Friday, February 6, 2009

Qualitative Research Design (Creswell, 2007)

Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions (2nd Ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

In Chapter 5, through five different short articles that illustrate good models, Creswell (2007) successfully presents basic characteristics of five methodologies that reflect qualitative research in the social, behavioral, and health science literature. The five methods of approach Creswell describes are for more effective qualitative research design and procedures. They may be summed up as follows: First, a narrative study is to examine single individual life experiences when the person is willing to share and documents or other archival material is accessible. Second, a phenomenology study is to focus on understanding of a concept or phenomenon or the meaning of the lived experiences of individuals about the phenomenon. Third, a grounded theory is to develop a theory. Fourth, ethnography is to describe or determine the behaviors of a culture-sharing group. Fifth, a case study is to research the study of an issue explored, bounded in time or place and contexts. Unfortunately, Creswell’s five methods of approach were largely built upon personal experience and various literature on qualitative research within the realms of the social, behavioral, and health science literature. His methodology displays some of the limitations and shortcomings of qualitative research. This paper identifies one major merit of postmodern perspectives, one of qualitative research interpretations and one major flaw of qualitative research. 

The first matter of great concern for the merit of postmodern perspectives in relation to qualitative research is its ability to establish the standards of interpretation within various perspectives. Creswell defines postmodern perspectives as follows: “The basic concept is that knowledge claims must be set within the conditions of the world today and in the multiple perspectives of class, race, gender, and other group affiliations” (p. 25). “Within the conditions of the world today” and “in the multiple perspectives” refers to observation and analysis of events and incidents from various angles. For instance, in Appendix C, Cognitive Representations of AIDS (a phenomenological study) may offer postmodern perspectives on AIDS patients’ cognitive representations of their illness using categorization under gender, nationality, and age. However, a postmodern perspective, while beneficial for interpreting incidents from various mindsets, may not lend itself to a clear, concise definition because of its variations. 

The second matter of concern regarding possible flaws of qualitative research is ambiguous, personal definition of terms. “Definition of terms” derived from multiple literatures offers cogent standards of interpretations of certain incidents and personal experience from an objective point of view, thus preventing bias. According to Creswell (2007), such “definitions of terms” lack academic weight in qualitative research for participants’ definitions are of more significance. If a research project only vaguely portrays its essential quality of subjectivity, the credibility of the researcher may be at stake. In this respect, a qualitative researcher has to maintain the perfect balance between personal experience and theory or perspectives.

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