for Qualitative Methods
RONALD J. CHENAIL
The only certain thing about the future is that it will surprise even those who have seen
furthest into it.
—E. J. HOBSBAWM
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
Most writings about the future of qualitative methods (e.g., Gergen & Gergen, 2000; Lincoln & Denzin, 1994, 2000; McLeod, 2001; Page, 2000) seem to include the same cautionary disclaimer: Neither the past nor the present may be the best guide for predicting the future, but the present and the past are all we have to work with at this time. Given this conundrum, I have taken a similar path in researching and writing this chapter, knowing full well the potential folly in such an endeavor. Having said that, I still have enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on what has transpired in the marriage and family therapy (MFT) field over the last few decades, to observe the growth of qualitative research as a viable research method, to scan the contemporary qualitative inquiry landscape for emerging trends and informing contexts, and to squint carefully at the horizon that lies ahead. This exercise to me suggests a hopeful future for qualitative research in our field.
The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet.
In attempting to make sense of the world of qualitative methods, some authors have approached the subject in terms of developmental moments over time (e.g., Denzin & Lincoln, 1994b, 2000b), while others have come to understand the phenomenon in