Merrium Ch1-2: The Design of Qualitative Research

What is Qualitative Research?
This chapter helps us to understand the basic concept of qualitative research. Qualitative research can be divided into three orientation and five majors.

Three Orientations to Research
There are three perspectives to conduct the research that are positivist interpretive and critical research. Differences among these three philosophical orientations can be distinguished by different tenets and purposes. The three orientations are distinguished as following

Positivist Knowledge gains through scientific and experimental research. Researcher desires to gain knowledge form existing reality. They are objective and quantifiable. An obvious methodology is logical deductive reasoning.
Interpretive Multiple realities are socially constructed by individual. Research wants to gain the knowledge form the society. As a result, the main methodology to conduct interpretive orientation is abductive reasoning.
Critical Research Epistemology is considered a social designed. Researcher needs to design the theory form existing information. This research perspective interests more on inductive reasoning.

Characteristic of Qualitative Research
Qualitative research has many form of inquiry. However, all of them help us to explain the social phenomenon. The key philosophical assumption upon which all types of qualitative research are based on the belief that reality is constructed by individuals links with their social world. There are five characteristics on quantitative research.

Firstly, qualitative research “are interested in understanding the meaning people have constructed” (Merriam, 1998, p.6). Secondly, “the researcher is the primary instrument for data collection and analysis” (Merriam, 1998, p.7). Thirdly, qualitative research is usually involves fieldwork (Merriam, 1998, p.7). Fourthly, qualitative research primarily employs an inductive research strategy (Merriam, 1998, p.7). Finally, the product of a qualitative study is richly descriptive (Merriam, 1998, p.8).

Major Type of Qualitative Research
•Basic or Generic Qualitative Study
A simple quantitative research tries to discover and understand the phenomenon or process or perspective view of the people involved.
•An Ethnographic Study
An Ethnographic Study presents a social culture analysis of the unit of study. It is firstly define the method than collect the data and write a record by ethnographic technique.
A study investigates more on ‘subjective experiences’. In other words, the focus of phenomenological study is on the real meaning or structure of an individual group experience. The researcher might then bring the experience of our learning into consciousness, analyze it and try to interpret the meaning.
•Grounded Theory
An ultimate result form quantitative research is a theory. This type of research tries to develop ‘a substantive theory’ that has a specific reference. A substantive theory consists of categories, properties, and hypothesis. Categories and properties are used to define and support the element of the theory while the hypotheses are the relationship among categories and properties that can be test in qualitative study.
•Case Study
A case study is employed to gain in-depth understanding of the situation and meaning for those involved. Like other qualitative study, it interests in process, context, and discovery that generate form single unit or bounded system.

In summary, each type of qualitative research can be distinguished form the others in terms of disciplinary orientation (ethnography, phenomenology), function (grounded theory), or form (case study, basic generic qualitative study). (Merriam, 1998, p.20)

Table 1.2 Common Types of Qualitative Research in Education

Type Characteristics
Basic or Generic Includes description, interpretation, and understanding, Indentifies recurrent patterns in the form of themes or categories, May delineate a process
Ethnographic Focuses on society and culture, Uncovers and describes beliefs, value, and attitudes that structure behavior of a group
Phenomenology Is concerned with essence or basic structure of a phenomenon, Use data that are the participant’s and the investigator’s firsthand experience of the phenomenon
Grounded Theory Is designed to inductively build a substantive theory regarding some aspect of practice, Is “grounded” in the real world
Case Study In intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single unit of bounded system, Can be combined with any of the above types

The researcher
The qualitative researcher must have an enormous tolerance for ambiguity. This is because the best way to proceed will not always be obvious. Sensitivity is a second attribute needed in qualitative research. The researcher must be sensitive to the information being gathered and aware of any personal biases. Finally, the good qualitative researcher must be a good communicator. A good reporter emphasizes with respondent, establishes understanding, ask good questions, and listens intently. However, being good communicator involve more than oral skills. Researcher need to be able to express the perception by writing in qualitative research. These all skill need to be train and practice always to gain more experience in this type of research.

This chapter reviews the foundation information beginning with the positivist-quantitative, interpretive-qualitative, and critical-philosophical orientation toward research. Moreover, characteristic and major and Type of Qualitative Research are described in detail. Finally, the chapter ends with the essential characteristic of qualitative researcher.

Case studies as Qualitative Research

Case Study Defined

Case study research can be defined in terms of the research process. “A case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident” is defined by Yin (1994, p.13). An important word is bounded system. It is really say that finite data collection would be whether there is a limit to the number of people involved who could be explored or interviewed, or finite amount of time for observations. Another key of quantitative research is non-obviousness. Unlike experimental, survey, or historical research, case study does not claim any particular methods of data collection or data analysis. All methods of gathering data, from testing to interviewing, can be used in a case study, although certain techniques are used more than others are. In general, the case study focuses more on aggregate description and explanation.

The case study can be categorized as being particularistic, descriptive and heuristic. Olson (in Hoaglin and others, 1982, pp. 138-139) describes three statements reflect the case study as follow
1. Particularistic:
The case studies focus on a particular situation, event, or phenomenon. It can suggest to the reader what to do or not to do in similar situation. However, author’s bias has to be controlled.
2. Descriptive:
The ultimate product of the case studies is description of the phenomenon under study. Then, it can illuminate complex situation in the present. Nevertheless, we have to understand that although it obtains information form a variety source, the influences of personalities and passage of time issues still arise.
3. Heuristic:
The case studies bring about the discovery of new meaning, extend the reader’s experience, or confirm what is known. It should explain the reason for the problems, evaluate the solutions, estimate alternatives, summarize and conclude to increase its potential applicability.

Therefore, case study is different form other research knowledge. It is concrete, contextual, more developed by reader interpretation, and based more on reference populations determined by the reader.

Type of Qualitative Case Studies

The case study can be grouped in many ways. Three main grouping systems are disciplinary orientation, overall intent, and multiple case studies.

• Disciplinary Orientation
o An ethnographic case study is a study in the focus that investigate more on culture and behavior of a group study
o A historical case study is the study that uses the historiography as its primary source material.
o A psychological case study is a study that employs concepts, theories, and techniques form psychology in investigates the problem.
o A sociological case study is the study in attending to construct of society and socialization in studying phenomena.
• Overall Intent
o A descriptive case study is the study in presenting a detailed account of the phenomenon under study.
o An interpretative case study contains the description. However, these descriptions are used to develop conceptual categories or illustrate, support, or challenge theoretical assumptions held prior to the date gathering.
o An evaluative case study is the study that includes not only description but also explanation, and judgment.
• Multiple Case Studies
o A Collective case study is the study that involves collecting and analyzing that may have subunit or subcase.
o Cross-case is investigate more than single unit of the study in one case study.
o Multicase or multisite studies or comparative case studies are the studies that try to find more than one question such as how, where, and why, if possible.

In conclusion, case studies can be identified by their disciplinary orientation, or intent, or both.

Strengths and Limitations of Case Studies

Generally, merits of a case study are related to its rationale of plan and sample selection. The key strength of the case study research is the predictive nature of the research finding. However, the limitation of a case study is also obvious because it is specific. The reader should always keep in mind that they cannot tent to use the result for a whole society because it is, in fact, a part. Further concern about case study research is what Guba and Lincoln (1981) refer to as “unusual problems of ethics. An unethical case writer could so select form among available data that virtually anything he wished could be illustrated” (p.378). Further, case study has limitations of its reliability, validity, and generalizability. As Hamel (1993, p.23) observes, “the case study has basically been faulted for its lack of representitiveness … and its lack of rigor in the collection, construction, and analysis of the empirical materials that give rise to this study. This lack of rigor is linked to problem bias … introduced by the subjectivity of the researcher.

This chapter explains the case study beginning with the definitions. It further clarifies type of qualitative case studies. Finally, the chapter ends with strengths and limitations of case studies.

Merrium, B. Sharan, (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education
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