Qualitative research has an interesting history, compelling implications for present research, and an intriguing way of evolving, such that future qualitative studies will differ from past. A manner of research that is rather encompassing, I find the definition of qualitative research provided by Denzin and Lincoln (2005) to be of particular worth:
Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible. These practices transform [italics added] the world... This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. (p. 3)In transforming the world into “a series of representations, including field notes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos to the self” (p. 3) the research can then better define him or herself in relation to the world, further defining the world in the process. I find this entire process to be fascinating.
Another idea that I find to be as interesting in its ramifications as it is difficult in its application is openness inherent within qualitative research. While a part of me is troubled by “the open, emergent nature of qualitative inquiry” – and hence its innate “lack of standardization” (Glesne, p. 19) – another part of me screams with joy in reaction to this implied freedom. To be able to consistently “push the envelope” offers tremendous promise for I deem the ever-changing nature of such research design to be extremely refreshing.
To be clear, I am particularly drawn toward two particular strands within the overarching concept of qualitative research: Action research and Postmodernism. I am intrigued by the possibilities that action research may hold because it “has experienced popularity again, particularly in education, as a way to improve practice” (Glesne, 2006, p. 17). As one that hopes to assume an effective role as a change agent (Rogers, 2003, p. 27) in education, I see action research – with such a focus on improvement – as a particularly promising paradigm.
Postmodernism, on the other hand, has proven to be equally compelling – particularly in how postmodernism is “marked by globalization, the spread of information technologies, and the fragmentation of nation-states” (Glesne, p. 18). My current professional position as a Technology Curriculum Specialist in the Jordan School District – and our current emphasis on global collaboration and other 21st Century skills – has led me to further inclinations to conduct research within this exciting field. Nonetheless, I don’t see postmodernism (or at least Glesne’s representation of it) as perfect. Particularly, I actually do think that there are many universal truths to be discovered – in spite of Delamont’s (2002, p. 157) claim to the contrary. Even though I can empathize with the postmodern doubt in the ability of Western science to solve all of the world’s problems, absolute truth – as I see it – can be discovered in time and through scientific and personal inquiry.
In conclusion, I look forward to learning more about qualitative research and hope to discover different ways that it can be used throughout my career.
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N.K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 1-32). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Glesne, C. (2006). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.
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