AECT Handbook of Research

Table of Contents

40: Qualitative Research Issues and Methods: An Introduction for Educational Technologists

40.1 Introduction to Qualitative Research
40.2 Qualitative Research Methods
40.3 Analyzing Qualitative Data
40.4 Writing Qualitative Research Reports
40.5 Ethical issues in Conducting Qualitative Research
40.6 Criteria for Evaluating Qualitiative Studies
40.7 Learning More about doing Qualitative Research
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The report of a qualitative study may take many forms, both those common to more quantitative research and also forms likely to be unfamiliar to those who conduct only experimental research. The best advice for the beginning researcher is to recognize that it is not unusual for even experienced researchers to feel overwhelmed by the amount of data to be analyzed and described, as well as to feel a lack of confidence that the interpretations and conclusions the researcher has drawn represent "the truth." Most authors simply advise writers to "do it," or to "begin" to write and refine, and write and refine again. A later section will discuss ethical issues and criteria for evaluating the quality of a study. As with analysis, there exist many books of guidelines and advice for writing qualitative research reports. In this section we will briefly discuss a few of the issues.

In writing up a qualitative study, researchers have many choices of presentation styles. Bogdan and Biklen (1984) consider qualitative researchers fortunate in that there is not one accepted convention for writing qualitative reports. For example, the qualitative report may take the form of a case study, as in the Reiser and Mory (1991) study. If a case study, the report may include considerable quantification and tables of enumerated data, or it may take a strictly narrative form. Recent studies have been reported in more nontraditional forms, such as stories, plays, and poems showing what is happening for these participants in that setting.

A few examples of less-traditional approaches to reporting results are the presentations by Barone and Lather at the 1995 conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Barone presented an arts-based phenomological inquiry in a narrative format (1995). Lather, in an AERA Qualitative Research SIG interactive symposium on refraining the narrative voice, discussed her study, in which she divided pages in her report into three sections in which she presented her interpretation, the participants' interpretation, and then her response to the participants (Tierney, Polkinghom, Lincoln, Denzin, Kincheloe, Lather & Pinar, 1995).

Richardson (1995) describes other components and styles of less-traditional writing, including ways to reference historical contexts, using metaphors, documentary styles, and various experimental representations, including "narrative of the self," "ethnographic fictional representations," "poetic representations," "ethnographic dramas," and "mixed genres" (pp. 521, 522). Richardson additionally provides advice to the researcher who 'wishes to explore these experimental formats.

Fetterman (1989) explicates the nature of qualitative writing. As do many others, he stresses the use of 'thick description" and liberal use of verbatim quotations, that is, the participants' own words to illustrate the reality of the setting and subjects. (This serves as another reminder to the researcher to record and preserve raw data in the participants' language with quotes.) Fetterman adds that ethnographies are usually written in what he calls the "ethnographic present" (p. 116), as if the reality is still ongoing. However, in educational technology research in which innovations are often described, the researcher may or may not choose to use this approach. Qualitative reports typically will be woven around a theme or central message, and will include an introduction, core material, and conclusion (Bogdan & Biklen, 1984). However, what constitutes the core of the report, of course, will vary depending on the style of the writing.

A cogent and enjoyable manual for writing up qualitative research is Wolcott's (1990). [For additional information about writing reports of qualitative studies, see Meloy (1994) and Van Maanen (1988).]

Updated August 3, 2001
Copyright © 2001
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