An Analysis of Thinking and Research about Qualitative Methods

An Analysis of Thinking and Research about Qualitative Methods

An Analysis of Thinking and Research about Qualitative Methods

An Analysis of Thinking and Research about Qualitative Methods


"The qualitative approach to research has produced a remarkably wide range of thinking about how scholars should regard their phenomenon of interest, about what merits consideration as evidence of the phenomenon, about how to collect that evidence, and about how to look for patterns in that evidence. This book acknowledges the rich diversity in that thinking and seeks to illuminate the key issues in order to help readers navigate through the qualitative literature. On each issue, the author displays the extent of options available under the qualitative approach and illuminates each of these options with examples from the research literature. No other book illuminates such a wide range of issues (axioms of belief, strategies, and techniques) over such a range of research topics (the examination of institutions, people, and texts) in as many contexts (historical, analytical, and critical) for both the thinking and practices within the qualitative approach." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Qualitative research is less like a field than a garden. When we view it metaphorically it looks like a large hilly area with an incredible variety of plants -- all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of the plants appear majestic and timeless like ancient sequoias, whereas others appear fragile and exotic like jungle orchids.

The qualitative garden is not like a Japanese garden where a single person toils throughout the years to impose his or her unfolding vision on the design until perfection of form is reached. Instead, there are many gardeners working to bring their favorite forms of vegetation to life. There are different visions across plots so the overall garden grows, mutates, and evolves unevenly. The sights are constantly changing. If we photograph one section then return to it later, we are likely to see many differences; or perhaps it is instead our perspective that has changed as we view it from a different angle.

If we try to pull one plant out of the ground to examine its roots we might find them entangled with the roots of many of the other plants. If we continue to pull up roots, we see an ongoing entanglement where all the roots seem to be joined. But it is a mistake to jump to that conclusion. There is no common root. Each plant has its own root system and requires its own special nutrients and attention.

The garden has an amorphous and ever changing perimeter. Sometimes we can see the boundaries marked by berms that obscure our vision; in some places there are moats to make it difficult for us to get into the garden; and in other places there are no easily discernible boundaries so we are not sure whether we have entered the garden or not.

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