Frequently Asked QuestionsLinksContact Us
The Socrates Institute  
The Socrates Institute
About UsClass Room CurriculumProfessional DevelopmentLessonsResearchNews and Eventssponsorshow to contribute


If The Truth(s) Be Known:

An Introduction to Qualitative Research

Course Description:

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 inductive reasoning).

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.

Course Outline
Session 1
  1. 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?
  2. 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 these observations?
  • 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 arose.

Session 2

  • Teams meet to debrief, compare observations and field notes, organize documents, discuss findings with other groups, etc.
  • 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 institutions.

Excerpted Readings:

Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y., Eds. (1994). Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Eisner, E. (1991). The Enlightened Eye. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
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 Hills: Sage.
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.



CyberEthics Project

Home | About Us | Research | Curricula | Lessons | Sponsors |
Prof. Development | Press Room | Contribute | Contact Us


The Socrates Institute