Conduct of Qualitative Research 

Qualitative research builds theory.  Using inductive reasoning, cases are selected by a sampling process in which the researcher identifies new cases that are similar to previous cases. When these cases generate no new insights, the process is repeated with newly selected cases that yield different insights, again until no new insights are noted.
Here are some suggested steps:

1. Identify a general research question.
2.Conduct a literature review to determine current theory and studies. 
3.Select parameters of study: Choose main methods, sites, and subjects for research.
4 Determine methods of documentation of data and access to subjects.
5.Determine methods of collection of data: Decide what you will collect data on: questions, behaviors to observe, issues to look for in documents (interview/observation guide), how much (# of questions, # of interviews/observations, etc.).
6. Clarify your role as researcher.  Determine whether you will be obtrusive or unobtrusive, objective or involved.
7.Study the ethical implications of the study. 
8.Consider issues of confidentiality and sensitivity.Begin to collect data and continue until you begin to see the same, repeated information, and stop finding new information.Compare patterns of first case with those of second case.
9. Develop a working hypothesis as common patterns emerge across studies.Interpret data. 
10.Look for concepts and theories in what has been collected so far.
11. Formulate additional research questions and modification of questions, based on analysis. 
12. Continue theoretical sampling. 
13. Collect further data to address revisions.
14. Review relevant literature when patterns appear to stabilize.
15.Link relevant literature to the empirically, evidence- grounded hypotheses.
16.Test theoretical formulations derived from preceding step.
17  Revise theory and knowledge formulations as needed to fit new patterns viewed in each subsequent step.Repeat as needed until…
18. The process ends when the researcher reaches “theoretical saturation,” the point at which no new data are emerging .
19.Through this procedure emerging theories are grounded in data and are linked to other theories and research .
20. When cases do not fit into the common pattern (“negative” cases), researchers typically assess each to determine whether the case is a result of expected variation, the researcher’s failure to consider the total range of behavior or situations that might fit a particular category, or truly exceptional (Marlow, 1993).
21.In the presentation of findings, “negative” cases and common patterns are illustrated.

22.  Then…Verify your data.  Complete conceptual and theoretical work to make your findings. 
23. Present your findings in an appropriate form to your audience.

Because qualitative research often is not seen as objective in its methods, convincing your audience that your methods and results are reliable and trustworthy is also part of your proposal’s methodology section.  For each step in your procedures, be prepared to prove that your study is reliable and valid.

     Ex:  The researchers want to study how recent immigrants adapted to the manner in which students interact with each other in inner-city high schools. They will train high school students from each immigrant culture to collect observational and interview data.  They explain that they chose this method of data collection because they assume that the students would be able to obtain more valid data than adult researchers could obtain.  This explanation appears reasonable, and therefore it contributes to the chain of evidence supporting the soundness of the study’s findings.

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