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Qualitative research the 5 traditions

Qualitative Research: The 5 Traditions

Note: The majority of content in this powerpoint was obtained from the website of B. Dodge, Department of Applied Health Science at Indiana University.


Qualitative Research--Simpson

What is qualitative research
What is Qualitative Research?

A holistic approach to questions--a recognition that human realities are complex. Broad questions.

The focus is on human experience

The research strategies used generally feature sustained contact with people in settings where those people normally spend their time. Contexts of Human Behavior.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative research cont
Qualitative Research cont.

There is typically a high level of researcher involvement with subjects; strategies of participant observation and in-depth, unstructured interviews are often used.

The data produced provide a description, usually narrative, of people living through events in situations.

Cited from Boyd, pp. 67-68 in Munhall, 2001

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Types of qualitative data
Types of Qualitative Data

1. Interviews

2. Observations

3. Documents

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Types of qualitative data1
Types of Qualitative Data

  • 1. Interviews

    • Open-ended questions and probes yield in-depth responses about people’s experiences, opinions, perceptions, feelings and knowledge.

    • Data consist of verbatim quotations with sufficient context to be interpretable.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Types of qualitative data cont
Types of Qualitative Data cont.

  • 2. Observations

    • Fieldwork descriptions of activities, behaviors, actions, conversations, interpersonal interactions, organizational or community processes, or any other aspect of observable human experience.

    • Data consist of field notes: rich detailed descriptions, including the context within which the observations were made.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Types of qualitative data cont1
Types of Qualitative Data cont.

  • 3. Documents

    • Written materials and other documents, programs records; memoranda and correspondence; official publications and reports; personal diaries, letters, artistic works, photographs, and memorabilia; and written responses to open-ended surveys.

    • Data consists of excerpts from documents captured in a way that records and preserves context.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative traditions of inquiry
Qualitative Traditions of Inquiry

1. Biography--Life history, oral


2. Phenomenology--The lived experience

3. Grounded theory

4. Ethnography

5. Case Study

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Biographical study
Biographical Study

  • The study of an individual and her or his experiences as told to the researcher or found in documents and archival material.

  • Life history--The study of an individual’s life and how it reflects cultural themes of the society.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Biographical study cont
Biographical Study cont.

  • Oral history--The researcher gathers personal recollections of events, their causes, and their effects from and individual or several individuals.

  • The researcher needs to collect extensive information about the subject of the biography

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Biographical study cont1
Biographical Study cont.

  • The writer, using an interpretive approach, needs to be able to bring himself or herself into the narrative and acknowledge his or her standpoint.

Qualitative Research--Simpson


  • Describes the meaning of the lived experience about a concept or a phenomenon for several individuals.

  • It has roots in the philosophical perspectives of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, etc.

    --Max Van Manen, Munhall (Nursing)

Qualitative Research--Simpson


Moustakas, 1994, p. 13: “to determine what an experience means for the persons who have had the experience and are able to provide a comprehensive description of it. From the individual descriptions, general or universal meanings are derived, in other words, the essences of structures of the experience.”

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Grounded theory
Grounded Theory

  • Based on Symbolic Interactionism which posits that humans act and interact on the basis of symbols, which have meaning and value for the actors.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Grounded theory cont
Grounded Theory cont.

The intent of grounded theory is to generate or discover a theory that relates to a particular situation. If little is known about a topic, grounded theory is especially useful

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Grounded theory cont1
Grounded Theory cont.

  • Usually have a question, don’t do

    a literature review in the beginning.

  • Usually do 20-30 interviews

    (maybe more than one time for each person)

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Grounded theory cont2
Grounded Theory cont.

  • Data collection and analysis occur simultaneously, until “saturation” is reached.

  • Data reviewed and coded for categories and themes.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Grounded theory cont3
Grounded Theory cont.

  • Data analysis generates a visual picture, a narrative statement or a series of hypotheses with a central phenomenon, causal conditions, context and consequences.

  • The researcher needs to set aside theoretical ideas or notions so that analytical or substantive theories can emerge from the data.

  • Systematic approach

Qualitative Research--Simpson


  • A description and interpretation of a cultural or social group or system. The researcher examines the group’s observable and learned patterns of behavior, customs, and ways of life.

  • Involves prolonged observation of the group, typically through participant observation.

Qualitative Research--Simpson


  • Field Work

  • Key Informants

  • Thick description

  • Emic (insider group perspective) and Etic (researcher’s interpretation of social life).

  • Context important, need holistic view.

  • Need grounding in anthropology.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Ethnography cont
Ethnography cont.

  • Need extensive time to collect data

  • Many ethnographies may be written in a narrative or story telling approach which may be difficult for the audience accustomed to usual social science writing.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Ethnography cont1
Ethnography cont.

  • May incorporate quantitative data and archival documents.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Case study
Case Study

  • A case study is an exploration of a “bounded system” or a case (or multiple cases) over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information rich in context.

  • The context of the case involves situating the case within its setting. which may be physical, social, historical and/or economic.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Case study cont
Case Study cont.

  • Data collection strategies include direct observation, interviews, documents, archival records, participant observation, physical artifacts and audiovisual materials.

  • Analysis of themes, or issues and an interpretation of the case by the researcher.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Feminist research
Feminist Research

Uses feminist theory as the philosophical underpinning of the approach.

Assumes most formal knowledge is generated by men.

Assumes that patriarchy and the use of power is harmful to women.

Some feminists also recognize social class and race as socially generated constructs that are used to oppress others.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Feminist research is often classified in the qualitative research family because
Feminist Research is often classified in the “qualitative research” family because:

It is used to generate new knowledge.

It’s purpose is to create social change.

It argues against the “top-down,” hierarchal relationships associated with male-dominated knowledge by minimizing the social distance between researcher and subject. Respondents often participate in the research process.

It focuses on the position in society of research subjects and the researcher.

The perspectives or standpoint of the subject and researcher are central in data collection and analysis.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

The term standpoint refers to
The term standpoint refers to: research” family because:

The perspectives or lived experiences of the researcher and his or her subjects.

These perspectives vary based on the location of individuals in the social structure. Are their perspectives different from those with privileged positions in society. Is this standpoint associated with oppression based on social class, ethnicity/race, gender, sexual orientation etc. or some combination of these attributes.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Designing a qualitative study
Designing a Qualitative Study research” family because:

  • Problem Statement or Statement of Need for the Study

  • No hypothesis; Research questions which you want to answer instead.

  • Opinions differ about the extent of literature needed before a study begins.

  • Need to identify the gaps in knowledge about the topic.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative study design cont
Qualitative Study Design cont. research” family because:

  • Research questions that are too broad:

    • Does Buddhism account for the patience that seems to dominate the Thai world view?

    • How do leaders make their decisions?

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative study design cont1
Qualitative Study Design cont. research” family because:

  • Research questions better answered

    by quicker means:

    • What television programs do Brazilians watch most?

    • Where can you buy postage stamps in


Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative study design cont2
Qualitative Study Design cont. research” family because:

  • Examples of Qualitative Questions

    • What do people in this setting have to know in order to do what they are doing?

    • What is the story that can be told from these experiences?

    • What are the underlying themes and contexts that account for the experience?

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative sampling strategies
Qualitative Sampling Strategies research” family because:

No probability sampling

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Sampling strategies cont
Sampling Strategies cont. research” family because:

  • Decisions about sampling and sampling strategies depend on the unit of analysis which has been determined.

    • individual people

    • program, group organization or community

    • genders, ethnic groups, older and younger

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Sampling strategies cont1
Sampling Strategies cont. research” family because:

  • Purposeful or Judgment Sampling

    • “In judgment sampling, you decide the purpose you want informants (or communities) to serve, and you go out to find some” Bernard, 2000:176

    • “Key Informants” are people who are particularly knowledgeable about the inquiry setting and articulate about their knowledge.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Sampling strategies cont2
Sampling Strategies cont. research” family because:

  • Purposeful Sampling Strategies

    • Maximum variation

    • Homogeneous

    • Critical case

    • Theory based

    • Confirming and disconfirming cases

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Sampling strategies cont3
Sampling Strategies cont. research” family because:

  • Snowball or chain

  • Extreme or deviant case

  • Typical case

  • Intensity

  • Politically important cases

  • Random purposeful

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Sampling strategies cont4
Sampling Strategies cont. research” family because:

  • Stratified purposeful

  • Criterion

  • Opportunistic

  • Combination or mixed

  • Convenience

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative data collection
Qualitative Data Collection research” family because:

  • Rather than developing an instrument to use, the qualitative researcher is the instrument.

  • Recording data: Field notes, tape recorders, video and photographic data

  • Interviews must be transcribed.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Fieldwork strategies and observations
Fieldwork Strategies and Observations research” family because:

“In the fields of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur

“People only see what they are prepared to see.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Fieldwork observations
Fieldwork Observations research” family because:

Learn to pay attention, see what there is to see, and hear what there is to hear.

Practice writing descriptively

Acquiring discipline in recording field notes

Knowing how to separate detail from trivia to achieve the former without being overwhelmed by the latter.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Fieldwork observations cont
Fieldwork Observations cont. research” family because:

Use rigorous methods to validate and triangulate observations.

Reporting strengths and limitations of one’s own perspective, which requires both self-knowledge and self-disclosure.

Participant observer or onlooker or both

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative interviewing
Qualitative Interviewing research” family because:

1. Informal conversational interview

2. Interview guide approach

3. Standardized open-ended interview

4. Closed, fixed-response interview

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative interviewing cont
Qualitative Interviewing cont. research” family because:

Sequencing questions

Use words that make sense to the people being interviewed.

Ask truly open-ended questions

Avoid questions which can be answered with a yes or no.

One idea per question.

Be careful with Why questions.

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative data analysis
Qualitative Data Analysis research” family because:

When does analysis begin? During data collection.

Thick description is the foundation for qualitative analysis and reporting.

Organize the data. Read all the data and get a sense of the whole.

Coding for recurring themes and categories

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative data analysis1
Qualitative Data Analysis research” family because:

  • Computer-assisted qualitative data management and analysis

    • Ethnograph

    • NUD*IST (Non-numerical Unstructured Data With Indexing, Searching and Theorizing) QSR N6 and QSR NVivo

    • ATLAS.ti

Qualitative Research--Simpson

Qualitative data analysis2
Qualitative Data Analysis research” family because:

Coding data

Finding Patterns

Labeling Themes

Developing Category Systems

Looking for emergent patterns in the data

Qualitative Research--Simpson

References research” family because:

Bernard, H.R. (2000). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

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

Munhall, P.L. (2001). Nursing Research: A Qualitative Perspective, 3rd Edition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett

Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods, 3rd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Qualitative Research--Simpson