Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Ten Steps for Conceptualizing and Conducting Qualitative Research Studies in a Pragmatically Curious Manner

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Ten Steps for Conceptualizing and Conducting Qualitative Research Studies in a Pragmatically Curious Manner

Article excerpt

The qualitative research being conducted today is in many ways not like your grandparents' qualitative inquiries! Although, for some researchers, there appears to be clearly defined boundaries between when researchers should use a qualitative research methodology and when they should employ a quantitative research methodology (e.g., Dobrovolny & Fuentes, 2008; Keenan & van Teijlingen, 2004). In this apparently black and white worldview, qualitative studies are most likely exploratory, naturalistic, subjective, inductive, ideographic, and descriptive/interpretive and quantitative studies are most likely confirmatory, controlled, objective, deductive, nomothetic, and predictive/explanatory. For other investigators, the boundaries are a bit more grey as contemporary designs become more mixed (e.g., Creswell, Klassen, Plano Clark, & Clegg Smith, 2011), pluralistic and diverse (e.g., Barker & Pistrang, 2004; Sandelowski, 2004) when it comes to utilizing particular methodologies to meet specific design goals and objectives.

These changes in methodology utilization patterns suggest we are entering an interesting time for qualitative research design in that more and more investigators are creatively using qualitative methods to address new types of research problems. For example, researchers are starting to use qualitative methodologies to conduct confirmatory studies such as the effectiveness of interventions (e.g., Flemming, Adamson, & Atkin, 2008) and efficacy of treatments (e.g., Verhoef, Casebeer, & Hilsden, 2002). In these cases, the qualitative researchers might employ a mix of procedures (e.g., randomized sampling more typically associated with experiments combined with open-ended interviews more typically associated with qualitative research) in the design. As these qualitative researchers offer, what Morse (2006) terms, "alternative forms of evidence" (p. 86), new opportunities for qualitative inquiries open up.

I offer these observations because as a beginning researcher once you learn traditional or typical utilizations of a qualitative methodology; you might subsequently find a number of articles in which the researchers used these approaches in an effectively novel ways. The key to all of this practical experimentation or pragmatic improvisation, as well as with traditional uses of qualitative methodologies, is for you as the qualitative researcher to be clear as to what methodologies and procedures were used to accomplish what aspects of your design and to explain/defend why such choices were made. In such a defense, the keys are (a) to address the procedure conceptually first by citing a source for this new orientation to the process, (b) to explain the novelty in your application of the method to the accomplish the design objective at hand, (c) to show how the innovative procedural choice made coheres with the other design choices being implemented, and (d) to demonstrate how all the methodological choices made are allowing the study's design to address the guiding research question or hypothesis. In other words, you should embrace a sense of "pragmatic curiosity" to explore an optimal array of methodological choices to meet the needs of your design's concept which was chosen based upon your research questions. To paraphrase the title of Elliot Mishler's well-known 1979 essay, "Methodology in context: Is there any other kind?" So, taking this question as a mantra, it is critical for you to remember continually to craft a design so that it meets the need of your study in a coherent and effective manner.

To help you, as a beginning qualitative researcher, decide when and how to use qualitative research methodologies in this changing world, I have designed a ten step process for conceiving and conducting qualitative inquiries. For this guide, I suggest you take a pragmatic posture to creating studies that marry the most fitting design and methodology choices with the focus of your research curiosity. …

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