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100 Questions (and Answers) About Qualitative Research

100 Questions (and Answers) About Qualitative Research

  • Lisa M. Given - Swinburne University, Australia, Charles Sturt University, Australia, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

March 2015 | 208 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Exploring 100 key questions (and answers) on the nature and practice of qualitative inquiry, this unique book addresses the practical decisions that researchers must make in their work, from the design of the study, through ethics approval, implementation, and writing. The book’s quick-scan, question-and-answer format make it ideal as a supplementary text or as a ready reference for graduate students preparing for comprehensive exams and writing research proposals, undergraduates in affiliated programs who will not be taking a primary course in qualitative research methods, and researchers working across disciplines in academic or practice environments.

Part 1: The Nature of Qualitative Inquiry
Question #1: What is qualitative research?
Question #2: What disciplines use qualitative approaches and are there differences in disciplinary approach?
Question #3: Is qualitative research used in practice or only in academic research?
Question #4: My supervisor says that quantitative research is more objective, so it’s better than qualitative research. Is that true?
Question #5: What is the difference between ‘ontology’ and ‘epistemology’ and why do they matter?
Question #6: I've heard that qualitative research is more inductive rather than deductive – what does that mean?
Question #7: What is the difference between a project designed with a qualitative ‘paradigm’ and one designed only to gather qualitative ‘data’?
Question #8: What is the difference between quantitative positivism and qualitative constructionism?
Question #9: Qualitative research seems to always involve people – is that true?
Question #10: What is the difference between a research ‘participant’ and a research ‘subject’?
Question #11: My ‘participants’ are really co-researchers in my work – so what are the implications for my project?
Question #12: What kind of education or training do I need to conduct qualitative research?
Question #13: What kind of time investment is needed for a qualitative research study?
Question #14: Qualitative research seems to be more expensive to do than other types of research – is that so?
Question #15: What are the limitations of qualitative research?
Part 2: Ethical Issues in Qualitative Research
Question #16: What are the researcher's ethical responsibilities in qualitative practice?
Question #17: At what stage of the research do I need to get formal ethics review to talk to people?
Question #18: What kinds of ethics challenges do qualitative researchers face, typically?
Question #19: Ethics approval seems to be more difficult to obtain for qualitative projects. Is that true?
Question #20: Can I name my participants and their organization in publications about my study?
Question #21 - I’m going to do focus groups and I know I’ll need ethics approval for those – but can I examine postings to social media without seeking ethics approval?
Question #22: Can I show my colleague some transcripts and let her listen to interview recordings to get advice on my interpretation of the data?
Question #23: The ethics review board requires me to submit my interview questions – but the project is exploratory and the questions will emerge as the interview happens. What types of questions should I submit for review?
Question #24: The ethics review board says I have to destroy my data, but I think my analysis will take years. Do I have to destroy everything?
Question #25: I have learned negative things about people in the setting I’m studying. How do I deal with this?
Question #26: My ethics approval says that I have to let the board know if there are ‘significant changes’ to my methodology and/or method. As my qualitative study is exploratory and emergent in design, how do I know when a significant change has occurre
Question #27: One of my participants told other people that she was involved in my study, even though I promised I would not identify her. Is this a problem?
Part 3: Designing Qualitative Research
Question #28: What is a qualitative research problem – and how does this inform the development of research questions?
Question #29 = What is the role of an hypothesis in qualitative research?
Question #30: What is an exploratory qualitative design? If I do this, does it mean that my research isn’t going to come up with ‘usable’ findings?
Question #31: What is an emergent qualitative design?
Question #32: What is the role of a theoretical and/or conceptual framework in a qualitative study?
Question #33: How extensive should my literature review be when I’m designing my project?
Question #34: What kinds of sampling approaches are appropriate for qualitative studies?
Question #35: Why are sample sizes so small in many qualitative studies? Isn't this a problem?
Question #36: What is the ideal sample size for a qualitative project?
Question #37: How do you recruit participants for a qualitative study?
Question #38: I really want to use focus groups, so how can I design a project that will use that method?
Question #39 – What is Triangulation?
Part 4: Ensuring Rigor in Qualitative Research Design
Question #40: I’ve heard that quantitative research is more rigorous than qualitative research – is that true?
Question #41: What are effective strategies for promoting trustworthiness?
Question #42: I’ve heard that qualitative studies suffer from researcher bias. How do I deal with this criticism?
Question #43: Can the findings from qualitative research be generalized? I’ve heard they can be transferable, but I don’t know the differences between these terms.
Question #44: How do I ensure that my study will have an impact on other scholars or practitioners?
Question #45: What are useful and practical approaches to ensure that I am gathering good data?
Part 5: Methodologies and Methods
Question #46: What are the differences between qualitative ‘design,’ ‘methodology’ and ‘method’?
Question #47: All the studies I’ve read seem to use interviews. What other methods can I use to make my study more interesting?
Question #48: I don't understand the differences between grounded theory, phenomenology, case study, ethnography, narrative inquiry, etc. Can I combine these – or choose not to use one of these approaches, at all?
Question #49: What kinds of research methods are appropriate for talking with people?
Question #50: What are the pros and cons of conducting individual vs. group interviews?
Question #51: I want to observe what people are doing, but I don’t want them to know that I’m watching. Can I do that?
Question #52: How can I use documents in my qualitative study?
Question #53: I’ve heard that there are some interesting visual methods that I can use – what are they?
Question #54: In my discipline we conduct a lot of systematic reviews of the literature. Is it possible to do a qualitative systematic review?
Part 6: Mixed Methods Research Involving Qualitative Approaches
Question #55: I’ve heard that qualitative research is only useful as a first, exploratory step to designing a quantitative project – is that true?
Question #56: How can qualitative research complement a quantitative study?
Question #57: Which do I do first – the qualitative component of the study, or the quantitative component?
Question #58: I have included some open-ended questions alongside the closed-response items on my survey/questionnaire. Am I conducting qualitative research?
Question #59: Is it better to bring a qualitative researcher onto my team, or should I try to do the qualitative research myself?
Question #60: I’ve only ever used quantitative designs but I want to use qualitative approaches now – what are the key issues I need to consider and how can I learn more about them?
Part 7: Collecting Qualitative Data
Question #61: How do I conduct a pilot study for my qualitative research project?
Question #62 – My colleague says that we need to be unobtrusive when gathering data – what does that mean?
Question #63: Can I hire someone to do all of the data collection?
Question #64: What does it mean to be ‘neutral’ when I’m gathering my data?
Question #65: What does ‘fieldwork’ involve in a qualitative project?
Question #66: What does it mean to gather ‘rich data’?
Question #67: Do I have to transcribe all of my interview data or can I simply transcribe a few quotes when I need them?
Question #68: What are the pros and cons of audio or video recording my participants?
Question #69: Qualitative research seems to involve a lot of talking to people. Sounds easy – so what issues should I expect if I’m doing formal or informal interviews, with individuals or groups?
Question #70: Do I have to work with my participants in person, or can I use the Internet (or other tools) to gather data at a distance?
Question #71: There are many interviews and other potential sources of data online, including peoples’ quotes posted to social media and websites. Can I use these in my qualitative study?
Question #72: I see that some qualitative studies use participant-generated photographs, drawings, and other arts-based approaches. When is it appropriate to use these kinds of methods for gathering data?
Question #73: I have a lot of data – dozens of digital data files, hundreds of pages of printed transcripts, and hours of video-recordings. How can I manage all of this material?
Question #74: How do I know when I’ve reached saturation of themes in my data?
Question #75: My colleague says that there are many ‘lost opportunities’ in his dataset. What does that mean?
Question #76: I’m trying to select the best site for conducting individual interviews, so how do I choose?
Part 8: Conducting Qualitative Analysis
Question #77: Do I have to wait until my data collection is done before I can start analyzing my data?
Question #78: My supervisor says I should use an interpretive lens for my analysis – what does this mean?
Question #79: What is the process for ‘coding’ my dataset? Can I borrow someone else’s codebook to get me started?
Question #80: What is the difference between ‘themes,’ ‘codes’ and ‘categories’?
Question #81: Does the person who gathered the data have to be the person who codes and analyzes those data?
Question #82: I’ve heard data analysis described as an iterative process of coding. What does that mean?
Question #83: How can I use a team to code data?
Question #84: Do qualitative researchers count things in their data, or is this only done in quantitative research?
Question #85: Will using a qualitative data analysis software package improve the quality of my results?
Question #86: What is the best software package to use for qualitative data analysis?
Question #87: Does it matter if someone else interprets my results in a different way?
Question #88: I have anomalous data. Is this a problem?
Question #89: I’ve heard that I need to immerse myself in the data during analysis, but I have a full-time job. How much time do I need to devote to this process?
Question #90: My analysis seems to raise more questions than answers, so what do I do about this?
Part 9: Writing Qualitative Research
Question #91: How do I present my findings so that they reflect both my analysis and the participants’ voices?
Question #92 - I’ve assigned my participants numbers (to anonymize them in the writing) but now my supervisor says I should give them pseudonyms, instead. Which approach is best?
Question #93 - My supervisor says I should ‘give voice’ to my research participants in my writing – what does that mean?
Question #94: I have some pictures, audio-recordings and other multimedia data, so how can I include these in publications?
Question #95: Journal articles in my discipline are limited in length, so how can I present my results in a succinct way while providing enough detail to support my arguments?
Question #96: I have a lot of data and I’m struggling to fit everything into one paper! How can I write up my results in a single research report?
Question #97: Qualitative research reports are published in many formats and styles, ranging from traditional (i.e., with results, discussion and conclusions) to progressive (e.g., narrative short stories, poetry, plays). Which approach should I choose f
Question #98: What kind of audience reads qualitative research reports, typically?
Question #99: My data are just interview transcripts and other texts, so how can I present my findings in a visual poster presentation?
Question #100: Should I send copies of my publications to my participants?

“This is a great companion book for a course on qualitative methods and it is also a great resource as a ‘ready-reference,’ which should be a required companion for all graduate students who will be taking qualitative research methods.”

JoAnn DiGeorgio-Lutz, Texas A&M University-Commerce

“It provides an overview of the subject on the nuances of qualitative research.”

Johnny Saldaña, Arizona State University

Very precise in helping students determine if their study is appropriate for this type of research design.”

Kymberly Drawdy, Georgia Southern University

“The book appears to provide the right combination of breadth and depth. There are a lot of topics covered, but the book seems to provide a succinct, snapshot-like answer for each question.”

Jenny Stuber, University of North Florida

“A book like this can provide a useful supplement to major texts and be used as a reference.”

Gretchen B. Rossman, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Sample Materials & Chapters

Question 16

Question 18

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