Qualitative Research Design
What are the philosophical assumptions that
underpin this approach?
i.e., what is the nature of the research?
What is the methodological basis of this
i.e., how will it be operationalised ?
Methodological questions
preferred approaches/key aspects of research
preferred methods of data collection:
 methods of obtaining data
preferred approaches to handling data:
 maintaining rigour
Views of reality
Fixed, Objective Reality
 logical and empirical evidence:
e.g., experiments, surveys, epidemiology; experimental action research
('action science'); experimental case studies
Multiple, Subjective Realities
 understanding and interpretation:
e.g., ethnography, phenomenology, grounded theory, collaborative action
research, some case study approaches
Mutual, Constructed Realities
 dialect and reflection:
e.g., constructivism, co-operative inquiry, feminist research, participative
action research, some case study approaches
Research design
 research question, hypothesis, sample, instrument and analysis all specified
clearly at the outset; do not change:
e.g., experiments, surveys, epidemiology, some experimental case studies
 some aspects planned in advance, others develop during study:
e.g., ethnography, phenomenology, some action research (including experimental),
case studies
 minimum advance planning, must show links between data and emerging
e.g., grounded theory, constructivism, co-operative inquiry, feminist research,
participative action research, some case study approaches
1 Pre-Determined
• for representativeness and statistical validity (random, quota sample etc; for experiments,
surveys, epidemiology)
Representativeness: depends on the research question the study is designed to answer.
‘If a given experience is possible, it is also subject to universalization’ (Haugh 1987)
• for relevance and assumed understanding of phenomenon under review
selective and purposeful samples identified at start of study; e.g., in some case studies;
cooperative inquiry; ethnography; phenomenology
• for pragmatic reasons
e.g., for ethical approval, to delimit time period (e.g., for courses of study, funding bodies)
2 Responsive
• for reasons of participation, emergent theory-building or mutual sharing,
theoretical sampling; 'serial and contingent', e.g., in grounded
theory, constructivism, co-operative inquiry
3 Cyclical
• clearly defined patterns and phases for specifying and drawing samples, action
research, some case studies, constructivist evaluations
Define the question, the participants, the
process and your expectations.
Delimit the boundaries of the question.
 Be clear which ‘people’ you are concerned with.
 What exactly are you intending to do?
 What do you expect to be said, to appear or to
 Be clear on starting point.
Big ‘Q' methodology: participant led or bottomup; open-ended & flexible.
Issues in qualitative research
Developing questions: conceptualization as an ongoing process.
Variables that "grow“.
Producing data using recursive process of gathering maximum
information from numerous sources:
Type of data:
"Snowball sampling", negative case analysis, theoretical sampling, gaining
access & developing relationship.
Naturalistic data, minimizes data reduction- comprehensive record of
participants’ words & actions.
Data analysis as ongoing process
Issues of validity and reliability
Ethical issues, e.g., role conflict of the researcher.
Methodologies and traditions in
qualitative research
Grounded theory
Phenomenology & Interpretative phenomenological analysis
Discourse analysis
Conversation analysis
Interpretive Interaction
Narrative psychology
Feminist Postmodernism
Research Design and Data
Collection Strategies
Eisner 1991: a "paucity of methodological prescriptions" for qualitative research,
as premium placed on the strengths of the researcher rather than on
Lincoln and Guba 1985 - detailed outline for the design of naturalistic inquiry:
1. Determine a focus for the inquiry.
2. Determine the fit of the research paradigm to the research focus.
3. Determine where and from whom data will be collected.
4. Determine what the successive phases of the inquiry will be.
5. Determine what additional instrumentation may be used, beyond the
researcher as the human instrument.
6. Plan data collection and recording modes.
7. Plan which data analysis procedures will be used.
8. Plan the logistics of data collection, including scheduling and budgeting.
9. Plan the techniques that will be used to determine trustworthiness.
Sampling strategies for qualitative researchers
Qualitative inquiry uses purposeful sampling
Patton 1990 - 16 types of purposeful sampling,
Lincoln and Guba (1985)- maximum variation
sampling: shared patterns that cut across cases.
Three types of sampling error:
distortions caused by insufficient breadth in
distortions introduced by changes over time;
distortions caused by lack of depth in data
collection at each site.
Data Collection Techniques
2 main forms:
Primary strategy, or in conjunction with observation, document
analysis, or other techniques.
uses open-ended questions that allow for individual variations.
Three types: 1) informal, conversational; 2) semi-structured; and 3)
standardized, open-ended.
Interview guide or "schedule" - list of questions or general to be
explored during each interview.
Recording Data.
 written notes or recorder
Observation of participants in the context of a
natural scene.
observational data used for the purpose of
 leads to deeper understandings than interviews alone
 skilled observer is trained in the process of
monitoring both verbal and nonverbal cues, and in
the use of concrete, unambiguous, descriptive
Several observation strategies available:
watch from outside, without being observed.
maintain a passive presence.
engage in limited interaction.
more active control over the observation.
act as a full participant in the situation.
Advantages, disadvantages and concerns attached to each
 presence of an observer introduces a distortion of the
natural scene
 Critical decisions dependent on the unique set of
questions and resources brought to each study
 legal and ethical responsibilities.
Recording Data.
 Field notes, may also use photographs, videotapes, and
audio tapes.
Other Sources of Data
Analysis of documents, hermeneutic inquiry.
Deciding When to Stop Sampling
Few strict guidelines.
1) exhaustion of resources;
2) emergence of regularities;
3) overextension.
research goals, achieve depth through triangulation of data sources,
greater breadth through examination of a variety of sampling
Purpose of Study
Research question
Research strategy
Examples of data
collection techniques
to investigate little
understood phenomena
to identify or discover
important variables
to generate hypotheses for
further research
What is happening in this
social program?
What are the salient
themes or patterns in
participants’ meaning
How are these patterns
linked with one another?
Case study
Participant observation
Field study
In-depth interviewing
Elite interviewing
to explain the forces
causing the phenomena in
to identify plausible causal
networks shaping the
What events, beliefs,
attitudes, policies are
shaping this phenomenon?
How do these forces
interact to result in the
Multisite case study
Field study
Participant observation
In-depth interviews
Survey questionnaire
Document analysis
to document the
phenomenon of interest
What are the salient
behaviors, events, beliefs,
attitudes, structures,
processes occurring in this
Field study
to predict the outcomes of
the phenomenon
to forecast the events and
behaviors resulting from
the phenomenon
What will occur as a result
of this phenomenon?
Case study
Participant observation
In-depth interviews
Document analysis
Unobstrusive measures
Survey questionnaire
Survey questionnaire
(representative sample)
Content analysis

Lecture 4: Qualitative Research Design