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INQUIRY The phrase qualitative inquiry is a generic term for an array of educational re search approaches, such as ethnography, naturalistic inquiry, narrative research, case studies, interpretive research, fi eldwork, fi eld studies, and participant observation. These approaches use different methodologies, but certain features are typical of qualitative research. These characteristics set qualitative research apart from the quantitative approach to educational research outlined in Chapter 5 and the methodology described in Chapters 10 through 14. Both qualitative and quantitative researchers approach their studies by stating a purpose, posing a problem or question, defi ning a research population, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting results. Both use theories and both are concerned with the rigor of their inquiry. They differ in their views about the nature of reality, their assumptions about the role of the researcher, and in how they defi ne knowledge. APPROACH The quantitative approach to the study of social and behavioral phenomena holds that the aim and methods of the social sciences are, at least in principle, the same as the aim and methods of the natural or physical sciences. Quantitative research strives for testable and confi rmable theories that explain phenomena by showing how they are derived from theoretical assumptions (see the discussion of scientifi c theory in Chapter 1). It seeks scientifi c explanation that includes the discovery of laws governing not only the behavior of the physical world but also human behavior. Qualitative inquiry begins from a different assumption, namely that the subject matter of the social or human sciences differs fundamentally from the subject matter of the physical or natural sciences and therefore requires a different goal for inquiry and a different set of methods for investigation. Qualitative inquirers argue that human behavior is always bound to the context in which it occurs, that social reality cannot be reduced to variables in the same manner as physical reality, and that what is most important in the social disciplines is understanding and portraying the meaning that is constructed by the participants involved in particular social settings or events. Qualitative inquiry seeks to understand and interpret human and social behavior as it is lived by participants in a particular social setting. It is an intensely personal kind of research, one that freely acknowledges and admits the subjective perceptions and biases of both participants and researcher. Defenders of qualitative approaches argue that, in contrast, quantitative inquiry is principally concerned with the discovery of social facts devoid of subjective perceptions of intentions and divorced from particular social and historical contexts. EXPLANATION Quantitative approaches in the human sciences rely on a hypothetico-deductive model of explanation. Inquiry begins with a theory of the phenomenon to be investigated. From that theory any number of hypotheses are deduced that, in turn, are tested using a predetermined procedure such as an experimental, ex post facto, or correlational design. The ultimate goal of researchers using this hypotheticodeductive model is to revise and support theories, or law-like statements, of social and behavioral phenomena based on the results of hypothesis testing. Theories are refi ned and extended (and sometimes abandoned) to account for the results of testing their implications or instances (deductions). One goal of quantitative approaches is to generalize fi ndings from a randomized sample to a larger population. Qualitative inquiry relies on a different model of explanation and argues for a different goal of inquiry. In general, its practitioners hold that the search for generalizations is misguided. Human behavior is always bound to a particular historical, social, temporal, and cultural context. Qualitative inquirers seek to interpret human actions, institutions, events, customs, and the like, and in so doing they construct a reading, or portrayal, of what is being studied. The ultimate goal of this kind of

inquiry is to portray the complex pattern of what is being studied in suffi cient depth and detail so that someone who has not experienced it can understand it. When qualitative inquirers interpret or explain the meaning of events, actions, and so forth, they generally use one of the following types of interpretation: (1) construction of patterns through analysis and resynthesis of constituent parts, (2) interpretation of the social meaning of events, or (3) analysis of relationships between events and external factors. These interpretations may lead to the generation of theories, be guided by existing theories or concept maps, or seek to further explicate or expound upon a theory. METHODS Quantitative methods use empirical approaches, experimental designs, and often statistical testing compared to the more naturalistic, emergent, and fi eld-based methods typical of qualitative research. The primary instrument used for data collection in qualitative research is the researcher him- or herself, often collecting data through direct observation or interviews. Quantitative research more typically relies on measurement tools such as scales, tests, observation checklists, and questionnaires. The selection of subjects for study also differs. The ideal selection in quantitative research is random sampling, which allows for control of variables that may infl uence fi ndings. Qualitative studies more typically use nonrandom or purposive selection techniques based on particular criteria. VALUES Quantitative inquirers admit that the inquirers values may play a role in deciding what topic or problem to investigate but maintain that the actual investigation should aim to be as value free as possible; that is, the inquirer must follow procedures specifi cally designed to isolate and remove subjective elements to the extent possible. The goal is to control or remove personal value from the inquiry situation so that what remains are just the objective facts. For example, imagine an experimental study involving two different classes of third-graders in which one third-grade class is the experimental group and the other is the control group. Imagine further that observers are placed in each classroom to record interactions between teachers and students. Quantitative inquirers prefer that the observers be unaware of whether they are observing the experimental or the control group, that they be unaware of subject characteristics (their social class, IQ, previous academic achievement, etc.), and that they use highly structured observational protocols that require only low-level inferences and as little as possible interpretation about what is happening in the interactions between teacher and students. These procedures are used in quantitative inquiry to ensure that the observers values and beliefs will minimally infl uence or contaminate the observations that they make. By following these procedures for making observations, the quantitative inquirer provides strong assurance that the inquiry is value free. In contrast, the qualitative approach suggests that inquiry is always value bound; it can never be considered value free, and inquirers must be explicit about the roles that values play in any given study. Qualitative inquirers argue that inquiry is value bound in the choice of a problem to investigate, in the choice of whether to adopt a quantitative or qualitative approach to a problem, in the choice of methods used to investigate that problem, in the choice of a way to interpret results or fi ndings, and by the values inherent in the context where the study takes place. Qualitative inquirers believe that it is impossible to develop a meaningful understanding of human experience without taking into account the interplay of both the inquirers and the participants values and beliefs. They believe that rather than try to eliminate bias, it is important to identify and monitor biases and how they may affect data collection and interpretation. Furthermore, qualitative inquirers argue that human inquiry requires frequent, continuing, and meaningful interaction between inquirers and their respondents (subjects) and that inquiry must maximize rather than minimize this kind of contact. Corbin and Strauss (2008) make the argument that in contrast to the objectivity

valued in quantitative research, sensitivity in qualitative research requires being tuned in to what is happening, being able to present the world as seen by the participants. The ability to be sensitive may come more naturally to some researchers, but it can be developed with training. The researcher must understand that fi ndings and interpretations are both the result of the data and the experiences, beliefs, and values the researcher brings to the task and that his or her background and knowledge also contribute to the ability to see connections between concepts. THINK ABOUT IT 15.1 For each of the following statements, indicate whether it is more descriptive of qualitative (QL) or quantitative (QT) research. Which method: 1. Relies more on the inductive approach 2. Is more likely to use random sampling 3. Relies more on the deductive approach 4. Is more likely to use purposive sampling 5. Is more likely to include a statistical report 6. Is more likely to include extensive quotations 7. Is more interested in generalizing 8. Is more likely to include intense interactions between the researcher and the subject 9. Is more likely to allow the researcher to modify, delete, or add interview questions during the interview 10. Is more likely to investigate a topic about which little is known Answers 1. QL; 2. QT; 3. QT; 4. QL; 5. QT; 6. QL; 7. QT; 8. QL; 9. QL; 10. QL able 15.1 Comparison of Quantitative Inquiry and Qualitative Inquiry Quantitative Inquiry Qualitative Inquiry Purpose To generalize fi ndings To contextualize fi ndings To predict behavior To interpret behavior and intention To provide causal explanations To understand perspectives Approach Uses theory to ground the study May create theory grounded in the fi ndings Uses manipulation and control of variables Portrays the natural context Deductive then inductive Inductive then deductive Seeks to analyze discrete components Searches for larger patterns Looks for the norm Looks for complexity Reduces data to numbers Relies on words and only minor use of numbers Reports written in precise, abstract language Reports written in descriptive, holistic language Assumptions There is an objective reality Reality is socially constructed The world is stable The world is not stable Variables can be identifi ed and measured Complex variables are diffi cult to measure Is rooted in logical empiricism Is rooted in symbolic interactionism Role of Researcher Detached and impartial Personally involved Objective portrayal Empathic understanding Inquiry should be as value free as possible Inquiry is always value bound Methods Focused on quantity (how much, how many) Focused on quality (nature, essence) Experimental, empirical, statistical focus Fieldwork, ethnographic, naturalistic focus Predetermined, structured methods, precise Flexible, evolving, emergent methods Random sampling is the ideal Typically uses purposive sampling Uses inanimate instruments (scales, tests, questionnaires, observation checklists, etc.) Researcher as the primary instrument (observations, interviews, document analysis)

Source: Adapted from Merriam (1998). Also adapted from Glesne and Peshkin, Becoming Qualitative Researchers: An Introdution, p. 7. Published by Allyn & Bacon, Boston. Copyright 1992 by Pearson Education. Adapted by permission of the publisher. Table 15.1 summarizes key differences between quantitative and qualitative inquiry. The contrasting approach in the table is not always as clear in the actual conduct of research but is designed to give the reader a simple base from which to compare the two approaches. MAJOR CHARACTER IST ICS OF QUAL ITAT IVE RESEARCH Although qualitative inquirers work in many different ways, their studies have certain characteristics in common that set this approach apart from quantitative research. Some of the more important aspects of qualitative research are discussed next. CONCERN FOR CONTEXT AND MEANING Qualitative inquiry shows concern for context and meaning. It assumes that human behavior is context boundthat human experience takes its meaning from and, therefore, is inseparable from social, historical, political, and cultural infl uences. Thus, inquiry is always bounded by a particular context or setting. Qualitative researchers focus on how people make sense of or interpret their experience. Qualitative inquiry aims to understand intention. There is no attempt to predict what will happen in the future but, rather, to understand a unique and particular context. Proponents of qualitative inquiry argue that the quantitative approach to the study of human experience seeks to isolate human behavior from its context; it engages in context stripping. NATURALLY OCCUR ING SETT INGS Qualitative research studies behavior as it occurs naturally in a classroom, an entire school, a playground, or in an organization or community. Qualitative inquiry takes place in the fi eld, in settings as they are found. It is not a setting contrived specifi cally for research, and there is no attempt to manipulate behavior. The researcher acknowledges that where the research is conducted (the setting) infl uences the fi ndings. The researcher goes physically to the people, the setting, or the institution to observe behavior. Virtual presence may be possible with newer technologies. In addition, qualitative inquiry places no prior constraints on what is to be studied. It does not identify, defi ne, and investigate or test the relationship between independent and dependent variables in a particular setting; rather, it studies human experience holistically, taking into account a broad range of factors and infl uences in a given situation. HUMAN AS INSTRUMENT One of the distinguishing characteristics of qualitative research is the methods used to collect and analyze data. In qualitative studies, the human investigator is the primary instrument for the gathering and analyzing of data. Lincoln and Guba (1985) introduced the concept of human as instrument to emphasize the unique role that qualitative researchers play in their inquiry. Because qualitative research studies human experiences and situations, researchers need an instrument fl exible enough to capture the complexity of the human experience, an instrument capable of adapting and responding to the environment. It is believed that only a human instrument is capable of this task. He or she talks with people in the setting, observes their activities, reads their documents and written records, and records this information in fi eld notes and journals. Qualitative inquiry relies on fi eldwork methods (interviewing, observation, and document analysis) as the principal means of collecting data, avoiding the use of paper-and-pencil tests, checklists, mechanical instruments, and highly structured observational protocols. DESCRIPTIVE DATA

The qualitative inquirer deals with data that are in the form of words or pictures rather than numbers and statistics. Data in the form of quotes from documents, fi eld notes, and interviews or excerpts from videotapes, audiotapes, or electronic communications are used to present the fi ndings of the study. The data collected are the participant experiences and perspectives; the qualitative researcher attempts to arrive at a rich description of the people, objects, events, places, conversations, and so on. Occasionally, some numeric data may be collected. Managing the large volume of descriptive data generated from interviews, observations, and the collection of documents is an important consideration in qualitative studies. Qualitative investigators also typically keep a personal or refl exive log or journal in which they record accounts of their thoughts, feelings, assumptions, motives, and rationale for decisions made. This is one way that the qualitative inquirer addresses the issue of the inquiry being value bound. EMERGENT DESIGN In quantitative studies, researchers carefully design all aspects of a study before they actually collect any data; they specify variables, measures for those variables, statistics to be used to analyze data, and so forth. In contrast, while qualitative inquirers broadly specify aspects of a design before beginning a study, the design continues to emerge as the study unfolds, hence the term emergent design. They adjust their methods and way of proceeding (design) to the subject matter at hand. This is necessary because the qualitative inquirer is never quite sure just what will be learned in a particular setting because what can be learned in a particular setting depends on the nature and types of interactions between the inquirer and the people and setting, and those interactions are not fully predictable, and also because important features in need of investigation cannot always be known until they are actually witnessed by the investigator. INDUCT IVE ANALYS IS In most qualitative studies, data collection and data analysis take place simultaneously. In other words, the inquirer does not wait until all the data are in before beginning to interpret them. From the outset of the fi rst interview or observation, the qualitative inquirer is refl ecting on the meaning of what he or she has heard and seen, developing hunches (working hypotheses) about what it means, and seeking to confi rm or disconfi rm those hunches in subsequent interviews or observations. It is a process of inductive data analysis; it proceeds from data to theory or interpretation. As the inquirer reduces and reconstructs the data through the processes of coding and categorization, he or she aims at interpreting the phenomena being observed. ABOUT IT 15.2 For each research question listed below, indicate whether you would choose a qualitative (QL) or quantitative (QT) research approach. (Note: In some cases, the question could be answered using more than one approach. Select the one you believe would be most appropriate.) 1. How are the social relations of adolescents who use illicit drugs different from those who do not use them? 2. How do school attendance and grades earned in school differ between adolescents who use illicit drugs and those who do not? 3. To what extent does family income predict whether a student will choose to attend a commuter or residential campus? 4. How do Hispanic and Latino students experience their fi rst year in an urban community college? 5. Do students who have high scores on reading tests also have high scores on writing tests? 6. How do middle school students of differing ability levels approach reading? 7. What are the characteristics of mathematics lessons in Japanese and U.S. middle school textbooks? 8. How do U.S. middle school students compare to Japanese middle school students in performance on standardized mathematics examinations?

9. Do mainstreamed students in science classes using cooperative grouping differ in their performance from those not exposed to cooperative groups? 10. What are the helping behaviors of students in cooperative learning groups? 11. What are the personal and educational interactions in a group of teachers developing a high school chemistry curriculum? 12. How do gangs recruit members in schools? Answers 1. QL; 2. QT; 3. QT; 4. QL; 5. QT; 6. QL; 7. QL; 8. QT; 9. QT; 10. QL; 11. QL; 12. QL Maxwell (2005) discusses researcher goals for which he believes qualitative studies are especially suited: understanding meaning for the participants, understanding a particular context, identifying unanticipated phenomena and infl uences through which new theories may be generated, understanding process, and developing causal explanations (though he recognizes the dispute inherent when considering the more traditionalist research views). He contends that the qualitative focus on understanding process rather than regularities is aligned with current science philo sopis