Qualitative researchers have few strict guidelines for when to stop the data collection process. Criteria include: 1) exhaustion of resources; 2) emergence of regularities; and 3) overextension, or going too far beyond the boundaries of the research ( ). The decision to stop sampling must take into account the research goals, the need to achieve depth through triangulation of data sources, and the possibility of greater breadth through examination of a variety of sampling sites.
Bogdan and Biklen define qualitative data analysis as "working with data, organizing it, breaking it into manageable units, synthesizing it, searching for patterns, discovering what is important and what is to be learned, and deciding what you will tell others" ( ). Qualitative researchers tend to use inductive analysis of data, meaning that the critical themes emerge out of the data ( ). Qualitative analysis requires some creativity, for the challenge is to place the raw data into logical, meaningful categories; to examine them in a holistic fashion; and to find a way to communicate this interpretation to others.
There are several considerations when deciding to adopt a qualitative research methodology. Strauss and Corbin ( ) claim that qualitative methods can be used to better understand any phenomenon about which little is yet known. They can also be used to gain new perspectives on things about which much is already known, or to gain more in-depth information that may be difficult to convey quantitatively. Thus, qualitative methods are appropriate in situations where one needs to first identify the variables that might later be tested quantitatively, or where the researcher has determined that quantitative measures cannot adequately describe or interpret a situation. Research problems tend to be framed as open-ended questions that will support discovery of new information. Greene's 1994 study of women in the trades, for example, asked " What personal characteristics do tradeswomen have in common? In what way, if any, did role models contribute to women's choices to work in the trades?"
The ability of qualitative data to more fully describe a phenomenon is an important consideration not only from the researcher's perspective, but from the reader's perspective as well. "If you want people to understand better than they otherwise might, provide them information in the form in which they usually experience it" ( ). Qualitative research reports, typically rich with detail and insights into participants' experiences of the world, "may be epistemologically in harmony with the reader's experience" ( ) and thus more meaningful.
Several writers have identified what they consider to be the prominent characteristics of qualitative, or naturalistic, research (see, for example: ). The list that follows represents a synthesis of these authors' descriptions of qualitative research:
More recently, others have called for an expansion in the types of research methods used. Of the 220 reports included in Zuga's review of technology education-related research ( ), only 16 are identified as having used qualitative methods, and Zuga notes that many of those studies were conducted outside the United States. Johnson ( ) suggests that technology educators "engage in research that probes for deeper understanding rather than examining surface features." He notes that qualitative methodologies are powerful tools for enhancing our understanding of teaching and learning, and that they have "gained increasing acceptance in recent years" (p. 4).
There are compelling reasons for the selection of qualitative methodologies within the educational research arena, yet many people remain unfamiliar with these methods. Researchers trained in the use of quantitative designs face real challenges when called upon to use or teach qualitative research ( ). There is, however, a growing body of literature devoted to qualitative research in education, some of which is synthesized here. The goals of this article are to elaborate on the reasons for choosing qualitative methodologies, and to provide a basic introduction to the features of this type of research.
Researchers have long debated the relative value of qualitative and quantitative inquiry ( ). Phenomenological inquiry, or qualitative research, uses a naturalistic approach that seeks to understand phenomena in context-specific settings. Logical positivism, or quantitative research, uses experimental methods and quantitative measures to test hypothetical generalizations. Each represents a fundamentally different inquiry paradigm, and researcher actions are based on the underlying assumptions of each paradigm.
Qualitative research, broadly defined, means "any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification" ( ). Where quantitative researchers seek causal determination, prediction, and generalization of findings, qualitative researchers seek instead illumination, understanding, and extrapolation to similar situations. Qualitative analysis results in a different type of knowledge than does quantitative inquiry.
Summary: APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
There is a kind of continuum that moves from the fictional that is "true"-the novel for example-to the highly controlled and quantitatively described scientific experiment. Work at either end of this continuum has the capacity to inform significantly. Qualitative research and evaluation are located toward the fictive end of the continuum without being fictional in the narrow sense of the term ).