Qualitative Research Methods

There are several qualitative research methods that are commonly used across the globe. These include but not limited to action research, case study research, historical research, and ethnographic research.

Action Research

This is a type of applied research that is conducted primarily to improve educational practices, including management of the classroom, classroom practices and interaction, classroom instruction, among others.

Steps in action research cycle

  1. Initiation – identifies a pedagogy-related problem
  2. Preliminary investigation – collects baseline data through observation and classroom interaction
  3. Hypothesis – form hypothesis based on the data
  4. Intervention – devises strategies to solve the problem
  5. Evaluation – evaluates the result of the intervention
  6. Dissemination – prevents findings in a forum
  7. Follow up – investigates alternative solution to the same problem

Action Research Data Collection Approaches

  • Teacher self- reflection tools – these are designed to be completed by teachers to evaluate their performance in the areas identified on the self-reflection tool. These tools usually are in the form of a checklist, rating scale, or questionnaire.
  • Media recording and analysis  – this uses media-like audio or video recording to record a sample of teacher performance for subsequent analysis by the teacher, peer or both. Micro-teaching is one example of media recording.
  • Student feedback tools – this is similar to the self- reflection tool except that the students, instead of the teacher, complete the forms. Teacher- made questionnaire, minute surveys and journals are examples of sources of student feedback.
  • Student performance data – include all student products that can be used to help teachers assess their own instructional effectiveness.  Test results, essays, classroom projects, and the like are examples of students’ performance data.
  • External or peer observation – involves having a peer or colleague observe, assess, or provide suggestions about an aspect of the teacher’s practice such as questioning behavior, lesson organization or feedback to students.
  • Journaling – requires the teacher to maintain and reflect on a record of classroom events or activities with the intent of recognizing recurring problems, wants, successes, or needs.
  • Collegial dialogue, experience sharing, and joint problem solving- all of these encourage collaboration among teachers to discuss common problems, share procedures, and strategies, and compare perceptions. Exposure to the ideas and practices of colleagues is a potent strategy for teacher reflection and change.

Case Study Research

This type of research is an in-depth study of cases that include an individual, a group, and a community.  This investigates the perspective of the participants involved in the phenomenon or issue.

Historical Research

This is the study of the past phenomenon for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of present institutions, practices, trends, and issues.

Purposes of Historical Research

  • to make people aware of what has happened in the past so   they may learn from past failure or success
  • to learn how things were done in the past to see if they  might be applicable to present day problems and concerns
  • to assist in prediction
  • to test hypotheses concerning relationships or trends

Types of Sources

  1. Primary Sources– this is a direct report of an event by an individual who actually observed or participated in it.
  2. Secondary Sources – these are documents prepared by an individual who was not a direct witness to an event, but who obtained his or her description of the event from someone else.

Categories of Sources

  • Documents – these are written or printed materials that have been produced in some form or another. Examples of these are annual reports, artwork, bills, books, cartoons, circulars, records, diaries, diplomas, newspapers, among others. They may be handwritten, printed, typewritten, drawn or sketched; published or unpublished; intended for private or public consumption; original or copies. Therefore, documents pertain to any kind of information that exists in some type of written or printed form.
  • Numerical records – these include test scores, attendance figures, consensus reports, budgets, and the like.
  • Oral statements – these include stories, myths, tales, legends, chants, songs and other forms of oral expression that have been used by people down through the ages to leave a record for future generations.
  • Relics –These are objects whose physical or visual characteristics can provide some information about the past. Examples include furniture, artwork, clothing, buildings, monuments, or equipment.

Ethnographic Research

In anthropology, an in-depth study of the features of life in a given culture and the patterns in those features.

Characteristics of Ethnography Research

  • Contextual – the research is carried out in the context in which the subjects normally live or work.
  • Unobtrusive – the researcher avoids manipulating the phenomenon under investigation
  • Longitudinal – the research is relatively long term.
  • Collaborative – the researcher carries out interpretative analyses of the data in cooperation with other people, e.g. the natives in a community
  • Organic – there is interaction between questions/hypothesis and data collection/interpretation

Types of  Research Participants

  • Participant–Observer role – In quantitative research, the observer’s assumption of a meaningful identity within the group being observed, but that does not involve engaging in activities that are at the core of the group’s identity
  • Observer-Participant role – In quantitative research, the observer’s maintenance of a posture of detachment while collecting research data in a setting, but with causal interaction with the individuals or groups being studied as necessary.
  • Complete observer – the researcher observes the activities of a group without in any way becoming a participant in those activities.  The subjects of the researcher’s observation may or may not realize that they are being observed.
  • Complete participant – the identity is not known to any of the individuals being observed.  The researcher interacts with the group as naturally as possible.

Types of effects on the participants

  • Hawthorne’s Effect – An observed change in the participants’ behavior based on their awareness of participating in an experiment, their knowledge of research hypothesis or their response to receiving special attention
  • Halo effect – the tendency for the observer’s early impressions of an individual being observed to influence the observer’s ratings of all variables involving the same individual
  • Observer effect – any action or bias of an observer to record the occurrence of a behavior that fits one of the categories in the observational schedule.