Develop a Research Proposal
Planning the Methodology - The Qualitative Pathway
If you are on this path, you have decided that the overall design of your project will take a qualitative approach.
As described before in Elements of the Proposal, there are three main types of qualitative research designs. You will need to decide which one is most appropriate for your research questions.
Historical research describes past events, problems, issues and facts. Data are gathered from written or oral descriptions of past events, artifacts, etc. It describes “what was” in an attempt to recreate the past. It is different from a report in that it involves interpretation of events and its influence on the present. It answers the question: “What was the situation?”
Ethnographic research develops in-depth analytical descriptions of current systems, processes, and phenomena and/or understandings of the shared beliefs and practices of a particular group or culture. This type of design collects extensive narrative data (non-numerical data) based on many variables over an extended period of time in a natural setting within a specific context. The background, development, current conditions, and environmental interaction of one or more individuals, groups, communities, businesses or institutions is observed, recorded, and analyzed for patterns in relation to internal and external influences. It is a complete description of present phenomena.
Narrative research focuses on studying a single person and gathering data through the collection of stories that are used to construct a narrative about the individual’s experience and the meanings he/she attributes to them.
Open the file Crafting the Proposal: III. The Methodology (Qualitative Path) and save it to your computer. Select and mark which one of the three types of research design you think your investigation will be.
Now it is time to consider your actual procedure. Most qualitative designs follow a similar structure in their steps because these designs are inductive in their reasoning. Inductive reasoning starts with research questions, but does not usually form an hypothesis. The researcher selects a general topic and then begins collecting information in the systematic processes and procedures of an investigation. The data collected during the investigation creates the hypothesis for the researcher in this research design model.
Qualitative research builds theory. Using inductive reasoning, cases are selected by a sampling process in which the researcher identifies new cases that are similar to previous cases. When these cases generate no new insights, the process is repeated with newly selected cases that yield different insights, again until no new insights are noted.
Here are some suggested steps:
The process ends when the researcher reaches “theoretical saturation,” the point at which no new data are emerging . Through this procedure emerging theories are grounded in data and are linked to other theories and research .
When cases do not fit into the common pattern (“negative” cases), researchers typically assess each to determine whether the case is a result of expected variation, the researcher's failure to consider the total range of behavior or situations that might fit a particular category, or truly exceptional (Marlow, 1993). In the presentation of findings, “negative” cases and common patterns are illustrated.
Because qualitative research often is not seen as objective in its methods, convincing your audience that your methods and results are reliable and trustworthy is also part of your proposal's methodology section. For each step in your procedures, be prepared to prove that your study is reliable and valid.
Ex: The researchers want to study how recent immigrants adapted to the manner in which students interact with each other in inner-city high schools. They will train high school students from each immigrant culture to collect observational and interview data. They explain that they chose this method of data collection because they assume that the students would be able to obtain more valid data than adult researchers could obtain. This explanation appears reasonable, and therefore it contributes to the chain of evidence supporting the soundness of the study's findings.
Now you need to go to your planning guide to being to think about and plan for your own qualitative methodology. There are several more steps for you to complete before you have had the chance to think through every element, but you should begin to record your ideas now. You can continue to revise your ideas as you move through these steps.