Notes: Qualitative Research 1: intro

These class notes from the first EdGlo Qualitative Research seminar cover the basics: the differences between qualitative and quantitative research, course structure, assessments, preliminary discussions on purpose and approaches to research.


Division between qualitative and quantitative research indicates how research is provided

First few lectures about why, value, traditions etc., and then we will look at how we collect data, different methods of analysis, production of research plans and determining credibility and ethics of research projects. 

From October we will have some guest lecturers talking about specific approaches and issues in qualitative research, theoretical and concrete: e.g. feminism in qualitative research, action research, ethnography, narrative research, content and discourse analysis, phenomenography etc.

Group research project with research journal and presenting seminars and more practical work in Spring semester.

A lot of independent hours as course time is limited.


Essay: 4-8 page essay on methodological approach you choose, preparing for thesis, based on methodological literature. Limit on one specific method, and also consider chosen topic from the following aspects: epistemology, ontology, paradigm, validity and reliability.


In practice this means addressing the following questions:

  • What is the methodology you chose? Why?
  • How has this methodology been applied by different researchers? Provide examples.
  • What kind of knowledge can be produced with the methodology? (epistemology)
  • What is the object of interest in the methodology: predicting, understanding, emancipating or deconstructing? (identifying the paradigm)
  • Does the methodology present reality in terms of objectivism or subjectivism, or something in between, how come? (ontology)
  • How can the results produced by this methodology be assessed? (issues of validity, reliability, ethics)



no filler pages – evaluation is based on content, not length:

An expert essay (5) provides an informed and concise response to all the questions.

A good essay (3) addresses most questions in an informed and knowledgeable manner.

A passing (under 3) essay provides fairly systematic knowledge about a method

RESEARCH brainstorm:

  • What is scientific research?
  • What do you think ”doing research” means?
  • What do you think doing qualitative research means?

Qualitative research – inductive, descriptive research. Compared to quantitative is more statistical numerical based research.

Qualitative – what is? and why? How? – interviews, observations, theoretical readings, participants in project to interview etc.

Quantitative – how much? How many? – surveys, statistics, databases, participants to answer surveys etc.

Systematic investigation, a set process, analysis, ensure

Rational, logical, based on reason. Open to criticism, questioning and discussion, relative, dynamic and changing, cumulative, empirical.

Conventional science is positivist, but when science’s assumptions are rethought in interpretive or post-paradigms, it is not the same, that is:

Science is not the same in all paradigms in terms of ontology, epistemology and methodology.

Discussion on art:

M showed us different paintings and asked the question “which is art?”

Discussion: Creation, depends on intention, process, portrayal of meaning. What is the purpose? Vary from person to person, all answers can be justified. Role that art plays in pushing boundaries in society. Triggering emotions. Objective vs subjective.

^^ For every sentence / justification, substitute the word “art” for “science” or “research”. Science is more objective.

Painting metaphor: “Ways of seeing as well as ways of world making” – Hatch and Yanow, 2008

What is qualitative research?

Can be a field of research itself. Every answer leaves something else and will not be accepted by all qualitative researchers. Mix of traditions and orientations, methodologies, purposes etc.

“(…) a general term. It is a way of knowing in which a researcher gathers, organizes, and interprets information obtained from humans using his or her eyes and ears as filters. It often involves in-depth interviews and/ or observations of humans in natural, online, or social settings. It can be contrasted with quantitative research, which relies heavily on hypothesis testing, cause and effect, and statistical analyses.” (Lichtman 2013)

“an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyzes words, reports detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in a natural setting.” (Creswell 1998)

“(…) involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. (…) studied use  and collection of a variety of empirical materials – case study; personal experience, introspection, life story; interview; artefacts; cultural texts and productions; observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts – that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives” (Denzin and Lincoln 1994)


Start from ourselves e.g. if I am attracted to this methodology, what does that mean about my view of the world? Etc.


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