The Truth(s) Be Known:
An Introduction to Qualitative Research
The goal of this 10-hour (2 days, weekend) course is to provide participants
with a working knowledge of the tenets of qualitative research, for
the purpose of helping them benefit from existing research, and for
supervising qualitative studies in their own institutions. Small research
teams will conduct, analyze, and report on their own micro-study,
experiencing emergent research design, using data-gathering and description
techniques consistent with standards of trustworthiness, confidentiality
and anonymity, defining their team's research problem in accordance
with criteria for significance, clarity, and ethics, and developing
a "grounded theory." Guidelines, resources, and examples distributed.
No previous experience in qualitative research required.
The two philosophical paradigms in research methodology today rely
on quite different designs in their quests for "reality" or "truth;"
these are the positivistic (using quantitative, or statistical methods
with a pre-established research design, and depending primarily upon
deductive reasoning) and the naturalistic or ethnographic (using qualitative
methods with an emergent research design and depending primarily upon
Through numerous data gathering techniques, (e.g. interviews, videos,
printed documents, focus groups, unobtrusive measures, observations,
participation in activities), the qualitative researcher can begin
to make sense of the ensemble. "Thick Description" (Geertz, 1973)
and "Qualitative Models" (Radnofsky, 1996) of the setting and culture
help construct a greater understanding of interpersonal relationships,
behavior, motivations, beliefs, and otherwise invisible characteristics
of complex organizations.
This course provides a thorough introduction to the naturalistic paradigm
using qualitative research, comparing and contrasting it with traditional,
statistical methods. It will involve the active participation of all
members, who have both personal as well as team obligations to design,
carry out, analyze, and report in narration and visually on a micro-qualitative
research study which they conduct from start to finish.
Participants organize into teams of "researchers" for their micro-research
studies. The presenter provides written and verbal guidelines, timelines,
and helpful hints for conducting trustworthy qualitative research.
Serious consideration must be given to issues of confidentiality,
anonymity, explicit consent, site entry and exit, and possible moral
dilemmas. Participants define their team's research problem in accordance
with criteria for significance, clarity, and ethics, and then organize
practical aspects of data collection in the micro-research study.
In the second half of this workshop, participants debrief both on
the content of their micro research studies and on the nature of participant-observer
qualitative research. This includes ethical practical problems which
may have arisen while they have been "in the field." Participants
work through sample data-coding and analysis procedures based on the
Chromacode Method (Radnofsky, 1994), which are briefly demonstrated,
to help organize their data and establish research trustworthiness.
Each team reports on the "Grounded Theory" that best explicates the
culture which they studied. We conclude the workshop by conducting
a brief focus group on the practical use qualitative research methodology
in the participants' educational institutions.
- Whole group discussion: What is Truth?
How do we establish it? How do views about it influence the choice
of methodology we use to find it?
- Write about five things that are true
(a) in the world; (b) in your institution.
- Teams: Discuss what kind
of truths were listed: empirical, logical, ethical, metaphysical.
- Observation exercise: What
do we see, hear, smell, etc. as human data-gathering instruments?
How do we record what we observe? What can we understand from
- Practical and ethical guidelines
for conducting trustworthy qualitative research.
- Teams work on defining a research
question which meets the criteria of significance, clarity,
and ethics for the micro-research study. Practical arrangements:
e.g. Who will take notes? Will there be interviews? Photographs?
Is audio or video-taping a possibility? Do you have consent? etc.
- In the Field: Conduct a
brief (one-hour or more) micro-ethnography, then discuss with
group members the issues of practical and ethical concern which
- Teams meet to debrief, compare observations
and field notes, organize documents, discuss findings with other
- Demonstration of Chromacode (data coding
and analysis procedures)
- Outline development of Qualitative Models
(visual representations of narrative data).
- Teamwork: Use Chromacode and brainstorm
to design a first draft of a Qualitative Model that fits their
data. Presenter rotates between teams to assist and make recommendations.
- Report of Findings: Each team gives a
10-minute narrative and visual report on the micro qualitative
research study they conducted.
- Focus Group Whole group discusses the
practical use of qualitative research in their own educational
Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y., Eds. (1994). Handbook of Qualitative
Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Eisner, E. (1991). The Enlightened Eye. New York: Macmillan Publishing
Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays.
New York: Basic Books.
Glaser, B. & Strauss, A. (1967) The Discovery of grounded theory:
Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Lincoln, Y. & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Beverly
Radnofsky, M. (1994). Minimizing Chaos in Qualitative Analyses of
Multiple Transcriptions the Chromacode Way. Paper presented at the
annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association,
New Orleans, LA.
Radnofsky, M. (December, 1996). Qualitative models: Visually representing
complex data in an image/text balance. Qualitative Inquiry.