, S., A Dictionary of Geography, Oxford University Press 1997; The Macmillan Encyclopedia)
The art, skill, or theory of understanding and classifying meaning. A hermeneutic interpretation requires the individual to understand and sympathize with another’s point of view. (A Dictionary of Geography; The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1996)
The philosophical study of scientific method (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford University Press 1995); the theory behind the method (mode of inquiry), “a way of being in our inquiry, rather than a technique or procedure we merely apply” (Hultgren 1993, p. 27)
The study of the nature of being, of what exists or what can be known. (A Dictionary of Geography)

The prevailing pattern of thought in a discipline or part of a discipline (A Dictionary of Geography)

The belief that an understanding of phenomena can be achieved only through sense data; what cannot be tested empirically cannot be regarded as proven (A Dictionary of Geography; The Macmillan Encyclopedia)

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Annotated Bibliography

Chin, P.; Munby, H.; and Hutchinson, N. L. “Co-Operative Education: Challenges of Qualitative Research on Learning in the Workplace.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, April 19-23, 1999. (ED 430 023)

Describes methodological challenges evident in four related areas: (1) observation in an unfamiliar setting; (2) goals of the workplace setting; (3) conceptions of knowledge and curriculum; and (4) varieties of learning. The methodological challenges recognized in this study highlight the interplay among the theoretical framework, data collection methods, and data analysis procedures.

Creswell, J. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998.

Focuses on five types of qualitative traditions of inquiry: biography, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study, including pros and cons of each type and criteria for selecting, conducting, and evaluating research.

Denzin, N. K., and Lincoln, Y. S., eds. Handbook of Qualitative Research. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000.

Forty chapters examine the discipline and practice of qualitative research; paradigms and perspectives in transition; strategies of inquiry; methods of collecting and analyzing empirical materials; the art and practices of interpretation, evaluation, and representation; and the future of qualitative research.

Farmer, E. I., and Rojewski, J. W., eds. Research Pathways: Writing Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations in Workforce Education. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

Includes 20 chapters divided into four sections: understanding the purposes of quantitative and qualitative research, developing a thesis or dissertation topic, designs commonly used when conducting research, and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data. This handbook introduces a practical approach to writing research papers, theses, and dissertations in work force education and development, with examples and best practices for practitioners and researchers.

Lee, T. W. Using Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999.

Discusses when to use qualitative research and exemplary methods for generating and testing theory. Presents specific techniques for focus groups, case study research, and conversational interviews. Examines the “cardinal concepts” of reliability and validity.

Merriam, S. B., ed. Qualitative Research in Practice: Examples for Discussion and Analysis. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Combines discussions of the types of qualitative research with examples of research studies and reflections by the researchers themselves.

Parker, D. R. “Viewing Quantitative Data through Qualitative Eyes.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association, Bowling Green, KY, November 15-17, 2000. (ED 448 193)

Examines the various ways that qualitative researchers can use and interpret numbers, official statistics, and other quantitative data. It puts forth the position that qualitative researchers, in their quest for understanding, have too often viewed official statistics with only a cursory or descriptive analysis without deeper reflection or critical analysis as to the assumptions of the persons who collect and use quantitative data.

Seale, C. “Quality Issues in Qualitative Inquiry.” Qualitative Social Work 1, no. 1 (2002): 97-110.

Outlines the case for methodological awareness as an essential component of the craft skill that qualitative researchers typically bring to their work. This is opposed to the view that good quality research can be produced by opting for the criteria promoted by one variety, “paradigm,” “moment,” or school, arguing instead that valuable lessons for research practice can be learned from each one. The “craft skill” conception of research suggests that researchers should regard their activities as relatively autonomous from the need to resolve philosophical disputes.

“Special Section: The Use of Qualitative Methods in Family and Consumer Sciences.” Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal 27, no. 4 (June 1999): 406-465.

Includes “The Use of Qualitative Methods in Family and Consumer Sciences: A Reflection” (D. H. Christensen); “The Challenge of Conducting Qualitative Family Research in International Settings” (S. M. Asay and C. B. Hennon); “Focus Group Discussions: Three Examples from Family and Consumer Science Research” (M.E. B. Garrison et al.); and “Focus Group Methodology: Adapting the Process for Low-Income Adults and Children of Hispanic and Caucasian Ethnicity” (K. S. Keim et al.).

Taylor, E. W.; Beck, J.; and Ainsworth, E. “Publishing Qualitative Adult Education Research: A Peer Review Perspective.” Studies in the Education of Adults 33, no. 2 (October 2001): 163-179.

Grounded theory was used to design a content analysis of peer reviewer comments on qualitative research. Six themes emerged: What is the purpose of the study? How does it build on previous research? How thorough is the methodology? How are the findings presented? What are the contributions, implications, significance? and Is the paper well organized, edited, and formatted?

Willis, P., and Neville, B., eds. Qualitative Research Practice in Adult Education. Ringwood, Victoria, Australia: David Lovell Publishing, 1996.

This collection of papers on qualitative research into adult learning in the workplace, formal education, professional development, and community settings is grouped according to four emphases: attending to social context and critical analysis, discourse-based research, phenomenological accounts and action research, and qualitative adult education research practice.

Woods, M., and Trexler, C. J. “Linking Interpretive Theory to Practice: Examining an Underused Research Tool in Agricultural Education.” Journal of Agricultural Education 42, no. 2 (2001): 68-78.

Distinguishes between methodologies based on positivism and on interpretivism. Proposes appropriate uses of the interpretivist paradigm and qualitative methods in agricultural education. Gives examples of research design, data collection and analysis, and rigor using interpretive theory.

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Books and Articles


Denzin, N. K., and Lincoln, Y. S. Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998.

Denzin, N. K., and Lincoln, Y. S. The Landscape of Qualitative Research: Theories and Issues. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998.

Denzin, N. K., and Lincoln, Y. S. Strategies of Qualitative Inqury. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998.

Adult and Career-Technical Education

Campbell, M., and Martin, R. “Qualitative Research as a Tool for Agricultural and Extension Education.” Journal of Agricultural Education 33, no. 4 (Winter 1992): 55-60.

Cocklin, Barry. “Applying Qualitative Research to Adult Education: Reflections upon Analytic Processes.” Studies in the Education of Adults 28, no. 1 (April 1996): 88-116.

Garrison, D. R., ed. Research Perspectives in Adult Education. Malabar, FL: Krieger, 1994.

Grainger, S. “Accessing Professional Artistry: The Importance of Cooperative Education and the Limitations of Classical Research.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education 2, no. 1 (2001): 1-5. http://www.apjce.org/volume_2_1_1_5 .pdf

May, G. L. “Mixed Methods: The Value of the Qualitative Perspective in Transfer of Training Research.” In Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) Conference Proceedings, Arlington, Virginia, March 3-7, 1999, edited by K. P. Kuchinke. Baton Rouge, LA: Academy of Human Resource Development, 1999. (ED 431 968)

Pytlik, Edward C. “Conducting Qualitative Research in the Classroom.” Technology Teacher 56, no. 6 (March 1997): 20-21.

“Qualitative Studies in HRD.” In Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) Conference Proceedings, Arlington, Virginia, March 3-7, 1999, edited by K. P. Kuchinke. Baton Rouge, LA: Academy of Human Resource Development, 1999. (ED 431 970)

Redmann, D. H.; Stitt-Gohdes, W. L.; and Lambrecht, J. J. “The Critical Incident Technique: A Tool for Qualitative Research.” Delta Pi Epsilon Journal 42, no. 3 (Summer 2000): 132-153.


Criteria for Evaluating Papers Using Qualitative Research Methods (published by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology): http://www.bps.org.uk/publications/jOP_16.cfm

An Introduction to Qualitative Research: http://www.uea.ac.uk/care/elu/Issues/Research/Res1Cont.html

QualPage, resources for qualitative research: http://www.ualberta.ca/~jrnorris/qual.html

Qualitative Research Web Sites: http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/web.html

qualitative-research.net, Online Gateway for Qualitative Research: http://www.qualitative-research.net

Research Methods Resources on the WWW:


Action Research, ISSN 1445-6125, Southern Cross University http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/ari/arihome.html

International refereed online journal of action research

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, ISSN 0951-8398, Taylor and Francis http://www.tandf.co.uk

Publishes research employing a variety of qualitative methods and approaches, including (but not limited to) ethnographic observation and interviewing, grounded theory, life history, case study, curriculum criticism, policy studies, ethnometho-dology, social and educational critique, phenomenology, deconstruction and genealogy. Discussions of epistemology, methodology or ethics from a range of perspectives, including postpositivism, interpretivism, constructivism, critical theory, feminism and race-based, lesbian/gay and poststructural.

Qualitative Inquiry, ISSN 1077-8004, Sage Publications; http://www.sagepub.co.uk/

Interdisciplinary journal that provides a forum for qualitative methodology and related issues in the human sciences. Articles transcend disciplinary, racial, ethnic, gender, and paradigmatic boundaries.

Qualitative Research, ISSN 1468-7941, Sage Publications; http://www.sagepub.co.uk/

Dedicated to promoting and debating qualitative research methods in a broad intellectual framework. The journal provides a forum for the publication of international and interdisciplinary research.

The Qualitative Report, ISSN 1052-0147, Nova University; http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/

A peer-reviewed, online journal devoted to writing and discussion of and about qualitative, critical, action, and collaborative inquiry and research.

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Barrett, A. J., II, and Ahmed, A. K. “Midwest Adult Education Research Methodologies.” In Honoring Our Roots and Branches...Our History and Future. Proceedings of the 19th Annual Midwest Research to Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, Madison, Wisconsin, September 27-29, 2000, edited by M. Glowacki-Dudka. (ED 445 203) http://labweb.education.wisc.edu/mr2p2000/MR2P_Proceedings2000.pdf

Bettis, P. J., and Gregson, J. A. “The ‘Why’ of Research: Paradigmatic and Pragmatic Considerations.” In Research Pathways: Writing Professional Papers, Theses, and Dissertations in Workforce Education, edited by E. I. Farmer and J. W. Rojewski, pp. 1-21. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

Blunt, A. “The Future of Adult Education Research.” In Research Perspectives in Adult Education, edited by D. R. Garrison, pp. 167-209. Malabar, FL: Krieger, 1994.

Brewer, E. W. “Mixed Method Research Designs.” In Research Pathways: Writing Professional Papers, Theses, and Dissertations in Workforce Education, edited by E. I. Farmer and J. W. Rojewski, pp. 107-128. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

Brooks, A. K. “The Promise of Narrative Research in HRD.” In Academy of Human Resource Development Conference Proceedings, Oak Brook, Illinois, March 4-8, 1998, edited by R. J. Torraco, pp. 276-280. Austin, TX: Academy of Human Resource Development, 1998. (ED 428 234)

Christensen, D. H. “The Use of Qualitative Methods in Family and Consumer Sciences: A Reflection.” Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal 27, no. 4 (June 1999): 406-408.

Coll, R. K., and Chapman, R. “Choices of Methodology for Cooperative Education Researchers.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education 1, no. 1 (2000): 1-8. http://www.apjce.org/volume_1_1_pp_1_8.pdf

Cousins, C. “Getting to the ‘Truth’: Issues in Contemporary Qualitative Research.” Australian Journal of Adult Learning 42, no. 2 (July 2002): 192-204.

Creswell, J. W. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998.

Eisner, E. The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice. New York: Macmillan, 1991.

Funnell, R., ed. A Handbook for Research in Adult and Vocational Education. Leabrook, Australia: National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 1996. (ED 407 589)

Garman, N. “Qualitative Inquiry: Meaning and Menace for Educational Researchers.” In Qualitative Research Practice in Adult Education, edited by P. Willis and B. Neville, pp. 11-29. Ringwood, Victoria, Australia: David Lovell Publishing, 1996.

Garrison, D. R., and Shale, D. “Methodological Issues: Philosophical Differences and Complementary Methodologies.” In Research Perspectives in Adult Education, edited by D. R. Garrison, pp. 17-37. Malabar, FL: Krieger, 1994.

Gregson, J. A. “Editorial: Reflecting on Qualitative Research and Vocational Education.” Journal of Vocational Education Research 23, no. 4 (1998): 265-270.

Hatch, J. A. “Naturalistic Methods in Education Research.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Centro Interdisciplinario de Investigación y Docencia en Educatión Técnica, Querétaro, México, June 17, 1985. (ED 263 198)

Hemingway, M. A. “Qualitative Research in I-O Psychology.” The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist 38, no. 3 (January 2001) http://siop.org/tip/backissues/TipJan01/06Hemingway.htm

Hoepfl, M. C. “Choosing Qualitative Research: A Primer for Technology Education Researchers.” Journal of Technology Education 9, no. 1 (Fall 1997): 47-63.

Hull, G. “Research with Words: Qualitative Inquiry.” Focus on Basics 1, no. A. Boston, MA: National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, 1997. (ED 415 385) http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~ncsall/fob/1997/hull.htm

Hultgren, F. “A Hermeneutic Challenge to the Methodological Mentality in Qualitative Inquiry.” Journal of Vocational Education Research 18, no. 2 (1993): 21-42.

James, P., and Mulcahy, D. “Meaning Making in Qualitative Research: Issues of Rigour in a Team-based Approach.” Paper presented at the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association Conference, Melbourne, February 1999. http://www.avetra.org.au/abstracts-papers/22_james.pdf

Lee, T. W.; Mitchell, T. R.; and Sablynski, C. J. “Qualitative Research in Organizational and Vocational Psychology, 1979-1999.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 55, no. 2 (October 1999): 161-187.

Merriam, S. B. Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education. Revised and Expanded from Case Study Research in Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.

Merriam, S. B. “Assessing and Evaluating Qualitative Research.” In Qualitative Research in Practice: Examples for Discussion and Analysis, edited by S. B. Merriam, pp. 18-33. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002a.

Merriam, S. B. “Introduction to Qualitative Research.” In Qualitative Research in Practice: Examples for Discussion and Analysis, edited by S. B. Merriam, pp. 3-16. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002b.

Mulenga, D. “Case Study Research.” In Research Pathways: Writing Professional Papers, Theses, and Dissertations in Workforce Education, edited by E. I. Farmer and J. W. Rojewski, pp. 129-156. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

Nasser, F. M. “Selecting an Appropriate Research Design.” In Research Pathways: Writing Professional Papers, Theses, and Dissertations in Workforce Education, edited by E. I. Farmer and J. W. Rojewski, pp. 91-106. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

Onwuegbuzie, A. J. “Positivists, Post-Positivists, Post-Structuralists, and Post-Modernists: Why Can’t We All Get Along? Towards a Framework for Unifying Research Paradigms.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Educational Research, Ponte Vedra, FL, November 18, 2000. (ED 452 110)

Pfahl, N. L. “A Methodology for Narrative Inquiry: Examining the Role of Narrative in Framing for Action.” In Academy of Human Resource Development Conference Proceedings, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, March 8-12, 2000, edited by K. P. Kuchinke. Baton Rouge, LA: Academy of Human Resource Development, 2000. (ED 441 104)

Quigley, B. A. “The Role of Research in the Practice of Adult Education.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education no. 73 (Spring 1997): 3-22.

Rose, D. Revisiting Feminist Research Methodologies: A Working Paper. Ottawa, Ontario: Research Division, Status of Women Canada, 2001. http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/pubs/revisiting/revisiting_1_e.html

Seale, C. “Quality Issues in Qualitative Inquiry.” Qualitative Social Work 1, no. 1 (2002): 97–110.

Skinner, D.; Tagg, C.; and Holloway, J. “Managers and Research: The Pros and Cons of Qualitative Approaches.” Management Learning 31, no. 2 (June 2000): 163-179.

Smeyers, P. “Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research Design: A Plea for Paradigmatic Tolerance in Educational Research.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 35, no. 3 (August 2001): 477-495.

This issue of the Practitioner File was written in 2002 by ERIC/ACVE staff members Susan Imel, Sandra Kerka, and Michael E. Wonacott.

e-mail: ericacve@osu.edu


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This project has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education under Contract No. ED-99-CO-0013. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.