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Michael Quinn Patton

To the faculty and learners of The Union Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio,
for their friendship and scholarship, and their commitments to
methodological eclecticism, interdisciplinary inquixy, integration of
theory and practice, valuing both reflection and action, scholarship
that is socially relevant and meaningful, individualized professional
and personal development, lifelong learning/ social justice and equity,
human diversty and global community; a scholarly community
governed by principies and processes rather than rules and
regulations, and iimovations in learning-centered, nontraditional
doctoral education, including faculty meetings that are interesting
and important, an indication of innovation of the highest order
F A C U L D A D E DE n-wc



Michael Quinn Patton



| /Q^
/vSage Publications
4 SC I X I International Educational and ProfessionaI Publisher
Thousand Oaks London New Delhi
Copyright 2002 by Sage Publications, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Patton, Michael Quinn.

Qualitative research and evaluation methods / by Michael Quinn
Patton. 3rd ed.
p. cm.
Rev. ed. of: Qualitative evaluation and research methods. 2nd ed. 1990. )
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-7619-1971-6
1. Social sciencesMethodology. 2. Evaluation research (Social
action programs). I. Patton, Michael Quinn. Qualitative evaluation and
research methods. II. Title.
H62.P3218 2001
300'.7'23dc21 2001005181

04 05 06 10 9 8 7 6 5 4

Acquiring Editor: C. Deborah Laughton

Editorial Assistant: Vernica Novak
Production Editor: Diana E. Axelsen
Editorial Assistant: Kathryn Joumey
Copy Editor: Kate Peterson
Typesetter/Desigtier: Janelle LeMaster
Cover Designer: Michelle Lee
BHef (Confervfs

Preface xxi

PjA"RTT 1 . Conceptual Issues in Qualitative Inquiry 1

1. The Nature of Qualitative Inquiry 3

2. Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiry 37
3. Varie ty in Qualitative Inquiry: Theoretical Orientations 75

4. Particularly Appropriate Qualitative Applications 143

P A R T 2 . Qualitative Designs and Data Collection 207

5. Designing Qualitative Studies 209
6. Fieldwork Strategies and Observation Methods 259
7. Qualitative Interviewing (^339^

P j A R T 3 . Analysis, Interpretation, and Reporting 429

8. Qualitative Analysis and Interpretation (431^)

9. Enhancing the Quality and Credibility of Qualitative Analysis

References RI
Author Index 11
Subject Index 113

About the Author Al

Defailed (Zov\

Preface xxi

P . A R T 1 , Conceptual Issues in Qualitative Inquiry 1

1. The Nature of Qualitative Inquiry 3

The Fruit of Qualitative Methods 3
|ggSj||i Three Kinds of Qualitative Data 4
Recognizing Qualitative Data 4
Qualitative Findirigs: Themes, Patterns/ Concepts, Insights, Understandings 5

E H 1 H Women's Ways of Knowing: An Example of

Qualitative Frndings 7
Coming-of-Age Paradigms 9
Different Purposes of and Audiences for Qualitative Studies:
Research, Evaluation, Dissertations, and Personal Inquiry 9
Making Methods Decisions 12
Methods Choices: Contrasting Qualitative and Quantitative Emphases 12
m U l i ^ l U B i Some Guiding Questions and Options for Methods Decisions 13
Comparing Two Kinds of Data: An Example 14
The Power of Qualitative Data 17
Face Validity and Credibility 20
The Purpose of Open-Ended Responses 20
Inquiry by Observation 21
The Raw Data of Qualitative Inquiry 26
People-Oriented Inquiry 27
The Fruit of Qualitative Methods Revisited 28
^ ^ [ f f l g Internet E-mail Discussion Groups (listservs)
on Qualitative Methods 29

Between-Chapters Interlude:
Top Ten Pieces of Advice to a Graduate Student
Considering a Qualitative Dissertation 31

2. Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiry 37

General Principies 37
The Purpose of a Strategic Framework 38
Design Strategies for Qualitative Inquiry 39
Naturalistic Inquiry 39
|X]J|||]||9I Themes of Qualitative Inquiry 40
Emergent Design Flexibility 43
Purposeful Sampling 45
Data Collection and Fieldwork: Strategies for Qualitative Inquiry 47
Qualitative Data 47
Direct Personal Experience and Engagement: Going Into the Field 47
Empathic Neutrality 49
Empathy and Insight 51
A Dynamic, Developmental Perspective 54
Analysis Strategies for Qualitative Inquiry 55
Unique Case Orientation 55
Inductive Analysis and Creative Synthesis 55
Holistic Perspective 58
Context Sensitivity 61
Voice and Perspective: Reflexivity 63
i i Reflexive Questions: Triangulated Inquiry 66
From Strategic Ideais to Practical Choices 66
Beyond Competing Inquiry Paradigms 68
Pragmatism 71
Ideal Conditions for Research: A Cautionary Tale 72
3. Variety in Qualitative Inquiry: Theoretical Orientations 75
Special Gifts 75
From Core Strategies to Rich Diversity 76
Which Approach Is Right? 77
Alternative Ways of Distinguishing Qualitative Traditions 79
Foundational Questions 80
Theoretical Traditions and Orientations 81
Ethnography 81
B J M I Culture, Culture Everywhere: Sample of Media Headlines 83
Autoethnography and Evocative Forms of Inquiry 84
l52jm[|lBS9 Varieties of Autoethnography: A Partial Lexicology 85
Truth and Reality-Oriented Correspondence Theory:
Positivist, Realist, and Analytic Induction Approaches 91
Social Construction and Constructivism 91
Constructivism Versus Constructionism 97
Phenomenology 104
Heuristic Inquiry 107
Qualitative Heuristics: A German Alternative Tradition 109
Ethnomethodology 110
Symbolic Interaction 112
Hermeneutics 113
Narra tology or Narrative Analysis 115
Ecological Psychology 118
A Systems Perspective and Systems Theory 119
Chos and Complexity Theory: Nonlinear Dynamics 123
Grounded Theory 124
Complexity (Chos) Theory Precepts and Qualitative
Inquixy Implications 126
Orientational Qualitative Inquiry: Feminist Inquiry Criticai Theory
and Queer Theory as Examples 129
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry: Different Answers to Core Questions 131
XO^KKI Variety in Qualitative Inquiry: Theoretical Traditions 132
Pragmatism 135

B B Sample Internet E-mail Discussion Groups (listservs) and

Sites Relevant to Qualitative Inquiry and Theory 136
The Apple of Your Eye 137
APPENDIX 3.1. Example of Autoethnographic Writing 138
4. Particularly Appropriate Qualitative Applications 143
Apprenticeship in Pragmatism 143
Practical Purposes and Concrete Questions 145
A Focus on Quality 145
Quality Assurance and Program Evaluation 147
^^^QQOm Comparing Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance 149
Evaluation Applications 151
Outcomes Evaluation 151
Evaluating Individualized Outcomes 152
I I B e h i n d the Numbers of an Employment Program:
The Story of Li 155
Process Studies 159
Implementation Evaluation 161
Logic Models and Theories of Action 162
Evaluability Assessments 163
Comparing Programs: Focus on Diversity 163
155181131111 Types of Teacher Centers 166
Prevention Evaluation 166
Documenting Development Over Time and Investigating
System Changes 167
From Evaluation Issues to Evaluation Models 168
Evaluation Models 169
Goal-Free Evaluation 169
Transaction Models: Responsive and Illuminative Evaluation 171
Connoisseurship Studies 172
Utilization-Focused Evaluation 173
Interactive and Participatory Applications 175
Personalizing and Humanizing Evaluation 175
Harmonizing Program and Evaluation Values 176
Developmental Applications: Action Research, Action Learning,
Reflective Practice, and Learning Organizations 177
j^QQJ^yjQQI Common Principies Undergirding Qualitative Inquiry
and Humanistic Values 177
Matching Program Philosophy and Evaluation Approach:
An Illustration 178
Appreciative Inquiry 181
Participatory Research and Evaluation: Valuing and Facilitating
Collaboration 182
Principies of Fully Participatory and Genuinely
Collaborative Inquiry 185
Supporting Democratic Dialogue and Deliberation 185
Supporting Democracy Through Process Use: Helping the
Citizenry Weigh Evidence and Think Evaluatively 187
Special Applications 191
The Need for Unobtrusive Measures 191
State-of-the-Art Considerations: Lack of Proven Quantitative
Instrumentation 192
Confirmatory and Elucidating Research: Adding Depth, Detail,
and Meaning to Quantitative Analyses 193
Rapid Reconnaissance 194
Capturing and Communicating Stories 195
Example of a "Most Significant Change" Story 197
Legislative Auditing and Monitoring 198
Futuring Applications: Anticipatory Research and Prospective
Policy Analysis 200
Breaking the Routine: Generating New Insights 202
Summary: A Vision of the Utility of Qualitative Methods 202
Qualitative Inquiry Applications: Summary Checklist
of Particularly Appropriate Uses of Qualitative Methods 204
EXHIBIT 4.9 Sample Internet E-mail Discussion Groups (listservs)
and Sites Relevant to Qualitative Applications and Practice 205

P A R T 2 . Qualitative Designs and Data Collection 207

5. Designing Qualitative Studies 209

The First Evaluation 209
A Meta-Evaluation 211
Clarity About Purpose: A Typology 213
Basic Research 215
EXHIBIT 5.1 Fundamental Disciplinary Questions 216
Applied Research 217
Sample Interdisciplinary Applied Research Questions 218
Evaluation Research: Summative and Formative 218
Action-Oriented, Problem-Solving Research 221
The Purpose of Purpose Distinctions 222
Examples of Types of Research Questions: A Family Research Example 223
Criticai Trade-Offs in Design 223

A Typology of Research Purposes 224

^QQQQ^IjQQI Family Research Example: Research Questions

Matched to Research Category 225
Breadth Versus Depth 227
Units of Analysis 228
Purposeful Sampling 230
f ^ j ^ j j j Q Q Examples of Units of Analysis for Case Studies and
Comparisons 231
Information-Rich Cases 242
Sample Size 242
B a Sampling Strategies 243
Emergent Designs and Protection of Human Subjects 246
Methodological Mixes 247
Triangulation 247
Mixing Data, Design, and Analysis Approaches 248
The Case of Operation Reach-Out: Variations in Program
Evaluation Design 249
Altemative Pure and Mixed Strategies 251
E 3 J Measurement, Design, and Analysis:
Pure and Mixed Combinations 252
Design and Methods Decisions 253
Design Issues and Options 254
Choices 257

6. Fieldwork Strategies and Observation Methods 259

To Understand the World 260
Folk Wisdom About Human Observation 261
The Value of Direct Observations 264
Observation-Based Evaluation and Applied Research in a
Political World 265
Variations in Observational Methods 265
Variations in Observer Involvement: Participant or Onlooker or Both? 265
Insider and Outsider Perspectives: Emic Versus Etic Approaches 267
Who Conducts the Inquiry? Solo and Team Versus Participatory
and Collaborative Approaches 269
Overt Versus Covert Observations 273
Variations in Duration of Observations 273
Variations in Observational Focus 275
Dimensions Along Which Fieldwork Varies: An Overview 276
What to Observe: A Sensitizing Framework 276
KQ^njnnQn Dimensions Showing Fieldwork Variations 277
Sources of Data 279
E P ^ ^ m Examples of Sensitizing Concepts 280
The Setting 280
B H J i n Example of Combining Description and Metaphor
to Provide a Sense of Place 282
The Human, Social Environment 283
Historical Perspectives 284
Planned Program Implementation Activities and Formal Interactions 285
Informal Interactions and Unplanned Activities 285
The Native Language of the Program 288
Nonverbal Communication 290
Unobtrusive Observations 291
Documents 293
Observing What Does Not Happen 295
Nested and Layered Case Studies Dnring Fieldwork 297
Observing Oneself 299
Nested, Layered, and Overlapping Mini-Case Studies
During Fieldwork: Example From the Wilderness
Education Program Evaluation 300
Sources of Data Reviewed 301
Creativity in Fieldwork 302
Doing Fieldwork: The Data-Gathering Process 302
Field Notes 302
EXHIBIT 6.5 Fieldnotes Comparisons 304
Procedurally Speaking 305
Observations, Interviews, and Documentation: Bringing Together
Multiple Perspectives 306
The Technology of Fieldwork and Observation 307
Stages of Fieldwork 310
Entry Into the Field 310
What You Say and What You Do 314
Routinization of Fieldwork: The Dynamics of the Second Stage 317
Key Informants 321
Bringing Fieldwork to a Close 322
Evaluation Feedback 324
The Observer and What Is Observed: Unity and Separation 326
The Personal Experience of Fieldwork 329
A Part of and Apart From the World Observed 329
Summary Guidelines for Fieldwork 330

^ ^ Q H Q Summary Guidelines for Fieldwork 330

Between-Chapters Interlude:
Outside to Inside, Inside to Outside: Shifting Perspectives 333
Preface 335
"Nothing About Us, Without Us" 335
Barbara Lee
Qualitative Interviewing 339
Beyond Silent Observation 339
Rigorous and Skillful Interviewing 340
Inner Perspectives 340
Variations in Qualitative Interviewing 341
The Informal Conversational Interview 342
The Interview Guide 343
The Standardized Open-Ended Interview 344
QJQ^QQH Evaluation Interview Guide for Participants in an
Employment Training Program 345
Combining Approaches 347
Summary of Interviewing Strategies 348
Question Options 348
Experience and Behavior Questions 348
M i Variations in Interview Instrumentation 349
Opinion and Values Questions 350
Feeling Questions 350
Knowledge Questions 350
Sensory Questions 350
Background/Demographic Questions 351
Distinguishing Question Types 351
The Time Frame of Questions 351
HxffiHHHKB A Matrix of Question Options 352
Sequencing Questions 352
Wording Questions 353
Asking Truly Open-Ended Questions 353
The Horns of a Dichotomy 354
Asking Singular Questions 358
Clarity of Questions 361
Why to Take Care Asking "Why?" 363
Rapport and Neutrality 365
Neutral Questions 365
Using Illustrative Examples in Questions 366
Role-Playing and Simulation Questions 367
Presupposition Questions 369
Alternative Question Forma ts 370
Prefatory Statements and Announcements 370
Probes and Follow-Up Questions 371
Process Feedback During the Interview 374
Support and Recognition Responses 375
Maintaining Control and Enhancing the Quality of Responses 375
The One-Shot Question 378
The Final or Closing Question 379
Beyond Technique 379
Mechanics of Gathering Interview Data 380
Recording the Data 380
BSSBFFHHHI Tins fnr Taoe-Rerordine: Interviews: How to Keeo
Transcribers Sane 382
Taking Notes During Interviews 383
After the Interview 383
Special Applications and Issues 385
Think-Aloud Protocol Interviewing 385
Focus Group Interviews 385
Group Interviews 390
Cross-Cultural Interviewing 391
Language Differences 392
Differing Norms and Values 393
Beyond Standard Interviewing: Creative Qualitative Modes of Inquiry 394
Participant Interview Chain 396
Data Collection by Program Staff 397
j M S I U I I I ^ S Training Nonresearchers as Focus Group Interviewers:
Women Leaving Prostitution 399
Interactive Group Interviewing and Dialogues 400
Creativity and Data Quality: Qualitative Bricolage 400
Specialized and Targeted Interview Approaches 402
Ethical Challenges in Qualitative Interviewing 405
Informed Consent and Confidentiality 407
i s a y n n i l i s i Ethical Issues Checklist 408
New Directions in Informed Consent: Confidentiality
Versus People Owning Their Own Stories 411
Reciprocity: Should Interviewees Be Compensated? If So, How? 412
How Hard Should Interviewers Push for Sensitive Information? 415
Be Careful. It's Dangerous Out There. 415
Personal Reflections on Interviewing 416
An Interview With the King of the Monkeys 417
Halcolm on Interviewing 418
APPENDIX 7.1. Sample of a Detailed Interview Guide 419
APPENDIX 7.2. Examples of Standardized Open-Ended Interviews 422

P;A~RT 3 . Analysis, Interpretation, and Reporting 429

8. Qualitative Analysis and Interpretation 431

The Complete Analysis Isn't 431
The Challenge 432
Purpose as Context 434
When Does Analysis Begin? 436
Thick Description 437
Options for Organizing and Reporting Qualitative Data 439
Organizing the Data 440
Protecting Data 441
Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Management and Analysis 442
KMHHffifli Examples of Software Programs for Qualitative Analysis 444

I M l i l i Internet Resources and E-mail Discussion Groups (listservs)

on Qualitative Analysis 445
Case Studies 447

UJ23QE&I Case Study: Layers of Possible Analysis 448

From Data to Case Study 449
i B i l i i The Process of Constructing Case Studies 450
Pattern, Theme, and Content Analysis 452
Inductive and Deductive Qualitative Analyses 453
Indigenous Concepts and Practices 454
Sensitizing Concepts 456
Indigenous Typologies 457
Analyst-Constructed Typologies 458
||||]||||!gj Qualitative Analysis of Ancestry at the U.S. Census 461
The Intellectual and Mechanical Work of Analysis 462
Coding Data, Finding Patterns, Labeling Themes, and Developing
Category Systems 462
IMUflCT First-Cut Coding Examples: Sample Codes From the
Field Note Margins 464
Convergence and Divergence in Coding and Classifying 465
Determining Substantive Significance 467
Logical Analysis 468
^TQnnQgl An Empirical Typology of Teacher Roles in Dealing With
High School Dropouts 469
A Process/Outcomes Matrix 471
E B E B I Mapping Stakeholders' Stakes 472
Conceptual Guide for Data Collection and Analysis:
Utilization of Planmng, Evaluation, and Reporting 473
^yOQQQIP Matrix of Linkages Between Program Processes and Impacts 474
An Analysis Example: Recognizing Processes, Outcomes, and
Linkages in Qualitative Data 474
Interpreting Findings 477
Interpreting for Meaning 477
Comparisons, Causes, Consequences, and Relationships 478
Theory-Based Analysis Approaches 481
Phenomenological Analysis 482
Grounded Theory 487
Qualitative Comparative Analysis 492
Analytic Induction 493
Special Analytical Issues and Frameworks 494
Reflexivity and Voice 494
Collaborative and Participatory Analyses 496
The Hermeneutic Circle and Interpretation 497
Analyzing Institutional Documents 498
Dramaturgical Analysis 499
Finding Nothing 500
Synthesizing Qualitative Studies 500
Reporting Findings 502
Balance Between Description and Interpretation 503
Communicating With Metaphors and Analogies 504
Drawing Conclusions 506
Special Issues in Evaluation Reporting and an Example 506
Feedback and Analysis 506
Evaluative Feedback Using Indigenous Typologies 507
QJJ^QjJQ Distinguishing Observations From Perceived Impacts 509
To Write a Report or Not to Write a Report? 510
Focus 511
The Executive Summary and Research Abstract 511
I B g M i l l Utilization-Focused Evaluation Reporting 512
Carpe Diem Briefings 512
The Creativity of Qualitative Inquiry 512
The Past and the Future: Deciding in Which Direction to Look 515
APPENDIX 8.1. Excerpts From a Codebook for Use by Multiple Coders 516
APPENDIX 8.2. Mike: An Dlustrative Case Study 518
APPENDIX 8.3. Excerpts From an Illustrative Interview Analysis:
Reflections on Outcomes From Participants in a
Wilderness Education Program 525

Between-Chapters Interlude:
Riddles of Qualitative Inquiry: Who Am I? 537
Gary D. Shank

9. Enhancing the Quality and Credibility of Qualitative Analysis 541

Interpreting Truth 541
Alternative Criteria for Judging Quality 542
^^QQQyQQ Alternative Sets of Criteria for Judging the Quality
and Credibility of Qualitative Inquiry 544
Traditional Scientific Research Criteria 544
Social Construction and Constructivist Criteria 546
Artistic and Evocative Criteria 547
Criticai Change Criteria 548
Evaluation Standards and Principies 549
Clouds and Cotton: Mixing and Changing Perspectives 551
Credibility 552
Rigor: Strategies for Enhancing the Quality of Analysis 553
Integrity in Analysis: Generating and Assessing Rival Conclusions 553
Negative Cases 554
Triangulation 555
ISfflMKEl A Story of Triangulation: Testing Conclusions With
More Fieldwork 559
Design Checks: Keeping Methods and Data in Context 563
High-Quality Lessons Learned 564
I^Sn^QEQI High-Quality Lessons Leamed 565
The Credibility of the Researcher 566
Considering Investiga tor Effects: Varieties of Reactivity 567
Intellectual Rigor 570
The Paradigms Debate and Credibility 570
Beyond the Numbers Game 572
Beyond Objectivity and Subjectivity: New Concepts, New Language 574
Reflections on Truth and Utility as Criteria of Quality 577
From Generalizations to Extrapolations and Transferability 581
The Credibility Issue in Retrospect: Increased Legitimacy for
Qualitative Methods 584
Beyond the Qualitative-Quantitative Debate 584
Matching Claims and Criteria 587
APPENDIX 9.1. Case Study: A Documenter's Perspective 589

Refere nc es RI

Author Index II

Subject Index 113

About the Author Al


T he story is told that at the conclusion of a rigorous course in philoso-

phy, one of the students lamented: "Professor, you have knocked a
hole in everything I've ever believed in, but you have given me nothing to
take its place."
To which the philosopher replied: "You will recall that among the labors
of Hercules he was required to clean out the Augean stables. He was not, let
me point out, required to fill them,"

In doing this revision, I reviewed over a

W hile part of the task of this revi-

sion has been to clean out the
qualitative Augean stables, the
truly Herculean task has been deciding
thousand new books on qualitative meth-
ods, program evaluation, case studies,
monographs, and related works published
what to add. Unlike the professor who can in the last decade, as well as hundreds of ar-
be content with getting the stables cleaned, ticles scattered through scores of journals
the author of a revision bears responsibility covering the full range of disciplines and
for restocking the stables with fresh nutri- professions. Two important new qualita-
ents and feed, a task made especially chal- tive journals Qualitative Inquiry and Field
lenging because of the unprecedented Methodsbegan publication, as did spe-
blossoming of qualitative inquiry in recent cialized qualitative journals m a number of
years. professions (e.gv health, nursing, social

m. xxi

work, organizational development) and proaches are needed and credible, that
some devoted to specific approaches (e.g., mixed methods can be especially valuable,
Grounded Theory Reviezu). The Handbook of and that the challenge is to appropriately
Qualitative Research was published (1994), as match methods to questions rather than ad-
was a revision (2000), and the Handbook of hering to some narrow methodological or-
Methods in Cultural Anthropology (1998) thodoxy. With less need to establish the
made its debut. Sophisticated new software value of qualitative inquiry by debating
programs have been developed to support those of quantitative and experimental per-
qualitative analysis. Internet listservs have suasion, qualitative inquirers have turned
emerged to facilitate dialogue. The Hercu- their attention to eacli other, noticing that
lean challenge has been analyzing this geo- they are engaging in different kinds of quali-
metric growth to determine primary trends, tative inquiry from widely different per-
patterns, and themes. The results of that spectives. Qualitative methodologists and
analysis are reflected throughout this new theorists have thus taken to debating each
edition. other. The upshot of ali the developmental
The first edition of this book (1980), enti- work in qualitative methods is that there is
tled Qualitative Evaluation Methods, focused now as much variation among qualitative
on the variety of ways in which qualitative researchers as there is between qualitatively
methods were being applied in the then and quantitatively oriented scholars and
still-emergent profession of program evalu- evaluators. A primary purpose of this new
ation. (The American Evaluation Associa- edition is to sort out the major perspectives
tion was not established until 1984.) That in that debate, portray the diversity of quali-
edition appeared in the midst of the heated tative approaches now available, and exam-
qualitative-quantitative debate about the ine the influences of this diversity on appli-
relative value of different methods and al- cations, especially but not exclusively in
ternative paradigms. The second edition program evaluation, which has experienced
(1990), entitled Qualitative Evaluation and Re- a parallel flowering of diversity and atten-
search Methods, was influenced by maturing dant controversies about new directions.
of the paradigms debate. It included much
more attention to the ways in which differ-
ent theoretical and philosophical perspec-
tives influenced qualitative inquiry, as well !=l Organization of This Edition
as the greater range of applications in eval-
uation as that profession blossomed. This Chapter 1 provides a range of examples of
latest edition involves yet another change qualitative findings. I begin by presenting a
of title, Qualitative Research and Evaluation number of significant illustrations of the
Methods, reflecting the degree to which de- fruit of qualitative inquiry, in order to give a
velopments in qualitative inquiry during taste of what results from qualitative stud-
the la st decade have been driven by a diver- ies and help those new to such inquiry know
sifying research agenda and scholarly dia- where they are headed and what they are
logue, much of which has found its way into trying to produce. Chapter 2 reviews and
evaluation, to be sure. adds to the primary strategic themes that
The classic qualitative-quantitative de- define qualitative inquiry. Chapter 3 exam-
bate has been largely resolved with recogni- ines different qualitative approaches, in-
tion that a variety of methodological ap- cluding several that have emerged dis-
Preface |J. xxiii

tinctly in the last decade. Chapter 4 presents edition and traveled many qualitative
a wide range of qualitative applications, miles, the list of those to whom I am in-
many of them new, in evaluation, action re- debted is too long and the danger of leaving
search, and organizational, community, and out important influences too great for me to
international development. Chapters 5, 6, include such traditional acknowledge-
and 7 cover design and data gathering, of- ments here. I can only refer the reader to the
fering guidance in purposeful sampling, references and stories in the book as a start-
mixed methods, fieldwork, observational ing point.
approaches, and interviewing, with special I must, however, acknowledge cartoonist
attention directed to the skills and compe- Michael Cochran of Tupper Lake, New York,
tencies needed to gather high-quality data. who drew the many new illustrations in-
Chapter 8 provides direction and processes clude d here to lighten the reader's way
for analyzing qualitative data, always the along this journey. Our collaboration began
most challenging aspect of this work. at a Union Institute research methods semi-
Finally, Chapter 9 de ais with paradigms, nar he took while pursuing his doctorate in
politics, and ways of enhancing the credibil- professional psychology. His evaluation of
ity of qualitative inquiry. This chapter also the seminar include d cartoons. I liked his
presents what I consider to be the five dis- wit and style, so I offered ideas for cartoons
tinct and competing frameworks for under- on qualitative inquiry and he turned them
taking and judging the quality of qualitative into art. Doing the cartoons, he told me, was
studies: traditional scientific research crite- a wonderful distraction from writing his dis-
ria; social construction and constructivist sertation. Fm grateful for his humor and tal-
criteria; artistic and evocative criteria; criti- ent.
cai change criteria; and pragmatic, utility- The editorial and production staff at Sage
oriented evaluation standards and princi- Publications deserve special mention. Only
pies. Along the way I've added, as is my fellow authors who have struggled with edi-
wont, hundreds of new stories and exam- tors of limited vision and understanding can
ples. I've also created over 50 new exhibits fully appreciate what it means to work with
that summarize and illuminate major C. Deborah Laughton, an experienced and
points. knowledgeable editor who not only knows
qualitative methods and evaluation as
deeply as any practitioner of these arts, but
also has significantly shaped those fields by
tI. A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s conceptualizing works that she saw a need
for and then nurtuiing authors, which she
I began this preface by noting the Herculean does better than any editor I've ever known,
task of revision given the enormous growth to assure that those works came to fruition.
and increased diversity of qualitative in- That she is also a writer and designer has
quiry. One task proved more than Hercu- made our working together a genuine col-
lean, and I could not complete it. I began to laboration. Kate Peterson's skilled copyedit-
list the many colleagues and evaluation cli- ing added appreciably to the final product as
ents to whom I am indebted and who de- she made many suggestions for improving
serve acknowledgement for their contribu- clarity and readability, and I came to trust
tions to my understanding and writing over and even rely on her unusual eye for detail
the years. Now that I have reached this third Janelle Lemaster's interior design work con-

verted the raw maimscript into the carefully newborn child. (Having been left out of that
crafted book you now hold. Diana Axelsen decision, the newborn child subsequently
pulled it ali together as production editor to made it clear he didn't always agree.) The con-
get the book launched on schedule. I came to tribution of Jeanne to the book exemplifies
count on not only her great management why the personal and professional sometimes
competence but also her good humor. cannot and ought not be separated. Jeanne's
Finally, in acknowledging the superb Sage reflections on her own evaluation fieldwork
production team, I should also reprise the and interviewing experiences helped me clar-
preface to the first edition in which I noted ify and break through some particularly diffi-
that my initial foray into qualitative writing cult sections of the book. Her editorial advice
was due entirely to the persuasive powers was invaluable. Those were her tangible con-
of Sara Miller McCune, co-founder of Sage tributions; the intangibles she contributed are
Publications, who had shepherded the first the things that made the book happen.
edition of Utilization-Focused Evaluation (1978)
into print and, based on the perspective in
that book, urged me during a trip to Minne- Those intangibles and Jeanne's ongoing
sota in 1978 to write a qualitative compan- support have remained the mainstay of my
ion. Her vision and follow-through have writing. Meanwhile, the newborn child re-
made Sage Publications the leading pub- ferred to above, Quinn Campbell, has com-
lisher of both evaluation and qualitative in- pleted a master's degree in engineering, and
quiry books. his younger sister, Charmagne Campbell-
With the reader's indulgence, and by way Patton, is about to complete college. As this
of further providing a historical context for was being completed, their older brother,
this third edition, permit me to include an Braxidon Patton, participated in a two-day
excerpt from that first preface so maxty years workshop I conducted on qualitative meth-
ago: ods in preparation for his first evaluation
fieldwork, a sideline he has tumed to as a
As other authors know, there is no way to re- way of supporting his real passion, writing
ally recognize the contribution of one's family and performing rock music. Thus have the
to a book like this, the writing of which was a years passed, love maturing and children
struggle and matter of endurance for both growing, bringing forth the need to revise
family and author. While Sara Miller McCune the old, celebrate the new, and clean out the
was persuading me that the book should be qualitative Augean stables while restocking
written, Jeanne was persuading me that we them with fresh nutrients. It is those nutri-
could nurture together both a new book and a ents that follow.
pyvRT 1

Conceptual Issues
in Qualitative Inquiry

Psychometricians try to measure it

Experimentalists try to control it.
Interviewers ask questions about it.
Observers watch it.
Participant observers do it.
Statisticians count it.
Evaluators value it.
Qualitative inquirers find meaning in it.

When in doubt, observe and ask questions.

When certain, observe at length and ask many more questions.

Gigo's law of deduction: Garbage in,, garbage out.

Halcolm/s law of induction: No new experience, no new insight.

Qualitative inquiry cultivates the most useful of ali human capacities:

The capacity to learn.

m. 1

Innovators are told: "Think outside the box."

Qualitative scholars tell their students: "Study the box. Observe it. Inside. Out-
side. From inside to outside, and outside to inside. Where is it? How did it get
there? What's around it? Who says it's a 'box'? What do they mean? Why does it
matter? Or does it? What is not 'box'? Ask the box questions. Question others
about the box. What's the perspective from inside? From outside? Study diagrams
of the box. Find documents related to the box. What does thinking have to do with
the box anyway? Understand this box. Study another box. And another. Under-
stand box. Understand. Then you can think inside and outside the box. Perhaps.
For awhile. Until it changes. Until you change. Until outside becomes inside
again. Then start over. Study the box."

There is no burden of proof. There is only the world to experience and understand.
Shed the burden of proof to lighten the load for the journey of experience.
From Halcolm's Laws of Inquiry
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiry

TThe F ^ u i t o f Q u a l i t a t i v e j M e ^ o d s

There once lived a man in a country with no fruit trees. A scholar, he spent a
great deal of time reading. He often carne across references to fruit. The descrip-
tions enticed him to undertake a journey to experience fruit for himself.
He went to the marketplace and inquired where he could find the land of
fruit. After much searching he located someone who knew the way. After a long
and arduous journey he came to the end of the directions and found himself at
the entrance to a large apple orchard. It was springtime and the apple trees were
in blossom.
The scholar entered the orchard and, expectantly, pulled off a blossom and
put it in his mouth. He liked neither the texture of the flower nor its taste. He
went quickly to another tree and sampled another blossom, and then another,
and another. Each blossom, though quite beautiful, was distasteful to him. He
left the orchard and returned to his home country, reporting to his fellow villag-
ers that fruit was a much overrated food.
Being unable to recognize the difference between the springblossom and the
summer fruit, the scholar never realized that he had not experienced what he
was looking for.

From Halcolm's Inquiry Parables

S 3

Three Kinds of Qualitative Data

Open-ended questions and probes yield in-depth responses about people's experiences, per-
ceptions, opinions, feelings, and knowledge. Data consist of verbatim quotations with sufficient
context to be interpretable.

Fieldwork descriptions of activities, behaviors, actions, conversations, interpersonai interac-
tions, organizational or community processes, or any other aspect of observable human experi-
ence. Data consist of field notes: rich, detailed descriptions, including the context within which the
observatons were made.

Written materiais and other documents from organizational, clinicai, or programs records;
memoranda and correspondence; offcial publications and reports; personal diaries, letters, artis-
tic works, photographs, and memorabilia; and written responses to open-ended surveys. Data con-
sist of excerpts from documents captured in a way that records and preserves context.

Recognizing Qualitative Data processes that are part of observable hu-

man experience. Document analysis includes
This book discusses how to collect, ana- studying excerpts, quotations, or entire pas-
lyze, and use qualitative data. To begin, let's sages from organizational, clinicai, or pro-
examine the fruit of qualitative methods. It is gram records; memoranda and correspon-
important to know what qualitative data dence; official publications and reports;
and findings look like so that you will know personal diaries; and open-ended written
what you are seeking. It will also be impor- responses to questionnaires and surveys.
tant to consider criteria for judging the qual- (See Exhibit 1.1.)
ity of qualitative data. Apples come to mar- The data for qualitative analysis typically
ket sorted by type (Red Delicious/ Golden), come from fieldwork. During fieldwork, the
purpose (e.g., cooking or eating), and qual- researcher spends time in the setting under
ity. Likewise, qualitative studies vary by studya program, an organization, a com-
type, purpose, and quality. munity, or wherever situations of impor-
Qualitative findings grow out of three tance to a study can be observed, people in-
kinds of data collection: (1) in-depth, open- terviewed, and documents analyzed. The
ended interviews; (2) direct observation; researcher makes firsthand observa tions of
and (3) written documents. Interviews yield activities and interactions, sometimes en-
direct quotations from people about their ex- gaging personally in those activities as a par-
periences, opinions, feelings, and knowl- ticipant observer. For example, an evaluator
edge. The data from observatons consist of might participa te in ali or part of the pro-
detailed descriptions of people's activities, gram under study, participating as a regular
behaviors, actions, and the full range of in- program member, client, or student. The
terpersonai interactions and organizational qualitative researcher talks with people
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 5

about their experiences and perceptions. The quality of qualitative data depends
More formal individual or group interviews to a great extent on the methodological
may be conducted. Relevant records and skill, sensitivity, and integrity of the re-
documents are examined. Extensive field searcher. Systematic and rigorous obser-
notes are collected through these observa- vation involves far more than just being
tions, interviews, and document reviews. present and looking around. Skillful inter-
The voluminous raw data in these field viewing involves much more than just
notes are organized into readable narrative asking questions. Content analysis re-
descriptions with major themes, categories, quires considerably more than just read-
and illustrative case examples extracted ing to see what's there. Generating useful
through content analysis. The themes, pat- and credible qualitative findings through
terns, understandings, and insights that observation, interviewing, and content
emerge from fieldwork and subsequent analysis requires discipline, knowledge,
analysis are the fruit of qualitative inquiry. training, practice, creativity, and hard
Qualitative findings may be presented work.
alone or in combination with quantitative This chapter provides an overview of
data. Research and evaluation studies em- qualitative inquiry. La ter chapters exam-
ploying multiple methods, including combi- ine how to choose among the many op-
nations of qualitative and quantitative data, tions available within the broad range of
are common. At the simplest levei, a ques- qualitative methods, theoretical perspec-
tionnaire or interview that asks both fixed- tives, and applications; how to design a
choice (closed) questions and open-ended qualitative study; how to use observa-
questions is an example of how quantitative tional methods and conduct in-depth,
measurement and qualitative inquiry are of- open-ended interviews; and how to ana-
ten combined. lyze qualitative data to generate findings.

& Qualitative Findings: T h e m e s , Patterns,

Concepts, Insights, U n d e r s t a n d i n g s

ewton and the apple. Freud and anxiety. Jung and dreams. Piaget
and his children. Darwin and Galapagos tortoises. Marx and
England's factories. Whyte and street corners. What are you obsessed with?


Mary Field Belenky and her colleagues gether, informed partly by previous re-
set out to study women's ways of knowing. search but ultimately basing the analysis
They conducted extensive interviews with on their own collective sense of what cate-
135 women from diverse backgrounds prob- gories best captured what they found in
ing how they thought about knowledge, au- the narrative data. They argued with each
thority, truth, themselves, life changes, and other about which responses belonged in
life in general. They worked as a team to which categories. They created and aban-
group similar responses and stories to- doned categories. They looked for com-

Discovery of an early qualitative evaluation report

monalities and differences. They worked irtforming variations in ways of knowing.

hard to honor the diverse points of view they After painstaking analysis, they ended up
found while also seeking patterns across sto- with the five categories of knowing summa-
ries, experiences, and perspectives. One rized in Exhibit 1.2, a framewbrk that be-
theme emerged as particularly powerful: caine very influential in women's studies
"Again and again women spoke of 'gaining and represents one kind of fruit from quali-
voice' " (Belenky et al. 1986:16). Voice versus tative inquiry.
silence emerged as a central metaphor for
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 7

WomerTs Ways of Knowing:

An Example of Qualitative Findings

Silence: A position in which women experience themselves as mindless and voiceless and
subject to the whims of externai authority.

Received knowledge: Women conceive of themselves as capable of receiving, even reproducing

knowledge from externai authorities, but not capable of creating knowledge on their own.

Subjective knowledge: A perspective from which truth and knowledge are conceived as
persona!, private, and subjectively known or intuited.

Procedural knowledge: Women are invested in learning and apply objective procedures for
obtaining and communicatng knowledge.

Constructedknowledge: Women view ali knowledge as contextual, experience themselves as

creators of knowledge, and value both subjective and objective strategies for knowing.

SOURCE: Belenky et al. (1986:15).

One of the best-known and most influen- Stephen Covey (1990) used this same
tial books in organizational development sampling approach in doing case studies of
and management is In Search of Excellence: "highly effective people." He identified
Lessons From America's Best-Run Companies. seven habits these people practice: (1) being
Peters and Waterman (1982) based the book proactive; (2) beginning with the end in
on case studies of 62 highly regarded com- mind; (3) putting first things first; (4) think-
panies. They visited companies, conducted ing win/ win; (5) seeking first to understand,
extensive interviews, and studied corporate then seeking to be understood; (6) syner-
documents. From that massive amount of gizing, or engaging in creative cooperation;
data they extracted eight attributes of excel- and (7) self-renewal.
lence: (1) abias for action; (2) close to the cus- Both of these best-selling books, In Search
tomer; (3) autonomy and entrepreneurship; of Excellence and The 7 Habits of Highly Effec-
(4) productivity through people; (5) hands- tive People, distill a small number of impor-
on, value-driven; (6) stick to the knitting; (7) tant lessons from a huge amount of data
simple form, lean staff; and (8) simultaneous based on outstanding exemplars. It is com-
loose-tight properties. Their book devotes a mon in qualitative analysis for mounds of
chapter to each theme with case examples field notes and months of work to reduce to a
and implications. Their research helped small number of core themes. The quality of
launch the quality movement that has now the insights generated is what matters, not
moved from the business world to not-for- the number of such insights. For example, in
profit organizations and government. This an evaluation of 34 programs aimed at peo-
study also illustrates a common quaHtative ple in poverty, we found a core theme that
sampling strategy: studying a relatively separated more effective from less effective
small number of special cases that are suc- programs: How people are treated affects
cessful at something and therefore a good how they treat others. If staff members are
source of lessons learned. treated autocratically and insensitively by

management, with suspicion and disre- tinguish, and elaborate three primary pro-
spect, staff will treat clients the same way. cesses that contribute to the development of
Contrariwise, responsiveness reinforces re- a relationship: "Being-In," "Being-For," and
sponsiveness, and empowerment breeds "Being-With."
empowerment. These insights became the Being-In involves immersingoneself in
centerpiece of subsequent cross-project, col- another's world: listening deeply and atten-
laborative organizational and staff develop- tively so as to enter into the other person's
ment processes. experience and perception. "I do not select,
A different kind of qualitative finding is interpret, advise, or direct. . . . Being-In the
illustrated by Angela Browne's book When world of the other is a way of going wide
Battered Women Kill (1987). Browne con- open, entering in as if for the first time, hear-
ducted in-depth interviews with 42 women ing just what is, leaving out my own
from 15 states who were charged with a thoughts, feelings, theories, biases I enter
crime in the death or serious injury of their with the intention of understanding and ac-
mates. She was often the first to hear these cepting perceptions and not presenting my
women's stories. She used one couple's his- own view or reactions 1 only want to en-
tory and vignettes from nine others, repre- courage and support the other person's ex-
sentative of the entire sample, to illuminate pression, what and how it is, how it came to
the progression of an abusive relationship be, and where it is going." (Moustakas 1995:
from romantic courtship to the onset of 82-83)
abuse through its escalation until it was on- Being-For involves taking a stand in
going and eventually provoked a homicide. support of the other person, being there for
Her work helped lead to legal recognition the other. "I am listening. I am also offering a
of battered women's syndrome as a legiti- position, and that position has an element of
mate defense, especially in offering insight my being on that person's side, against ali
into the common outsider's question: Why others who would minimize, deprecate, or
doesn't the woman just leave? An insider's deny this person's right to be and to grow....
perspective on the debilitating, destructive, I become an advocate of the person with ref-
and all-encompassing brutality of battering erence to his or her frustrations and prob-
reveals that question for what it is: the facile lems in dealing with others." (Moustakas
judgment of one who hasn't been there. The 1995:83)
effectiveness of Browne's careful, detailed, Being-With involves being present as
and straightforward descriptions and quo- one's own person in relation to another per-
tations lies in their capacity to take us inside son, bringing one's own knowledge and ex-
the abusive relationship. Offering that in- perience into the relationship. "This may in-
side perspective powers qualitative report- volve disagreeing with the other's ways of
ing. interpreting or judging or presenting some
Clark Moustakas (1995), a humanistic spect of the world. Being-With means lis-
psychologist and phenomenologist, also tening and hearing the other's feelings,
gives us an insider's perspective: his thoughts, objectives, but it also means offer-
own. An astute and dedicated observer of ing my own perceptions and views. There is,
relationships, especially therapeutic rela- in Being-With, a sense of joint enterprise
tionships, he drew deeply on his own expe- two people fully involved, struggling, ex-
riences and clinicai cases to identify, dis- ploring, sharing." (Moustakas 1995:84)
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 9

IjfPlIH''"1' Coming-of-Age Paradigms

of Comporiso n Tribal Initiotion Modern Corning ofAg

View of life passages One-time transition from child Multiple passages over a lifetime
to aduit journey
Territory Tribal territory Earth: Global community
Ancestry Creation myth Evolutionary story of humankind
Identity Becoming a man or woman Becoming a complete person
Approach Standardized Individualized
Outcome Tribe-based identity Person a lity identity: Sense of self
Message You are first and foremost a You are first and foremost a person
member of the tribe in your own right

SOURCE: Patton (I999a:333, 335).

Qualitative findings of ten have this sim- sis that leads to a new synthesis. In philoso-
ple yet elegant and insightful character. This phy such contrasts derive from the rumina-
straightforward yet nuanced framework tions of philosophers; in qualitative research
represents a creative synthesis of years of such thematic contrasts emanate from and
participant observation and personal in- are grounded in fieldwork.
quiry. Through cases, dialogues, quotations, This quick sampling of the fruit of quali-
cases, and introspective reflections, Mous- tative inquiry is meant, like a wine tasting, to
takas illuminates the process of moving demonstrate choices toward developing a
froin Being-In to Being-For and ultimately more sophisticated palate, or like appetiz-
Being-With. His work exemplifies the con- ers, as an opening to the fuller feast yet to
tribution of phenomenological inquiry to come. The next section discusses some of the
humanistic psychology. different research and evaluation purposes
Still a different format for capturing and that affect what kind of fruit results from
reporting qualitative findings is illustrated qualitative inquiry and how the quality of
by my own inquiry into alternative coming- that fruit is judged.
of-age approaches. I used the device of con-
structing ideal-typical alternative para-
digms to compare and contrast what I Different Purposes of and
learned (Patton 1997a). Exhibit 1.3 provides Audiences for Qualitative Studies:
a sampling of contrasts between traditional Research, Evaluation, Dissertations,
tribe-centered initiations and modern youth- and Personal Inquiry
centered coming-of-age celebrations. These
kinds of polar contrasts can sometimes set As the title of this book indicates, qualita-
up a Hegelian dialectic of thesis and antithe- tive methods are used in both research and

evaluation. But because the purposes of re- Qualitative methods are often used in
search and evaluation are different, the crite- evaluations because they tell the program's
ria for judging qualitative studies can vary story by capturing and communicating the
depending on purpose. This point is impor- participants' stories. Evaluation case studies
tant. It means one can't judge the appropri- have ali the elements of a good story. They
ateness of the methods in any study or the tell what happened, when, to whom, and
quality of the resulting findings without with what consequences. Many examples in
knowing the study's purpose, agreed-on this book are drawn from program evalua-
uses, and intended audiences. Evaluation tion, policy analysis, and organizational de-
and research typically have different pur- velopment. The purpose of such studies is to
poses, expected uses, and intended users. gather information and generate findings
Dissertations add yet another layer of com- that are useful. Understanding the pro-
plexity to this mix. Let's begin with evalua- gram^ and participants' stories is useful to
tion. the extent that they illuminate the processes
Program evaluation is the systematic col- and outcomes of the program for those who
lection of information about the activities, must make decisions about the program. In
characteristics, and outcomes of programs Utization-Focused Evaluation (Patton 1997a),
to make judgments about the program, im- I presented a comprehensive approach to
prove program effectiveness, and/or inform doing evaluations that are useful, practical,
decisions about future prograrmning. Pol- ethical, and accurate. The primary criterion
icies, organizations, and personnel can also for judging such evaluations is the extent to
be evaluated. Evaluative research, quite which intended users actually use the find-
broadly, can include any effort to judge or ings for decision making and program im-
enhance human effectiveness through sys- provement. The methodological implication
tematic data-based inquiry. Human beings of this criterion is that the intended users
are engaged in ali kinds of efforts to make must value the findings and find them credi-
the world a better place. These efforts in- ble. They must be interested in the stories,
clude assessing needs, formulating policies, experiences, and perceptions of program
passing laws, delivering programs, manag- participants beyond simply knowing how
ing people and resources, providing ther- many came into the program, how many
apy, developing communities, changing or- completed it, and how many did what after-
ganizational culture, educating students, ward. Qualitative findings in evaluation il-
intervening in conflicts, and solving prob- luminate the people behind the numbers
lema. In these and other efforts to make the and put faces on the statistics, not to make
world a better place, the question of whether hearts bleed, though that may occur, but to
the people involved are accomplishing what deepen understanding.
they want to accomplish arises. When one Research, especially fundamental or basic
examines and judges accomplishments and research, differs from evaluation in that its
effectiveness, one is engaged in evaluation. primary purpose is to generate or test theory
When this examination of effectiveness is and contribute to knowledge for the sake of
conducted systematically and empirically knowledge. Such knowledge, and the theo-
through careful data collection and thought- ries that undergird knowledge, may subse-
ful analysis, one is engaged in evaluation re- quently inform action and evaluation, but
search. action is not the primary purpose of funda-
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 11

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mental research. Qualitative inquiry is espe- ing the quality of the methodological proce-
cially powerful as a source of grounded the- dures followed and the analysis done. Qual-
ory, theory that is inductively generated itative dissertations, once quite rare, have
from fieldwork, that is, theory that emerges become increasingly common as the criteria
from the researcher's observations and in- for judging qualitative contributions to
terviews out in the real world rather than in knowledge have become better understood
the laboratory or the academy. The primary and accepted. But those criteria are not abso-
audiences for research are other researchers lute or universally agreed on. As we shall
and scholars, as well as policymakers and see, there are many varieties of qualitative
others interested in understanding some inquiry and multiple criteria for judging
phenomenon or problem of interest. The re- quality, many of which remain disputed.
search training, methodological prefer- While the precedmg discussion of evalua-
ences, and scientific values of those who use tion, research, and dissertations has empha-
research will affect how valuable and credi- sized taking into account externai audiences
be they find the empirical and theoretical and consumers of qualitative studies, it is
fruit of qualitative studies. also important to acknowledge that you may
Dissertations and graduate theses offer be the primary intended audience for your
special insight into the importance of atten- work. You may study something because
tion to audience. Savvy graduate students you want to understand it. As my children
learn that to complete a degree program, the grew to adulthood, I found myself asking
studenfs committee must approve the questions about coming of age m modern
work. The particular understandings, val- society so I undertook a personal inquiry that
ues, preferences, and biases of committee became a book (Patton 1997a), but I didn't
members come into play in that approval start out to write a book. I started out trying
process. The committee will, in essence, to understand my own experience and the
evaluate the studenfs contribution, includ- experiences of my children. That is a form of

qualitative inquiry. While doing interviews Making Methods Decisions

with recipients of MacArthur Foundation
Fellowships (popularly called "Genius The implication of thinking about pur-
Awards"),1 was told by a social scientist that pose and audience in designing studies is
her fieldwork was driven by her own search that methods, no less than knowledge, are
for understanding and that she disciplined dependent on context. No rigid rules can
herself to not even think about publication prescribe what data to gather to investigate a
while engaged in interviewing and observ- particular interest or problem. There is no
ing because she didn't want to have her in- recipe or formula in making methods deci-
quiry affected by attention to externai audi- sions. Widely respected psychometrician
ences. She wanted to know because she wanted Lee J. Cronbach has observed that design-
to know, and she had made a series of career ing a study is as much art as science. It is
and professional decisions that allowed her "an exercise of the dramatic imagination"
to focus on her personal inquiry without be- (Cronbach 1982:239). In research as in art,
ing driven by the traditional academic ad- there can be no single, ideal standard.
monition to "publish or perish." She didn't Beauty no less than "truth" is in the eye of
want to subject herself to or have her work the beholder, and the beholders of research
influenced by externai criteria and judg- and evaluation can include a plethora of
ment. stakeholders: scholars, policymakers, fund-
In summary, ali inquiry designs are af- ers, program managers, staff, program par-
fected by intended purpose and targeted au- ticipants, journalists, critics, and the general
dience, but purpose and audience deserve public. Any given design inevitably reflects
special emphasis in the case of qualitative some imperfect interplay of resources, capa-
studies, where the criteria for judging qual- bilities, purposes, possibilities, creativity, and
ity may be poorly understood or in dispute, personal judgments by the people involved.
even among qualitative methodologists. Research, like diplomacy, is the art of the
This book cannot resolve these debates, but possible. Exhibit 1.4 provides a set of ques-
it will illuminate the methodological op- tions to consider in the design process, re-
tions and their implications. (Chapter 9 dis- gardless of type of inquiry. With that back-
cusses alternative criteria for judging the ground, we can tum to consideration of the
quality of qualitative studies.) relative strengths and weaknesses of quali-
tative and quantitative methods.

13. M e t h o d s Choices: Contrasting

Qualitative and Quantitative E m p h a s e s

ot everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that

counts can be counted.

Albert Einstein
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 13

Some Guiding Questions and Options for

EXHIBIT 1.4 Methods Decisions

1. What are the purposes of the inquiry?

Research: Contribution to knowledge
Evaluation: Program improvement and decision making
Dissertation: Demonstrate doctoral-levei scholarship
Personal inquiry: Find out for oneself

2. Who are the primary audiences for the findings?

Scholars, researchers, academicians
Program funders, administrators, staff, participants
Doctoral committee
Oneself, friends, family, lovers

3. What questions wll guide the inquiry?

Theory-derived, theory-testing, and/or theory-oriented questions
Practical, applied, action-oriented questions and issues
Academic degree or discipine/specialization priorities
Matters of personal interest and concern, even passion

4. What data will answer or illuminate the inquiry questions?

Qualitative: Interviews, field observatons, documents
Quantitative: Surveys, tests, experments, secondary data
Mixed methods: What kind of mix? Which methods are primary?

5. What resources are avaiiable to support the inquiry?

Financial resources
People resources
Access, connections

6. What criteria will be used to judge the quality of the findings?

Traditional research cr/ter/o; Rigor, validty, relabilty, generalizabiity
Evaluatian standards: Utility, feasiblty, propriety, accuracy
Nontraditional criteria: Trustworthiness, diversity of perspectives, clarity of voce, credibility
of the inquirer to primary users of the findings

Thinking about design alternatives and know if they're obese, measure body fat in
methods choices leads directly to consider- relation to height and weight and compare
ation of the relative strengths and weak- the results to population norms. If you want
nesses of qualitative and quantitative data. to know what their weight means to them,
The approach here is pragmatic. Some ques- how it affects them, how they think about it,
tions lend themselves to numerical answers; and what they do about it, you need to ask
some don't. If you want to know how much them questions, find out about their experi-
people weigh, use a scale. If you want to ences, and hear their stories. A comprehen-

sive and multifaceted understanding of a distraction. Guba and Lincoln (1981) have
weight in people's lives requires both their commented on this aspect of qualitative
numbers and their stories. Doctors who look research:
only at test results and don't also listen to
their patients are making judgments with Fatigue, shifts in knowledge, and cooptation,
inadequate knowledge, and vice versa. as well as variations resulting from differences
Qualitative methods facilitate study of is- in training, skill, and experience among differ-
sues in depth and detail. Approaching field- ent "instruments," easily occur. But this loss in
work without being constrained by prede- rigor is more than offset by the flexibility, in-
termined categories of analysis contributes sight, and ability to build on tacit knowledge
to the depth, openness, and detail of qualita- that is the peculiar province of the human in-
tive inquiry. Quantitative methods, on the strument. (p. 113)
other hand, require the use of standardized
measures so that the varying perspectives Because qualitative and quantitative
and experiences of people can be fit into a methods involve differing strengths and
limited number of predetermined response weaknesses, they constitute alternative, but
categories to which numbers are assigned. not mutually exclusive, strategies for re-
The advantage of a quantitative approach search. Both qualitative and quantitative
is that it's possible to measure the reactions data can be collected in the same study. To
of a great many people to a limited set of further illustrate these contrasting ap-
questions, thus facilitating comparison and proaches and provide concrete examples of
statistical aggregation of the data. This gives the fruit of qualitative inquiry, the rest of this
a broad, generalizable set of findings pre- chapter presents select excerpts from actual
sented succinctly and parsimoniously. By studies.
contrast, qualitative methods typically pro-
duce a wealth of detailed information about
a much smaller number of people and cases. Comparing Two Kinds
This increases the depth of understanding of of Data: An Example
the cases and situations studied but reduces
generalizability. The Technology for Literacy Center was a
Validity in quantitative research depends computer-based adult literacy program in
on careful instrument construction to ensure Saint Paul, Minnesota. It operated out of a
that the instrument measures what it is storefront facility in a lower-socioeconomic
supposed to measure. The instrument must area of the city. In 1988, after three years of
then be administered in an appropriate, pilot operation, a major funding decision
standardized manner according to pre- had to be made about whether to continue
scribed procedures. The focus is on the mea- the program. Anticipating the funding deci-
suring instrumentthe test items, survey sion, a year earlier local foundations and the
questions, or other measurement tools. In public schools had supported a summative
qualitative inquiry, the researcher is the in- evaluation to determine the overall outcomes
strument. The credibility of qualitative and cost-effectiveness of the center. The
methods, therefore, hinges to a great extent evaluation design included both quantita-
on the skill, competence, and rigor of the tive and qualitative data.
person doing fieldworkas well as things The quantitative testing data showed
going on in a person's life that might prove great variation. The statistics on average
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 15

achievement gains masked great differences death from hepatitis. During the week she
among participants. The report concluded seldom gets more than three hours of sleep
that although testing showed substantial each night. At the time of the case study, she
achievement test gains for the treatment had spent 15 months in the program and
group versus the control group, the more progressed from not reading at ali (second-
important finding concerned the highly in- grade levei) to being a regular library user
dividualized nature of student progress. The (and testing a grade levei higher than where
report concluded, "The data on variation in she began). She developed an interest in
achievement and instructional hours lead to Black history and reported being particu-
a very dramatic, important and significant larly pleased at being able to read the Bible
finding: there is no average student at TLC" on her own. She described what it was like
(Patton and Stockdill 1987:33). not being able to read:
This finding highlights the kind of pro-
gram or treatment situation where qualita- Where do you go for a job? You can't make out
tive data are particularly helpful and appro- an application. You go to a doctor and you
priate. The Technology for Literacy Center can't fill out the forms, and it's very embar-
has a highly individualized program in rassing. You have to depend on other people
which learners proceed at their own pace to do things like this for you. Sometimes you
based on specific needs and interest. The don't even want to ask your own kids because
students come in at very different leveis, it's just like you're depending too much on
with a range of goals, participate in widely people, and sometimes they do it willingly,
varying ways, and make very different and sometimes you have to beg people to
gains. Average gain scores and average help
hours of instruction provide a parsimonious Ali the progress has made me feel lots
overview of aggregate progress, but such better about myself because I can do some of
statistical data do little to help funders un- the things I've been wanting to do and I could-
derstand what the individual variation n't do. It's made me feel more independent to
means. To get at the meaning of the program do things myself instead of depending on
for individual participants, the evaluation other people to do them for me.
included case studies and qualitative data
from interviews. A second contrasting case tells the story
of Sara Johnson, a 42-year-old Caucasian
woman who dropped out of school in the
INDIVIDUAL CASE EXAMPLES lOth grade. She is a clerical office manager.
She tested at 12th-grade levei on entry to the
One case is the story of Barbara Jenkins, a program. After 56 hours of study over 17
65-y ear-old Black grandmother who came to days, she received her general equivalency
Minnesota after a childhood in the deep diploma (GED), making her a high school
South. She works as a custodian and house graduate. She immediately entered college.
cleaner and is proud of never having been on She said that the decision to return for her
welfare. She is the primary breadwinner for GED was
a home with five children spanning three
generations, including her oldest daugh- an affirmation, as not having a diploma had
ter's teenage children for whom she has really hurt me for a long time It was always
cared since her daughter's unexpected scary wondering if somebody actually found

out that I was not a graduate that they would To get the perspective of students, I con-
fire me or they wouldn't accept me because I ducted group interviews. "Groups are not
hadn't graduated. The hardest thing for me to just a convenient way to accumulate the in-
do was tell my employer. He s very much into dividual knowledge of their members. They
education and our company is education- give rise synergistically to insights and solu-
oriented. So the hardest thing I ever had to do tions that would not come about without
was tell him I was a high school dropout. I them" (Brown, Collins, and Duguid 1989:
needed to tell because I needed time to go and 40). In group interviews I asked students to
take the test. He was just so understanding. describe the program's outcomes in per-
I couldn't believe it. t was just wonderful. sonal terms. I asked, "What difference has
I thought he was going to be disappointed in what you are learning made in your lives?"
me, and he thought it was wonderful that I Here are some responses.
was going back. He came to graduation.
I love the newspaper now, and actually read it.
Yeah, I love to pick up the newspaper now. I
These short excerpts from two contrast-
used to ha te it. Now I love the newspaper.
ing cases illustrate the value of detailed, de-
scriptive data in deepening our understand- I can follow sewing directions. I make a gro-
ing of individual variation. Knowing that cery list now, so I'm a better shopper. I don't
each woman progressed about one grade forget things.
levei on a standardized reading test is only a
small part of a larger, much more complex Yeah, you don't know how einbarrassing it is
picture. Yet, with over 500 people in the pro- to go shopping and not be able to read the
gram, it would be overwhelming for wife's grocery list. It's helped me out so much
funders and decision makers to attempt to in the grocery store.
make sense of 500 detailed case studies
Helps me with my medicine. Now I can read
(about 5,000 double-spaced pages). Statisti-
the bottles and the directions! I was afraid to
cal data provide a succinct and parsimoni-
give the kids medicine before because I wasn't
ous summary of major patterns, while select
case studies provide depth, detail, and indi-
vidual meaning. I don't get lost anymore. I can find my way
around. I can make out directions, read the
map. I work construction and we change loca-
tions a lot. Now I can find my way around. I
Another instructive contrast is to com- don't get lost anymore!
pare closed-ended questionnaire results
with responses to open-ended group inter- Just getting a driver's license will be wonder-
views. Questionnaire responses to quantita- ful. I'm 50. If I don't get the GED, but if I can
tive, standardized items indicated that 77% get a license...! I can drive well, but I'm scared
of the adult literacy students were "very to death of the written test. Just getting a
happy" with the Technology for Literacy driver's license . . . , a driver's license.
Center program; 74% reported learning "a
Now I read outdoor magazines. I used to just
great deal." These and similar results re-
read the titles of booksnow I read the books!
vealed a general pattern of satisfaction and
progress. But what did the program mean to I was always afraid to read at school and at
students in their own words? church. I'm not afraid to read the Bible now at
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 17

Bible class. It's really important to me to be achievement tests administered in both fali
able to read the Bible. and spring, criterion-referenced tests devel-
oped by teachers, performance objectives,
I can fill out applications now. You have to teacher peer ratings, student ratings of
know how to fill out an application in this teachers, parent ratings of teachers, princi-
world. I can look in the Yellow Pages. It used to pal ratings of teachers, and teacher self-
be so embarrassing not to be able to fill out ap- ratings.
plications, not to be able to find things in the
The Kalamazoo accountability system be-
Yellow Pages. I feel so much better now. At
gan to attract national attention. For exam-
least my application is filled out right, even if I
ple, the American School Board Journal re-
don't get the job, at least my application is
ported in April 1974 that "Kalamazoo
filled out right.
schools probably will have one of the most
comprehensive computerized systems of
I'm learning just enough to keep ahead of my personnel evaluation and accountability yet
kids. My family is my motivation. Me and my devised" (p. 40). In the first of a three-part se-
family. Once you can read to your kids, it ries on Kalamazoo, the American School
makes ali the difference m the world. It helps Board Journal asserted: "Take it from Kala-
you to want to read and to read more. When I mazoo: a comprehensive, performance-based
can read myself, I can help them read so they system of evaluation and accountability can
can have a better life. The kids love it when I work" ("Kalamazoo Schools" 1974:32).
read to them.
Not everyone agreed with that positive
assessment, however. The Kalamazoo Edu-
These group interview excerpts provide cation Association charged that teachers
some qualitative rnsights into the individ- were being demoralized by the accountabil-
ual, personal experiences of adults learning ity system. Some school officials, on the
to read. The questionnaire results (77% satis- other hand, argued that teachers did not
fied) provided data on statistically general- want to be accountable. In the spring of 1976,
izable patterns, but the standardized ques- the Kalamazoo Education Association, with
tions only tap the surface of what it means assistance from the Michigan Education As-
for the program to have had "great per- sociation and the National Education Asso-
ceived impact." The much smaller sample of ciation, sponsored a survey of teachers to
open-ended interviews adds depth, detail, find out the teachers' perspective on the ac-
and meaning at a very personal levei of ex- countability program (Perrone and Patton
perience. Another example will show that 1976).
qualitative data can yield not only deeper
The education association officials were
understanding but also political action as
interested primarily in a questionnaire con-
the depth of participants' feelings is re-
sisting of standardized items. One part of
the closed-ended questionnaire provided
teachers with a set of statements with which
The Power of Qualitative Data they could agree or disagree. The question-
naire results showed that teachers felt the ac-
In the early 1970s, the school system of countability system was largely ineffective
Kalamazoo, Michigan, implemented a new and inadequate. For example, 90% of the
accountability system. It was a complex sys- teachers disagreed with the school adminis-
tem that included using standardized tration's published statement "The Kala-

mazoo accountability system is designed to 2. Finally, we'd like you to use this space to
personalize and individualize education"; add any additional comments you'd
88% reported that the system does not assist like to make about any part of the
teachers to become more effective; 90% re- Kalamazoo accountability system.
sponded that the accountability system has
not improved educational planning in A total of 373 teachers (70% of those who
Kalamazoo; and 93% believed, "Account- responded to the questionnaire) took the
ability as practiced in Kalamazoo creates an time to respond to one of these open-ended
undesirable atmosphere of anxiety among questions. Ali of the comments nade by
teachers." And 90% asserted, "The account- teachers were typed verbatim and included
ability system is mostly a public relations ef- in the report. These open-ended data filled
fort." Nor did teachers feel that the account- 101 pages. When the school officials and
ability system fairly reflected what they did school board members rejected the ques-
as teachers, since 97% of them agreed, "Ac- tionnaire data, rather than argue with them
countability as practiced in Kalamazoo about the meaningfulness of teacher re-
places too much emphasis on things that can sponses to the standardized items, we asked
be quantified so that it misses the results of them to turn to the pages of open-ended
teaching that are not easily measured." teacher comments and simply read at ran-
It is relatively clear from these statements dom what teachers said. Examples of the
that most teachers who responded to the comments they read, and could read on vir-
questionnaire were negative about the ac- tually any page in the report, are reproduced
countability system. When school officials below in six representative responses from
and school board members reviewed the the middle pages of the report.
questionnaire results, however, many of
Teacher Response No. 284: "I don't feel that
them immediately dismissed those results
fear is necessary in an accountability situation.
by arguing that they had never expected
The person at the head of a school system has
teachers to like the system, teachers didn't
to be human, not a machine. You just don't
really want to be accountable, and the teach-
treat people like they are machines!
ers' unions had told their teachers to re-
"The superintendent used fear in this sys-
spond negatively anyway. In short, many
tem to get what he wanted. That's very hard to
school officials and school board members
explain in a short space. It's something you
dismissed the questionnaire results as bi-
have to live through to appreciate. He lied on
ased, inaccurate, and the results of teacher
many occasions and was very deceitful. Teach-
union leaders telling teachers how to re-
ers need a situation where they feel comfort-
spond in order to discredit the school au-
able. I'm not saying that accountability is not
good. I am saying the one we have is lousy. It's
The same questionnaire included two hurting the studentsthe very ones we're
open-ended questions. The first was placed supposed to be working for."
midway through the questionnaire, and the
second came at the end of the questionnaire. Teacher Response No. 257: "This system is
creating an atmosphere of fear and intimida-
1. Please use this space to make any fur- tion. I can only speak for the school I am in, but
ther comments or recommendations people are tense, hostile and losing their hu-
concerning any component of the ac- manity. Gone is the good will and teain spirit
countability system. of administration and staff and I believe this
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 19

ali begins at the top. One can work in these teachers and administration and the Board of
conditions but why, if it is to 'shape up' a few Education ali had a good working relation-
poor teachers. Instead, it's having disastrous ship. In the past 4 yearsunder the present
results on the whole faculty community." superintendentI find the atmosphere dete-
rioratmg to the point where teachers distrust
Teacher Response No. 244: "In order to fully
each other and teachers do not trust adminis-
understand the oppressive, stifling atmo-
trators at ali! We understand the position the
sphere in Kalamazoo you have to ^be in the
administrators have been forced into and feel
trenches'the classrooms. In 10 years of
compassion for themhoweverwe still
teaching, 1 have never ended a school year as
have no trust! Going to school each morning is
depressed about 'education' as 1 have this
no longer an enjoyable experience."
year. lf things do not improve in the next two
years, I will leave education. The Kalamazoo
Teacher Response No. 261: "A teacher
accountability system must be viewed in its
needs some checks and balances to function
totality and not just the individual component
effectively; it would be ridiculous to think
parts of it. In to to, it is oppressive and stifling.
otherwiseif you are a concerned teacher. But
"In teaching government and history, stu-
in teaching you are not turning out neatly
dents often asked what it was like to live in a
packaged little mechanical products ali alike
dictatorship. I now know firsthand.
and endowed with the same qualities. This
"The superintendent with his accountabil-
nonsensical accountability program we have
ity model and his abrasive condescending
here makes the superintendent look good to
manner has managed in three short years to
the community. But someone who is in the
destroy teacher morale and effective creative
classroom dealing with ali types of kids, some
classroom teaching.
who cannot read, some who hardly ever come
"Last evening my wife and 1 went to an end
to school, some who are in and out of jail, this
of the school year party. The atmosphere there
teacher can see that and the rigid accountabil-
was strangelittle exuberance, laughter or re-
ity model that neglects the above mentioned
lease. People who in previous years laughed,
problems is pur 'BULLSHIT!' "
sang and danced were unnaturally quiet and
somber. Most people went home early. The
Teacher Response No. 251: " 'Fear' is the
key topic was the superintendent, the school
word for 'accountability' as applied in our sys-
board election, and a millage campaign. Peo-
tem. My teaching before 'Accountability' is
ple are still tense and uncertain.
the same as now. 'Accountability' is a political
"While the school board does not 'pay us to
ploy to maintain power. Whatever good there
be happy' it certainly must recognize that
may have been in it in the beginning has been
emotional stability is necessary for effective
destroyed by the awareness that each new ed-
teaching to take place. The involuntary trans-
ucational 'system' has at its base a political
fers, intimidation, coercion and top to bottom
motive. Students get screwed... . The bitter-
'channelized' communication in Kalamazoo
ness and hatred in our system is incredible.
must qualify this school system for the list of
What began as 'noble' has been destroyed.
'least desirable' school systems in the nation."
You wouldn'tbelieve the new layers of admin-
Teacher Response No. 233: "1 have taught in istration that have been created just to keep
Kalamazoo for 15 years and under five super- this monster going.
intendents. Until the present superintendent, I "Our finest compliment around our state is
found working conditions to be enjoyable and that the other school systems know what is go-

ing on and are having none of it. Lucky people.

Come down and visit in hell sometime."
T H n i i n H T I - i:: r f c = A : ; H n

Face Validity and Credibility V 'ii''..rr i ! . . !' J..I- : = ..!'! h-I S i.

sar i/.w!- i ui-Ji in:-! !Vi- =i ::!.!1

What was the impact of the qualitative :' : - i ! i V A ' i- ! ! I U ! i ! '.. i 11 i ! : i" ! i . i - ! i ! 11 .-. L-

data collected from teachers in Kalamazoo? i.-i!. v i : 1 ! * 1 1 i : : ij 5 "i:-!* .. >. !.; . i v : i r.-."i i . ! : i !: j . l \ i -i

You will recall that many of the school board V . ir,!. r i.'i. 1 ' ' I ! :. ! i:' 1 i : ' . ! : .'i' i ! = ! ' : . \\i'-1 i',
members initially dismissed the standard- l*r I l i - ! ' . ! | !.'. ii' i ::!= I ! I ' . ' y ! j M '

ized questionnaire responses as biased, : : ; . ' ! " ' < : !':/i.! . V i i . i i : i ' i i I M ! . - " i i . '

rigged, and the predictable result of the un- "iinkl ii!' MIv- ,I..!,:' \l ,\ iij- Ji, M " Vil1

ion's campaign to discredit school officials. I ! ! i ! m i: -|i- .V j.. .'! i' . r m Y ! r l : . i\ : i V I i/.'.'i I T

However, after readmg through a few pages Lnl lv > M -i i'T=" Vi }-, i . ! Vi' i i vl-I l'i '.Vi.'i !,=
of the teachers' own personal comments, af- i !.': !:.= .vil !1
i r r ! =" -."> s* 'ii.r Vi:. ii i 'i ! i'il' i.i \U

ter hearing about teachers' experiences with :!:- ! ri Jal-iiS i' }':-,* IRIRU .*=iJ-: !I .''

the accountability system in their own i -i i T ' N ! ! ! .T = T :; i. 1'Vi 1 ! N 1 ,',T! ' r

words, the tenor of the discussion about the Jt i" i '.ri :'i!' i l/i .'l i '||.
! ' 'i IV! 'i i! A I- i i' ! I VI i1 !.'

evaluation report changed. School board = != >!!' i-i-iiilrvi .:".'!! i'! ^vl' -i iVi-'
members could easily reject what they per- !!: nr-D-V, ''"" - w s ^ ir p * m' /-vy-'!^
ceived as a "loaded" questionnaire. They .v r it i;v! :
! ,'i -i 11; ;,yl i 'i ( ' . i 1 \ i ' ' 'i l' i h ) r
could not so easily dismiss the anguish, fear, H -Vlro" hr !Oi mi'i-rv hi - p r
and depth of concern revealed m the teach- i : "ii-3-:= :: N-V .*'
ers' own reflections. The teachers' words on|i !"i'i .!':;!>"! -.V.?- r l n j l l - i r i " '
had face validity and credibility. Discussion IlIllIllIlISiSSSSiSSiSSiSSSiiSSSIiSSSiS!
of the evaluation results shifted from an at-
tack on the measures used to the question:
"What do you think we should do?"
During the summer of 1976, following teachers' own words became part of the im-
discussion of the evaluation report, the su- petus for change in Kalamazoo.
perintender "resigned." The new superin-
tendent and school board in 1976-1977 used
The Purpose of
the evaluation report as a basis for starting
Open-Ended Responses
fresh with teachers. A year la ter teacher as-
sociation officials reported a new environ- The preceding example illus trates the dif-
ment of teacher-administration cooperation ference between qualitative inquiry based
in developing a mutually acceptable ac- on responses to open-ended questions and
countability system. The evaluation report quantitative measurement based on scales
did not directly cause these changes. Many composed of standardized questionnaire
other factors were involved in Kalamazoo at items. Quantitative measures are succinct,
that time. However, the qualitative informa- parsimonious, and easily aggregated for
tion in the evaluation report revealed the full analysis; quantitative data are systematic,
scope and nature of teachers' feelings about standardized, and easily presented in a
what it was like to work in the atmosphere short space. By contrast, the qualitative find-
created by the accountability system. The ings are longer, more detailed, and variable
depth of those feelings as expressed in the m content; analysis is difficult because re-
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 2 1

sponses are neither systematic nor standard- the open-ended comments of the Kalama-
ized. Yet, the open-ended responses permit zoo teachers illustrate the fruit of qualitative
one to understand the world as seen by the methods.
respondents. The purpose of gathering re- While the Kalamazoo example illustrates
sponses to open-ended questions is to en- the most elementary form of qualitative in-
able the researcher to understand and cap- quiry, namely, responses from open-ended
ture the points of view of other people questionnaire items, the major way in which
without predetermining those points of qualitative researchers seek to understand
view through prior selection of question- the perceptions, feelings, and knowledge of
naire categories. As Lofland (1971) put it: people is through in-depth, intensive inter-
"To capture participants 'in their own terms' viewing. The chapter on interviewing will
one must learn their categories for rendering discuss ways of gathering high-quality in-
explicable and coherent the flux of raw real- forma tion from peopledata that reveal ex-
ity. That, indeed, is the first principie of qual- periences with program activities and per-
itative analysis" (p. 7, emphasis added). spectives on treatment impacts from the
Direct quotations are a basic source of raw points of view of participants, staff, and oth-
data in qualitative inquiry, revealing respon- ers involved in and knowledgeable about
dents' depth of emotion, the ways they have the program or treatment being evaluated.
organized their world, their thoughts about
what is happening, their experiences, and Inquiry by Observation
their basic perceptions. The task for the qual-
itative researcher is to provide a framework What people say is a major source of qual-
within which people can respond in a way itative data, whether what they say is ob-
that represents accurately and thoroughly tained verbally through an interview or in
their points of view about the world, or that written form through document analysis or
part of the world about which they are talk- survey responses. There are limitations,
ingfor example, their experience with a however, to how much can be learned from
particular program being evaluated. Too of- what people say. To understand fully the
ten social scientists "enter the field with pre- complexities of many situations, direct par-
conceptions that prevent them from allow- ticipation in and observation of the phenom-
ing those studied to 'tell it as they see it' " enon of interest may be the best research
(Denzin 1978b:10). method. Howard S. Becker, one of the lead-
I have included the Kalamazoo evalua- ing practitioners of qualitative methods in
tion findings as an illustration of qualita- the conduct of social science research, ar-
tive inquiry because open-ended responses gues that participant observation is the most
on questionnaires represent the most ele- comprehensive of ali types of research strat-
mentary form of qualitative data. There are egies.
severe limitations to open-ended data col-
lected in writing on questionnaires, limi- The most complete form of the sociological da-
tations related to the writing skills of re- tum, after ali, is the form in which the partici-
spondents, the impossibility of probing or pant observer gathers it: an observation of
extending responses, and the effort required some social event, the events which precede
of the person completing the questionnaire. and follow it, and explana tions of its meaning
Yet, even at this elementary levei of inquiry, by participants andspectators,before, during,
the depth and detail of feelings revealed in and after its occurrence. Such a datum gives us

Certain really discriminating people like nothing better than to relax on the
beach with a good, in-depth, and detailed qualitative study in hand.

moreinformation about the event under study Observational data, especially partici-
than data gathered by any other sociological pant observation, permit the evaluation re-
method. (Becker and Geer 1970:133) searcher to understand a program or treat-
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 23

ment to an extent not entirely possible using ents so that they could make conscious
only the insights of others obtained through choices about their own parenting styles and
interviews. Of course, not everything can increase their confidence about the choices
be directly observed or experienced, and they make. Parents were also to be treated
participant observation is a highly labor- with respect and to be recognized as the pri-
intensiveand, therefore, relatively expensive mary educators of their childrenin other
research strategy. In a later chapter, strate- words, the early childhood educators were
gies for using observational methods, in- not to impose their expertise upon parents
cluding both participant and nonparticipant but, instead, to make clear that parents are
approaches, will be discussed at length. My the real experts about their own children.
purpose at this point is simply to give the Site visits were made to ali programs, and
reader another taste of the fruit of qualitative parenting discussions were observed on
methods. Before discussing how to collect each site visit. Descriptions of these sessions
observational evaluation data, it is helpful to then became the primary data of the evalua-
know what such data should look like. tion. In short, the evaluators were to be the
The purpose of observational analysis is eyes and ears of the legislature and the state
to take the reader into the setting that was program staff, permitting them to under-
observed. This means that observational stand what was happening in various parent
data must have depth and detail. The data sessions throughout the state. Descriptive
must be descriptivesufficiently descrip- data about the sessions also provided a mir-
tive that the reader can understand what oc- ror for the staff who conducted those ses-
curred and how it occurred. The observer's sions, a way of looking at what they were do-
notes become the eyes, ears, and perceptual ing to see if that was what they wanted to be
senses for the reader. The descriptions must doing.
be factual, accurate, and thorough without What follows is a description from one
being cluttered by irrelevant minutiae and such session. The criterion that should be
trivia. The basic criterion to apply to a re- applied in reading this description is the ex-
corded observation is the extent to which the tent to which sufficient data are provided to
observation permits the reader to enter the take you, the reader, into the setting and per-
situation under study. mit you to make your own judgment about
The observation that follows is meant to the nature and quality of parent education
illustrate what such a descriptive account is being provided.
like. This evaluation excerpt describes a
two-hour observation of mothers discussing
their child rearing in a parent education pro- OBSERVATION DATA ILLUSTRATED:
gram. The purpose of the program, one of 22 A DISCUSSION FOR MOTHERS
such state-supported programs, was to in- OF TWO- YEAR-OLDS
crease the skills, knowledge, and confidence
of parents. The program was also aimed at The group discussion component of this
providing a support group for parents. In parent education program operates out of a
funding the program, legislators empha- small classroom in the basement of a church.
sized that they did not want parents to be The toddler center is directly overhead on
told how to rear their children. Rather, the the first floor so that noises made by the chil-
purpose of the parent education sessions dren these mothers have left upstairs can be
was to increase the options available to par- heard during the discussion. The room is

just large enough for the 12 mothers, one other mothers will talk about their own ex-
staff person, and me to sit along three sides periences as they want to. For example, one
of the room. The fourth side is used for a of the topics is the problem a mother is hav-
movie screen. Some mothers are smoking. ing with her child urinating in the bathtub.
(The staff person told me afterward that Other mothers share their experiences with
smoking had been negotiated and agreed on this problem, ways of handling it, and
among the mothers.) The seats are padded whether or not to be concerned about it. The
folding chairs plus two couches. A few col- crux of that discussion seems to be that it is
orful posters with pictures of children play- not a big deal and not something that the
ing decorate the walls. Small tables are avail- mother ought to be terribly concerned
able for holding coffee cups and ashtrays about. It is important not to make it a big
during the discussion. The back wall is lined deal for the child; the child will outgrow it.
with brochures on child care and child de- The discussion turns to things that
velopment, and a metal cabinet in the room two-year-olds can do around the house to
holds additional program materiais. help their mothers. This is followed by some
The session begins with mothers watch- discussion of the things that two-year-olds
ing a 20-minute film about preschool chil- can't do and some of their frustrations in try-
dren. The film forms the basis for getting dis- ing to do things. There is a good deal of
cussion started about "what two-year-olds laughing, sharing of funny stories about
do." Louise, a part-time staff person in her children, and sharing of frustrations about
early 30s who has two young children of her children. The atmosphere is informal and
own, one a two-year-old, leads the discus- there is a good deal of intensity in listening.
sion. Louise asks the mothers to begin by Mothers seem especially to pick up on
picking out from the film. things that their things that they share in common about the
own children do, and talking about the way problems they have with their children.
some of the problems with children were Another issue from another mother is the
handled in the film. For the most part, the problem of her child pouring out her milk.
mothers share happy, play activities their She asks, "What does it mean?" This ques-
children like. "My Johnny loves the play- tion elicits some suggestions about using
ground just like the kids in the film." "Yeah, water aprons and cups that don't spill and
mine could live on the playground." other mothers' similar problems, but the dis-
The focus of the discussion turns quickly cussion is not focused and does not really
to what happens as children grow older, come to much closure. The water apron sug-
how they change and develop. Louise com- gestion brings up a question about whether
ments, "Don't worry about what kids do at a or not a plastic bag is okay. The discussion
particular age. Like don't worry that your turns to the safety problems with different
kid has to do a certain thing at age two or else kinds of plastic bags. About 20 minutes of
he's behind in development or ahead of de- discussion have now taken place. (At this
velopment. There's just a lot of variation in point, one mother leaves because she hears
the ages at which kids do things." her child crying upstairs.)
The discussion is free flowing and, once The discussion returns to giving chil-
begun, is not directed much by Louise. dren baths. Louise interjects, "Two-year-
Mothers talk back and forth to each other, olds should not be left alone in the bathtub."
sharing experiences about their children. A With reference to the earlier discussion
mother will bring up a particular point and about urinating in the bathtub, a mother in-
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 2 5

teijects that water with urine in it is prob- the 11 mothers have participated, most of
ably better than the lake water her kids swim them actively. Four mothers have not partic-
in. The rnother with the child who urinates ipated.)
in the bathtub says again, "It really bugs me Another mother brings up a new prob-
when he urinates in the tub." Louise re- lem. Her child is destroying her plants,
sponds, "It really is your problem, not his. dumping plants out, and tearing them up.
If you can calm yourself down, he'll be "I really get mad." She says that the tech-
okay." nique she has used for punishment is to iso-
At a lull in the discussion, Louise asks, late the child. Then she asks, "How long do
"Did you agree with everything in the you have to punish a two-year-old before it
movie?" The mothers talk a bit about this starts working?" This question is followed
and focus on an incident in the movie where by intense discussion with several mothers
one child bites another. Mothers share sto- making comments. (This discussion is re-
ries about problems they've had with their produced in full to illustrate the type of dis-
childrenbiting. Louise inteijects, "Biting can cussion that occurred.)
be dangerous. It is important to do some-
thing about biting." The discussion turns to Mother No. 2: "Maybe he needs his own
what to do. One mother suggests biting the plant. Sometimes it helps to let a child
child back. Another mother suggests that have his own plant to take care of and
kids will work it out themselves by biting then he comes to appreciate plants."
each other back. Mothers get very agitated,
Mother No. 3: "Maybe he likes to play in the
more than one mother talks at a time. Louise
dirt. Does he have his own sand or dirt to
asks them to "cool it," so that only one per-
play in around the house?"
son talks at a time. (The mother who had left
returns.) Mother No. 4: "Oatmeal is another good
The discussion about biting leads to a dis- thing to play in."
cussion about child conflict and fighting in Louise: "Rice is another thing that children
general, for example, the problem of chil- like to play in and it's clean, good to use
dren hitting each other or hitting their moth- indoors."
ers. Again, the question arises about what to
do. One mother suggests that when her child Mother No. 5: "Some things to play in would
hits her, she hits him back, or when her child be bad or dangerous. For example, pow-
bites her, she bites him back. Louise inter- dered soap isn't a good thing to let kids
jects, "Don't modelbehavior you don't like." play in."
She goes on to expiam that her philosophy is Mother No. 2: "Can you put the plants where
that you should not do things as a model for he can't get at them?"
children that you don't want them to do. She
says that works best for her; however, other Mother with problem: "I have too many plants,
mothers may find other things that work I can't put them ali out of the way."
better for them. Louise comments that hit- Louise: "Can you put the plants somewhere
ting back or biting back is a technique sug- else or provide a place to play with dirt or
gested by Dreikurs. She says she disagrees rice?" (Mother with problem kind of
with that technique, "but you ali have to de- shakes her head no. Louise goes on.) "An-
cide what works for you." (About 40 min- other thing is to tell the kid the plants are
utes have now passed since the film, and 7 of alive, to help him learn respect for living

things. Tell him that those plants are alive time. Several mothers give their points of
and that it hurts them. Give him his own view.
plant that he can get an investment in." Louise: "The person who owns the house
sets the rales. Two-year-olds can learn to be
Mother with problem: "IT1 try it."
careful. But don't go around ali day long
Mother No. 2: "You've got to be fair about a saying, "No, no.' "
two-year-old. You can't expect them not
to touch things. It's not fair. I try hanging The time had come for the discussion to
ali my plants." end. The mothers stayed around for about 15
minutes, interacting informally and then go-
Louise: "Sometimes just moving a child
ing upstairs to get their children into their
bodily away from the thing you don't
winter coats and hats for the trip home. They
want him to do is the best technique."
seemed to have enjoyed themselves and
Mother No. 4: "They'11 outgrow it anyway." continue d talking informally. One mother
with whom Louise had disagreed about the
Mother with problem: "Now he deliberately issue of whether it was ali right to bite or hit
dumps them and I really get angry." children back stopped to continue the dis-
Louise: "Maybe he feels a rivalry with the cussion. Louise said:
plants if you have so many. Maybe he's
trying to compete." I hope you know that I respect your right to
have your own views on things. I wasn't try-
Mother No. 3: "Let him help with the plants.
ing to tell you what to do. I just disagreed, but I
Do you ever let him help you take care of
definitely feel that everybody has a right to
the plants?"
their own opinion. Part of the purpose of the
Mother No. 6: "Some plants are dangerous to group is for everyone to be able to come to-
help with." gether and appreciate other points of view and
understand what works for different people.
Louise: "Some dangerous house plants are
The mother said that she certainly didn't
feel bad about the disagreement and she
Louise reaches up and pulls down a bro- knew that some things that worked for other
chure on plants that are dangerous and says people didn't work for her and that she had
she has brochures for everyone. Several peo- her own ways but that she really enjoyed the
ple say that they want brochures and she group.
goes to the cabinet to make them available. Louise cleaned up the room, and the ses-
One mother who has not participated ver- sion ended.
bally up to this point specifically requests a
brochure. This is followed by a discussion of
child-proofing a house as a method of child The Raw Data of
rearing versus training the child not to touch Qualitative Inquiry
things, but with less emphasis on child-
proofing, that is, removing temptation ver- The description of this parenting session
sus teaching children to resist temptation. is aimed at permitting the reader to under-
One parent suggests, in this context, that stand what occurred in the session. These
children be taught one valuable thing at a data are descriptive. Pure description and
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 27

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quotations are the raw data of qualitative in- sented as separa te and distinct from each
quiry. other. In practice, they are often fully inte-
The description is meant to take the grated approaches. Becoming a skilled ob-
reader into the setting. The data do not in- server is essential even if you concentrate
clude judgments about whether what oc- primarily on interviewing because every
curred was good or bad, appropriate or in- face-to-face interview also involves and re-
appropriate, or any other interpretive quires observation. The skilled interviewer
judgments. The data simply describe what is thus also a skilled observer, able to read
occurred. State legislators, program staff, nonverbal messages, sensitive to how the in-
parents, and others used this description, terview setting can affect what is said, and
and descriptions like this from other pro- carefully attuned to the nuances of the inter-
gram sites, to discuss what they wanted the viewer-interviewee interaction and relation-
programs to be and do. The descriptions ship.
helped them make explicit their own judg- Likewise, interviewing skills are essential
mental criteria. for the observer because during fieldwork,
In later chapters, guidance on interpret- you will need and want to talk with people,
ing qualitative data will be offered in depth. whether formally or informally. Participant
observers gather a great deal of information
People-Oriented Inquiry through informal, naturally occurring con-
versations. Understanding that interview-
Thus far, the examples of observation and ing and observation are mutually reinforc-
interviewing in this chapter have been pre- ing qualitative techniques is a bridge to

understanding the fundamentally people- The Fruit of Qualitative

oriented nature of qualitative inquiry. Methods Revisited
Sociologist John Lofland has suggested
that there are four people-oriented man- This chapter began with the parable of the
dates in collecting qualitative data. First, the man who traveled far in search of a widely
qualitative methodologist must get close proclaimed food called "fruit." When finally
enough to the people and situation being directed to a fruit tree, he confused the
studied to personally understand in depth spring blossom of the tree with the fruit of
the details of what goes on. Second, the qual- the tree. Finding the blossom to be tasteless,
itative methodologist must aim at capturing he dismissed ali he had heard about fruit as a
what actually takes place and what people hoax and went on his way. This chapter has
actually say: the perceived facts. Third, qual- described qualitative data so that the person
itative data must include a great deal of pure in search of the fruits of qualitative methods
description of people, activities, interac- will know what to look forand know
tions, and settings. Fourth, qualitative data when the real thing has been attained. Ex-
must include direct quotations from people, hibit 1.5 lists Internet resources for those
both what they speak and what they write who want to carry on this search for qualita-
down. tive fruit in virtual space. To close this chap-
ter, it may be instructive to consider two
other short parables about the search for
The commitment to get close, to be factual, de- fruit.
scriptive and quotive, constitutes a significant While the first seeker after fruit arrived
commitment to represent the participants in too early to experience the ripened delicacy
their own terms. This does not mean that one and tasted only the blossom, a second seeker
becomes an apologist for them, but rather that after fruit arrived at a tree that had been im-
one faithfully depicts what goes on in their properly cultivated, so that its fruit was
lives and what life is like for them, in such a shriveled and bitter. This bad fruit had been
way that one's audience is at least partially left to rot. Not knowing what good fruit
able to project themselves into the point of looked like, he sampled the bad. "Well, I've
view of the people depicted. They can "take seen and tasted fruit," he said, "and I can tell
the role of the other" because the reprter has you for sure that it's terrible. I've had it with
given them a living sense of day-to-day talk, fruit. Forget it. This stuff is awful." He went
day-to-day activities, day-to-day concerns on his way and his journey was wasted.
and p r o b l e m s , . . . One can hope that such a foolish mis take
A major methodological consequence of is less likely today, because early in school
these commitments is that the qualitative students are taught the danger of generaliz-
study of people in situ is a process of discovery. It ing from limited cases. Yet, rumors persist
is of necessity a process of learning what is that some people continue to reject ali quali-
happening. Since a major part of what is hap- tative data as worthless (and "rotten"), hav-
pening is provided by people in their own ing experienced only bad samples produced
terms, one must find out about those terms with poor methods.
rather than impose upon them a preconceived A third seeker after fruit arrived at the
or outsider's scheme of what they are about. It same tree that produced the shriveled and
is the observer's task to find out what is funda- bitter fruit. He picked some of the rotting
mental or central to the people or world under fruit and examined it. He took the fruit to a
observation. (Lofland 1971:4) farmer who cultivated fruit trees with great
The Nature of Qualitative Inquiri/ [J. 29

Internet E-mail Discussion Groups (listservs) on

Qualitative Methods

1. Qualitative Research for the Human Sciences; to subscribe,

send this message to subscribe QUALRS-L yourname

2. Qualitative Research in Management and Organization Studies;

to subscribe, send this message to subscribe qualnet

3. Qualitative Research List, initiated by Penn State, but immediately

attracted a broader audience; to subscribe, send this message to
subscribe QUAL-L firstname lastname

Other resources for qualitative evaluation and research:

4. American Evaluation Association (AEA) Discussion List; to

subscribe, send this message to subscribe evaltalk ourname

AEA home page with links to evaluation organizations, training programs, and
Internet resources:

5. A list for social science research methods instructors; to subscribe,

send this message to join methods yourname

NOTE: Thanks to Judith Preisse, Aderhold Distinguished Professor, Social Foundationsof Education, University
of Gergia, for list subscription details. These sites and subscription details may change, and this list is not ex-
haustive. This list is meant to be suggestive of the qualitative resources availabie through the Internet. See
Chapter3, Exhibit 3.7;Chapter4, Exhibit 4.9; and Chapter8, Exhibit 8.3,for addtional, morespecialized quali-
tative resources through the Internet.

success. The farmer peeled away the rotten the stonelike thing he held in his hand was a
exterior and exposed what looked like a seed, ali he had to do was plant it, tend prop-
stone inside. The farmer told him how to erly the tree's growth, and work for the
plant this hard core, cultivate the resulting eventual harvestthe fruit. Though there
trees, and harvest the desired delicacy. The was much work to be done and there were
farmer also gave him a plump, ripe sample many things to be leamed, the resulting
to taste. Once the seeker after fruit knew high-quality fruit was worth the effort.
what fruit really was, and once he knew that
Between-Chapters Interlude

Top Ten Pieces of Advice to a
Graduate Student Considering
a Qualitative Dissertation

3. Top Ten Responses

T he following query was posted on

an Internet listserv devoted to dis-
cussing qualitative inquiry:

I am a new graduate student thinking about

1. Be sure that a qualitative approach fits
your research questions: questions about
doing a qualitative dissertation. I know you
people's experiences; inquiry into the
are ali busy, but I would appreciate an an-
meanings people make of their expe-
swer to only one question.
riences; studying a person in the con-
If you could give just one bit of advice to a
text of her or his social/interpersonal
student considering qualitative research for a
environment; and research where not
dissertation, what would it be?
enough is known about a phenomenon
for standardized instruments to have
The responses below carne from differ- been developed (or even to be ready to
ent people. I've combined some responses, be developed).
edited them (while trying to maintain the (Chapter 2 will help with this by
flavor of the postings), and arranged them presenting the primary themes of qual-
for coherence. itative inquiry.)

!J. 33

2. Study qualitative research. There are 5. Practice interviewing and observation

lots of different approaches and a lot to skills. Practice! Practice! Practice! Do
know. Study carefully a couple of the lots of intervie ws. Spend a lot of time do-
books that provide an overview of dif- ing practice fieldwork observations. Get
ferent approaches, then go to the origi- feedback from someone who's really
nal sources for the design and analysis good at interviewing and observations.
details of the approach you decide to There's an amazing amount to learn.
use. And it's not just head stuff. Qualitative
(Chapter 3 covers different qualita- research takes skill. Don't make the
tive approaches.) mis take of thinking it's easy. The better I
get at it, the more I realize how bad I was
3. Find a dissertation adviser who will when I started.
support your doing qualitative re- (Chapters 6 and 7 cover the skills of
search. Otherwise, it can be a long, qualitative inquiry.)
tough haul. A dissertation is a big com-
mitment. There are other practical ap- 6. Figure out analysis before you gather
proaches to using qualitative methods data. I've talked with lots of advanced
that don't involve ali the constraints of grad students who rushed to collect
doing a dissertation, things like pro- data before they knew anything about
gram evaluation, action research, and analyzing itand lived to regret it, big
organizational development. You can time. This is true for statistical data and
still do lots of great qualitative work quantitative data, but somehow people
without doing a dissertation. But if you seem to think that qualitative data are
can find a supportive adviser and com- easy to analyze. No way. That's a big-
mittee, then, by ali means, go for it. time NO WAY. And don't think that the
(Chapter 4 covers particularly ap- new software will solve the problem.
propriate practical applications of quali- Another big-time NO WAY. You, that's
tative methods.) YOU, still have to analyze the data.
(Chapter 8 covers analysis.)
4. Really work on design. Qualitative de-
signs follow a completely different logic 7. Be sure that you're prepared to deal
from quantitative research. Completely with the controversies of doing qualita-
different. Are you listening? Com- tive research. People on this listserv are
pletely different. Especially sampling. constantly sharing stories about people
This is not the same as questionnaires who don't "get" qualitative research
and tests and experiments. You can and put it down. Don't go into it naively.
combine designs, like quant and qual Understand the paradigms and politics.
approaches, but that gets really compli- (Chapter 9 deals with paradigms,
cated. Either way, you have to figure out politics, and ways of enhancing the
what's unique about qualitative de- credibility of qualitative inquiry.)
(Chapter 5 covers qualitative de- 8. Do it because you want to and are con-
signs.) vinced it's right for you. Don't do it be-
Top Ten Pieces ofAdvice !}. 35

cause someone told you it would be storm, and problem solve, as well as
easier. It's not. Try as hard as possible share in each other 's successes, ali in a
to pick/negotiate dissertation research more relaxed environment that helps
questions that have to do with some take some of the edge off the stress
passion/interest in your professional (for example, you might have potluck
life. Qualitative research is time-con- meals at different homes?). This can be
suming, intima te, and intenseyou will tremendously liberating (even on a less
need to find your questions interesting than regular basis). Take care of your-
if you want to be at ali sane during the self.
processand still sane at the end.
10. Prepare to be changed. Looking deeply
9. Find a good mentor or support group. at other people's lives will force you to
Or both. In fact, find several of each. If look deeply at yourself.
you can, start a small group of peers in (See the discussions "Voice, Perspec-
the same boat, so to speak, to talk about tive, and Reflexivity" in Chapter 2 and
your research together on a regular "The Observer and What Is Observed:
basisyou can share knowledge, brain- Unity and Separation" in Chapter 6.)
Strategic Themes in
Qualitative Inquiry

rand strategy should guide tactical decisions. Within a grand strat-

egy ali manner of tactical errors may be made, and indeed, are inevi-
table, but can be corrected as long as the strategic vision remains true and fo-
cused. At least that's the theory. In practice . . . ? Try it and see.


ene^al T-Vinciples

Strategos is a Greek word meaning "the thinking and action of a general."

What it means to be strategic is epitomized by that greatest of Greek generais,
Alexander. He conducted his first independent military operation in northern
Macedonia at age 16. He became the ruler of Macedonia after his father, Philip,
was assassinated in 336 B.C. Two years later, he embarked on an invasion of Pr-
sia and conquest of the known world. In the Battle of Arbela, he decisively de-
feated Darius III, King of Kings of the Persian Empire, despite being outnum-
bered 5 to 1 (250,000 Persians against Alexander and fewer than 50,000 Greeks).
Alexander's military conquests are legend. What is less known and little ap-
preciated is that his battlefield victories depended on in-depth knowledge of the

I psychology and culture of the ordinary people and military leaders in opposing
I armies. He included in his military intelligence information about the beliefs,
| worldview, motivations, and patterns of behavior of those he faced. Moreover,
his conquests and subsequent rule were more economic and political in nature
than military. He used what we would now understand to be psychological, so-
ciological, and anthropological insights. He understood that lasting victory de-
pended on the goodwill of and alliances with non-Greek peoples. He carefully
studied the customs and conditions of people he conquered and adapted his
policiespolitically, econornically, and culturallyto promote good conditions
in each locale so that the people were reasonably well-disposed toward his rule
(Garcia 1984).
In this approach, Alexander had to overcome the arrogance and ethnocen-
trism of his own training, culture, and Greek philosophy. Historian C. A. Robin-
son, Jr. explained that Alexander was brought up in Plato's theory that ali
non-Greeks were barbarians, enemies of the Greeks by nature, and Aristotle
taught that ali barbarians (non-Greeks) were slaves by nature. But
Alexander had been able to test the smugness of the Greeks by actual contact with
the barbarians,. . . and experience had apparently convinced him of the essential
sameness of ali people. (Robinson 1949:136)

In addition to being a great general and enlightened ruler, Alexander appears

to have been an extraordinary ethnographer, a qualitative inquirer par excel-
lence, using observa tions and firsthand experience to systematically study and
understand the peoples he encountered and to challenge his own culture's prej-
And as Halcolm finished telling the story of Alexander the Great, he re-
minded those assembled that skills in observation and interviewing are life
skills for experiencing the world. "One can say of qualitative inquiry what Mar-
eei Proust said of art, Thanks to this, instead of seeing one world, our own, we
see it multiplied. So many worlds are at our disposal.' "

From Halcolm's Historical Biographies

The Purpose of a Strategic Framework

i P;
a ^ s erception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see
distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of
close things.

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645),

Japanese warrior, strategist
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 39

D on't mistake a clear view for a short distance.

Grand Canyon hiking advice

verybody has a plan until they've been hit.

Old boxing saying

A well-conceived strategy, by providing these researchers have in common? They are

overall direction, provides a framework for in the field studying the real world as it un-
decision making and action. It permits folds.
seemingly isolated tasks and activities to fit Qualitative designs are naturalistic to the
together, integra ting separate efforts toward extent that the research takes place in real-
a common purpose. Specific study design world settings and the researcher does not
and methods decisions are best made within attempt to manipulate the phenomenon of
an overall strategic framework. This chap- interest (e.g., a group, event, program, com-
ter offers 12 major themes or principies of munity, relationship, or interaction). The
qualitative inquiry that, taken together, con- phenomenon of interest unfolds naturally in
stiitute a comprehensive and coherent stra- that it has no predetermined course estab-
tegic framework for qualitative inquiry, in- lished by and for the researcher such as
cluding fundamental assumptions and would occur in a labor ator y or other con-
epistemological ideais. Exhibit 2.1 summa- trolled setting. Observations take place in
rizes those themes in three basic categories: real-world settings and people are inter-
design strategies, data collection and field- viewed with open-ended questions in places
work strategies, and analysis strategies. and under conditions that are comfortable
for and familiar to them.
Egon Guba (1978), in his classic treatise on
Design Strategies for naturalistic inquiry, identified two dimen-
Qualitative Inquiry sions along which types of scientific inquiry
can be described: (1) the extent to which the
Naturalistic Inquiry scientist manipulates some phenomenon in
advance in order to study it and (2) the ex-
An anthropologist studies initiation rites tent to which constraints are placed on out-
among the Gourma people of Burkina Faso puts, that is, the extent to which predeter-
in West frica. A sociologist observes inter- mined categories or variables are used to
actions among bowlers in their weekly describe the phenomenon under study. He
league games. An evaluator participates then defined "naturalistic inquiry" as a
fully in a leadership training program she is "discovery-oriented" approach that mini-
documenting. A naturalist studies bighorn mizes investigator manipulation of the
sheep beneath Powell Plateau in the Grand study setting and places no prior constraints
Canyon. A policy analyst interviews people on what the outcomes of the research will be.
living in public housing in their homes. An Naturalistic inquiry contrasts with con-
agronomist observes farmers' spring plant- trolled experimental designs where, ideally,
ing practices in rural Minnesota. What do the investigator controls study conditions

Themes of Qualitative Inquiry

Desiqn Strategies
1. Naturaistic inquiry Studying real-world situations as they unfold naturalfy;
nonmanipulative and noncontrolling; openness to whatever
emerges (lack of predetermined constraints on findings).
2. Emergent design Openness to adapting inquiry as understanding deepens and/or
flexibility situations change; the researcher avoids getting locked into rigid
designs that eliminate responsiveness and pursues new paths of
discovery as they emerge.
3. Purposeful sampling Cases for study (e.g., people, organizations, communities,
cultures, events, criticai incidences) are selected because
they are "information rich" and illuminative, that is, they offer
useful manifestations of the phenomenon of interest; sampling,
then, is aimed at insight about the phenomenon, not empirical
generalization from a sample to a popuation.

Data Coilection and Fieldwork Strategies

4. Qualitative data Observations that yield detailed, thick description; inquiry in
depth; interviews that capture direct quotations about people's
personal perspectives and experiences; case studies; careful
document review.
5. Personal experience The researcher has direct contact with and gets close to the
and engagement people, situation, and phenomenon under study; the researcher's
personal experiences and insights are an important part of
the inquiry and criticai to understanding the phenomenon.
6. Empathic neutrality An empathic stance in interviewing seeks vicarious under-
and mindfulness standing without judgment (neutrality) by showing openness,
sensitivity, respect, awareness, and responsiveness; in
observation it means being fully present (mindfulness).
7. Dynamic systems Attention to process; assumes change as ongoing whether
focus is on an individual, an organization, a community, or an
entire culture; therefore, mindful of and attentive to system
and situation dynamics.

by manipulating, changing, or holding con- ence between asking, "Tell me about your
stant externai influences and where a very experience in the program" and "How satis-
limited set of outcome variables is mea- fied were you? Very, somewhat, little, not at
sured. Open- ended, conversation-like inter- ali."
views as a form of naturalistic inquiry con- In the simplest form of controlled experi-
trast with questionnaires that have prede- mental inquiry the researcher enters the
termined response categories. It's the differ- program at two points in time, pretest and
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 41

Anaiysis Strateqies
8. Unique case Assumes each case is special and unique; the first levei of
orientation analysis is being true to, respecting, and capturing the detas
of the individual cases being studied; cross-case analysis
follows from and depends on the quality of individual case
9. nductive analysis Immersion in the details and specifics of the data to discover
and creative synthesis important patterns, themes, and interrelationships; begins by
exploring, then confirming; guided by analytical principies
rather than ruies; ends with a creative synthesis.
10. Holistic perspective The whole phenomenon under study is understood as a complex
system that is more than the sum of its parts; focus on complex
interdependencies and system dynamics that cannot meaning-
fully be reduced to a few discrete variables and linear, cause-
effect relationships.
11. Context sensitivity Places findings in a social, historical, and temporal context;
careful about, even dubous of, the possibility or meaningful-
ness of generalizations across time and space; emphasizes
instead careful comparative case anayses and extrapolating
patterns for possible transferability and adaptation in new
12. Voice, perspective, The qualitative analyst owns and is reflective about her or his
and reflexivity own voice and perspective; a credible voice conveys authentic-
ity and trustworthiness; complete objectivity being impossible
and pure subjectivty undermtning crediblity, the researcher's
focus becomes balanceunderstanding and depicting the world
authenticaliy in ali its complexity while being self-analytical,
politically aware, and reflexive in consciousness.

posttest, and compares the treatment group treatment remains relatively constant and
to some control group on a limited set of unchanging.
standardized measures. Such designs as- While there are some narrow, carefully
sume a single, identifiable, isolated, and controlled, and standardized treatments
measurable treatment. Moreover, such de- that fit this description, in practice human
signs assume that, once introduced, the interventions (programs) are often quite
comprehensive, variable, and dynamic

changing as practitioners learn what does ments can involve comparing two groups,
and does not work, developing new ap- one of which experiences some change
proaches and realigning priorities. This, of while the other doesn't. What makes this
course, creates considerable difficulty for naturalistic inquiry is that real-world partic-
controlled experimental designs that need ipants direct the change, not the researcher,
specifiable, unchanging treatments to relate as in the laboratory.
to specifiable, predetermined outcomes. However, the distinction is not as simple
Controlled experimental evaluation designs as being in the field versus being in the labo-
work best when it is possible to limit pro- ratory; rather, the degree to which a design is
gram adaptation and improvement so as not naturalistic falls along a continuum with
to interfere with the rigor of the research de- completely open fieldwork on one end and
sign. completely controlled laboratory control on
By contrast, under real-world conditions the other end, but with varying degrees of
where programs are subject to change and researcher control and manipulation be-
redirection, naturalistic inquiry replaces the tween these end points. For example, the
fixed treatment/outcome emphasis of the very presence of the researcher, asking ques-
controlled experiment with a dynamic, pro- tions, or as in the case of formative program
cess orientation that documents actual oper- evaluation, providing feedback, can be an
ations and impacts of a process, program, or intervention that reduces the natural un-
intervention over a period of time. The eval- folding of events. Unobtrusive observations
uator sets out to understand and document are needed as an inquiry strategy when the
the day-to-day reality of participants in the inquirer wants to minimize data collection
program, making no attempt to manipulate, as an intervention. Nor are laboratory condi-
control, or eliminate situational variables or tions found only in buildings. Field experi-
program developments, but accepting the ments are common in agriculture where re-
complexity of a changing program reality. searchers want to introduce a considerable
The data of the evaluation include whatever amount of control, reduce variation in extra-
emerges as important to understanding neous variables, and focus on a limited set of
what participants experience. predetermined measures, as in crop fertil-
Natural experiments occur when the ob- izer studies.
server is present during a real-world change Let me conclude this discussion of natu-
to document a phenomenon before and after ralistic inquiry with two examples to illus-
the change. Durrenberger and Erem (1999) trate variations in this design strategy. In
documented "a natural experiment in evaluating a wilderness-based leadership
thought and structure" when, because of a training program, I participated fully in the
change at a hospital they were studying, 10-day wilderness experience, guided in my
they were able to contrast two different observations by nothing more than the sen-
structures of leadership in a union worksite. sitizing concept "leadership." The only "un-
They had already documented the degree natural" elements of my participation were
and nature of "union consciousness" before that (1) everyone knew I was taking notes to
the change, so by repeating their observa- document what happened and (2) at the end
tions after the change in a hospital structure, of each day I conducted open-ended, con-
they were able to. take advantage of a natu- versational interviews with staff. While this
rally occurring experiment. Natural experi- constitutes a relatively pure naturalistic in-
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 4 3



quiry strategy, my presence, note taking, tivities. For 736 consecutive nights, Strass-
and interviews must be presumed to have mann kept track of ali the women who used
altered somewhat the way the program un- the hut. This allowed her to collect statis-
folded. I know, for example, that the debrief- tics on the frequency and length of menstru-
ing questions I asked staff in the evenings ation among the Dogon women, but with a
got them thinking about things they were completely naturalistic inquiry strategy, il-
doing that led to some changes along the lustrating how both quantitative and quali-
way in how they conducted the training. tative data can be collected within a natural-
The second example comes from the istic design strategy. There's no reason to
fieldwork of Beverly Strassmann among the believe that her presence over this long pe-
Dogon people in the village of Sangui in the riod changed the women's menstruation
Sahel, about 120 miles south of Tombouctou patterns.
in Mali, West frica (Gladwell 2000). Her
study focused on the Dogon tradition of
Emergent Design Flexibility
having menstruating women stay in small,
segregated adobe huts at the edge of the vil-
lage. She observed the comings and goings In the wilderness leadership training pro-
of these women and obtained urine samples gram I evaluated, halfway through the
from them to be sure they were menstruat- 10-day experience the group I was with un-
ing. The women only slept in the huts. Dur- expectedly split into two subgroups. I had to
ing the day, they went about their normal ac- make an in-the-field, on-the-spot decision

about which group to follow and how to get search. How will they know what will result
interviews with the others at a later time. from the inquiry if the design is only par-
Naturalistic inquiry designs cannot usu- tially specified? The answer is: They won't
ally be completely specified in advance of know with any certainty. Ali they can do is
fieldwork. While the design will specify an look at the results of similar qualitative m-
initial focus, plans for observations, and ini- quiries, inspect the reasonableness of the
tial guiding interview questions, the natu- overall strategies in the proposed design,
ralistic and inductive nature of the inquiry and consider the capacity of the researcher
makes it both impossible and inappropriate to fruitfully undertake the proposed study.
to specify operational variables, state test- As with other strategic themes of qualita-
able hypotheses, or finalize either instru- tive inquiry, the extent to which the design is
mentation or sampling schemes. A natural- specified in advance is a matter of degree.
istic design unfolds or emerges as fieldwork Doctoral students doing qualitative disser-
unfolds. ta tions will usually be expected to present
Lincoln and Guba (1985) made an exten- fairly detailed fieldwork proposals and in-
sive comparison of the design characteristics terview schedules so that the approvmg
of qualitative/naturalistic inquiry in con- doctoral committee can guide the student
trast to quantitative/experimental methods. and be sure that the proposed work will lead
They concluded: to satisfying degree requirements. Many
funders will fund only detailed proposals.
What these considera tions add up to is that the As an ideal, however, the qualitative re-
design of a naturalistic inquiry (whether re- searcher needs considerable flexibility and
search, evaluation, or policy analysis) cannot openness. The fieldwork approach of an-
be given in advance; it must emerge, develop, thropologist Brackette F. Williams repre-
unfold The call for an emergent design by sents the ideal of emergence in naturalistic
naturalists is not simply an effort on their part mquiry.
to get around the "hard thinking" that is sup- Williams has focused on issues of cultural
posed to precede an inquiry; the desire to per- identity and social relationships. Her work
mit events to unfold is not merely a way of has mcluded in-depth study of ritual and
rationalizing what is at bottom "sloppy in- symbolism in the construction of national
quiry/' The design specifications of the con- identity in Guyana (1991), and the ways that
ventional paradigm form a procrustean bed of race and class function in the national con-
such a nature as to make it impossible for the sciousness of the United States. In 1997, she
naturalist to lie in itnot only uncomfortably, received a five-year MacArthur Fellowship,
but at ali (p. 225) which has allowed her to pursue a truly
emergent, naturalistic design in her current
Design flexibility stems from the open- fieldwork on the phenomenon of killing in
ended nature of naturalistic inquiry as well America. I had the opportunity to interview
as pragmatic considerations. Being open her about her work and am including sev-
and pragmatic requires a high tolerance for eral excerpts from that interview1 through-
ambiguity and uncertainty as well as trust in out this chapter to illustrate actual scholarly
the ultimate value of what inductive analy- implementa tion of some of the strategic ide-
sis will yield. Such tolerance, openness, and ais of qualitative inquiry. Here she describes
trust create special problems for dissertation the necessity of an open-ended approach to
committees and funders of evaluation or re- her fieldwork because her topic is broad and
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 4 5

she needs to follow wherever the phenome- col of questions and issues to pursue. It was
non takes her. general sampling to get a sense of what I
wanted to know. At other times, it's just to get
I'm tracking somethingkillingthat's mov- a general opinion from Jolin Q. Public about a
ing very rapidly in the culture. Every time I question that I've gotten ali kinds of official re-
talk to someone, there's another set of data, an- sponses to, but I want to know what people in
other thing to look at. Anything that happens general think. In an airport, I may get an op-
in America can be relevant, and thafs the ex- portunity to talk to 5 or 10 people. If I have sev-
hausting part of it. It never shuts off. You listen eral stops, I may get 15 or 20 by the time I come
to the radio. You watch television. You pass a home.
billboard with an advertisement on it. There's I fashion the research as I want to fashion it
no such thing as something irrelevant when based on what I think this week as opposed to
you're studying something like this or maybe what I thought Iast week. I don't follow some
just studying the society that you're in. You proposal. I don't have in mind that this has to
don't always kno w exactly how it's going to be be a book that's going to have to come out a
relevant, but somehow it just strikes you and certain way. I'm following where the data take
you say to yourself: I should document the me, where my questions take me.
date of when I saw this and where it was and
what was said because it's data. Few qualitative studies are as fully emergent
I don't follow every possible lead people and open-ended as the fieldwork of Wil-
give me. But generally, it is a matter in some liams. Her work exemplifies the ideal of
sense of opportunity sampling, of serendipity, emergent design flexibility.
whatever you want to call it, I key into things
that turn out to be very important six months Purposeful Sampling
la ter.
I do impromptu interviews. I don't have In 1940, eminent sociologist Kingsley
some target number of interviews in mind or Da vis published what was to become a clas-
predetermined questions. It depends on the sic case study, the story of Anna, a baby kept
person and the situation. Airports, for exam- in nearly total isolation from the time of her
ple, are a good place for impromptu inter- birth until she was discovered at age six. She
views with people. So some times, instead of had been deprived of human contact, had
using airport time to write, I interview people acquired no language skills, and had re-
about the death penalty or about killing or ceived only enough care to keep her barely
about death in their life. It's called opportunity alive. This single case, horrifying as was the
sampling, I begin with a general description. abuse and neglect, offered a natural experi-
You're such and such an age. You come from ment to study socialization effects and the
such and such a place and, by the way, what do relative contributions of nature and nurture
you think about ali this killing? And I sort of to human development. In 1947, Davis pub-
launch into a conversation. Sometimes the in- lished an update on Anna and a comparison
terview goes on for a couple of hours and case of socialization isolation, the story of
sometimes, maybe 10 or 15 minutes. I just say, Isabelle. These two cases offered consider-
"You wouldn't mind if I record this, would able insight into the question of how long a
you?" If they say no, I take notes. human being could remain isolated before
I did a lot of that kind of impromptu inter- "the capacity for full cultural acquisition"
viewing m the first year to formulate a proto- was permanently damaged (Davis 1940,

1947). The cases of Anna and Isabelle are ex- which one can learn a great deal about issues
treme examples of purposeful case sam- of central importance to the purpose of the
pling. research, thus the term purposeful sampling.
Unusual clinicai cases in medicine and For example, if the purpose of an evaluation
psychology, instructive precisely because is to increase the effectiveness of a program
they are unusual, offer many examples of in reaching lower-socioeconomic groups,
purposeful sampling. Neurologist Oliver one may leam a great deal more by focusing
Sacks (1985) presents a number of such cases in depth on understanding the needs, inter-
in his widely read and influential book The ests, and incentives of a small number of
Man Who Mistook His Wifefor a Hat, the very carefully selected poor families than by
title of which hints at the uniqueness of the gathering standardized information from a
cases examined. While one cannot general- large, statistically significant sample. The
ize from single cases or very small samples, cases sampled can be individual people,
one can leam from themand learn a great families, organizations, cultures, incidents,
deal, often opening up new territory for fur- or activities, to mention examples. But re-
ther research, as was the case with Piagefs gardless of the kind of unit of analysis (e.g.,
detailed and insightful observations of his an athlete or a sports team, a teacher or a
own two children. classroom), the purpose of purposeful sam-
Perhaps nowhere is the difference be- pling is to select information-rich cases
tween quantitative and qualitative methods whose study will illuminate the questions
better captured than in the different strate- under study.
gies, logics, and purposes that distinguish Chapter 5 will review several different
statistical probability sampling from quali- strategies for purposefully selecting infor-
tative purposeful sampling. Qualitative in- mation-rich cases. In my interview with her,
quiry typically focuses on relatively small Brackette F. Williams offered an example of
samples, even single cases (N = 1) such as an information-rich case from her ongoing
Anna or Isabelle, selected purposefully to per- study of killing in America.
mit inquiry into and understanding of a phe-
nomenon in depth. Quantitative methods I've been tracking information on a serial
typically depend on larger samples selected killersomeone who has just been identified
randomly in order to generalize with confi- as a "serial killer" in Louisianawho's killing
dence from the sample to the population young Black men, shooting them up with
that it represents. Not only are the tech- drugs and taking one of their tennis shoes,
niques for sample selection different, but the sometimes both. Now, I'm interested in the
very logic of each approach is distinct be- fact that as society more and more identifies
cause the purpose of each strategy is differ- young Black men as sort of the quintessential
ent. bad guys, this serial killer picks a bad guy. For
The logic and power of probability sam- contrast, look at serial killers who picked
pling derive from its purpose: generaliza- women at a certain period of time, about 15-20
tion. The logic and power of purposeful years ago, because they wore, in his estima-
sampling derive from the emphasis on tion, a size 13. Now, track our obsession with
in-depth understanding. This leads to se- obesity. How a serial killer picks his victims
lecting information-rich cases for study in can tell you something important about
depth. Information-rich cases are those from what's going on in society.
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 4 7

3. Data Collection and I was down in Texas interviewing last March,

Fieldwork: Strategies thinking about my research and interviewing
for Qualitative Inquiry people, and there was a childhood memory
that I had of an electrocution of a man that was
the son of a woman who lived across the field
Qualitative Data from us. Now a rumor about this had always
been in the back of my mind. Whenever I'd

Qualitative data consist of quotations, ob- hear about a death penalty case over the years,

servations, and excerpts from documents. I would thihk about this man having been

The first chapter provided several examples electrocuted. I thought he was electrocuted be-

of qualitative data. Deciding whether to use cause he raped this White woman. So I'm sit-

naturalistic inquiry or an experimental ap- ting in my cousin's kitchen after I had done

proach is a design issue. This is different some of these interviews and another woman,

from deciding what kind of data to collect an older woman who was a relative of hers,

(qualitative, quantitative, or some combina- came in and the conversation goes around. I

tion), although design and data altematives happen to mention this memory of mine. I

are clearly related. Qualitative data can be asked, "Is that just something that I concocted

collected in experimental designs where out of having read a book or something, but it

participants have been randomly divided never happened?" She answered, "Oh, no, it

into treatment and control groups. Likewise, happened. You only have one part of the story

some quantitative data may be collected in wrong. He didn't rape her. He looked at her."

naturalistic inquiry approaches. Neverthe- You know, you read about these things in
less, controlled experimental designs pre- history books and then ali of a sudden, it's Rke
dominantly aim for statistical analyses of a part of a world that you existed in. These
quantitative data, while qualitative data are things happened around you and yet some-
the primary focus in naturalistic inquiry how there was so much of a distance, you
This relationship between design and mea- couldn't touch it. I knew about this man ali my
surement will be explored at greater length life, but in ali the reading and ali the history
in the chapter on design. books, I couldn't touch that. Doing this project

Qualitative data describe. They take us, the way I'm doing it allozvs me to touch things that
as readers, into the time and place of the ob- otherwise I would never touch.
serva tion so that we know what it was like to
have been there. They capture and commu-
Direct Personal Experience and
nicate someone else's experience of the
Engagement: Going Into the Field
world in his or her own words. Qualitative
data tell a story. In the excerpt below, from
my interview with her, Williams tells the The preceding quotation from Williams
story of checking out a childhood memory. exemplifies the personal nature of qualita-
This story gives us insight into the nature of tive fieldwork. Getting close to her subject
her naturalistic inquiry and open-ended in- matter, including using her own experi-
terviewing, shows how a criticai incident ences, both from childhood and day-to-day
can be a purposeful sample, and, in the story in her adult life, illustrates the all-encom-
itself, offers something of the flavor of quali- passing and ultimately personal nature of
tative data. in-depth qualitative inquiry. Traditionally,

social scientists have been warned to stay other people, assume that in order to know or
distant from those they studied to maintain understand others one is well-advised to give
"objectivity." But that kind of detachment some conscious attention to that effort in
can limit one's openness to and understand- face-to-face contacts. They assume, too, that
ing of the very nature of what one is study- the internai world of sociologyor any other
ing, especially where meaning-making and social worldis not understandable unless
emotion are part of the phenomenon. Look one has been part of it in a face-to- face fashion
closely at what Williams says about the ef- for quite a period of time. How utterly para-
fects of immersing herself personally in her doxical, then, for these same persons to tum
fieldwork, even while visiting relatives: around and make, by implication, precisely
"Doing this project the way Tm doing it al- the opposite claim about people they have
lows me to touch things that otherwise I never encountered face-to-facethose people
would never touch." appearing as numbers in their tables and as
Fieldwork is the central activity of quali- correlations in their matrices! (Lofland 1971:3)
tative inquiry. "Going into the field" means
having direct and personal contact with peo- Qualitative inquiry means going into the
ple under study in their own environments fieldinto the real world of programs, orga-
getting close to the people and situa- nizations, neighborhoods, street corners
tions being studied to personally under- and getting close enough to the people and
stand the realities and minutiae of daily life, circumstances there to capture what is hap-
for example, life as experienced by partici- pening. To immerse oneself in naturally oc-
pants in a welfare-to-work program. The in- curring complexity involves what qualita-
quirer gets close to the people under study tive methodologist Norman Denzin (1978a)
through physical proximity for a period of has called "the studied commitinent to ac-
time as well as through development of tively enter the worlds of interacting in-
closeness in the social sense of shared expe- dividuais" (pp. 8-9). This makes possible
rience, empathy, and confidentiality. That description and understanding of both exter-
many quantitative methodologists fail to nally observable behaviors and internai
ground their findings in personal qualitative states (worldview, opinions, values, atti-
understanding poses what sociologist John tudes, and symbolic constructs). Given the
Lofland (1971) called a major contradiction qualitative emphasis on striving for depth of
between their public insistence on the ade- understanding, in context, attitude surveys
quacy of statistical portrayals of other hu- and psychological tests are inadequate for
mans and their personal everyday dealings revealing inner perspectives. "The inner
with and judgments about other human perspective assumes that understanding
beings. can only be achieved by actively participai-
ing in the life of the observed and gaining in-
In everyday life, statistical sociologists, like sight by means of introspection" (Bruyn
everyone else, assume that they do not know 1963:226).
or understand very well people they do not Actively participating in the life of the ob-
see or associate with very much. They assume served means going where the action is, get-
that knowing and understanding other people ting one's hands dirty, participating where
require that one see them reasonably often and possible in actual program activities, and
in a variety of situations relative to a variety of getting to know program staff and partici-
issues. Moreover, statistical sociologists, like pants on a personal leveiin other words,
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 49

getting personally engaged so as to use ali of It is important to note that the admonition
one's senses and capacities, including the ca- to get close to the data is in no way meant to
pacity to experience affect no less than cog- deny the usefulness of quantitative meth-
nition. Such engagement stands in sharp ods. Rather, it means that statistical portray-
contrast to the professional comportment of als must always be interpreted and given
some in the field, for example, supposedly human meaning. I once interviewed an eval-
objective evaluators, who purposely project uator of federal health programs who ex-
an image of being cool, calm, externai, pressed frustration at trying to make sense
and de tache d. Such detachment is pre- out of statistical data from over 80 projects
sumed to reduce bias. However, qualitative after site visit funds had been cut out of the
methodologists question the necessity and evaluation: "There's no way to evaluate
utility of distance and detachment, asserting something thafs just data. You know, you
that without empathy and sympathetic in- have to go look."
trospection derive d from personal encoun- Going into the field and having personal
ters, the observer cannot fully understand contact with program participants is not the
human behavior. Understanding comes only legitimate way to understand human
from trying to put oneself in the other per- behavior. For certain questions and for situa-
son's shoes, from trying to discern how oth- tions involving large groups, distance is in-
ers think, act, and feel. evitable, perhaps even helpful, but to get at
In a classic study, educational evaluator deeper meanings and preserve context,
Edna Shapiro (1973) studied young chil- face-to-face interaction is both necessary
dren in classrooms in the national Follow and desirable. This returns us to a recurrent
Through program using both quantitative theme of this book: matching research meth-
and qualitative methods. It was her close- ods to the purpose of a study, the questions
ness to the children in those classrooms that being asked, and the resources available.
allowed her to see that something was hap- In thinking about the issue of closeness to
pening that was not captured by standard- the people and situations being studied, it is
ized tests. She could see differences in chil- useful to remember that many major contri-
dren, observe their responses to diverse butions to our understanding of the world
situations, and capture the varying mean- have come from scientists' personal experi-
ings they attached to common events. She ences. One finds many instances where close-
could feel their tension in the testing situa- ness to sources of data made key insights
tion and their spontaneity in the more natu- possible Piagefs closeness to his children,
ral classroom setting. Had she worked solely Freud's proximity to and empathy with his
with data collected by others or only at a dis- patients, Darwin's closeness to nature, and
tance, she would never have discovered the even Newton's intimate encounter with an
crucial differences in the classroom settings apple. In short, closeness does not make bias
she studieddifferences that actually al- and loss of perspective inevitable; distance
lowed her to evaluate the innovative pro- is no guarantee of objectivity.
gram in a meaningful and relevant way.
Where standardized tests showed no differ- Empathic Neutrality
ences between classrooms using different
approaches, her direct observations docu- If, as the previous section has discussed,
mented important and significant program naturalistic inquiry involves fieldwork that
impacts. puts one in close contact with people and

their problems, what is to be the researcher's of a supposedly value-free social science,

cognitive and emotional stance toward subjectivity is the very antithesis of scientific
those people and problems? No universal inquiry.
prescription can capture the range of possi- Objectivity has been considered the
bilities, for the answer will depend on the strength of the scientific method. The pri-
situation, the nature of the inquiry, and the mary methods for achieving objectivity in
perspective of the researcher. But thinking science have been conducting blind experi-
strategically, I offer the phrase "empathic ments and quantification. "Objective tests"
neutrality" as a point of departure. It sug- gather data through instruments that, in
gests that there is a middle ground between principie, are not dependent on human skill,
becoming too involved, which can cloud perception, or even presence. Yet, it is clear
judgment, and remaining too distant, which that tests and questionnaires are designed
can reduce understanding. What is em- by human beings and therefore are subject to
pathic neutrality? Consider this anecdote by the intrusion of the researcher's biases by
way of illustration. the very questions asked. Unconscious bias
Pragmatst philosopher William James, in the skillful manipula tion of statistics to
also a scholar of anatomy and psychology, prove a hypothesis in which the researcher
had a great capacity for empathy, as dis- believes is hardly absent from hypothetical-
played in his classic study The Varieties o/Re- deductive inquiry.
ligious Experience ([1902] 1999). Editor Clif- Part of the difficulty in thinking about the
ton Fadiman (1985:305) recounts that while fieldwork stance of the qualitative mquirer
he was teaching at Radcliffe, Gertrude Stein is that the terms objectivity and subjectivity
took a course from him in which, having at- have become so loaded with negative con-
tended the opera and then partied into the notations and subject to acrimonious debate
wee hours the night before an exam, she (e.g., Scriven 1972a; Borman and Goetz 1986;
wrote, "Dear Professor James, I am so sorry Krenz and Sax 1986; Guba 1991) that neither
but I do not feel a bit like writing an exami- term any longer provides useful guidance.
nation paper today." James is said to have These terms have been politicized beyond
written back: "Dear Miss Stein, I understand utility. To claim the mantle of "objectivity" in
perfectly. I often feel like that myself." Had the postmodern age is to expose oneself as
he added, but the exam is still due, instead of embarrassingly naive. The ideais of absolute
ordinary sympathy he would have dis- objectivity and value-free science are impos-
played extraordinary empathic neutrality. sible to attam in practice and are of question-
Methodologists and philosophers of sci- able desirability in the first place since they
ence debate what the researcher's stance ignore the intrinsically social nature and hu-
should be vis--vis the people being studied. man purposes of research. On the other
Critics of qualitative inquiry have charged hand, subjectivity has such negative connota-
that the approach is too subjective, in large tions in the public mind that to admit being
part because the researcher is the instrument subjective may undermine one's credibility
of both data collection and data interpreta- with audiences unsophisticated about
tion and because a qualitative strategy in- phenomenological assumptions and nu-
cludes having personal contact with and ances. In short, the terms objectivity and sub-
getting close to the people and situation un- jectivity have become ideological ammuni-
der study. From the perspective of advocates tion in the methodological paradigms
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 51

debate. My pragmatic solution is to avoid plexities and multiple perspectives as they

using either word and to stay out of futile de- emerge, and be balanced in reporting both
bates about subjectivity versus objectivity. confirmatory and disconfirming evidence
Qualitative research in recent years has with regard to any conclusions offered.
moved toward preferring such language as Neutrality is not an easily attainable
trustworthiness and authenticity. Evaluators stance, so ali credible research strategies in-
aim for "balance/' "fairness," and "com- clude techniques for helping the investiga-
pleteness" (Patton 1997a:282). Chapter 9 will tor become aware of and deal with selective
discuss these terms and the stances they im- perception, personal biases, and theoretical
ply at greater length. At this point, I simply predispositions. Qualitative inquiry, be-
want to note the strategic nature of the issue cause the human being is the instrument of
of inquirer stance and add empathic neutral- data collection, requires that the investigator
ity to the emerging lexicon that attempts to carefully reflect on, deal with, and report po-
supersede the hot button term objective and tential sources of bias and error. Systematic
the epithet subjective. data collection procedures, rigorous train-
Any research strategy ultimately needs ing, multiple data sources, triangulation, ex-
credibility to be useful. No credible research ternai reviews, and other techniques to be
strategy advocates biased distortion of data discussed in this book are aimed at produc-
to serve the researcher's vested interests and ing high-quality qualitative data that are
prejudices. Both qualitative/naturalistic in- credible, trustworthy, authentic, balanced
quiry and quantitative/experimental in- about the phenomenon under study, and
quiry seek honest, meaningful, credible, and fair to the people studied.
empirically supported findings. Any credi- The livelihood of evaluators and re-
ble research strategy requires that the inves- searchers depends on their integrity and
tigator adopt a stance of neutrality with re- credibility. Independence and neutrality,
gard to the phenomenon under study. This then, are serious issues.
simply means that the investigator does not However, neutrality does not mean de-
set out to prove a particular perspective or tachment. It is on this point that qualitative
manipulate the data to arrive at predisposed inquiry makes a special contribution. Quali-
truths. Theneutral investigator enters the re- tative inquiry depends on, uses, and en-
search arena with no ax to grind, no theory hances the researcher's direct experiences in
to prove (to test but not to prove), and no the world and insights about those ex-
predetermined results to support. Rather, periences. This includes learning through
the investigator's commitment is to under- empathy.
stand the world as it unfolds, be true to com-

Empathy and Insight

T he idea of acquiring an "inside" understandingthe actors' definitions

of the situationis a powerful central concept for understanding the
purpose of qualitative inquiry.

Thomas A. Schwandt (2000:102)


Empathy develops from personal contact

with the people interviewed and observed
during fieldwork. Empathy involves being
able to take and understand the stance, posi- iVi i: to 'n"i'i;;i:;! SFV ::.:;: iid * > u-, kx .VSH'!:';

tion, feelings, experiences, and worldview .ji.;j r&i |;!"!':!i! i! ir.V:! r-h-, V . 'iVn r/iu!
of others. Put metaphorically, empathy is ! ! , !':" ! ' :!! i : -iii' I '! !; ! ; I;'I ! !:!!I;".' ! i.:J" n n l V i ! i'-
"like being able to imagine a life for a spider, A ; \ V J ! ; TF! R. Y:'.-; I V A I : ! -.-JYV. (> RI-N <".'

a maker's life, or just some aliveness in its ':i,i;!!:M;:!'\!!!n:,!:Mi!i:v. irjsYn!;! k\ mlv i ^-i-'
wide abdmen and delicate spinnerets so & !i, >Vi k : T . ??;!!! K I - V i A M - N h : V " I i i W -

you take it outside in two paper cups instead W - .Mv hi! : I: H;. OA r' :',!

of stepping on it" (Dunn 2000:62). Empathy 1 P J ! ' I ! " i " !L|: RT-D* L . ' ! . I : i " ! . J ' I T ! ':: ! R I,:;.

combines cognitive understanding with af- :.!'!:' V i V i !.';!;! J I T F ! IV; ! I L I ' ! M' ri 1 !.!. W , NNHN ri

fective connection, and in that sense differs WJS V!:'RVSN1;::NYJ.r, IIIXHRIY''!" W M ! !|

from sympathy, which is primarily emo- ; : ; I R ; 1 ; H ' " ; ! . TH-H V/!';:! F:-I" . T T i.VI W : , I H T !I I;'

tional (Wisp 1986). Ki' TIJ. II.I,\<:!:'i:I a.*:- 1'!!-:' D -A V I.-RI-I*-, !::M;IJ: N 1 ; P;

The value of empathy is emphasized in .! : 'i i 'i '.] i' j!i-ii FRI"1 ! ! !:.'' M S ! I . V ^ ' . , Y Y v ]i ri.;R N ; v i : ! !'

the phenomenological doctrine of Verstehen . V i HL' i V i {! :i i'i.' I! Y L " ' J i.i > J I."I .! Y r M V I ! rvri,

that undergirds much qualitative inquiry. *T i i i ! I ' H \ iii R':I::.I" IV!T; RRN-J.''

Verstehen means "understanding" and refers

to the unique human capacity to make sense
of the world. This capacity has profound im- ences need methods different from those
plications for how one studies human be- used in agricultural experimentation and
ings. The Verstehen doctrine presumes that physical sciences because human beings are
since human beings have a unique type of different from plants and nuclear particles.
consciousness, as distinct from other forms The Verstehen tradition stresses understand-
of life, the study of humanbeings willbe dif- ing that focuses on the meaning of human
ferent from the study of other forms of life behavior, the context of social interaction, an
and nonhuman phenomena. The capacity empathic understanding based on personal
for empathy, then, is one of the major assets experience, and the connections between
available for human inquiry into human af- mental states and behavior. The tradition of
fairs. Verstehen places emphasis on the human ca-
The Verstehen premise asserts that human pacity to know and understand others
beings can and must be understood in a through empathic introspection and reflec-
manner different from other objects of study tion based on direct observation of and in-
because humans have purposes and emo- teraction with people. "Verstehen thus en-
tions; they make plans, construct cultures, tails a kind of empathic identification with
and hold values that affect behavior. Their the actor. It is an act of psychological
feelings and behaviors are influenced by reenactment getting inside the head of an
consciousness, deliberation, and the capac- actor to understand what he or she is up to in
ity to think about the future. Human beings terins of motives, beliefs, desires, thoughts,
live in a world that has special meaning to and so on" (Schwandt 2000:192).
them, and because their behavior has mean- Max Weber brought the term empathy into
ing, "human actions are intelligible in ways social science to emphasize the importance
that the behavior of nonhuman objects is of comprehending the motives and feelings
not" (Strike 1972:28). Human and social sci- of people in a social-cultural context.
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 53

Both Verstehen and empathy depend largely deeply and attentively so as to enter into the
on qualitative data. Verstehen is an attempt to other person's experience and perception.
"crack the code" of the culture, that is, detect
the categories into which a culture codes ac- I do not select, interpret, advise, or d i r e c t . . . .
tions and thoughts Empathy in evaluation Being-In the world of the other is a way of go-
is the detection of emotions manifested in the ing wide open, entering n as if for the first
program participants and staff, achieved by time, hearing just what is, leaving out my own
evaluators' becoming aware of similar or com- thoughts, feelings, theories, b i a s e s . . . . I enter
plementary emotions in themselves. (Meyers with the intention of understanding and ac-
1981:180) cepting perceptions and not presenting my
own view or r e a c t i o n s . . . . I only want to en-
A qualitative strategy of inquiry proposes courage and support the other person's ex-
an active, involved role for the social scien- pression, what and how it is, how it came to be,
tist. "Hence, insight may be regarded as the and where itis going. (Moustakas 1995:82-83)
core of social knowledge. It is arrived at by
being on the inside of the phenomena to be At first, the phrase "empathic neutrality"
observed It is participation in an activity may appear to be an oxymoron, combining
that generates interest, purpose, point of contradictory ideas. Empathy, however, de-
view, value, meaning, and intelligibility, as scribes a stance toward the people one en-
well as bias" (Wirth 1949:xxii). This is a quite countersit communicates understanding,
different scientific process from that envi- interest, and caring. Neutrality suggests a
sioned by the classical, experimental ap- stance toward their thoughts, emotions, and
proach to science, but it is still an empirical, behaviorsit means being nonjudgmental.
(i.e., data-based), scientific perspective. The Neutrality can actually facilitate rapport
qualitative perspective "in no way suggests and help build a relationship that supports
that the researcher lacks the ability to be sci- empathy by disciplining the researcher to be
entific while collecting the data. On the con- open to the other person and nonjudgmental
trary, it merely specifies that it is crucial for in that openness. Rapport and empathy,
validityand, consequently, for reliability however, must not be taken for granted, as
to try to picture the empirical social world Radhika Parameswaran (2001) found in do-
as it actually exists to those under investiga- ing fieldwork among young middle-class
tion, rather than as the researcher imagines it women in urban ndia who read Western ro-
to be" (Filstead 1970:4), thus the importance mance fiction.
of such qualitative approaches as partici-
pant observation, depth interviewing, de- Despite their eventual willingness to share
tailed description, and case studies. their fears and complaints about gendered so-
These qualitative inquiry methods pro- cial pressures, I still wonder whether these
vide opportunities to achieve empathy and young women would have been more open
give the researcher an empirical basis for about their sexuality with a Westerner who
describing the perspectives of others. Chap- might be seen as less likely to judge them
ter 1 cited the framework of humanis tic psy- based on cultural expectations of women's be-
chologist Clark Moustakas, who has de- havior in Indian society. The well-known
scribed this nonjudgmental empathic stance word rapport, which is often used to signify
as "Being-In" another's worldimmers- acceptance and warm relationships between
ing oneself in another's world by listening informants and researchers, was thus some-

thing I could not take for granted despite be- data interpretation and formulating recom-
ing an insider; ali I could claim was an mendations, but during fieldwork, the focus
imperfect rapport. (Parameswaran 2001:69) should be on rigorously observing and inter-
viewing to understand the people and situa-
Evaluation presents special challenges tion being studied. This nuanced relation-
for rapport and neutrality as well. After ship between neutrality and empathy will
fieldwork, an evaluator may be called on to be discussed further in both the data collec-
render judgments about a program as part of tion and analysis chapters.

A Dynamic, Developmental Perspective

"D here is nothing permanent except change.

Heraclitus (Ancient Greece)

A questionnaire is like a photograph. A in participants' experiences undermine the

qualitative study is like a documentary film. logic of an experimental design because
Both offer images. One, however the pho- these developmentsali natural, even inev-
tographcaptures and freezes a moment in itable, in real-world programscall into
time, like recording a respondenfs answer question what the "treatment" or experi-
to a survey question at a moment in time. ment actually is.
The otherthe film offers a fluid sense of Naturalistic inquiry assumes the ever-
development, movement, and change. changing world posited by the observation
Qualitative evaluation researchers, for in the ancient Chinese proverb that one
example, conceive of programs as dynamic never steps into the same river twice.
and developing, with "treatments" chang- Change is a natural, expected, and inevita-
ing in subtle but important ways as staff ble part of human experience, and docu-
learns what does and doesn't work, as cli- menting change is a natural, expected, and
ents move in and out, and as conditions of intrinsic part of fieldwork. Rather than try-
deli very are altered. A primary challenge, ing to control, limit, or direct change, natu-
then, becomes describing and understand- ralistic inquirers expect change, anticipate
ing these dynamic program processes and the likelihood of the unanticipated, and are
their holistic effects on participants so as to prepared to go with the flow of change. One
provide information for program improve- gets this sense of pursuing change in the
ment. In contrast, an experimental design comment by anthropologist Williams cited
for an evaluation typically conceives of the earlier: 'Tm tracking somethingkilling
program as a fixed thing, like a measured that's moving very rapidly in the culture."
amount of fertilizer applied to a cropa Part of her inquiry task is to track cultural
treatment, an interventionthat has prede- changes the way an epidemiologist tracks a
termined, measurable outcomes. Inconsis- disease. As a result, reading a good qualita-
tency in the treatment, instability in the tive case study gives the sense of reading a
intervention, changes in the program, vari- good story. It has a beginning, a middle, and
ability in program processes, and diversity an endingthough not necessarily an end.
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 5 5

3. Analysis Strategies evaluation. That is what is meant by the

for Qualitative Inquiry "unique case orientation" of qualitative in-
Uni que Case Orientation Case studies are particularly valuable in
program evaluation when the program is in-
"Six windows on respect" is how Har- dividualized, so the evaluation needs to be
vard sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot attentive to and capture individual differ-
(2000:13) describes the six detailed case ences among participants, diverse experi-
studies, each a full chapter, she presents in ences of the program, or unique variations
her book Respect. The cases offer different from one program setting to another. As
angles on the meaning and experience of re- noted earlier, a case can be a person, an
spect in inodern society as illuminated by a event, a program, an organization, a time
nurse-inidwife, a pediatrician, a teacher, an period, a criticai mcident, or a community.
artist, a law school professor, and a pastoral Regardless of the unit of analysis, a qual-
therapist/AIDS activist. Before drawing itative case study seeks to describe that unit
themes and contrasts froin this small, pur- in depth and detail, holistically, and in
poseful sample, and before naming the six context.
angles they represent, Lawrence-Lightfoot
had the task of constructing the unique cases
Inductive Analysis
to tell these distinct stories. Her first task,
and Creative Synthesis
then, was to undertake the "art and science
of portraiture" (Lawrence-Lightfoot and Benjamin Whorf's development of the fa-
Da vis 1997). From these separate portraits, mous Whorf hypothesisthat language
she fashions a stained glass mosaic that de- shapes our experience of the environment
picts and illuminates Respect and that words shape perceptions and ac-
I undertook a study of a national fellow- tions, a kind of linguistic relativity theory
ship award program that had had more than (Schultz 1991)provides an instructive ex-
600 recipients over a 20-year period. A sur- ample of inductive analysis. Whorf was an
vey had been done to get the fellows' opin- insurance investigator assigned to look into
ions about select issues, but the staff wanted explosions in warehouses. He discovered
more depth, richness, and detail to really un- that truck drivers were entering "empty"
derstand patterns of fellowship use and im- warehouses smoking cigarettes and cigars.
pact. With a team of researchers, we con- The warehouses, it turned out, often con-
ducted 40 in-depth, face-to-face interviews tained invisible, but highly flammable
and wrote case studies. Through inductive gases. He interviewed truckers and found
analysis, we subsequently identified dis- that they associated the word empty with
tinct enabling processes and impacts, and harmless and acted accordingly. From these
we created a frainework that depicted rela- specific observations and findings, he induc-
tionships between status at the time of the tively formulated his general theory about
award, enabling processes, and impacts. The language and perception that has informed
heart of the study remained the 40 case stud- a half-century of communications scholar-
ies. To read only the framework analysis ship (Lee 1996).
without reading the case studies would be to Qualitative inquiry is particularly ori-
lose much of the richness, depth, meaning, ented toward exploration, discovery, and in-
and contribution of qualitative research and ductive logic. Inductive analysisbegins with

ables are important and what relationships

among those variables can be expected.
AMPARA TIVE ANAL/fiiSi The strategy of inductive designs is to al-
low the important analysis dimensions to
vi :::;:::!!= :: I: :'I o emerge from pattems found m the cases un-
V: i 0 r ,;i lyj :.>. .V! "; (Vi. ; ; : der study without presupposing in advance
what the important dimensions will be. The
I.=::i:!-::.!; YI --s:---:i:s rr?-=:-=-.' r c :;' qualitative analyst seeks to understand the
multiple interrelationships among dimen-
i = n C^:;yy:!: :: !=-= :;='= ::=i.:: sions that emerge from the data without
:: m ; !--' n! i'..i -ni .;! i & ' !=.= making prior assumptions or specifying hy-
erO?J blh--n VI !! == :==!'.:! !"J :=: ! ! potheses about the linear or correlative rela-
fei iii-- !=!':=" i !=::! =:: >
: > tionships among narrowly defined, opera-
!"3W.i ri:.:; t u s e = = .lu tionalized variables. For example, an induc-
Hard Wai HHCTIS in !'=::prarr iihtuaitai tive approach to program evaluation means
rn.;;;: ".::.':! iihsi ^(v^ wt that understanding the nature of the "inter-
cra-rto ii i''i!ii=:' ili^ilsi!;'-!' !i:i. vention" emerges from direct observations
.-.1-rtl of program activities and interviews with
.V!IY! 1:iMM- ::::!IttlF!.:= !!!SY^I^ ,'i:!11 participants. In general, theories about what
! - m U ! : n V v ! ! ' c w m w . . - * a ;:! :
i!:;/ YM -::=Y!>= is happening in a setting are grounded in

Y' ^ I Y V I ! ' i Y i k ; ; -! R== i: i l V ^ i h - i f EIIYC-I and emerge from direct field experience
rather than being imposed a priori as is the
!V;:=i !. :;! li M iY ^ fi' .vi .! W.,"^ case in formal hypothesis and theory testing.
The straightforward contrast between
: t ti ti iji : ii [liiiliii closed-ended questionnaires and open-
=:IPC J I T A ^ S :. I:;:.;
! ; : V I Y ! Y G T F P T '

. : ! i [ L i : ! j ! Y ' i ! V i i=i=j.:J: t;i:i:r- r i / f iiitiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitiiiiiiiiii;

i ^ ^ ended interviews in Chapter 1 illustrated
the difference between deductive and in-
ductive approaches at the simplest levei. A
specific observations and builds toward structured, multiple-choice questionnaire
general pattems. Categories or dimensions requires a deductive approach because
of analysis emerge from open-ended obser- items mustbe predetermined based on some
vations as the inquirer comes to understand theory or preordinate criteria, for example,
pattems that exist in the phenomenon being program goals about what is important to
investigated. measure. An open-ended interview, by way
Inductive analysis contrasts with the hy- of contrast, permits the respondent to de-
pothetical-deductive approach of experi- scribe what is meaningful and salient with-
mental designs that require the specification out being pigeon hole into standardized cat-
of main variables and the statement of spe- egories.
cific research hypotheses before data collec- In practice, these approaches are often
tion begins. A specification of research hy- combined. Some evaluation or research
potheses based on an explicit theoretical questions may be determined deductively,
framework means that general constructs while others are left sufficiently open to
provide the framework for understanding permit inductive analyses based on direct
specific observations or cases. The investiga- observations. While the quantitative/exper-
tor must then decide in advance what vari- imental approach is largely hypothetical-
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 5 7

Pigeon Holing

deductive and the qualitative/naturalistic separate cases. Once that is done, cross-case
approach is largely inductive, a study can in- analysis can begin in search of patterns and
clude elements of both strategies. Indeed, themes that cut across individual experi-
over a period of inquiry, an investigation ences. The initial focus is on full understand-
may flow from inductive approaches, to find ing of individual cases before those unique
out what the important questions and vari- cases are combined or aggregated themati-
ables are (exploratory work), to deductive cally. This helps ensure that emergent cate-
hypothesis-testing or outcome measure- gories and discovered patterns are grounded
ment aimed at confirming and/or generaliz- in specific cases and their contexts (Glaser
ing exploratory findings, then back again to and Strauss 1967).
inductive analysis to look for rival hypo- Just as writers report different creative
theses and unanticipated or unmeasured processes, so too qualitative analysts have
factors. different ways of working. Although soft-
The precise nature of inductive analysis ware programs now exist to facilitate work-
depends, in part, on the purpose of the anal- ing with large amounts of narrative data and
ysis and the number and types of cases in a substantial guidance can be offered about
study. Where there are several cases to be the steps and processes of content analysis,
compared and contrasted, an inductive ap- making sense of multiple interview tran-
proach begins by constructing individual scrip ts and pages of field notes cannot be re-
cases, without pigeon holing or categorizing duced to a formula or even a standard series
those cases. That is, the first task is to do a of steps. There is no equivalent of a statistical
careful job independently writing up the significance test or factor score to tell the an-

alyst when results are important or what that I should rewrite this part of this chapter. I
quotations fit together under the same had completely forgotten about this tape. It
theme. Finding a way to creatively synthesize was done in early '98 or late '97 and maybe I
and present findings is one of the challenges hadn't listened to it or looked at the transcript
of qualitative analysis, a challenge that will for a while, and I've just finished a chapter or
be explored at length in Part 3 of this book. section of a chapter. I pull that tape off the
For the moment, I can offer a flavor of that shelf. I listen to it. I go back to the transcript
challenge with another excerpt from my in- and I start writing again. I start revising in
terview with anthropologist Williams. Here ways that it seems to me that tape emands.
she describes part of her own unique ana-
lytic process. As Williams describes her analysis and
writing process, she offers insight into what
My current project folio ws up work that I have it means when qualitative researchers say
always done, which is to study categories and they are "working to be true to the data" or
classifications and their implications. Right that their analytical process is "data driven."
now, as I said, the focus of my work is on kill- Williams says, "I start revising in ways that it
ing and the desire to kill and the categories seems to me that tape demands." It is com-
people create in relation to killing. Part of it mon to hear qualitative analysts say that, as
right now focuses on the death penalty, but they write their conclusions, they keep go-
mainly on killing. My fascination is with the ing back to the cases; they reread field notes;
links between category distinctions, commit- and they listen again to interviews. Induc-
ments, and the desire to kill for those tive analysis is built on a solid foundation
ments. That's what I study. of specific, concrete, and detailed observa-
I track categories, like "serial killers" or tions, quotations, documents, and cases.
"death row inmates." The business of con- As thematic structures and overarching
stantly transforming people into acts and acts constructs emerge during analysis, the
into people is part of the way loyaltes, com- qualitative analyst keeps returning to field-
mitments, and hatreds are generated. So I'm a work observations and interview tran-
classifier. I study classificationtheories of scripts, working from the bottom up, stay-
classification. A lot of categories have to do ng grounded in the foundation of case
with very abstract things; others have to do write-ups, and thereby examining emergent
with very concrete things like skin color. But themes and constructs in light of what they
ultimately, the classification of a kill is what illuminate about the case descriptions on
I'm focusing on now. I've been asking myself which they are based. That is inductive
lately, for the chapter I've been working on, "Is analysis.
there a fundamental difference, for example,
in the way we classify to kill?" Consider Holistic Perspective
thepercentage of people classified as "death
worthy"the way we classify to justify the Holography is a method of photography
death penalty. in which the wave field of light scattered by
As I write, moving back and forth between an object is captured as an interference pat-
my tapes and my interviews, I don't feel that I tern. When the photographic recordthe
have to follow some fixed outline or that I hologramis illuminated by a laser, a three-
have to code things to come out a certain way. dimensional image appears. Any piece of a
Sometimes I listen to a tape and I start to think hologram will reconstruct the entire image.
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 59

This has become a metaphor for thinking in quires operationalization of independent

new ways about the relationships between and dependent variables with a focus on
parts and wholes. The interdependence of their statistical covariance. Outcomes must
flora, fauna, and the physical environment be identified and measured as specific vari-
in ecological systems offers another meta- ables. Treatments and programs must also
phor for what it means to think and analyze be conceptualized as discrete, independent
holistically. variables. The characteristics of program
Researchers and evaluators analyzing participants are also described by standard-
qualitative data strive to understand a phe- ized, quantified dimensions. Sometimes the
nomenon or program as a whole. This variables of interest are derived from pro-
means that a description and interpretation gram goals, for example, student achieve-
of a person's social environment, or an orga- ment test scores, recidivism statistics for a
nizations externai context, is essential for group of juvenile delinquents, sobriety rates
overall understanding of what has been ob- for participants in chemical dependency
serve d during fieldwork or said in an inter- treatment programs. At other times, the
view. This holistic approach assumes that variables measured are indicators of a larger
the whole is understood as a complex sys- construct. For example, community well-
tem that is greater than the sum of its parts. being may be measured by such rates for de-
The analyst searches for the totality or unify- linquency, infant mortality, divorce, unem-
ing nature of particular settingsthegestalt. ployment, suicide, and poverty (Brock,
Psychotherapist Fritz Perls (1973) made the Schwaller, and Smith 1985). These variables
term gestalt equivalent with a holistic per- are statistically manipulated or added to-
spective inpsychology. He use d the example gether in some linear fashion to test hypoth-
of three sticks that are just three sticks until eses and draw inferences about the relation-
one places them together to form a triangle. ships among separate indicators, or the
Then they are much more than the three sep- statistical significance of differences be-
arate sticks combined: They form a new tween measured leveis of the variables for
whole. different groups. The essential logic of this
approach is as follows: (1) Key program out-
A gestalt may be a tangible thing, such as a tri- comes and processes can be represented by
angle, or it may be a situation. A happening separate independent variables, (2) these
such as a meeting of two people, their conver- variables canbe quantified, and (3) relation-
sation, and their leave-taking would consti- ships among these variables are best por-
tute a completed situation. If there were an trayed statistically.
interruption in the middle of the conversadon, The primary critique of this logic by qual-
it would be an incomplete gestalt. (Brown itative-naturalistic evaluators is that such an
1996:36) approach (1) oversimplifies the complexities
of real-world programs and participants' ex-
The strategy of seeking gestalt units and periences, (2) misses major factors of impor-
holistic understandings in qualitative analy- tance that are not easily quantified, and (3)
sis contrasts with the logic and procedures fails to portray a sense of the program and its
of evaluation studies conducted in the ana- impacts as a whole. To support holistic anal-
lytical tradition of "let's take it apart and see ysis, the qualitative inquirer gathers data on
how it works." The quantitative-experimen- multiple aspects of the setting under study
tal approach to evaluation, for example, re- to assemble a comprehensive and complete

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picture of the social dynamic of the particu- surement), then statistical portrayals can be
lar situation or program. This means that at quite powerful and succinct. The advan-
the time of data collection, each case, event, tages of qualitative portrayals of holistic set-
or setting under study, though treated as a tings and impacts are that greater attention
unique entity with its own particular mean- can be given to nuance, setting, interdepen-
ing and its own constellation of relation- dencies, complexities, idiosyncrasies, and
ships emerging from and related to the con- context. John Dewey (1956) articula ted what
text within which it occurs, is also thought of a holistic approach means for both teaching
as a window into the whole. Thus capturing and research if one wants to gain insight into
and documenting history, interconnections, and understand the world of the child:
and system relationships are part of field-
work. The child's life is an integral, a total one. He
The advantages of using quantitative passes quickly and readily from one topic to
variables and irvdicators are parsimony, pre- another, as from one spot to another, but is not
cision, and ease of analysis. Where key ele- conscious of transition or break. There is no
ments can be quantified with validity, reli- conscious isolation, hardly conscious distinc-
ability, and credibility, and where necessary tion. The things that occupy him are held to-
statistical assumptions can be met (e.g., lin- gether by the unity of the personal and social
earity, normality, and independence of mea- interests which his life carries along.. . . [His]
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 61

universe is fluid and fluent; its contents dis- How many program staffs have complained
solve and reform with amazing rapidity. But of the evaluation research monster?
after ali, it is the child's own world. It has the It is no simple task to undertake holistic
unity and completeness of his own life. analysis. The challenge is "to seek the es-
(pp. 5-6) sence of the life of the observed, to sum up,
to find a central unifying principie" (Bruyn
Qualitative sociologist Irwin Deutscher 1966:316). Again, Shapiro's (1973) work in
(1970) commented that despite the totality of evaluating innovative Follow Through class-
our personal experiences as living, working rooms is instructive. She found that stan-
human beings, social scientists have tended dardized test results could not be inter-
to focus their research on parts to the virtual preted without understanding the larger
exclusion of wholes: cultural and institutional context in which
the individual child is situated. Taking con-
text seriously, the topic of the next section, is
We knew that human behavior was rarely if an important element of holistic analysis.
ever directly influenced or explained by an An illuminative example of holistic think-
isolated variable; we knew that it was impos- ing came to me from a Portuguese colleague.
sible to assume that any set of such variables He told of driving in a remote area of his
was additive (with or without weighting); we country when he came upon a sizable herd
knew that the complex mathematics of the in- of sheep being driven along the road by a
teraction among any set of variables was in- shepherd. Seeing that he would be delayed
comprehensible to us. In effect, although we until the sheep could be turned off the road,
knew they did not exist, we defined them into he got out of the car and struck up a conver-
being. (p. 33) sation with the shepherd.
"How many sheep do you have?" he
While many would view this intense cri- asked.
tique of variable analysis as too extreme, the "I don't know," responded the young
reaction of many program staff to scientific man.
research is like the reaction of Copernicus to Surprised at this answer, the traveler
the astronomers of his day: "With them/' he asked, "How do you keep track of the flock if
observed, "it is as though an artist were to you don't know how many sheep there are?
gather the hands, feet, head, and other mem- How would you know if one was missing?"
bers for his images from diverse models, The shepherd seemed puzzled by the
each part excellently drawn, but not related question. Then he explained, "I don't need
to a single body, and since they in no way to count them. I know each one and I know
match each other, the result would be mon- the whole flock. I would know if the flock
ster rather than man" (from Kuhn 1970:83). was not whole."

Context Sensitivity

ny single act from any single person, put out of context, is


Actor Kevin Spacey accepting the 2000 Academy Award

for Best Performance by an Actor in the film
American Beauty, explaining the film's message

Let's move, now, from sheep to elephants. text and as part of an ecological system in re-
One of the classic tales used to illustrate the la tion to other flora and fauna, in its natural
relationship between parts and wholes is the environment.
story of the nine blind people and the ele- When we say to someone, "You've taken
phant. Each person touches only one part of my comment out of context," we are saying,
the elephant and therefore knows only that You have distorted what I said, changed its
part. The person touching the ears thinks an meaning by omitting criticai context.
elephant is like a large, thin fan. The person In Victor Hugo's great classic Les
touching the tail thinks the elephant is like a Misrables, we first encounter Jean Valjean as
rope. The person touching the truck thinks a hardened criminal and common thief; then
of a snake. The legs feel like tree trunks, the we learn that he was originally sentenced to
elephanfs side like a tall wall. And so it five years in prison for stealing a loaf of
goes. The holistic point is that one must put bread for his sister's starving family. That
ali of these perspectives together to get a full added context for his "crime" changes our
picture of what an elephant actually looks understanding. The battle over standard-
like. ized sentencing guidelines in the criminal
But such a picture will still be limited, justice system is partly a debate about how
even distorted, if the only place one sees the much to allow judges sway in taking into ac-
elephant is in the 200 or at the circus. To un- count context and individual circumstances
derstand the elephanthow it developed, in pronouncing sentences.
how it uses its trunk, why it is so largeone Naturalistic inquhy preserves natural
must see it on the African savanna or in the context. Social psychology experiments un-
Asian jungle. In short, one must see it in con- der laboratory conditions strip observed ac-
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 63

tions from context. But that is the point of were obtained on 120 students from four
such laboratory experimentsto generate classrooms. The extraction of significant pre-
fndings that are context free. The scientific dictor variables is the purpose of the final
ideal of generalizing across time and space analysis. Interviews were conducted with
is the ideal of identifying principies that do teachers and principais to determine how test
not depend on context. In contrast, qual- scores were used. The analysis concludes with
itative inquiry elevates context as criticai to the researcher's interpreta tions. The research-
understanding. Portraitist Sara Lawrence- er wishes to thank those who cooperated in
Lightfoot (1997) explains why she finds con- this study.
text "crucial to the documentation of human
experience and organizational culture": This journal article abstract represents ac-
ademic writing as I was taught to do it in
By context, I mean the settingphysical, geo- graduate school. This writing style still pre-
graphic, temporal, historical cultural, aesthetic dominates in scholarly journals and books.
within which action takes place. Contextbe- No human being is visible in this writing.
comes the framework, the reference point, the The passive voice reigns. Instruments were
map, the ecological sphere; it is used to place selected; decisions were made; a model was
people and action in time and space and as a constructed; records were reviewed and
resource for understanding what they say and coded; data were obtained; predictor vari-
do. The context is rich in clues for interpreting ables were extracted; interviews were con-
the experience of the actors in the setting. We ducted. The warmth of thanks is extended
have no idea how to decipher or decode an by a role, the researcher: "The researcher
action, a gesture, a conversation, or an excla- wishes to thank those who cooperated." The
ma tion unless we see it embedded in context third-person, passive voice communicates a
(p- 41) message: This work is about procedures not
people. This academic style is employed to
project a sense of objectivity, control, and au-
Voice and Perspective:
thority. The overall impression is mechani-
cal, robotlike, distant, detached, systematic,
and procedural. The research is the object of
ABSTRACT OF A SCHOOL attention. Any real, live human being, sub-
ACHIEVEMENT STUDY ject to ali the usual foibles of being human, is
barely implied, generally disguised, hidden
This study will delineate the major factors that away, and kept in the background.
affect school achievement Instruments were Contrast that academic voice with my
selected to measure achievement based on va- explana tion of how I analyzed a 10-day
lidity and reliability criteria. Decisions were coining-of-age experience with my son in
ma de about administering the tests in con- the Grand Canyon. (I presented part of the
junction with administrators taking into ac- analysis of that experience as Exhibit 1.3 in
count time and resource constraints. A the first chapter.) Here's an excerpt in which
regression model was constructed to test rela- I describe the analytical process.
tionships between various background vari-
ables and demonstrated achievement. School I'm not sure when the notion first took hold of
records were reviewed and coded to ascertain me that articulating altemative coming of age
students' background characteristics. Data paradigms might help elucidate our Canyon

experience. Before formally conceptualizmg notes, asks interview questions, and inter-
contrasting paradigm dimensions, I experi- prets responses. Self-awareness, then, can be
enced them as conflicting feelings that ema- an asset in both fieldwork and analysis. De-
nated from my struggle to sort out what I veloping appropriate self-awareness can be
wanted my son's initiation to be, while also a form of "sharpening the instrument"
grappling with defining my role in the pro- (Brown 1996:42). The methods section of a
cess. I suppose the idea of alternative para- qualitative study reports on the researcher's
digms first emerged the second night as I training, preparation, fieldwork procedures,
paced the narrow beach where White Creek and analytical processes. This is both the
intersects Shinumo and pondered the Great strength and weakness of qualitative meth-
Unconformity [a geologic reference] as meta- ods, the strength in that a well-trained, expe-
phor for the gap between tribal approaches to rienced, and astute observer adds value and
initiation and coming of age for contemporary credibility to the inquiry, while an ill-pre-
youth. In the weeks and months after our Can- pared, inexperienced, and imperceptive ob-
yon experience, far from languishing in the server casts doubt on what is reported. Judg-
throes of retox as I expected, the idea of con- ments about the significance of findings are
trasting paradgms stayed with me, as did the thus inevitably connected to the researcher's
Canyon experience. I started listing themes credibility, competence, thoroughness, and
and matching them with incidents and turn- integrity. Those judgments, precisely be-
ing points along the way. The sequence of inci- cause they are acknowledged as inevitably
dents became this book and the contrasting personal and perspective dependent, at least
themes became the basis for this closing chap- to some extent, invite response and dia-
ter, a way for me to figure out how what logue, rather than just acceptance or rejec-
started out as an initiation become a humanist tion.
coming of age celebra tion. (Patton 1999a:332) Reflexivity has entered the qualitative lex-
icon as a way of emphasizing the impor-
The contrast between the traditional aca- tance of self-awareness, political/cultural
demic voice and the personal voice of quali- consciousness, and ownership of one's per-
tative analysis recalls philosopher and theo- spective.
logian Martin Buber's (1923) influential
distinction between "I-It" and "I-Thou" re- In the rush of interest in qualitative research in
lationships. An I-It relationship regards the past 15 years, few topics have developed
other human beings from a distance, from a as broad a consensus as the relevance of ana-
superior vantage point of authority, as ob- lytic "reflexivity." By most accounts, reflexivi-
jects or subjects, things in the environment ty is a deconstructive exercise for locating the
to be examined and placed in abstract intersections of author, other, text, and world,
cause-effect chains. An I-Thou perspective, and for penetrating the representational exer-
in contrast, acknowledges the humanity of cise itself. (MacBeth 2001:35)
both self and others and implies relation-
ship, mutuality, and genuine dialogue. Being reflexive involves self-questioning
The perspective that the researcher brings and self-understanding, for "ali under-
to a qualitative inquiry is part of the context standing is self-understanding" (Schwandt
for the findings. A human being is the in- 1997a:xvi). To be reflexive, then, is to under-
strument of qualitative methods. A real, live take an ongoing examination of what I know
person makes observations, takes field and how I know it, "to have an ongoing con-
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 65

versation about experience while simulta- account, and communicate perspective and
neously living in the moment" (Hertz 1997: voice. Balancing criticai and creative analy-
viii). Reflexivity reminds the qualitative in- ses, description and interpretation, or direct
quirer to be attentive to and conscious of the quotation and synopsis also involves issues
cultural, political, social, linguistic, and of perspective, audience, purpose, and
ideological origins of one's own perspective voice. No rules or formula can tell a qualita-
and voice as well as the perspective and tive analyst precisely what balance is right
voices of those one interviews and those to or which voice to use, only that finding both
whom one reports. Exhibit 2.2 depicts this balance and voice is part of the work and
reflexive triangulation. challenge of qualitative inquiry, what Lewis
Writing in the first-person, active voice (2001) has acknowledged as "the difficulty
communicates the inquirer's self-aware role of trying to situate the I in narrative re-
in the inquiry: "I started listing themes and search" (p. 109).
matching them with incidents and turning In addition to finding voice, the criticai and
points along the way." The passive voice creative writing involved in qualitative
does not: "Themes were listed and matched analysis and synthesis challenge the in-
to incidents and turning points along the quirer to own onefs voice and perspective. Here,
way." Judith Brown (1996) captured the im- we owe much to feminist theory for high-
portance of the first-person voice in the title lighting and deepening our understanding
of her book The I in Science: Training to Utilize of the intricate and implicate relationships
Subjectivity in Research. By subjectivity she between language, voice, and consciousness
means "the domain of experiential self- (e.g., Gilgan 1982; Minnich 1990). We are
knowledge" (p. 1). Voice reveals and com- challenged by postmodern critiques of
municates this domain. knowledge to be clear about and own our
But voice is more than grammar. A credi- authorship of whatever we propound, to be
ble, authoritative, authentic, and trustwor- self-reflective, to acknowledge biases and
thy voice engages the reader through rich limitations, and to honor multiple perspec-
description, thoughtful sequencing, appro- tives (Greene 1998a, 1998b; Mabry 1997)
priate use of quotes, and contextual clarity while "accepting incredulity and doubt as
so that the reader joins the inquirer in the modal postmodern responses to ali at-
search for meaning. And there are choices of tempts to explain ourselves to ourselves"
voice: the didactic voice of the teacher; the (Schwandt 1997b:102). From struggles to lo-
searching, logical voice of the sleuth; the nar- cate and acknowledge the mevitably politi-
rator voice of the storyteller; the personal cal and moral nature of evaluative judg-
voice of the autoethnographer; the doubting ments, we are challenged to connect voice
voice of the skeptic; the intimacy of the in- and perspective to praxisacting in the
sider's voice; the detachment of the out- world with an appreciation for and recog-
sider's voice; the searching voice of uncer- nition of how those actions iriherently ex-
tainty; and the excited voice of discovery, to press social, political, and moral values
offer but a few examples. Just as point of (Schwandt 1989, 2000) and to personalize
view and voice have become focai points of evaluation (Kushner 2000), both by owning
writing good fiction and nonfiction, as in our own perspective and by taking seriously
Nancy Mairs's (1997) Voice Lessons: On Be- the responsibility to communicate authenti-
coming a (Woman) Writer, so too qualitative cally the perspectives of those we encounter
analysts are having to learn about, take into during our inquiry. These represent some

mSjaiMMiim Reflexive Questions: Triangulated Inquiry

Those studied \ / Those receiving the

(participants): \ Reflexive screens: / study (audience):
How do they know what \ Culture, age, gender, class, / How do they make
they know? What shapes and \ social status, education, / make sense of what 1 give
has shaped their woridview? \ family, politicai praxis, / them? What perspectives
How do they perceive me? \ language, vaiues / do they bring to the findings
Why? How do 1 know? 1 offer? How do they perceive
How do 1 perceive them? me? How do 1 perceive them?

(as qualitative inquirer):
What do 1 know?
How do 1 know what know?
What shapes and has shaped my perspective?
With what voice do 1 share my perspective?
What do 1 do with what i have found?

of the more prominent contextual forces real-world observations through naturalis-

that have elevated the mportance of own- tic inquiry; openness, responsiveness, and
ing voice and perspective in qualitative flexibility through emergent designs; focus
analysis. through purposeful sampling; richness and
It takes no great self-awareness or self- depth through qualitative data; use of ali of
confidence to report a statistically signifi- one's capacities through personal experi-
cant t test with confidence intervals based on ence and engagement; balancing the criticai
a formula and calculations easily replicated and creative through a stance of empathic
and confirmed. It can take considerable neutrality; sensitivity to dynamic processes
self-awareness and confidence to report: I and systems; appreciation of idiosyncrasies
coded these 40 interviews, these are the through a unique case orienta tion; insight
themes I found, here is what I think they and understanding through inductive anal-
mean, and here is the process I undertook to ysis, contextual sensitivity, and a holistic
arrive at those meanings. The latter state- perspective; and authenticity and trustwor-
ment calls for, even demands, a sense of thiness through ownership of voice and per-
voice and perspective. spective. These are not absolute and univer-
sal characteristics of qualitative inquiry, but
rather strategic ideais that provide a direc-
S From Strategic Ideais tion and framework for developing specific
to Practical Choices designs and concrete data collection tactics.
Ideally, a pure qualitative inquiry strat-
The 12 themes of qualitative inquiry re- egy includes ali the themes and dimensions
viewed in this chapter are strategic ideais: identified in this chapter. For example, in an
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 6 7

ideal naturalistic/inductive inquiry the re- begin to affect the program quite directly
searcher neither manipulates the setting un- and intentionally (given the job of helping
der study nor predetermines what variables improve the program), thus moving away
or categories are worth measuring. In prac- from a purely naturalistic approach. As
tice, however, it is important to recognize evaluative feedback is used to improve the
that actually conducting holistic-inductive program, the evaluator may then move back
analysis and implementing naturalistic in- into a more naturalistic stance to observe
quiry are always a matter of degree. In mak- how the feedback-induced changes in the
ing this point, Guba (1978) has depicted the program unfold.
practice of naturalistic inquiry as a wave on In the same vein, the attempt to under-
which the investigator moves from varying stand a program or treatment as a whole
degrees of a "discovery mode" to varying does not mean that the investigator never
emphasis of a "verification mode" in at- becomes involved in component analysis or
tempting to understand the real world. As in looking at particular variables, dimen-
fieldwork begins, the inquirer is open to sions, and parts of the phenomenon under
whatever emerges from the data, a discov- study. Rather, it means that the qualitative
ery or inductive approach. Then, as the in- inquirer consciously works back and forth
quiry reveals patterns and major dimen- between parts and wholes, separate vari-
sions of interest, the investigator will begin ables, and complex, interwoven constella-
to focus ori verifying and elucidating what tions of variables in a sorting-out then
appears to be emerginga more deductive putting-back-together process. While stay-
approach to data collection and analysis. In ing true to a strategy that emphasizes the im-
essence, what is discovered may be verified portance of a holistic picture of the program,
by going back to the world under study and the qualitative evaluator recognizes that
examining the extent to which the emergent certain periods of fieldwork may focus on
analysis fits the phenomenon and zuorks to component, variable, and less-than-the-
explain what has been observed. Glaser and whole kinds of analysis.
Strauss (1967), in their classic framing of The practice and practicalities of field-
grounded theory, described what it means work also mean that the strategic mandate
for results to fit and work: "By 'fit' we mean to "get close" to the people and setting un-
that the categories must be readily (not forc- der study is neither absolute nor fixed.
ibly) applicable to and indicated by the data Closeness to and involvement with the peo-
under study; by 'work' we mean that they ple under study are most usefully viewed as
must be meaningfully relevant to and be variable dimensions. The personal styles
able to explain the behavior under study" and capabilities of evaluators will permit
(p. 3). Discovery and verification mean mov- and necessitate variance along these dimen-
ing back and forth between induction and sions. Variations in types of programs and
deduction, between experience and reflec- evaluation purposes will affect the extent to
tion on experience, and between greater de- which an evaluator can or ought to get close
grees and lesser degrees of naturalistic in- to the program staff and participants. More-
quiry. over, closeness is likely to vary over the
In program evaluation in particular, the course of an evaluation. At times the eval-
evaluator may, through feedback of initial uator may become totally immersed in the
findings to program participants and staff, program experience. These periods of im-

mersion may be followed by times of Beyond Competing

withdrawal and distance (for personal as Inquiry Paradigms
well as methodological reasons), to be fol-
lowed still later by new experiences of im- Having presente d the strategic ideais of
mersion in and direct experience with the qualitative inquiry and noted variations in
program. their practical implementation and attain-
Nor is it necessary to be a qualitative ment, before closing this chapter I want to
methods purist. Qualitative data can be acknowledge and comment on the contro-
collected and used in conjunction with versy that sometimes engulfs qualitative
quantitative data. Today's evaluator must methods. Students attempting to do qualita-
be sophisticated about matching research tive dissertations can get caught up in and
methods to the nuances of particular evalua- may have to defend, philosophically as well
tion questions and the idiosyncrasies of spe- as methodologically, the use of qualitative
cific stakeholder needs. Such an evaluator inquiry to skeptical committee members
needs a large repertoire of research methods who define doctoral-level work as rigorous
and techniques to use on a variety of prob- hypothesis testing. Evaluators may encoun-
lems. Thus, an evaluator may be called on to ter policymakers and funders who dismiss
use any and ali social science research meth- qualitative data as mere anecdote. The sta-
ods, including analyses of quantitative data, tistically addicted may poke fun at what
questionnaires, secondary data analysis, they call the "softness" of qualitative data.
cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses, (In Western society, where anything can be
standardized tests, experimental designs, and often is sexualized, the distinction be-
unobtrusive measures, participant observa- tween "hard" data and "soft" data has addi-
tion, and in-depth interviewing. The evalua- tional nuances of meaning and innuendo.)
tion researcher works with intended users of Such encounters derive from a long-stand-
the findings to design an evaluation that in- ing methodological paradigms war. Though
cludes any and ali data that will help shed many have pronounced the war and even
light on important evaluation questions, the debate over (cf. Cook 1995; Greene
given constraints of resources and time. 1998a:36; Patton 1997a: 290-95), not every-
Such an evaluator is committed to research one has adopted a stance of methodological
designs that are relevant, meaningful, un- enlightenment and tolerance, namely, that
derstandable, and able to produce useful re- methodological orthodoxy, superiority, and
sults that are valid, reliable, and believable. purity should yield to methodological ap-
On many occasions a variety of data collec- propriateness, pragmatisin, and mutual re-
tion techniques and design approaches may spect. Therefore, a brief review of the para-
be used together. Multiple methods and a digms debate is in order. (Elsewhere I have
variety of data types can contribute to meth- provided a more extensive review of the
odological rigor. The ideal in evaluation de- methodological paradigms debate; Patton
signs is methodological appropriateness, 1997a: 265-99,1988c.)
design flexibility, and situational respon-
Philosophers of science and method-
siveness in the service of utility (Patton
ologists have been engaged in a long-stand-
1997a)not absolute allegiance to some
ing epistemological debate about the nature
ideal standard of paradigm purity and
of "reality" and knowledge. Thatphilosoph-
methodological orthodoxy.
ical debate finds its way into research and
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 69

evaluation in arguments over the goals of the variety of inquiry approaches has ex-
empirical studies and differences of opinion panded well beyond the simplistic
about what constitutes "good" research. In dichotomy between quantitative and quali-
its simplest and most strident formula tion, tative paradigms. In contrast to these two
this debate has centered on the relative value classically opposed orthodoxies, this book
of two different and competing inquiry par- offers a pragmatic strategy of matching con-
adigms: (1) using quantitative and experi- crete methods to specific questions, includ-
mental methods to generate and test hypo- ing the option of tactically mixing methods
thetical-deductive generalizations versus as needed and appropriate. My practical
(2) using qualitative and naturalistic ap- (and controversial) view is that one can learn
proaches to inductively and holistically un- to be a good interviewer or observer, and
derstand human experience and con- learn to make sense of the resulting data,
structed meanings in context-specific without first engaging in deep
settings. For example, Taylor and Bogdan epistemological reflection and philosophi-
(1984) contrast the Verstehen tradition, cal study. Such reflection and study can be
rooted in qualitative phenomenology, to
helpful to those so inclined, but it is not a
measurement-oriented positivism as fol-
prerequisite for fieldwork. Indeed, it can be
a hindrance. Getting some field experience
first, then studying philosophy of science,
Two major theoretical perspectives liave dom-
has much to recommend it as a learning
inated the social science scene. The irst, posi-
strategy. Otherwise, it's ali abstractions.
tivism, traces its origins in the social sciences to
Still, the paradigms debate is part of our
the great theorists of the riineteenth and early
methodological heritage and knowing a bit
twentieth centuries and especially to Auguste
about it, and its distortions (Shadish 1995b,
Comte and Emile Durkheim. The positivist
1995c), may deepen appreciation for the im-
seeks the facts or causes of social phenomena
portance of a strategic approach to methods
apart from the subjective states of individuais.
Durkheim told the social scientist to consider
decision making.
social facts, or social phenomena, as "things" A paradigm is a worldviewa way of
that exercise an externai influence on people. thinking about and making sense of the
The second theoretical perspective, which, complexities of the real world. As such, par-
following the lead of Deutscher, we will de- adigms are deeply embedded in the social-
scribe as phenomenological, has a longhistory in ization of adherents and practitioners. Para-
philosophy and sociology. The phenomen- digms tell us what is important, legitimate,
ologist is committed to understanding social and reasonable. Paradigms are also norma-
phenomena from the actor's own perspective. tive, telling the practitioner what to do with-
He or she examines how the world is experi- out the necessity of long existential or
enced. The important reality is what people epistemological consideration. But it is this
perceive it to be. (pp. 1-2) aspect of paradigms that constitutes both
strength and weaknessa strength in that it
Debate about these contrasting and com- makes action relatively easy, a weakness in
peting perspectives has been an important that the very reason for action is hidden in
part of the history of research and evalua- the unquestioned assumptions of the para-
tion, but, as Chapters 3, 4, and 9 will show, digm.

Now Calm down a bit Fm not criticizing your operation

down here... I'm just asking... .in your entry evaluation process,
do you operate from a qualitative or quantitative paradigm?

Are there paradigms after death?

Scientists work from models acquired through ask or debate what makes a particular prob-
education and through subsequent exposure lem or solution legitimate tempts us to sup-
to the literature often without quite knowing pose that, at least intuitively, they know the
or needing to know what characteristics have answer. But it may only indicate that neither
given these models the status of community the question nor the answer is felt to be rele-
paradigms. . . . That scientists do not usually vant to their research. Paradigms may be prior
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 71

to, more binding, and more complete than any make researchers biased in favor of and
set of rules for research that could be unequiv- against certain approaches.
ocally abstracted from them. (Kuhn 1970:46) While one may still encounter people
who rigidly confess allegiance to only quan-
But what does ali this matter to the stu- titative or qualitative methods, most practi-
dent interested in pursuing some research or tioners appear to have become eclectic and
evaluation question? It matters because pragmatic. Looking back, we can now see
paradigm-derived biases are the source of that the qualitative-quantitative debate
the distinctions mentioned earlier between oversimplified and often confused method-
"hard" data and "soft" data, empirical stud- ological and philosophical issues. For exam-
ies versus "mere anecdotes," and "objec- ple, the notion that some combinations of
tive" research versus "subjective" studies. methods and philosophy ever constituted
These labels reveal value-laden prejudices consistent, coherent, and stable paradigms
about what constitute credible and valuable has proved problematic. Shadish (1995c), for
contributions to knowledge. Such preju- example, in introducing an important set of
dices and paradigmatic blinders limit meth- articles aimed at "de-Kuhnifying" the de-
odological choices, flexibiHty, and creativity. bate, concluded that "there is little empirical
Adherence to a methodological paradigm evidence in support of such a Kuhnian para-
can lock researchers into unconscious pat- digm portrayal. . . . [T]he relevant concep-
terns of perception and behavior that dis- tual and philosophical issues are far more
guise the biased, predetermined nature of complex than the simple quantitative-quali-
their methods "decisions." Methods deci- tative dichotomy implies" (p. 48). Chapter 9
sions tend to stem from disciplinary pre- will revisit the quantitative-qualitative para-
scriptions, concerns about scientific status, digms debate in more depth as part of our
old methodological habits, and comfort examination of issues that affect judgments
with what the researcher knows best. about the quality and credibility of qualita-
Training and academic socialization tend to tive methods.


/ - very thinker puts some portion an apparently stable world in peril.

John Dewey (1929)

While a paradigm offers a coherent assert that randomized experiments are "the
worldview, an anchor of stability and cer- standard against which other designs for
tainty in the real world sea of chos, operat- impact evaluation are judged" (p. 21). My
ing narrowly within any singular paradigm pragmatic stance aims to supersede one-
can be quite limiting. As a pragmatist, I take sided paradigm allegiance by increasing the
issue as much with the purist, one-sided ad- concrete and practical methodological op-
vocacy of Lincoln and Guba (1985), who be- tions available to researchers and evalua-
lieve that naturalistic inquiry is the only tors. Such pragmatism means judging the
valid and meaningful way to study human quality of a study by its intended purposes,
beings, as I do with the narrow, intolerant available resources, procedures followed,
stance of Boruch and Rindskopf (1984), who and results obtained, ali within a particular

context and for a specific audience. When a on strategic choices has conveyed, I hope,
new drug is tested before being made avail- the idea that a wide range of possibilities ex-
able to the general population, a dou- ists when selecting methods. The point is to
ble-blind randomized experiment to deter- do what makes sense, report fully on what
mine efficacy is the design of choice, with was done, why it was done, and what the
careful attention to controlled and carefully implications are for findings. Chapter 5 is
measured dosage and outcome interactions, devoted to design issues, including design
including side effects. But if the concern is flexibility, using multiple methods, and
whether people take the new drug appropri- making practical decisions.
ately, and one wants to know what people in A Sufi story about the wise fool Mulla
a group think about the new drug (e.g., an Nasrudin illustrates the importance of un-
antidepressant), how they make sense of derstanding the connections between strate-
taking or not taking it, what they believe gic ideais and practical tactics in real-world
about themselves as a result of experiencing situations. Real-world situations seldom re-
the drug, and how those around them deal semble the theoretical ideais taught in the
with it, then in-depth interviews and ob- classroom.
servations are the place to start. The impor-
tance of understanding alternative research Ideal Conditions for
paradigms is to sensitize researchers and Research: A Cautionary Tale
evaluators to the ways in which their meth-
odological prejudices, derived from their In his youth, Nasrudin received training
disciplinary socialization experiences, may in a small monastery noted for its excellence
reduce their methodological flexibility and in the teaching of martial arts. Nasrudin be-
adaptability. came highly skilled in self-defense and after
I reiterate: Being pragmatic allows one to two years of training both his peers and his
eschew methodological orthodoxy in favor teachers recognized his superior abilities.
of methodological appropriateness as the pri- Each day, it was the responsibility of one
mary criterion for judging methodological of the students to go to the village market to
quality, recognizing that different methods beg for alms and food. It happened that a
are appropriate for different situations. Situ- small band of three thieves moved into the
ational responsiveness means designing a area. They observed how the monastery ob-
study that is appropriate for a specific in- tained food daily and began hiding along
quiry situation or interest. A major purpose the path the students had to take back to the
of this book, and the focus of Chapter 4, is to monastery. As a returning student returned,
identify the kinds of research questions and laden with food and alms, the thieves would
program evaluation situations for which attack. After three days of such losses, the
qualitative inquiry is the appropriate meth- monastery's few supplies were exhausted. It
od of choice. was Nasrudin's turn to go to the village mar-
Paradigms are really about epistemology, ket. His elders and peers were confident that
ontology, and philosophy of science. As Nasrudin's martial arts skills were more
such, paradigms are important theoretical than sufficient to overcome the small band
constructs for illuminating fundamental as- of thieves.
sumptions about the nature of reality. But at At the end of the day, Nasrudin returned
the pragmatic levei of making concrete ragged, beaten, and empty-handed. Every-
methods decisions, this chapter's emphasis one was amazed. Nasrudin was taken im-
Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 73

mediatelybefore the Master. "Nasrudin," he and conditions in which qualitative strate-

asked, "how is it that with ali your skill in gies and methods offer advantages. In
our ancient arts of defense, you were over- Chapter 4,1 will present a range and variety
come?" of situations and inquiry problems that par-
"But I did not use the ancient arts," re- ticularly lend theinselves to qualitative in-
plied Nasrudin. quiry. Chapter 5 will then discuss in more
Ali present were dumbfounded. An ex- detail some of the methodological trade-offs
planation was demanded. involved in adapting the strategic ideais of
"Ali of our competitions are preceded by qualitative methods to the practical realities
great and courteous ceremony," Nasrudin of conducting research and evaluation in the
explained. "We have learned that the open- field. Chapters devoted to observation, in-
ing prayers, the ceremonial cleansing, the terviewing, analysis, and enhancing the
bow to the Eastthese are essential to the quality and credibility of qualitative studies
ancient ways. The ruffians seemed not to un- follow that design chapter. To lay the
derstand thenecessity for these things. 1 did- groundwork for in-depth review of applica-
n't find the situa tion ideal enough to use the tions and methods, the next chapter exam-
methods you have taught us, Master." ines alternative theoretical frameworks that
are closely associated with and used to
guide qualitative inquiry.

On more than one occasion, researchers

or evaluators have told me of their belief in
the potential usefulness of qualitative meth- S Note
ods, but they tell me, "I just haven't found
the ideal situation in which to use them." 1. Excerpts in this chapter from the interview
Ideal situations are rare, but we will con- with Brackette F. Williams are used with her per-
sider throughout this book the questions mission.
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry
Theoretical Orientations

S p e c i a l (C\i-f+s

"Tell us again, Master, how it was in the beginning."

"In the beginning special gifts were given to different groups of people. The
caregivers were endowed with compassion for the less fortunate. The engineers
were given the ability to see what was not yet there. The carpenters were given
patience to set straight lines and perfect angles. The technicians were provided
with diligence so that they might conscientiously follow the blueprints and de-
tailed directions of others. The experimental scientists were given the certain be-
lief that the world could be manipulated according to their vision of it. The qual-
itative inquirers were gifted with a passion for depth, detail, and understanding
meanings. And so it went until, finally, there remained one last group and one
last gift. These were the explorers. To them was given the gift of curiosity that
they might forever see new worlds and uncover the many wonders of the
"But what of the evaluators?" the children asked. "You have not mentioned
their special gift."
Halcolm smiled. "The evaluators, dear children, were spread throughout ali
the other groups, each endowed with the special gift of his or her own group,
and each using that gift in a special way."
"But does that not make for much arguing among evaluators about who has
the most special gift of ali?"
Halcolm grinned.
From Halcolm/s Origins of Human Species

13. 75

From Core Strategies to Rich cussing qualitative research as if it were one

Diversity approach. (Jacob 1988:16)

The last chapter presented 12 primary Major social sciences have drawn on and
threads that are woven through the tapestry contributed to qualitative methods in differ-
of qualitative inquiry. A central point of that ent ways depending on the interests of theo-
chapter was that different purposes, situa- rists and methodologists in a particular dis-
tions, questions, and resources will affect the cipline (cf. Brizuela et ai. 2000; Kuhns and
degree to which such qualitative ideais as Martorana 1982). The language of discourse
naturalistic inquiry, a holistic perspective, also varies. As Schwandt (1997a) has ob-
and inductive analysis can be realized in served in his very useful dictionary of quali-
practice. Yet, despite variation along the sev- tative terminology:
eral dimensions of qualitative inquiry, there
are still core strategies and directions that Qualitative inquiry... is a set of multiple prac-
differentiate a qualitative/naturalistic strat- tices in which words in methodological and
egy from a quantitative/experimental one, philosophical vocabularies acquire different
as well as places where they can usefully be meanings in their use or in particular acts of
combined to complement each other (e.g., speaking about the meariing of the practice.
Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998). This chapter These different ways of speaking form some-
will present the rich menu of alternative pos- thing more like a constellation of contested
sibilities zvithin qualitative research by fo- practices than an integrated, readily survey-
cusing on different theoretical perspectives able order. There are multiple sources and
that are associated with qualitative inquiry. kinds of disputes, but generally they involve
Qualitative inquiry is not a single, mono- different ways of conceiving of the aim of
lithic approach to research and evaluation. qualitative inquiry stemming from different
Discussions such as that in Chapter 2 that fo- traditions of thought. (p. xiv)
cus on differentiating primary strategies of
qualitative/naturalistic methods from those Those coming new to qualitative inquiry
of quantitative/experimental methods can are understandably confused and even
leave the impression that there are only two discombobulated by the diverse terminol-
methodological or paradigmatic alterna- ogy and contested practices they encounter.
tives. In fact, as we "turn inward in qualita- Phenomenology. Hermeneutics. Ethnometh-
tive research," we find "an exhilarating and odology. Semiotics. Heuristics. Phenomen-
at times exhausting proliferation of types ography. Such language! Exhibit 3.1 repro-
zvithin the qualitative paradigm (Page duces a letter of lamentation I received fol-
2000:3). io wing publication of the first edition of this
book, which did not include the current
When one looks more c l o s e l y . . . the apparent chapter.
unity of the qualitative approach vanishes, This chapter sorts through some of the
and one sees considerable diversity. What has major perspectives and traditions that in-
been called "qualitative research" conveys dif- form the rich variety that is qualitative in-
ferent meanings to different people. Needless quiry. We shall look at how varying theoreti-
to say, this has ca used considerable confusion. cal traditions emphasize different questions
. . . A major source of the confusion lies in dis- and how these particular emphases can
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 77

E X H B I T 3.1 Which Approach Is Rght?

Dear Dr. Patton:

I desperately need your help. I am a graduate student in education, planning to do

my dissertation observing classrooms and teachers identified as innovative and ef-
fective. want to see if they share any common approachesorwisdom that might be
considered "best practices." I took this idea to one professor who asked me if was
proposng a phenomenologicai or grounded theory study. When i asked what the dif-
ference was, he said it was myjob to find out. I've read about both but am stii con-
fused. Another professortold me i could do a qualitative study, but that asking about
"best practices" meant that I was a positivist not a phenomenologist. Another grad
student was tod to "use a hermeneuticframing," butshe'sin a different department
with a differenttopic. I'm a formerschooiteacherand, Ithink, a prettygoodobserver
and interviewer. gotvery excited reading your book about the valueof in-depth ob-
servations and interviewing, and that's where I got the idea for my dissertation, but
now Tm being toid I have to fit into one of these categories. Please tell me which one
is rightformy study. I don'tcare which one itis. Ijustwanttogeton withstudying in-
novative classrooms. I feel lost and am on the verge of just doing a questionnaire
where these phiiosophy questions don't seem to get asked. But if you can tel me
which approach is right, I might still be able to do what l want to do. Help!!!

Dear :

Yourdilemma is common.The distinctionsyoiTre being asked to makeare, indeed,

difficult-and not everyone agrees about what these terms and traditions mean. I
didn't include them in my book in the hopes that the methods of in-depth interview-
ing and observation could stand on their own. As youVe discovered, you don't need a
class in phiiosophy to design good questionnaires, though an argument can be made
that people using questionnaires and statistics would benefit from reflection on their
epistemological (nature and justification of knowledge) and ontological (nature of
reality) assumptions. Unfortunately, a lot of qualitative courses spend more time on
epistemology than methods, which may make students better philosophers than in-
terviewers. Some balance is needed. Your professors are doing you a service by having
you struggle with understanding different qualitative schools of thought because
what approach you take does make a difference-and students of qualitative inquiry
should be expected to know at least the major competing and contrasting traditions,
just as those doing statistical tests need to understand what different tests do. In the
next edition of my book Ml include a chapter reviewing major phlosophical and
methodological traditions. But that won't help you now.
Toansweryourquestion directly, there is no "right" approach any more than there
is a "right" fruit-apples, oranges, passion fruit. What you eat is a matter of personal
taste, availability, prce, history, and preference. Since you are also serving others
(your doctoral committee), their preferences come into play, as you well know. Each
tradition of qualitative inquiry offers a different emphasis, framework.or focus. I am
reluctant to offer a recommendation about which tradition fits your work best, but


EXHIBIT 3.1 Continued

until the nextedition ofmy book is out with a new chapter that sorts through thevari-
ous traditions, i feel obliged to offeryou some guidance. So, here are three alternatives
to consider.
First, because you portray yourself as a pragmatic, experienced practitioner, you
could frameyour5tudy as qualitative, utilization-focused evaluation research [Patton
1997a]. You have to specify intended users for your study (for example, innovative
teachers and curriculum designers) and intended uses (facilitating discussing about
"effective practices"). This puts you in a tradition of generating practical and useful
knowledge for action in the tradition of refiective practice [Schon 1983]. Yourfocus
would be perceived patterns of effectiveness.
If that doesn't work and your committee insists on a more explicitly phiiosophical
or theoretical framework for your inquiry, you might consider either "social
constructionism" or "realism," which are two of the most general (and contradictory)
of the traditions informing qualitative inquiry. I must warn you that there are compet-
ing versions of constructionism and realism (academics without arguments are like
paraders without costumes or sports teams without u n i f o r m s - i f s how the players
differentiate themselves and figure out who to applaud). Either of these traditions will
guide you in thinking about how people in particular contexts (in your case, schools)
individualy and collectiveiy construct meaning and knowledge (in your case, effective
or "best" practices).
The third alternative involves a change of topic, which may sound like bad news.
The good news isthatyouVe already collected a lot ofthe data. You could do a disser-
tation on the social constructions of qualitative paradigms using your professors as
subjects. Obviously, you've already been doing participant observation on this topic.
Or you might do a hermeneutic study of qualitative terminology. Or a phenom-
enological study on the experience of graduate students trying to frame a qualitative
study. Or a heuristic inquiry into your own experience of qualitative design. Or but
thafs where you started out, sn't it.
Best wishes, whateveryou decide.
Michael Quinn Patton

affect the analytical framework that guides This chapter will be of particular interest
fieldwork and interpretation. Understand- to social scientists conducting basic or ap-
ing the divergent theoretical and phiiosoph- plied research, and students doing disserta-
ical traditions that have influenced qualita- tions, because their work is typically based
tive inquiry is especially important in the on and aimed at contributing to theory. The
design stage when the focus of fieldwork next chapter, in contrast, will focus on practi-
and interviewing is determined. Weaving cal and concrete evaluation and action re-
together theory-based inquiry traditions search questions appropriate for qualitative
and qualitative methods will reveal a rich inquiry, though theoretical understandings
tapestry with many threads of differing tex- can be important for practitioners and pol-
ture, color, length, and purpose. icy analysts because "theoretical concep-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 79

tions shape public arguments, giving people their introduction to the Handbook of Qualita-
the concepts they use and shaping the alter- tive Research trace six phases of qualitative
na tives they consider" (Nussbaum 2001:35). research history that help explain the dra-
Taken together, this chapter and the next of- matically varying conceptions of what con-
fer a broad range of goals for and ap- stitutes qualitative research.
proaches to qualitative research. Chapter 5
will then integrate theoretical and practical 1. During the "traditional period" of colo-
concerns by introducing a typology of re- nial research (up to World War II),
search purposes to elucidate the design, ethnographers, influenced by positiv-
methods, and analysis implica tions of vary- ism, strove for objectivity in their field-
ing purposes. work and reports.

2. The "modernist phase" (to the 1970s)

Alternative Ways was a time in which qualitative re-
of Distinguishing searchers emphasized methodological
Qualitative Traditions rigor and procedural formalism as they
sought acceptance within social science
There is no definitive way to categorize and reacted against postpositivism's
the various philosophical and theoretical emergent emphasis on interpretivism.
perspectives that have influenced and that
distinguish types of qualitative inquiry. Lin- 3. During the "blurred genres phase"
coln and Guba (2000) identify five "alterna- (1970-1986), a large number of alterna-
tive inquiry paradigms": positivism, post- tive approaches emerged, creating com-
positivism, criticai theory, constructivism, peti tion and confusion, the legacy of
and participatory. Schwandt (2000) dis- which remains in the daunting jargon
cusses "three epistemological stances for and labels of qualitative perspectives:
qualitative inquiry: interpretivism, herme- structuralism, symbolic interactionism,
neutics, and social constructionism." Crotty phenomenology, ethnomethodology, crit-
(1998) also offers three primary epistemo- icai theory, semiotics, neopositivism,
logical influences: objectivism, construc- micro-macro descriptivism, neo-Marx-
tionism, and subjectivism; these, he posits, ism, poststructuralism, naturalism, con-
have influenced in varying degrees different structionism, and deconstructionism.
theoretical perspectives: positivism (and
postpositivism), interpretivism (symbolic 4. Next carne the "crisis of representation"
interaction, phenomenology, hermeneu- that focused on issues of reflexivity,
tics), criticai inquiry, feminism, and post- power, privilege, race, gender, and so-
modernism. Creswell (1998) distinguishes cioeconomic classali of which under-
"five qualitative traditions of inquiry": biog- mined traditional notions of validity
raphy, phenomenology, grounded theory, and neutrality.
ethnography, and case study.
While there is some overlap among these 5. The "fifth moment" describes recent
frameworks, there are also important differ- history and is characterized as "a triple
ences reflecting varying experiences with crisis of representation, legitimation,
and emphases within the history of qualita- and praxis" (p. 17) in which the inevita-
tive research. Denzin and Lincoln (2000b) in bly creative and interpretive nature of

qualitative writing is put under the mi- plines given birth by the mother of ali dis-
croscope, mcluding the perspective of ciplines, philosophy, can be distinguished
the qualitative writer, and searching by their core burning questions. For sociol-
questions are raised about how to evalu- ogy, the burning question is the Hobbesian
ate the quality of qualitative research question of order: What holds society or so-
and evaluation. During this period, cial groups together? What keeps them from
more activist, explicitly political, and falling apart? Psychology asks: Why do in-
participatory approaches sought legiti- dividuais think, feel, and act as they do? Po-
macy as, for example, in "empower- litical science asks: What is the nature of
ment evaluation" (Fetterman, Kaftar- power, how it is distributed, and with what
ian, and Wandersman 1996) and using consequences? Economics studies how re-
qualitative/interpretive writing "to ad- sources are produced and distributed.
vance the promises of radical demo- Disciplines and subdisciplines reveal lay-
cratic racial justice embodied m the ers of questions. Biologists inquire into the
post-civil rights, Chicana/Chicano and nature and varie ty of life. Botanists ask how
Black Arts Aesthetic movements" (Den- plants grow, while agriculturists investigate
zin 2000a:256). producing food, and agronomists narrow
their focus still further to field crops.
6. In the sixth phase, which Denzin and To be sure, reducing any complex and
Lincoln call "p os texperimental," the multifaceted discipline to a singular burning
boundaries of qualitative inquiry are ex- question But what is gained
panded to include creative nonfiction, are clarity and focus about what distin-
autobiographical ethnography, poetic guishes one lineage of inquiry from another.
representations, and multimedia pre- It is precisely that clarity and focus I shall
sentations. strive for in identifying the burning ques-
tions that distinguish major lineages of
They clearly expect qualitative inquiry to qualitative inquiry. In doing so, I shall dis-
continue developing in new directions for please those who prefer to separate para-
they call the future the "seventh moment" digms from philosophies from theoretical
or perhaps this will be the moment of rest, orientations from design strategies. For ex-
when qualitative researchers cease debating ample, social constructivism may be viewed
their differences and celebrate the marvel- as a paradigm, ethnography may be consid-
ous varie ty of their creations. ered a research strategy, and symbolic
interactionism may be examined as a theo-
Foundational Questions retical framework. However, distinctions
between paradigmatic, strategic, and theo-
This chapter, in contrast with the work of retical dimensions within any particular
qualitative theorists and historians cited approach are both arguable and somewhat
above, distinguishes theoretical perspectives arbitrary. Therefore, I have circumvented
by their foundational questions. A founda- those distinctions by focusing on and distin-
tional or burning question, like the mythical guishing foundational questions as the basis
burning bush of Moses, blazes with heat for understanding and contrasting long-
(controversy) and light (wisdom) but is not standing and emergent qualitative inquiry
consumed (is never fully answered). Disci- approaches.
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 81

Theoretical Traditions Anthropologists have traditionally stud-

and Orientations ied nonliterate cultures in remote settings,
what were often thought of as "primitive" or
"exotic" cultures. As a result, anthropology
Ethnography and ethnographers became intertwined
with Western colonialism, sometimes resist-
ing imperialism in efforts to sustam native
Foundatio^ql question: cultures and sometimes as handmaidens to
W h a t is the CM l+U y-e. of +his gfowp conquering empires as their findings were
oj' people? used to overcome resistance to change and
manage subjugated peoples.
Ethnography, the primary method of an- Modern anthropologists apply ethno-
thropology, is the earliest distinct tradition graphic methods to the study of contem-
of qualitative inquiry. The notion of culture porary society and social problems, for ex-
is central to ethnography Ethnos is the Greek ample, technological diffusion, globaliza-
word for "a people" or cultural group. The tion, environmental degradation, poverty,
study of ethnos then, or ethnography, is "de- the gap between rich and poor, and societal
voted to describing ways of life of human- breakdown (Scudder 1999); education (Spind-
kind . . . , a social scientific description of a ler and Hammond 2000); addiction (Agar
people and the cultural basis of their 1986; Agar and Reisinger 1999); child labor
peoplehood" (Vidich and Lyman 2000:38). (Kenny 1999); intercultural understanding
Ethnographic inquiry takes as its central and in schools (Jervis 1999); and international
guiding assumption that any human group border conflicts (Hart 1999), to give but a
of people interacting together for a period of few of many examples. The importance of
time will evolve a culture. Culture is that col- understanding culture, especially in relation
lection of behavior patterns and beliefs that to change efforts of ali kinds, is the corner-
constitutes "standards for deciding what is, stone of "applied ethnography" as it has
standards for deciding what can be, stan- emerged in modern society (Chambers
dards for deciding how one feels about it, 2000). This can be seen in the ongoing re-
standards for deciding what to do about it, ports of members of the Society for Applied
and standards for deciding how to go about Anthropology since its founding in 1941.
doing it" (Goodenough 1971:21-22). The pri- Whyte (1984), for example, has collected a
mary method of ethnographers is partici- number of classic examples of ethnographic
pant observation in the tradition of anthro- fieldwork applied to problems of industrial
pology. This means intensive fieldwork in democracies.
which the investigator is immersed in the Since the 1980s, understanding culture
culture under study. While ethnographers has become central in organizational studies
share an interest in culture, there is debate (Morgan 1986, 1989; Pettigrew 1983) and in
about the nature of its essence (Douglass much organizational development work
2000) as well as several different styles of (Raia and Margulies 1985; Louis 1983), in-
ethnography, including the classic holistic cluding major efforts to change an organiza-
style of Benedict and Mead, the semiotic tion's culture (Schein 1985; Silverzweig and
style of Boas and Geertz, and the behaviorist Allen 1976). Organizational ethnography
style of the Whitings (Sanday 1983). has a distinguished history that can be

Cross-cultural perspective

traced back to the influential Hawthome tion (Fetterman 1984,1989) and applied edu-
electric plant study that began in 1927 cational research (Dobbert 1982). Programs
(Schwartzman 1993). Ethnography has also develop cultures, just as organizations do.
emerged as an approach to program evalua- The program's culture can be thought of as
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 83

Culture, Culture Everywhere: Sample of Media

E X H I B I T 3.2 Headlines

"Stopping the Culture of Violence"

(appied alternatively to gangs, families, neighborhoods, television shows, hockey games,
even politics)
"Inside the Culture of Sports"
(Nike culture, Little League culture, "soccer mom" culture)
"Learn the Culture of Day-Trading Stocks"
(virtual trading culture, online business culture)
"Girls and the Barbie Doll Culture"
(or boys and the G.l. Joe action figure culture, kids and the Stor Wars culture)
"Eat Right: Fast Food Culture"
("Golden Arches Culture Around the World")
"The Culture of Negative Political Campaigning: Why It Wins"
Mu5ic, dance, or art culture
Postmodern culture
Virtual culture (aka Internet or Web culture)

part of the program's treatment. As such, the thinking about ethnographic research
culture affects both program processes and (LeCompte and Schensul 1999), Living the
outcomes. Improving a program, then, may Ethnographic Life (Rose 1990), Selecting
include changing the program's culture. An Ethnographic Informants (Johnson 1990), and
ethnographic evaluation would both facili- how to write ethnographies (Atkinson 1992)
tate and assess such change. or write the methods section in ethno-
Ironically, perhaps, awareness of the im- graphic reports (Stewart 1998). The Ethnog-
portance of culture has found its way into rapher's Toolkit hasbeenpublished (Schensul
popular culture and mass media to such an and LeCompte 1999).
extent that the term shows up nearly ubiqui- While traditionally ethnographers have
tously as an implied explanation for ali used the methods of participant observation
kinds of social problems and phenomena, as and intensive fieldwork to study everything
shown in Exhibit 3.2. from small groups to nation-states, what it
Ethnographic methods continue to de- means to "partcipate" or be in the "field"
velop as new approaches emerge, for exam- or even be a "group" has changed with
ple, Doing Team Ethnography (Erickson and the World Wide Web and the emergence of
Stull 1998), and new issues surface, for ex- the virtual ethnographerstudying people
ample, Ethnographic Decision Tree Modeling connected through distributed electronic
(Gladwin 1989) or Writing the New Ethnogra- environments (Ruhleder 2000). Neverthe-
phy (Goodall 2000). Other ethnographic less, whether doing ethnography in virtual
methodologists continue to delve deeply space, a nonliterate community, a multina-
into classic issues such as paradigms for tional Corporation, or an inner-city school,

what makes the approach distinct is the mat- uations, the other became the program cli-
ter of interpreting and applying the findings ent, the student, the welfare recipient, the
from a cultural perspective (Wolcott 1980:59; patient, the alcoholic, the homeless person,
Chambers 2000:852). the victim, the perpetrator, or the recidivist.
In organizational studies, the other was the
worker, the manager, the leader, the fol-
Autoethnography and
lower, and/or the board of directors. The
Evocative Forms of Inquiry
others were observed, interviewed, de-
scribed, and their culture conceptualized,
analyzed, and interpreted. Capturing and
PouiAda-Hcmal question;
being true to the perspective of those stud-
How does my own e^cpenence of
ied, what came to be called the emic per-
tkis cw Itu counect witk and offe.?
spective, or the insider's perspective, was
insigkts about+kis culture, situa+ion,
contrasted with the ethnographer's per-
eveiAf> and/ot* way of life?
spective, the etic, or outsider's, view. The etic
viewpoint of the ethnographer implied
We turn now from the earliest qualitative some important degree of detachment or
tradition, ethnography, to the lates t and still "higher" levei of conceptual analysis and
emergent approach: autoethnography. Eth- abstraction. To the extent that ethnog-
nography and autoethnography might be raphers reported on their own experiences
thought of as bookends, or opposite ends of as participant observers, it was primarily
a qualitative continuum, that frame a large methodological reporting related to how
number of distinct qualitative approaches to they collected data and how, or the extent to
be reviewed in this chapter. By considering which, they maintained detachment. To "go
them one after the other throughout this native" was to lose perspective.
chapter, it is hoped you'11 get a sense of the In the new postcolonial and postinodern
range of issues that distinguish qualitative world at the beginning of the 21 st century,
approaches. the relationship between the observed and
Ethnography first emerged as a method the observer has been called into question at
for studying and understanding the other. It every levei. Postcolonial sensitivities raise
was fascination with "exotic otherness" that questions about imbalances of power,
attracted Europeans to study the peoples of wealth, and privilege between ethnog-
frica, Asia, the South Sea Islands, and the raphers and those they would study, includ-
Amricas. "The life world of the 'primitive' ing criticai political questions about how
was thought to be the window through findings will be used. Postmodern critiques
which the prehistoric past could be seen, de- and deconstruction of classic ethnographies
scribed, and understood" (Vidich and have raised fundamental questions about
Lyman 2000:46). In the United States, for ed- how the values and cultural background of
ucated, White, university-based Americans the observer affect what is observed while
the others were Blacks, American Indians, re- also raising doubts about the desirability, in-
cent immigrants, working-class families, deed, the possibility, of detachment. Then
and the inner-city poor (and for that matter, there is the basic question of how an ethnog-
anyone else not well educated, White, and rapher might study her or his own culture.
university based). In recent times, when eth- What if there is no other as the focus of study,
nography began to be used in program eval- but I want to study the culture of my own
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 85

BMaiiii^lictf Varieties of Autoethnog raphy: A Partial Lexicology

David Hayano (1979) is credited with originating the term autaethnographyto describe studies
by anthropoogists of their own cultures. In their extensive review, Ellis and Bochner (2000) focus
on studying one's own culture and oneself as part of that culture to understand and illuminate a
way of life. They cite a large number of phrases that have emerged both to support this emergent
frontierof qualitative inquiry and to confuse exactly whatitis. In the end, they conclude, "increas-
ingly, autoethnography has become the term of choice in describing studies and procedures that
connect the personal to the cultural" (p. 740).
Other terms include

Autobiographical ethnography Lived experience

Auto-observation Literary ethnography
Ethnographic poetics Narrative ethnography
Creative analytic practice ethnography Native ethnography
Criticai autobiography Narratives of the self
Ethnic autobiography New ethnography
Ethnographic memoir Personal ethnography
Ethnobiog raphy Personal experience narratives
Ethnographic autobiography Personal narratives
Ethnographic stories Postmodern ethnography
Evocative narratives Reflexive ethnography
Experimental ethnography Self-ethnog raphy
First-person accounts Self-stories
Indigenous ethnography Socioautobiog raphy
Interpretive biography Sociopoetics

group, my own community, my own organi- Autoethnography is an autobiographical

zation, and the way of life of people like me, genre of writing and research that displays
or people I regularly encounter, or my own multiple layers of consciousness, connecting
cultural experiences? the personal to the cultural. Back and forth
These developments have contributed to autoethnographers gaze, first through an
the emergence of autoethnographystudy- ethnographic wide-angle lens, focusing out-
ing one's own culture and oneself as part of ward on social and the cultural aspects of their
that cultureand its many variations. personal experience; then, they look mward,
Goodall (2000) calls this the " n e w ethnogra- exposing a vulnerable self that is moved by
phy": "creative narratives shaped out of a and may move through, refract, and resist cul-
writer's personal experiences within a cul- tural interpretations. As they zoom backward
ture and addressed to academic and public and forward, inward and outward, distinc-
audiences" (p. 9). Exhibit 3.3 offers a list of tions between the personal and cultural be-
many, but not ali, of the terms that have come blurred, sometimes beyond distinct
emerged to describe variations in this gen- recognition. Usually written in first-person
eral approach. Carolyn Ellis (Ellis and voice, autoethnographic texts appear in a vari-
Bochner 2000) describes it this way: ety of formsshort stories, poetry, fiction,

novis, photographic essays, personal essays, sional life. The point is that, for an ethnogra-
journals, fragmented and layered writing, and pher, any experienceat home or abroad, of
social science prose. In these texts, concrete ac- self or of otheroffers the potential to become
tion, dialogue, emotion, einbodiment, spiritu- fieldwork. . . . For me, my personal and my
ality, and self-consciousness are featured, ethnographic persona have become so inter-
appearing as relational and institutional sto- twined that it would be impossible to separate
ries affected by history, social structure, and them even if I wanted to do so. (p. 317)
culture, which themselves are dialectically re-
vealed through action, feeling, thought, and
Anthropologist Mary Catherine Bate-
language. (p. 739)
son's (2000) autoethnographic description
of teaching a seminar at Spelman College in
In autoethnography, then, you use your
Atlanta, Gergia, includes detailed attention
own experiences to gamer insights into the
to the personal challenge she experienced in
larger culture or subculture of which you are
trying to decide how to categorize students
a part. Great variability exists in the extent to
of different ages in contemporary American
which autoethnographers make themselves
universities, for example, by calling older
the focus of the analysis, how much they
participants "elders." Aaron Tumer (2000)
keep their role as social scientist in the fore-
of Brunel University in the United Kingdom
ground, the extent to which they use the sen-
has explored using one's own body as a
sitizing notion of culture, at least explicitly,
source of data in ethnography, what he calls
to guide their analysis, and how personal
"embodied ethnography."
the writing is. At the center, however, what
Such personal writing is controversial
distinguishes autoethnography from eth-
among qualitative theorists because of its
nography is self-awareness about and re-
"rampant subjectivism" (Crotty 1998:48).
porting of one's own experiences and intro-
Many social science academics object to the
spections as a primary data source. Ellis
way it blurs the lines between social science
describes this process as follows:
and literary writing. One sociologist told me
angrily that those who want to write creative
I start with my personal life. I pay attention to nonfiction or poetry should find their way to
my physical feelings, thoughts, and emotions. the English Department of the university
I use what I call systematic sociological intro- and leave sociology to sociologists. Richard-
spection and emotional recall to try to under- son (2000b), in contrast, sees the integration
stand an experience I've lived through. Then I of art, literature, and social science as pre-
write my experience as a story. By exploring a cisely the point, bringing together creative
particular life, I hope to understand a way of and criticai aspects of inquiry. She suggests
life. (Ellis and Bochner 2000:737) that what these various new approaches and
emphases share is that "they are produced
In writing about his experiences in a through creative analytic practices," which
"New Age ashram located in Pennsylva- leads her to call "this class of ethnographies
nia," Bruner (1996) confronted the intersec- creative analytic practice ethnography" (Rich-
tion of the ethnographic and the personal: ardson 2000b:929). While the ethnographic
aspect of this work is constructed on a foun-
What started out as part of my personal life dation of careful research and fieldwork
was soon transformed mto part of my profes- (p. 937), the creative element resides primar-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 87

ily in the writing, which she emphasizes is, a credibleaccount of a cultural, so-
itself, "a method of inquiry, a way of finding cial, individual, or communal sense of
out about yourself and your topic" (p. 923). the "real"? (Richardson 2000a:254,
But how is one to judge the quality of such 2000b :937)
nontraditional social scientific approaches
that encourage personal and creative eth- These criteria open up the possibility of
nographic writing? Richardson (2000b) has new writing formats. Elliot Eisner (1996), a
responded to this challenge by asserting that former president of the American Educa-
creative analytic practice ethnography should tional Research Association, has argued that
be held to "high and difficult standards; a novel as a form of qualitative repor ting
mere novelty does not suffice" (p. 937). She could be a legitimate form for a doctoral dis-
offers five criteria of quality drawn from sertation in social science or education. In
both science and creative arts. that vein, he has suggested that in "the new
frontier in qualitative research methodol-
1. Substantive contribution: Does this piece ogy" an artistic qualitative social science
contribute to our understanding of so- contribution canbe assessed by the "number
cial life? Does the writer demonstrate a and quality of the questions that the work
deeply grounded (if embedded) social raises" as much as by any conclusions of-
scientific perspective? How has this per- fered (Eisner 1997:268). In this regard, emi-
spective informed the construction of nent evaluator Emie House (1991) reminds
the text? us that where evaluation reports are con-
cerned, the possibility of fiction is always a
2. Aesthetic merit: Does this piece suc- subtext: "Our evaluation repor t proved to be
ceeded aesthetically? Does the use of so readable many people became enrap-
creative analytic practices open up the tured by it. Some said it read like a novel.
text, invite interpretive responses? Is the Others said it was a novel" (p. 113).
text artistically shaped, satisfying, com- Poetry is another artistic genre that has
plex, and not boring? emerged in ethnographic reporting. Glesne
(1997) converted interview transcripts into
3. Reflexivity: How has the author's sub- poems because she found poetry better cap-
jectivity been both a producer and a tured and communicated what her inter-
product of this text? Is there adequate view with an 86-year-old professor in Puerto
self-awareness and self-exposure for the Rico opened up and revealed. Richardson
reader to make judgments about the (1998) has published a number of field-
point of view? work-based poems, reflecting his view that
poetry offers a language especially
4. Impact: Does this affect me? Emo- well-suited "for those special, strange, even
tionally? Intellectually? Does it generate mysterious moments when bits and pieces
new questions? Move me to write? suddenly coalesce . . . , when the ethnogra-
Move me to try new research practices? pher, away from home and in a strange cul-
Move me to action? ture, has a heightened sense of the frailty of
being human. In such a sense, poetry ap-
5. Expression of a reality: Does this text em- pears to be a way of communicating in-
body a fleshed out, einbodied sense of stances when we feel truth has shown its
lived experience? Does it seem a "true" face" (p. 451). Travisano (1998) included po-

dictions they experience. Ironically, many

aren't observant enough of the world around
them. The self-questioning autoethnography
demands is extremely difficult. So is confront-
|||S||lfi:i||l:]- =; i' ai !:-.;!::vii;;j-' m ^-HS-I! Y '.; ing things about yourself tliat are less than
flattering. Believe me, honest autoethnog-
! m^Tlfety %S|la iftffi ik >p> raphy exploration generates a lot of fears and
y p ^ ^ ^ k s m m !
M!!: !;': ';!!]'!'irj =!;! | doubtsand einotional pain. Just when you
-/'jfufiifc l^ii'!!!. th - Wffflffijriliil liiiTil !tf i: think you can't stand the pain anymore, well,
that's when the real work has only begun.
lffi^ :; Then there's the vulnerability of revealing
^^jriliiiiiii:^:iij... . ; . . ' ;:. j yourself, not being able to take back what
you've written or having any control over
how readers interpret it. lt's hard not to feel
your life is being critiqued as well as your
etry in his "autobiography of an ethnic iden- work. I t c a n b e humiliating. And the ethical is-
tity" in which he explored his lived experi- sues. Just wait until you've written about fam-
ence of becoming Italian American. ily members and loved ones who are part of
These new frontiers of qualitative inquiry your story. (p. 738)
and reporting, combining art and science,
are also leading to the integration of multi- Part of the challenge in autoethno-
ple forms in a single work. Consider Den- graphic writing is finding and owning one's
zin's (2000b) "Rock Creek History/' which voice. In the last chapter, I contrasted the
he describes as "an experimental, mixed- third-person passive voice of traditional ac-
genre narrative, combining autoethnog- ademic writing with the first-person active
phy with other evocative writing forms, voice of qualitative inquiry. Autoethnog-
including narratives of the self. Using the raphy increases the importance of voice and
techniques of fiction, I tell a story about my- raises the stakes because an authentic voice
self and my experiences with nature, the sa- enhances the authenticity of the work, while
cred, and a small Montana River named an inauthentic voice undermines it. Voice re-
Rock Creek" (p. 71). He also calls his writing veals the author's identity (Ivanic 1998). The
a "performance-based project" that draws tone of voice may be expressive, reflective,
on multiple writing forms and traditions in- searching, academic, or criticai, as in what
cluding, in addition to those already noted, Church (1995) has called the "forbidden
"the ethnographic story, nature writing, lit- narratives" of "criticai autobiography" in
erary nonfiction, the personal memoir, and social science. In voice resides Richardson's
cultural criticism" (p. 79). (2000b) fifth criterion for judging quality
Ellis (Ellis and Bochner 2000) warns that cited earlier, what she called "expression of a
autoethnographic writing is hard to do: reality: Does this text embody a fleshed out,
embodied sense of lived experience? Does it
It's amazingly difficult. lt's certainly not seem a 'true'a credibleaccount of a cul-
something that most people can do well. Most tural, social, individual, or communai sense
social scientists don't write well enough carry of the 'real'?" (p. 937).
it off. Or they're not sufficiently introspective These issues are being raised in a number
about their feelings or motives, or the contra- of disciplinary genres. Historian Edmund
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 89

Morris won a Pulitzer Prize for his biogra- doubts, weaknesses, and uncertainties. But
phy of America's 26th president, Theodore once the story was told, the final chapter of
Roosevelt. Partly on this basis, he was cho- the book that contrasts alternative coming-
sen as the "official" biographer of former of-age/initiation paradigms (Exhibit 1.1 in
president Ronald Reagan. The resulting Chapter 1) emerged relatively painlessly.
work (E. Morris 2000) proved highly contro- I've included as Appendix 3.1 at the end of
versial because to tell the story of Reagan's this chapter an excerpt from the book as an
life as he felt it needed to be told, he created a example of autoethnographic writing.
fictional character based on himself and fab- Johnstone (2000) argues that "interest in
ricated encounters with Reagan at various the individual voice" within anthropology
points that led him to first-person reflections can be understood, at least in part, "within
as if he had actually witnessed and partici- the context of a larger shift toward a more
pated in these events and encounters. phenomenological approach to language"
Thus, a traditional and highly respected (p. 405). Autoethnography integrates eth-
historian introduced a form of quasi- nography with personal story, a specifically
autoethnographic literary fiction into a stan- autobiographical manifestation of the more
dard biography in order to have a point general "turn to biographical methods in so-
of view from which to recount his subject's cial science" that strive to "link macro and
life. micro leveis of analysis . . . [and] provide a
In my own major effort at autoeth- sophisticated stock of interpretive proce-
nographic inquiry (Patton 1999a), the strug- dures for relating the personal and the so-
gle to find an authentic voiceauthentic cial" (Chamberlayne, Bornat, and Wengraf
first to me, then to others who know me, and 2000:2-3). Art Bochner (Ellis and Bochner
finally to those who do not know me 2000) has reflected on what this means:
tumed what I thought would be a one-year
effort into seven years of often painful, dis-
couraging writing. And I was only writing What is the point of a storied life? Narrative
about a 10-day period, a Grand Canyon hike truth seeks to keep the past alive in the pres-
with my son in which we explored what it ent. Stories show us that the meanings and sig-
means to come of age, or be initiated into nificance of the past are incomplete, tenta tive,
adulthood, in modern society. My son and revisable according to contingencies of
started and graduated from college while I our present life circumstances, the present
was learning how to tell the story of what we from which we narrate. Doesn't this mean that
experienced together. To make the story the stories we tell always run the risk of dis-
work as a story and make scattered interac- torting the past? Of course, it does. After ali,
tions coherent, I had to rewrite conversa- stories rearrange, redescribe, invent, omit, and
tions that took place over several days into a revise. They can be wrong in numerous
single evening's dialogue, I had to reorder waystone, detail, substance, etc. Does this
the sequence of some conversations to en- attribute of storytelling threaten the project of
hance the plot line, and I had to learn to fol- personal narrative? Not at ali, because a story
low the novelist's mantra to "show don't is not a neutral attempt to mirror the facts of
tell," advice particularly difficult for those of one's life
us who make our living telling. More diffi- Life and narrative are inextricably con-
cult still was revealing my emotions, foibles, nected. Life both anticipates telling and draws

No, Mom, I didn't say that you're a bad mother.

I know false consciousness sounds negative, but
don't take it personal. That's just the deconstruction
chapter. In the next chapter I do reconstruction and
creative synthesis. I think you'll really resonate to
the synergistic portrayal of an archetypal maternal
figure in the postmodern era of conflicted roles. You
just have to get into the mindset of autoethnography.

Confronting a critic of autoethnography

Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 91

meaning from it. Narrative is both about liv- What these questions have in common is
ing and part of it. (pp. 745-46) the presumption that there is a real world
with verifiable patterns that can be observed
By opening this chapter with the contrast and predictedthat reality exists and truth
between ethnography and autoethnog- is worth striving for. Reality can be elusive
raphy, we have moved from the beginnings and truth can be difficult to determine, but
of qualitative methods in anthropological describing reality and detennining truth are
fieldwork more than a century ago, where the appropriate goals of scientific inquiry.
the ethnographer was an outsider among Working from this perspective, researchers
exotically distinct nonliterate peoples, to and evaluators seek methods that yield cor-
the most recent manifestation of qualitative respondence with the "real world/' thus this
inquiry in the postmodern age of mass is some times called a correspondence per-
communications, where autoethnographers spective.
struggle to find a distinct voice by docu- Reality-oriented inquiry and the search
menting their own experiences in an increas- for truth have fallen on hard times in this
ingly all-encompassing and commercialized skeptical postmodern age when honoring
global culture. To further sharpen contrasts multiple perspectives and diverse points of
in qualitative approaches, the next two sec- view has gained ascendancy in reaction to
tions illuminate some of the philosophical the oppressive authoritarianism and dog-
underpinnings that have informed and matism that seemed so often to accompany
shaped qualitative methods, including eth- claims of having found "Truth." Yet, many
nography and autoethnography, by con- people, especially policymakers and those
trasting the foundational question of real- who commission evaluation research, find it
ity-oriented research and evaluation (post- difficult to accept the notion that ali explana-
positivist realism) with that of postmodern tions and points of view hold equal merit.
constructivism and social construction. Some people in programs seem to be helped
more than others. Some students seem to
learn more than others. Some claims of effec-
Truth and Reality-Oriented tiveness are more plausible and have more
Correspondence Theory: merit than others. To test a claim of effective-
Positivist, Realist, and Analytic ness by bringing data to bear on it, including
Induction Approaches qualitative data, is to be engaged in a form of
reality testmg that uses evidence to examine
T-QufAclaticmai CjuestioKvss assertions and corroborate claims. In this
Wka+'s ^eally going on in fea 1
section, we shall examine how to recognize
wo^ld? What ccm we establish with and engage in a reality-testing or reality-ori-
some decj*ee oj- ceH-aitrty? ented approach to qualitative inquiry. In so
Wkat doing, I shall minimize philosophical dis-
ci^e plausible expla^c^i^ms for course and focus primarily on the practical
ve^i implications of this orientation, but a brief
fiable pa+terns ? VvWs the foray into philosophical foundations is nec-
t^uik msoj-ar os we get at it?
essary to provide a context for practice.
Philosophical inquiry into truth and real-
ow can we study o, pke.Kvomenon ity involves examining the nature of knowl-
so that out* f-indmgs coyyespond/
inso-fak1 as it's possible, to tke.
^eal world?

edge itself, how it comes into being and is paradigm debates and routinely used incor-
transmitted through language. Positivism, rectly though persistently. Shadish (1995b)
following Auguste Comte, asserted that argues that one would be hard-pressed to
only verifiable claims based directly on ex- find any contemporary social scientist, phi-
perience could be considered genuine losopher, or evaluator who really adheres to
knowledge. Comte was especially inter- the tenets of logical positivism. Rather, "the
ested in distinguishing the empirically term has become the Iinguistic equivalent
based "positive knowledge" of experience of 'bad/ a rhetorical device aimed at depriv-
from theology and metaphysics, which ing one's opponent of credibility by name-
depended on fallible human reason and calling. This is particularly true m the
belief. Logical positivism, developed by the quantitative-qualitative debate where some
Vienna Circle in ustria and the Berlin qualitative theorists are fond of labeling ali
School in Germany in the early part of the quantitative opponents as logical positiv-
20th century, added to the emphasis on di- ists," a fundamental but common "error"
rect experience from positivism a logic-based (p. 64).
commitinent "to theory development using Logical empiricism and postpositivism,
a rigorous procedural language such as which take into account the criticisms
symbolic logic. Knowledge comes either against and weaknesses of rigid positivism,
from direct experience or indirectly from in- now inform much contemporary social sci-
ferences from experience through the proce- ence research, including reality-oriented
dural language" (Shadish 1995b:64). Logical qualitative inquiry. Logical empiricism, a
positivism subsequently came to be associ- more modera te version of logical positivism
ai ed with philosophical efforts to specify ba- (Schwandt 2001), seeks unity in science,
sic requirements for what could be consid- through both theory formulation and meth-
ered scientific knowledge, which mcluded odological inquiry, and asserts that there are
the search for universal laws through empir- no fundamental methodological differences
ical verification of logically deduced hy- between natural and social sciences.
potheses with key concepts and variables Postpositivism, as articulated by eminent
operationally defined and carefully formu- methodologist Donald T. Campbell in his
lated to permit replication and falsification. collected writings about and vision for an
Thus, real knowledge (as opposed to mere "experimenting society" (Campbell and
beliefs) was limited to what could be logi- Russo 1999), recognizes that discretionary
cally deduced from theory, operationally judgment is unavoidable in science, that
measured, and empirically replica ted. Such proving causality with certainty in explain-
severe, narrow, and rigorous requirements ing social phenomena is problema tic, that
turned out to severely limit what could pass knowledge is inherently embedded in his-
for knowledge and to demand more torically specific paradigms and is therefore
certainty than the complex world of social relative rather than absolute, and that ali
phenomena could yield. Though influential methods are imperfect, so multiple meth-
in the first half of the 20th century, logical ods, both quantitative and qualitative, are
positivism has been "almost urversally re- needed to generate and test theory, improve
jected" as a basis for social science inquiry understanding over time of how the world
(Campbell 1999a:132). The legacy of the opera tes, and support informed policy mak-
fleeting influence of logical positivism is ing and social program decision making.
that the term lives on as an epithet hurled in While modest in asserting what can be
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 9 3

known with any certainty, postpositivists do

assert that it is possible, using empirical evi-
dence, to distinguish between more and less fe^feft.4:l^1vN3lM3i flEAUTY
plausible claims, to test and choose between
" T A C T I . T K - R O R N F ^ m T VI ' ' T ' ; , ti&i V ^ I , ! VI"
rival hypotheses, and to distinguish be-
tween "belief and valid belief" (Campbell .STj J:f !! ii!!.! :i'i Ur n?:r! .'!:,-iV. !! h YJ;. ;.!'=! '
1999b:151, emphasis added). : ;!!.!.::> :' R ^ Y ; A - A H -

!''!;; ,; {y RRN !.VY ri .V I !.s" :!I i' i i. u V?

Given this brief philosophical and episte-
!Vi!! ril!^! rh.:s!"!!!T!' h1'!s' f i^Viy t.VV ,'
mological overview, what are the practical
iriXi'!!. M " (!m i ;: a::^;;!;-!;
implications for qualitative inquiry of oper-
ating within a reality-oriented perspective?
It ineans using the language and concepts of
mainstream science to design naturalistic "truth value" and plausibility of findings;
studies, inform data gathering in the field, credibility, impartiality, and independence
analyze results, and judge the quality of of judgment; confirmability, consistency,
qualitative findings. Thus, if you are a re- and dependability of data; and explainable
searcher or evaluator operating from a real- inconsistencies or instabilities (GAO
ity-oriented stance, you worry about valid- 1987:53). You may even generalize case study
ity, reliability, and objectivity (e.g., Perkyl findings, depending on the cases selected
1997). You realize that completely value-free and studied, to generate or test theory (Yin
inquiry is impossible, but you worry about 1989:44, 1999b), establish causality (Ragin
how your values and preconceptions may 1987, 2000), or inform program improve-
affect what you see, hear, and record in the ment and policy decisions from patterns es-
field, so you wrestle with your values, try to tablished and lessons leamed (GAO
make any biases explicit, take steps to miti- 1987:51). In short, you incorporate the lan-
ga te their influence through rigorous field guage and principies of 21st-century science
into naturalistic inquiry and qualitative
procedures, and discuss their possible influ-
analysis to convey a sense that you are dedi-
ence m reporting findings. You may estab-
cated to getting as close as possible to what is
lish an "audit trail" to verify the rigor of your
really going on in whatever setting you are
fieldwork and confirmability of the data col-
studying. Realizing that absolute objectivity
lected because you want to minimize bias,
of the pur positivist variety is impossible to
maximize accuracy, and report impartially
attain, you are prepared to admit and deal
believing that "inaccuracy and bias are un-
with imperfectioris in a phenomenologically
acceptable in any case study" (U.S. General
messy and methodologically imperfect
Accounting Office [GAO] 1987:51). In re-
world, but you still believe that objectivity is
porting, you einphasize the empirical find-
worth striving for. As Kirk and Miller (1986)
ingsgood, solid description and analy-
sisnot your own personal perspective or
voice, though you acknowledge that some
subjectivity and judgment may enter in. You Objectivity, though the term has been taken by
include triangulation of data sources and some to suggest a naive and inhumane ver-
analytical perspectives to increase the accu- sion of vulgar positivism, is the essential basis
racy and credibility of findings (Patton of ali good research. Without it, the only rea-
1999b). Your criteria for quality include the son the reader of the research might have for

accepting the conclusions of the investigator rather than logical positivists, further evi-
would be an authoritarian respect for the per- dence that "the weight of criticisms" against
son of the author. Objectivity is a simulta- logical positivism has "caused its internai
neous realization of as much reliability and collapse" (Schwandt 2001:150). Realism as a
validity as possible. Reliability is the degree to qualitative stance is clearly reality oriented,
which the finding is independent of accidental and much of the language quoted above re-
circumstances of the research, and validity is mains in the revised edition. They acknowl-
the degree to which the finding is interpreted edge that knowledge is socially and histori-
in a correct way. (p. 20) cally constructed, and they "affirm the
existence and importance of the subjective,
In the introduction to their widely used the phenomenological, the meaning-mak-
and influential sourcebook Qualitative Data ing at the center of life." Then they return to
Analysis, Miles and Huberman (1984) stated their core reality-oriented stance:
modestly: "We think of ourselves as logical
Our aim is to register and "transcend" these
positivists who recognize and try to atone
processes by buildmg theories to account for a
for the limitations of that approach. Soft-
real world that is both bounded and perceptu-
nosed logical positivists, maybe" (p. 19).
ally laden, and to test these theories in our var-
They went on to explain what this means
ious disciplines.
and, in so doing, provide a succinct sum-
Our tests do not use "covering laws" or the
mary of the reality-oriented approach to
deductive logic of classical positivism. Rather,
qualitative research:
our explanations flow from an account of how
differing structures produced the events we
We believe that social pkenomena exist not observed. We aim to account for events, rather
orily in the mind but also in the objective than simply to document their sequence. We
worldand that there are some lawful and look for an individual or a social process, a
reasonably stable relationships to be found mechanism, a structure at the core of events
among them Given our belief in social reg- that canbe captured to provide a causai descrip-
ularities, there is a corollary: Our task is to ex- tion of the forces at work.
press them as precisely as possible, attending Transcendental realism calls both for
to their range and generality and to the local causai explanation and for the evidence to
and historical contingencies under which they show that each entity or event is an instance of
occur. that explanation. So we need not only an ex-
So, unlike some schools within social phe- planatory structure but also a grasp of the par-
nomenology, we consider it important to ticular configuration at hand. That is one
evolve a set of valid and verifiable methods for reason why we have tilted toward more in-
capturing these social relationships and their ductive methods of study. (Miles and Huber-
causes. We want to interpret and explain these man 1994:4)
phenomena and have confidence that others,
using the same tools, would arrive at analo- Analytic induction offers a specific form of
gous conclusions. (Miles and Huberman inductive analysis that begins deductively,
1984:19-20) by formulating propositions or hypotheses,
and then examines a particular case in depth
Ten years later, in their revised and ex- to determine if the facts of the case support
panded qualitative sourcebook, Miles and the hypothesis. If it fits, another case is stud-
Huberman called themselves "realists" ied, and so forth, in the search for generaliza-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 95

tions. If a case does not support the hypothe- such as logical positivism, postpositivism,
sis, that is, it is a negative case, the hypothesis logical empiricism, realism, transcendental
is revised. The aim is to explain a phenome- realism, and objectivisin are jargon-ish, have
non satisfactorily using qualitative, case- disputed definitions, and carry negative
based inquiry (Schwandt 2001; Vidich and connotations for many, so they come with
Lyman 2000:57-58; Ryan and Bernard 2000: lots of baggage. I have attempted to be de-
786-87; Gilgun 1995; Taylor and Bogdan scriptive about the reality-oriented, corre-
1984: 127-28). Chapter 8 on analysis dis- spondence theory perspective by focusing
cusses the analy tical strategies of analytic in- on its core, foundational questions as articu-
duction in more detail and provides exam- lated at the beginning of this section. While,
ples. as the next section will show, many qualita-
While analytic induction focuses on tive methodologists assert that qualitative
method, realism focuses first on philosophy. inquiry is inherently constructionist or phe-
Realist philosophy (Baert 1998:189-97; Put- nomenological in perspective, the reality-
nam 1987, 1990) has recently has been oriented perspective remains widespread,
adapted by Mark, Henry, and Julnes (2000) even dominant, in those arenas of research
and Pawson and Tilley (1997) as offering the practice where scientific credibility carries a
foundation for a reality-oriented approach premium. These arenas include many dis-
to evaluation research that includes qualita- sertation committees in traditional disci-
tive inquiry. plines where qualitative dissertations are
just beginning to be allowed, in summative
Realism presumes the existence of an externai
evaluation and policy studies where mere
world in which events and experiences are
"anecdotal" evidence is demeaned, and in
triggered by underlying (and often unob-
fields such as medicai research where dou-
servable) mechanisms and structures (Bhas-
ble-blind experimental studies remain the
kar, 1975). Commonsense realism also gives
gold standard. To emphasize this latter
standing to everyday experiences. It is
point, I close this review of reality-oriented
antiformalist in the sense of not expecting log-
qualitative inquiry with an excerpt from a
ical, formal solutions to vexing problems such
medicai journal in which health researchers
as the n ature of truth. And it places a priority
are defending qualitative research to an au-
on practice and the lessons drawn from prac-
dience known to be skep tical. Their ap-
tice. . . . As realists, we see no meaningful
proach is to associate qualitative research
epistemological difference between qualita-
closely with accepted and credible forms of
tive and quantitative methods. Instead we see
experimental research. Such a perspective
both as assisted sensemaking techniques that
epitomizes the reality-testing orientation:
have specific benefits and limitations. And as
commonsense realists, we believe that al-
What, then, does the qualitative researcher do
though there is a world out there to be made
once he or she accomplishes a careful and
sense of, the specific constructions and
trustworthy understanding of the language
construais that individuais make are criticai
and behavior of an individual human being?
and need to be considered. (Mark et al.
Here is where we rely on our positivist skills
and methods [OJnce we carefully examine
Throughout this section, I have used the and articulate that which we understand one
term reality-oriented qualitative inquiry to human being to be doing, we attempt to col-
describe this perspective because labels late the language and behavior of many hu-

man beings, so many that we might be able to

test the relationships, for example, between
fh; c c.;;, K M IVIT
setting andbehavior orbetween age and hope.
Included within the domains of qualitative !''i;: | ijV ;.Ti... ori '-iiviaviVi:;-

science or narrative research, then, are efforts i'i h n-i'! i)s !* jYVi ng y1 r-s:!.:; ;: !'::.I i.1 . ! i1
to generalize, to predict, and to relate initial ;.V!VF H/,!JJ=',:Y;;-.;= H:Z^KF.I/J,; !. A - A : I ' I ' , !

states to outcomes. These efforts require the !:' !i!'ii!!!!l ir!;!!!'i't"i!'""!;!!!::i;l!i!i Ntti ! if! iV-! j<: Tttti
same evidence-based activities that are used J-:!:!.'IWW !Y! :;=.I!\!:: IV-H-Y::':::: W ^ R L<I

in testing any hypotheses. (Charon, Greene, : tii-iir!!! I:!1!^!!:!^!!.:!' ftlM! Ji :!!:!!:];:! !';!:: iVi - 17i M ;1
and Adelman 1998:68) iVi ' . : I ! m n tf != i i * = a z i ' : ; I:=,-i - I;, ! , m l

ro tf:;" !>:;!:v!::;!::';!:!'! :::==h!;= -i*.ii

Social Construction ! " l l t e M T I J - ^ T ' ! IRL^iii. 1 ;ST: /n

and Constructivism Y :R . H ; : : ' I .:= = ' S I , .


T-oundational questions: 'Vi' ! !'!:!:V:!! .:!:;'!: ','- !:- ! :'i! n ;i.i V - r ' V " :

How kave +ke people in +his setHng ::!' it i*..".rt; rr-.LVJ AL-V"" i.- /.u';
constructed reality? Wkat are tkeir :I M" IR;:' :;:: I^N-V. v i :. ! ' I1! '.1 |',V .I i V i V ! I. I- N I 'I"

^epo^ted perceptions, "trutks/' ; . T I F T F L C . Y I . ' I:M ! I ' ! I ! T . V \ | ; I = ! : , 1 V L I . - , ! ' . '

explanations, beliefs, and world- /. ^ I I ! ' ' ! * IY.VI.UY. ^ F C L V ! i i I ! ! R ! i.I i . v i IVR^IRM.

view? What ace tke consequences / S n u . " .'fli-i, 1

of tkeir constructions for tkei^

bekaviors and for tkose witk wkom
tkey interact?
constructivists study the multiple realities
constructed by people and the implications
Constructivism begins with the premise of those constructions for their lives and in-
that the human world is different from the teractions with others. Shadish (1995b) re-
natural, physical world and therefore must minds us that social constructionism "refers
be studied differently (Guba and Lincoln to constructing knozvledge about reality, not
1990). Because human beings have evolved constructing reality itself" (p. 67). Construc-
the capacity to interpret and construct re- tionists commonly assume that humans "do
alityindeed, they cannot do otherwise not have direct access to a singular, stable,
the world of human perception is not real and fully knowable externai reality. Ali of
in an absolute sense, as the sun is real, but is our understandings are contextually em-
"made up" and shaped by cultural and lin- bedded, interpersonally forged, and neces-
guistic constructs. To say that the socially sarily limited" (Neimeyer 1993:1-2). Any no-
constructed world of humans is not physi- tion of "truth," then, becomes a matter of
cally real like the sun doesn't mean that it "consensus among informed and sophisti-
isn't perceived and experienced as real by cated constructors, not of correspondence
real people. W. I. Thomas, a distinguished with an objective reality." Likewise, the no-
sociologist and a founding symbolic inter- tion of an objective "fact" has no meaning
actionist, formulated what has become "except within some value framework." It
known as Thomas's theorem: What is defined. follows that "there cannot be an 'objective'
or perceived by people as real is real in its conse- assessment of any proposition" (Guba and
quences (Thomas and Thomas 1928:572). So Lincoln 1989:44). Social construction, or
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 97

EXHIBIT 3.4 Constructivism Versus Constructionism

Michael Crotty (1998) makes an important and useful distinction between constructivism and
constructionism, a distinction that illustrates how the process of social construction unfolds
among scholars. It remains to be seen whether this distinction will gain widespread use since the
two terms are so difficult to distinguish and easy to confuse.
"It would appear useful, then, to reserve the term constructivism for the epistemological con-
siderations focusing exclusively on 'the meaning-making activity of the individual mind' and to
use constructionism where the focus includes 'the collective generation [and transmission] of
meaning'" (p. 58}
"Whatever the terminology, the distinction itself is an important one. Constructivism taken in
this sense points out the unique experience of each of us. It suggests that each one's way of making
sense of the world is as valid and worthy of respect as any other, thereby tending to scotch any hint
of a criticai spirit. On the other hand, social constructionism emphasizes the hold our culture has
on us: it shapes the way in which we see things (even in the way in which we feei things!) and gives
us a quite definite view of the world" (p. 58).

constructivist philosophy, is built on the the- tained and reproduced through social life."
sis of ontological relativity, which holds that (pp. 54-55)
ali tenable statements about existence de-
pend on a worldview, and no worldview is Elsewhere Crotty uses the example of a tree:
uniquely determined by empirical or sense
data about the world. Hence, two people can What the "commorisense" view commends to
live in the same empirical world, even us is that the tree standing before us is a tree. It
though one's world is haunted by demons, has ali the ineaning we ascribe to a tree. It
and the other's, by subatomic particles. Ex- would be a tree, with that same meaning,
hibit 3.4 distinguishes the worldviews of whether anyone knew of its existence or not.
constructionism and constructivism, which We need to remind ourselves here that it is hu-
are often used interchangeably. man beings who have constructed it as a tree,
How all-encompassing is the construc- givenit the name, and attributed to it the asso-
tionist view? Michael Crotty (1998) asserts, ciations we make with trees. It may help if we
recall the extent to which those associations
It is not just our thoughts that are constructed differ even within the same overall culture.
for us. We have to reckon with the social con- "Tree" is likely to bear quite different connota-
struction of emotions. Moreover, construc- tions in a logging town, an artists' settlement
tionism embraces the whole gamut of mean- and a treeless slum. (p. 43)
ingful reality. Ali reality, as meaningful reality,
is socially constructed. There is no exception. How, then, does operating from a con-
. . . The chair may exist as a phenomenal object structionist perspective actually affect quali-
regardless of whether any consciousness is tative inquiry? Let's consider its impact on
aware of its existence. It exists as a chair, how- program evaluation. A constructionist eval-
ever, only if conscious beings construe it as a uator would expect that different stake-
chair. As a chair, it too "is constructed, sus- holders involved in a welfare program (e.g.,
staff, clients, families of clients, administra-

tors, funders) would have different experi- pacts rather than reaching singular conclu-
ences and perceptions of the program, ali of sions. The mdium of the report carried the
which deserve attention and ali of which are message that multiple voices needed to be
experienced as real. The constructionist heard and valued as a manifestation of di-
evaluator would attempt to capture these versity (Stockdill et ai. 1992). The findings
different perspectives through open-ended were used for both formative and sum-
interviews and observations, and then mative purposes, but the parents and many
would examine the implications of different of the staff were most interested in using the
perceptions (or multiple "realities") but evaluation processes to make themselves
would not pronounce which set of percep- heard by those in power. Being heard was an
tions was "right" or more "true" or more end in itself quite separate from use of find-
"real," as would a reality-oriented (post- ings.
positivist) evaluator. Constructivist evalua- Guba and Lincoln (1989) included among
tors could compare clients' perceptions and the primary assumptions of constructivism
social constructions with those of funders or the following, whether for evaluation or re-
program staff and could interpret the effects search more generally:
of differences on attainment of stated pro-
gram goals, but they would not value staff "Truth" is a matter of consensus among
perceptions as more real or meaningful. In informed and sophisticated construc-
constructivist evaluation, then, "the claims, tors, not of correspondence with objec-
concerns, and issues of stakeholders serve as tive reality.
organizational foci (the basis for determin- "Facts" have no meaning except within
ing what information is needed)" (Guba and some value framework, hence there can-
Lincoln 1989:50). not be an "objective" assessment of any
Indeed, if constructivist evaluators were proposition.
also operating from a social justice frame-
"Causes" and effects do not exist except
work, they might give added weight to the
by imputation....
perspectives of those with less power and
privilege in order to "give voice" to the dis- Phenomena can only be understood
enfranchised, the underprivileged, the poor, within the context in which they are
and others outside the mainstream (Weiss studied; findings from one context can-
and Greene 1992:145). In the evaluation of a not be generalized to another; neither
diversity project in a school district in Saint problems nor solutions can be general-
Paul, Minnesota, a major part of the design ized from one setting to another. . . .
included capturing and repor ting the expe- b Data derived from constructivist inquiry
riences of people of color. Providing a way have neither special status nor legitima-
for African American, Native American, tion; they represent simply another con-
Chicano-La tino, and Hmong parents to tell struction to be taken into account in the
their stories to mostly White, corporate move toward consensus. (pp. 44-45)
funders was an intentional part of the de-
sign, one approved by those same White cor- Guba and Lincoln (1990:148) summarize the
porate funders. The final report was written constructivist perspective as being ontologi-
as a "multivocal, multicultural" presenta- cally relativist, epistemologically subjectiv-
tion that presented different experiences ist, and methodologically hermeneutic and
with and perceptions of the program's im- dialectic. The thread throughout is the em-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiri/ J. 9 9

phasis on the socially constructed nature of sumption that scientists, rather than being
reality as distinguishing the study of human bound by preconceptions, were open-
beings from the study of other natural phe- minded, value free, and unencumbered by
nomena. inherited ideas. Kuhn applied to science the
The idea that social groups such as street kind of language normally used to describe
gangs or religious adherents construct their confrontatioris between opposing political
own realities has a long history in sociology, and ideological communities, especially
especially the sociology of knowledge (e.g., during revolutions. He argued (and showed
Berger and Luckmann 1967). It wasn't until with natural science examples) that commu-
this idea of socially constructed knowledge nities of scientists, like ideological or reli-
was applied to scientists that construc- gious communities, were organized by cer-
tionism became an influential methodologi- tain traditions that periodically came under
cal paradigm. No work has been more influ- strain when new problems arose that
ential in that regard than Thomas Kuhn's couldn't be explained by old beliefs. New
classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions explanations and ideas would then compete
(1970). Before Kuhn, most people thought until the old ideas were discarded or re-
that science progressed through heroic indi- vised, sometimes sweepingly. But the com-
vidual discoveries that contributed to an ac- petition was not just intellectual. Power was
cumulating body of knowledge that got involved. The leaders of scientific communi-
closer and closer to the way the world really ties wielded power in support of their posi-
worked. In contrast, Kuhn argued that tions just as political leaders do. The assess-
tightly organized communities of specialists ment of Kuhn's contribution, three decades
were the central forces in scientific develop- after his work first appeared, by Berkeley
ment. Ideas that seemed to derive from bril- historian David Hollinger shows the impor-
liant individual scientific minds were actu- tance of his analysis: "The Structure of Scien-
ally shaped by and dependent on paradigms tific Revolutions presented the strongest case
of knowledge that were socially constructed ever made for the dependence of valid sci-
and enforced through group consensus. ence on distinctly constituted, historically
Rather than seeing scientific inquiry as pro- particular human communities" (Hollinger
gressing steadily toward truth about nature, 2000:23).
he suggested that science is best seen as a se- Scientists constitute a criticai case for so-
ries of power struggles between adherents cial constructionism. If scientific knowledge
of different scientific worldviews. is socially constructed and consensually val-
Kuhn emphasized the power of precon- idated, as opposed to consisting of empirical
ceived and socially constructed ideas to con- truths validated by nature, then surely ali
trol the observations of scientists. He in- knowledge is socially constructed. "Accord-
sisted that without the focusing effect of ingly, not only the social scientistbut equally
agreed-on constructs, investigators would the natural scientist has to deal with realities
notbe able actually to engage in research. A that, as meaningful realities, are socially
fully "open" mind would not be able to fo- constructed. They are on equal footing in
cus on the details necessary to engage in this respect" (Crotty 1998:55).
"normal" science, that is, testing specific Kuhn's analysis, though remaining con-
propositions derived from a theory or "sci- troversial and heavily critiqued (e.g., Fuller
entific paradigm." What made this contribu- 2000), became a cornerstone of the post-
tion so important was the widespread pre- modern skepticism about scientific truth.

Postmodernism, Radavich (2001) asserts,

has become "the most prevalent mode of
thinking in our time.... Postmodernist dis-
W FtJStftilQpii^MISM
course is precisely the discourse that denies
the possibility of ontological grounding" !:'] Y i i V i ! " ii ' i ! V i i,' i V i i h . - i 1 rfw.i. ;.S=r!. : i",*i .'|i

(p. 6). In other words, no truth or "true iW-inVi ! V id: i ,','r,a i-i"! nif;rv I;- -
meaning" about any aspect of existence is t<er|i!' M ^ f L V U l Y i . v l rAjp.' -vM firCT m -

possible, at least not in any absolute sense; it iT!i:.::;i:!: : i'!i.i'i ': m C ! : h . : - i . ! " i !.I ' :;J I rrp: s-!.;s IV

can only be constructed. To understand fcj ;,! iii.j;^ .vi i y-t v. VM* iAvqVn jVln
constructionism and its implications for C13.VC1 i:l:=:i S.'i S I U ! H.U !R>Y'.>'I'!, "I;' T I ! Y ,T] JJ

qualitative inquiry, a brief review of EWUJ!- i:i=:i l.U :':I ! trniv u l m ^ j ":T ^iri:^!!.!!"'
postmodernism may be helpful in that it has SM:'..'! iJ. . I: ' U!! k ! : ' ! s n - i ' l v.xv h }f\ i " .> i j i r i jy/i r

shaped contemporary intellectual discourse !

f M i l Y S : ^ ! i.': li'!:: 1
ftl ^ . ' f i ; V i P J l t f l t (kiy if-H"^!-

in both science and art. in bit ! ri= i' i't! !Vi.!riV! ! o:i'n :>-
Belief in science as generating truth was jjiii':!.'!!1 :r i'ri i'j|iJ:iV sn \v>i,! 5; fri,", ^ ':vm" !! n !"
one of the cornerstones of modernism inher- ! I i.VL II ii H i NVFAR 'i' ;T!." > . ' ! I;; 1 V ! . < ' Y L V I V ;

ited from the Enlightenment. Postmod- i . : r i . i . : R ' n J r i r i | ':'! n r i >} v n k !'ji M i ', <': W E s : j ; v j

ernism attacked this faith in science by ques- ,i,'i.!-=ViiiS"ji!1 S d ^ . ; ; - n :

; i i ' 0.

tioning its capacity to generate truth, in part

because, like ali human communications, it
is dependent on language, which is socially
constructed and, as such, distorts reality. knowledge is the norm, and a permanent
Postmodernism asserts that no language, pluralism of cultures is the only real truth
not even that of science, can provide a direct that humans must continually face" (Turner
window through which one can view reality. 1998:599). Constructionism, then, consistent
Language inevitably and inherently is built with postmodernism, is relativistic in
on the assumptions and worldview of the stance, meariing knowledge is viewed as rel-
social group that has constructed it and the ative to time and place, never absolute
culture of which it is a part. Thus, language across time and space, thus the reluctance to
does not and cannot fully capture or repre- generalize and the suspicion of generaliza-
sent reality, a posture called the "crisis of tions asserted by others.
representation" (Denzin and Lincoln 2000b; Power comes into the picture here be-
Turner 1998:598). Translated into Kuhn's cause, as views of reality are socially con-
framework, scientific language and con- structed and culturally embedded, those
structs are paradigm based and dependent. views dominant at any time and place will
It follows from this that the continuity of serve the interests and perspectives of those
knowledge over time and across cultures is who exercise the most power in a particular
called into question. Modernism/s faith in culture. By exercising control over language,
science included the assumption that and therefore control over the very catego-
knowledge increased over time and that ries of reality that are opened to conscious-
such accumulation constituted continuous ness, those in power are served.
progress toward deeper and deeper truths. Scientific knowledge, then, is socially
"Postmodernists argue that because there is constructed like ali other knowledge sys-
not a truth that exists apart from the ideolog- tems and, as such, is relative to and contin-
ical interests of humans, discontinuity of gent on the methods and paradigms within
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 101

which it was generated. "Science, like any tions and positions, from the radical "abso-
knowledge system, is based on incorrigible lutely no reality ever" to a milder "let's
assumptions, is an abstraction fromphysical capture and honor different perspectives
reality, is in need of reification and stabiliza- about reality." These positions share an in-
tion through the processes of institu- terest m the subjective nature of human
tionalization and emotional investment, and perceptions and skepticism about the
is bent on systematically subjugating other possibility of objectivity. Reality-oriented re-
knowledge systems to assertits own reality" searchers, inkind, are skeptical of the subjec-
(Turner 1998:614). Some postmodernists tive knowledge of constructivism. How con-
and constructivists question the possibility tentious is the debate? One gets some sense
of ever finding and expressing true reality, of the gulf that can separate these views
even in the physical world, because lan- from an assessment of postmodernism and
guage creates a screen between human be- constructivism by Rutgers mathematician
ings and physical reality. "Vocabularies are Norman Levitt (1998) in an article titled
useful or useless, good or bad, helpful or "Why Professors Believe Weird Things":
misleadmg, sensitive or coarse, and so on; "Scientific evidencewhich is to say the
but they are not 'more objective' or 'less ob- only meaningful evidencecannot be neu-
jective' nor more or less 'scientific' " (Rorty tralized by 'subjective knowledge,' which is
1994:57). This is because discovermg the to say bullshit" (p. 34). He goes on to com-
"true nature of reality" is not the real pur- ment on constructivism as a particular mani-
pose of language; the purpose of language is festation of postmodernism: "a particular
to communicate the social construction of technique for getting drunk on one's own
the dominant members of the group using words" (p. 35).
the language. Thomas Schwandt (1997a) in his very
The postmodern perspective, and its useful dictionary of qualitative terms strikes
many variationsfor postmodernism is not a more conciliatory tone, recognizing that
a unitary perspective (e.g., Pillow 2000; the rhetoric of constructivism can sound
Constas 1998)has given rise to an empha- radical (and silly) if taken too literally:
sis on deconstruction, which means to take
Although some versions of constructivism do
apart the language of a text to expose its criti-
appear to deny reality, many (if not most, I sus-
cai assumptions and the ideological inter-
pect) qualitative inquirers have a common-
ests being served. Perspective and power oc-
sense realist ontology, that is, they take seri-
cur as hand in glove in postmodern
ously the existence of things, events, struc-
critiques. Social constructions are presumed
tures, people, meanings, and so forth in the
to serve someone's interests, usually those
environment as independent in some way
of the powerful. As Denzin (1991) has as-
from their experience with them. And they re-
serted with reference to deconstructing
gard society, institutions, feelings, intelli-
mass media messages, a criticai analysis
gence, poverty, disability, and so on as being
should "give a voice to the voiceless, as it de-
just as "real" as the toes on their feet and the
constructs those popular culture texts which
sun in the sky. (p. 134)
reproduce stereotypes about the powerless"
(p. 153). Thus, deconstruction constitutes a Further deconstructing the phrase "social
core analytical tool of constructivists. construction," one may find "inescapable
In deconstructing constructionism and connotations of manufacturmg," as if peo-
constructivism, one finds a range of assump- ple sat around and made things up. But

iiHLCiil^Mii.iiH.uci iarj .
: UCMftAHi: THF:I:1;!C!3!T ^''V^:^:'! Distinguishing dualist from monist ap-
- W ^JMfflB^SlS^ti^ISfi-l : proaches to social constructionism takes the
deconstruction process through one final
. :ii U iilVlVi.i^.!J):! b. f f ^ j v i filter.
Si.!i':!"':! ' r i i l j i i i^fjjfc.lj
Dualist constructionism distinguishes be-
k* \ riTi lh! n! il-jil'^]!.!^!!^ tween actual states of affairs and perceptions,
. !.i:'j|:i r Vii!.'i: n';lt:-!i:. ItfN
interpretations, or reactions to those affairs
p:=!i U v k w i W , fere! iii^i-.L^i^L^ri^ligjH^r^ i i v i i i h y . ,
When Berger and Luckmann (1967) say that
the Sociology of Knowledge "must concern it-
' . 'iitflji':!ii!:i:vii|'iiiilj'!!'!'!Wl^W
self with whatever passes for 'knowledge' in a
ilfc LfeH !!:i'!V ri/i-iMij = !=
; s1^!^yr!/jr^fl
society" (p. 3), their putting knowledge in
quotation marks demonstrates a commitment
; !!':!-I:,:;.!I; ^ ' J J J T O F C L F R ^ I I ^ ^ P : 5 ^ ^ ^ ! 1 ! ^ ^ ^
to a dualist position. There is knowledge then
: iri- i::i:L'l;i:;:;j:j."j:i:j'j
there is "knowledge." The latter will be
: cfrei ft-! i:ii:J;

treated as knowledge by some social group,
i:!> JlTl+jiS^
but judgment can be made on the ultima te va-

!l!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|j||||g| lidity of this group's claims, determining

whether "knowledge" really is knowledge
; 11]|| lliy^^filIltlIfHiHl!^^ i HlfHiflllilplIlIlH^
If the approach to the domain of inquiry is
'.' Slil&fci; j;i|||li!::|i;n|!;j!!||^
dualist this means that the analyst distin-
Illlllllllllllllllllllslliilllisiiiiiis guishes between the objective features of the
domain and members' representations of
those features. The dualist is prepared to judge
the adequacy of the members' representations
to say that people produce the world is not the (beliefs, interpretation). If the approach to the
same as saying that they are sopsists, that domain is monist, then there are only mem-
they are able to fashion the world according to bers' representations, the adequacy of which
their w h i m s . . . . [Ojne cannot ordinarily pro- cannot be raised as an issue; there are no objec-
duce an imaginary or nonsensical phenome- tive features in the domain upon which to base
non and expect to be taken seriously. The a judgment of the adequacy, for example, of a
mistake is to think of the process of production claim of racism. There are only representa-
as one that is free of constraints when in fact it tions of features, for example, the representa-
is a structure of constraints. (Watson and tion/claim of racism. (Heap 1995:54)
Goulet 1998:97)

We can conclude by emphasizing the ba-

Attending to the social construction of real- sic contributions of social construction and
ity, then, points us not only to what is con- constructivist perspectives to qualitative in-
structed but to how it is constructed and the quiry, namely, the emphasis on capturing
very question of what it means to say it is and honoring multiple perspectives; attend-
constructed. For an excellent review of these ing to the ways in which language as a social
issues in both the social and natural sciences, and cultural construction shapes, distorts,
see Hacking (2000). and struetures understandings; how meth-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 103

Young lady, the court doesn't need to hear any

more about difficulties with validity & reliability in
qualitative research methods, discrepancies between
different postmodern epistemologies, or this "Great
Paradigm Debate." Please just tell us what you saw.

ods determine findings; and the importance cially the effects of inequitable power dy-
of thinking about the relationship between namicsand how that relationship affects
the investigator and the investigated, espe- what is found.

Phenomenology What these various phenomenological

and phenomenographic approaches share
in common is a focus on exploring how hu-
man beings make sense of experience and
Troundational question: transform experience into consciousness,
Wkat is +ke meaning,, strwc+w^e, both individually and as shared meaning.
and essence oj-tke lived experi- This requires methodologically, carefully,
ence oj- +kis pkenomenon j-or this and thoroughly capturing and describing
p e r s o n or g r o w p oj- people?
how people experience some phenomenon
how they perceive it, describe it, feel about
it, judge it, remember it, make sense of it,
"Phenomenology asks for the very nature and talk about it with others. To gather such
of a phenomenon, for that which makes a data, one must undertake in-depth inter-
some-'thing' what it isand without which views with people who have directly experi-
it could not be what it is" (Van Manen enced the phenomenon of interest; that is,
1990:10). The initial clarity of this definition they have "lived experience" as opposed to
can fade rapidly because the term phenomen- secondhand experience.
ology has become so popular and has been so
widely embraced that its meaning has be- Phenomenology aims at gaining a deeper un-
come confused and diluted. It can refer to a derstanding of the nature or meaning of our
philosophy (Husserl 1967), an inquiry para- everyday experiences....
digm (Lincoln 1990), an interpretive theory Anything that presents itself to conscious-
(Denzin and Lincoln 2000b:14)/ a social sci- ness is potentially of interest to phenomenol-
ence analytical perspective or orientation ogy, whether the object is real or iinagined,
(Harper 2000:727; Schutz 1967, 1970), a ma- empirically measurable or subjectively felt.
jor qualitative tradition (Creswell 1998), or a Consciousness is the only access human be-
research methods framework (Moustakas ings have to the world. Or rather, it is by vir tue
1994). Varying forms complicate the picture of being conscious that we are already related
even more; transcendental, existential, and to the world. Thus ali we can ever know must
hermeneutic phenomenology offer different present itself to consciousness. Whatever falls
nuances of focusthe essential meanings of outside of consciousness therefore falls out-
individual experience, the social construc- side the bounds of our possible lived experi-
tion of group reality, and the language and ence. . . . A person cannot reflect on lived
structure of communication, respectively experience while living through the experi-
(Schwandt 2001:191-94). Phenomenologi- ence. For example, if one tries to reflect on
cal traditions in sociology and psychology one's anger while being angry, one finds that
vary in imit of analysis, group or individual the anger has already changed or dissipa ted.
(Creswell 1998:53). Adding further confu- Thus, phenomenological reflection is not in~
sion to the mix, the term phenornenography trospective but retrospective. Reflection on lived
was coined by Ulrich Sonnemann (1954) to experience is always recollective; it is reflec-
emphasize "a descriptive recording of im- tion on experience that is already passed or
mediate subjective experience as reported" lived through. (Van Manen 1990:9-10).
(p. 344). (For an annotated bibliography of
phenomenographic research, see Bruce and The phenomenon that is the focus of in-
Gerber 1997.) quiry may be an emotionloneliness, jeal-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 105

Hi, l'm a graduae student,

and Vm learning about a
new type of research that
focuses on the "lived ex-
perience" of different life
events. 1 just have a few

Phenomenological abduction

ousy, anger. The phenomenon may be a rela- influences have been Merleau-Ponty (1962),
tionship, a marriage, or a job. The phenome- Whitehead (1958), Giorgi (1971), and Zaner
non may be a program, an organization, or a (1970). More recently, phenomenology has
culture. become an important influence in certain
Phenomenology as a philosophical tradi- approaches to psychotherapy (Moustakas
tion was first used in the development of a 1988,1995).
rigorous science by the German philosopher By phenomenology Husserl (1913) meant
Edmund H. Husserl (1859-1938). The work the study of how people describe things and
of Alfred Schutz (1899-1959) was an impor- experience them through their senses. His
tant influence in applying and establishing most basic philosophical assumption was
phenomenology as a major social science that we can only know what we experience by at-
perspective (Schutz 1977). Other important tending to perceptions and meanings that

awaken our conscious awareness. Initially, the phenomenon as directly as possible for
ali our understanding comes from sensory ourselves. This leads to the importance of
experience of phenomena, but that experi- participant observation and in-depth inter-
ence must be described, explicated, and in- viewing. In either case, in reporting phe-
terpreted. Yet, descriptions of experience nomenological findings, "the essence or na-
and interpretations are so intertwmed that ture of an experience has been adequately
they often become one. Interpretation is es- described in language if the description re-
sential to an understanding of experience awakens or shows us the lived quality and
and the experience includes the interpreta- significance of the experience in a fuller and
tion. Thus, phenomenologists focus on how deeper manner" (Van Manen 1990:10).
we put together the phenomena we experi- There is one final dimension that differen-
ence in such a way as to make sense of the tiates a phenomenological approach: the as-
world and, in so doing, develop a sumption that there is an essence or essences to
worldview. There is no separate (or objec- shared experience. These essences are the core
tive) reality for people. There is only what meanings mutually understood through a
they know their experience is and means. phenomenon commonly experienced. The
The subjective experience incorporates the experiences of different people are brack-
objective thing and becomes a person's real- eted, analyzed, and compared to identify the
ity, thus the focus on meaning making as the essences of the phenomenon, for example,
essence of human experience. the essence of loneliness, the essence of be-
ing a mother, or the essence of being a partic-
From a phenomenological point of view, we ipant in a particular program. The assump-
are less interested in the factual status of par- tion of essence, like the ethnographer's
ticular rnstances: whether some thing hap- assumption that culture exists and is impor-
pened, how often it tends to happen, or how tant, becomes the defining characteristic of a
the occurrence of an experience is related to purely phenomenological study. "Phenom-
the prevalence of other conditions or events. enological research is the study of essences" (Van
For example, phenomenology does not ask, Manen 1990:10). Phenomenologists are
"How do these children leam this particular
material?" but it asks, "What is the nature or rigorous in their analysis of the experience, so
essence of the experience of learning (so that I that basic elements of the experience that are
can now better understand what this particu- common to members of a specific society, or ali
lar learning experience is like for these chil- human beings, can be identified. This last
dren)?" (Van Manen 1990:10) point is essential to understanding the philo-
sophical basis of phenomenology, yet it is of-
There are two implications of this per- ten misunderstood. On the other hand, each
spective that are often confused in discuss- person has a unique set of experiences which
ing qualitative methods. The first implica- are treated as truth and which determine that
tion is that what is important to know is individual^ behavior. In this sense, truth (and
what people experience and how they inter- associate behavior) is totally unique to each in-
pret the world. This is the subject matter, dividual. Some researchers are misled to think
the focus, of phenomenological inquiry. that they are using a phenomenological per-
The second implication is methodological. spective when they study four teachers and
The only way for us to really know what describe their four unique views. A phenom-
another person experiences is to experience enologist assumes a commonality in those hu-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 107

man experiences and must use rigorously the lieved to be essential in invs tigations of hu-
method of bracketing to search for those com- man experience. The root meaning of heuristic
monalities. Results obtained from a phenom- comes from the Greek word heuriskein, mean-
enological study can then be related to and ing to discover or to find. It refers to a process
integrated with those of other phenomen- of internai search through which one discov-
ologists studying the same experience, or phe- ers the nature and meaning of experience and
nomenon. (Eichelberger 1989:6) develops methods and procedures for further
investigation and analysis. The self of the re-
In short, conducting a study with a
searcher is present throughout the process
phenomenological focus (i.e., getting at the
and, while understanding the phenomenon
essence of the experience of some phenome-
with increasing depth, the researcher also ex-
non) is different from using phenomenology
periences growing self-awareness and self-
to philosophically justify the methods of
knowledge. Heuristic processes incorporate
qualitative inquiry as legitimate m social sci-
creative self-processes and self discoveries.
ence research. Both contributions are impor-
(Moustakas 1990b:9)
tant. But a phenomenological study (as op-
posed to a phenomenological perspective) is
one that focuses on descriptions of what
There are two focusing or narrowing ele-
people experience and how it is that they ex-
ments of heuristic inquiry within the larger
perience what they experience. One can em-
framework of phenomenology. First, the re-
ploy a general phenomenological perspec-
searcher must have personal experience
tive to elucidate the importance of using
with and intense interest in the phenomenon
methods that capture people's experience of
under study. Second, others (co researchers)
the world without conducting a phenom-
who are part of the study must share an in-
enological study that focuses on the essence
tensity of experience with the phenomenon.
of shared experience (at least that is my ex-
Heuristics is not inquiry into casual experi-
perience and interpretation of the phenome-
ence. Heuristic inquiry focuses on intense
non of phenomenology).
human experiences, intense from the point
of view of the investigator and coresearch-
Heuristic Inquiry ers. It is the combination of personal experi-
ence and intensity that yields an under-
]~pimdationqi question; standing of the essence of the phenomenon.
What is of this "Heuristics is concerned with meanings, not
pkenomenon cmd +h< essential measurements; with essence, not appear-
e^pefience ance; with quality, not quantity; with ex-
of o+h who also perience, not behavior" (Douglass and
experience +his pkenomenou Moustakas 1985:42).
m+ensely? The reports of heuristic researchers are
Heuristics is a form of phenomenological filled with the discoveries, personal in-
inquiry that brings to the fore the personal sights, and reflections of the researchers.
experience and insights of the researcher. Discovery comes from being wide open to
the thing itself, a recognition that one must
"Heuristic" research came into my life when I relinquish control and be tumbled about
was searching for a word that would mean- with the newness and drama of a searching
ingfully encompass the processes that I be- focus, "asking questions about phenomena

that disturb and challenge" (Douglass and understanding is achieved by indwelling.

Moustakas 1985:47). (Polanyi 1967:160)
The uniqueness of heuristic inquiry is the
extent to which it legitimizes and places at The rigor of heuristic inquiry comes from
the fore these personal experiences, reflec- systematic observation of and dialogues
tions, and insights of the researcher. The re- with self and others, as well as depth inter-
searcher, then, comes to understand the es- viewing of coresearchers. This mode of in-
sence of the phenomenon through shared quiry "affirms the possibility that one can
reflection and inquiry with coresearchers as live deeply and passionately in the moment,
they also intensively experience and reflect be fully immersed in mysteries and mira-
on the phenomenon in question. A sense of cles, and still be engaged in meaningful re-
connectedness develops between researcher search experience" (Craig 1978:20).
and research participants in their mutual ef-
forts to elucidate the nature, meaning, and The power of heuristic inquiry lies in its poten-
essence of a significant human experience. tial for disclosing truth. Through exhaustive
The fundamental methods text on heuris- self-search, dialogues with others, and cre-
tic inquiry is by the primary developer of ative depictions of experience, a comprehen-
this approach, Clark Moustakas (1990b). His sive knowledge is generated, beginning as a
classic works in this tradition include stud- series of subjective and developing into a sys-
ies of loneliness (1961, 1972, 1975) and hu- tematic and definitive exposition. (Douglass
manistic therapy (1995). Other examples are and Moustakas 1985:40)
Bernthal (1990), Clark (1988), Hawka (1986),
Weidman (1985), Katz (1987), Cheyne (1988),
Heuristic inquiry is derived from but dif-
Marino (1985), and Craig (1978). Heuristic
ferent from phenomenology in four major
inquiry has strong roots in humanistic psy-
ways (Douglass and Moustakas 1985):
chology (Maslow 1956, 1966; Rogers 1961,
1969, 1977) and Polanyi's (1962) emphasis
1. Heuristics emphasizes connectedness
on personal knowledge, indwelling, and the
and relationship, while phenomenology
tacitdimension (1967). "Tacit knowing oper-
encourages more detachment in analyz-
ates behind the scenes, giving birth to the
ing an experience.
hunches and vague, formless insights that
characterize heuristic discovery" (Doug-
2. Heuristics leads to "depictions of essen-
lass and Moustakas 1985:49). Polanyi ex-
tial meanings and portrayal of the in-
plained tacit knowing as the inner essence of
trigue and personal significance that
human understanding, what we know but
imbue the search to know," while phe-
can't articulate.
nomenology emphasizes definitive der
scriptions of the structures of experi-
Tacit knowing now appears as an act of in- ence.
dwelling by which we gain access to a new
meaning. When exercising a skill we literally 3. Heuristics concludes with a "creative
dwell in the innumerable muscular acts which synthesis" that includes the research-
contribute to its purpose, a purpose which er^ intuition and tacit understand ings,
constitutes their joint meaning. Therefore, while phenomenology presents a distil-
since ali understanding is tacit knowledge, ali lation of the structures of experience.
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 109

4. "Whereas phenomenology loses the Qualitative Heuristics:

persons in the process of descriptive A German Alternative Tradition
analysis, in heuristics the research par-
ticipants remain visible in the examina- Since no authority exists to monitor and
tion of the data and continue to be por- sort out nomenclature, conflicts in usage oc-
trayed as whole persons. Phenom- cur, contributing to confusion and the im-
enology ends with the essence of experi- portance of reaffirming the admonition to al-
ence; heuristics retains the essence of the ways define one's terms. Heuristic inquiry,
person in experience" (p. 43). la Clark Moustakas and discussed in the pre-
vious section, has a nomenclature rival in
Systematic steps in theheuristic inquiry pro- "qualitative heuristics," an approach devel-
cess lead to the "definitive exposition" of ex- oped at the University of Hamburg, Ger-
periential essence: immersion, incubation, many, which aims to "bring back the quali-
illumination, explication, and creative syn- ties of systematic exploration and discovery
thesis (Moustakas 1990a). into psychological and sociological re-
What is important about heuristics for my search" (Kleining and Witt 2000:1). It is
purpose here, that is, describing variety in based on four rules.
qualitative inquiry, is that heuristic research
epitomizes the phenomenological emphasis Rule 1. The research person should be
on meanings and knowing through per- open to new concepts and change his or
sonal experience; it exemplifies and places at her preconceptions if the data are not in
the fore the way in which the researcher is agreement with them.
the primary instrument in qualitative in-
quiry; and it challenges in the extreme tradi-
Rule 2. The topic of research is preliminary
tional scientific concerns about researcher
and may change during the research
objectivity and detachment, as in autoeth-
process. It is only fully known after be-
nography (described earlier in this chapter).
ing successfully explored.
In essence, it personalizes inquiry and puts
the experience (and voice) of the inquirer
front and center throughout. Rule 3. Data should be collected under the
paradigm of maximum structural varia-
tion of perspectives. Variation of the
If I am investigating the meaning of delight, sample and of research methods avoids
then delight hovers nearby and follows me one-sidedness of representation of the
around. It takes me fully into its confidence topic; variation of questions avoids just
and I take it into mine. Delight becomes a Iin- one answer. If researchers assume that a
gering presence; for awhile, there is only de- variable may influence the data they
light. It opens me to the world in a joyous way should implement variations. Structural
and takes me into a richness, playfulness and variations mean sampling of positions
childlikeness that move freely and effortlessly. in reference to the topic, i.e., when
I'm ready to see, feel, touch or hear whatever studying an emotion, the collection of
opens me to a fuller knowledge and under- data past and present, before and after
standing of the experience of delight. (Mous- its occurrence, in different situations,
takas 1990b:ll) from different respondents, if possible

from different times and cultures, by dif- unfamiliar sense, has no following and is
ferent methods, etc. tartly reminded that "it isn't in the dictionary"
although down to the time of the first lexi-
Rule 4. The analysis is directed toward dis- cographer (Heaven forgive him!) no author
covery of similarities. It locates similari- ever had used a word that was in the dictio-
ties, accordance, analogies or hom- nary. In the golden prime and high noon of
ologies within these most diverse and English speech; when from the lips of the great
varied data. It tries to overcome differ- Elizabethans fell words .that ma de their own
ences. The rule follows Simmel's fa- meaning and carried it in their very sound;
mous chapter on method saying that when a Shakespeare and a Bacon were possi-
"out of complex phenomena the ho- ble, and the language now rapidly perishing
mogenous will be extracted . . . and the at one and slowly renewed at the other was in
dissimilar paralyzed." (Kleining and vigorous growth and hardy preservation
Witt 2000: online) sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion
the lexicographer was a person unknown,
the dictionary a creation which his Creator
This approach emphasizes "introspec-
had not created him to create. (p. 110)
tion" as a criticai part of the analytical pro-
cess, an element also central to "heuristic in-
quiry" in the tradition of humanistic
psychology. However, neither heuristic in-
quiry as articulated by Moustakas (1990b)
nor this German alternative labeled "quali- Fo unda+ional question:
tative heuristics" can be derived directly -How do people mal<e sense of+k eir
from the common dictionary definition of everyday activities so as to bekave
heuristics, defined as techniques to assist In socJally accep+able ways?
learning or techniques for exploratory prob-
lem solvingthough neither approach con-
flicts explicitly with the dictionary defini- Where heuristic inquiry focuses on issues
tion. Those who lament such variations in of intense personal interest, ethnometh-
meanings, denotations, and connotations odology focuses on the ordinary, the routine,
may find some comfort in Ambrose Bierce's the details of everyday life. Harold
([1906] 1999) DevWs Dictionary definition of Garfinkel (1967) invented the term. While
lexicographer: working with the Yale cross-cultural files,
Garfinkel came across such labels as "eth-
A pestilent fellow who, under the pretense of nobotany," "ethnophysiology," and "ethno-
recording some particular stage in the devel- physics." At the time he was studying jurors.
opment of a language, does what he can to ar- He decided that the deliberation methods
rest its growth, stiffen its flexibility and of the jurors, or for that matter of any
mechanize its methods. For your lexicogra- group, constituted an "ethnomethodol-
pher, having written his dictionary, comes to ogy" wherein ethno refers to the "availability
be considered "as one having authority," to a member of common-sense knowledge
whereas his function is only to make a record, of his society as common-sense knowledge
not to give a l a w . . . . Recognizing the truth that of the 'whatever' " (Turner 1974:16). For the
language must grow by innovation if it grow jurors this was their ordinary, everyday un-
at ali, makes new words and uses the old in an derstanding of what it meant to deliberate as
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 111

a juror. Such an understanding made jury ing something out of the ordinary. A very
duty possible. simple and well-known such experiment is
Ethnomethodology studies the social or- turning to face the other people on an eleva-
der "by combining a phenomenological sen- tor instead of facing the doors. When they
sibility with a paramount concern for every- conduct such qualitative experiments, "the
day social practice" (Gubrium and Holstein researchers are interested in what the sub-
2000:490). Wallace and Wolf (1980) defined jects do and what they look to in order to
ethnomethodology as follows: "If we trans- give the situation an appearance of order, or
lated the 'ethno' part of the term as 'mem- to 'make sense' of the situation" (Wallace
bers' (of a group) or 'folk' or 'people/ then and Wolf 1980:278). Garfinkel (1967) offered
the term's meaning can be stated as: mem- a number of such experiments (see espe-
bers' methods of making sense of their social cially pp. 38,42,47, 79, and 85).
world" (p. 263). Ethnomethodology gets at Ethnomethodologists also have special
the norms, understandings, and assump- interests in observing naturally occurring
tions that are taken for granted by people in experiments where people are thrust into
a setting because they are so deeply under- new or unexpected situations that require
stood that people don't even think about them to make sense of what is happening,
why they do what they do. It studies "the or- "situations in which meaning is problem-
dinary methods that ordinary people use to atic" (Wallace and Wolf 1980:280). Such situ-
realize their ordinary actions" (Coulon ations include intake into a program, immi-
1995:2). Rooted in phenomenology, ethno- gration clearance centers, the first few weeks
methodology has been particularly impor- in a new school or job, and major transition
tant in sociology. points or criticai incidents in the lives of peo-
ple, programs, and organizations.
Ethnomethodology is, as the name suggests, a
In some respects, ethnomethodologists
study of methods. It asks not why, but how. It
attempt to make explicit what might be
asks how people get things donehow they
called the group's "tacit knowledge," to ex-
transform situations or how they persevere,
tend Polanyi's (1967) idea of tacit knowl-
situation "unchanged," step by step, and mo-
edge from the individual to the group. Heu-
ment to moment. As its name also suggests, it
ristic inquiry reveals tacit knowledge
is interested in ordinary methods, the meth-
through introspection and intersubjective
ods of the people rather than their theorists.
inquiry with coresearchers. Ethnometh-
(Watson and Goulet 1998:97)
odologists get at a group's tacit knowledge
Ethnomethodologists elucidate what a by forcing it to the surface through disrupt-
complete stranger would have to learn to be- ing violations of ordinary experience, since
come a routinely functioning member of a ordinary routines are what keep tacit knowl-
group, a program, or a culture. To do this, edge at an unconscious, tacit levei.
ethnomethodologists conduct depth inter- In short, ethnomethodologists "bracket
views and undertake participant observa- or suspend their own belief in reality to
tion. They stray from the nonmanipulative study the reality of everyday life" (Taylor
and unobtrusive strategies of most qualita- and Bogdan 1984:11). Elucidating the
tive inquiry in employing "ethnometh- taken-for-granted realities of everyday life
odological experiments." During these ex- in a program or organization can becoine a
periments, the researcher "violates the force for understanding, change, and estab-
scene" and disrupts ordinary activity by do- lishing a new reality based on the kind of ev-

eryday environment desired by people in interpret the world. Only through close con-
the setting being studied. The findings of tact and direct interaction with people in
an ethnomethodological evaluation study open-minded, naturalistic inquiry and in-
would create a programmatic self-aware- ductive analysis could the symbolic
ness that would, in principie at least, facili- interactionist come to understand the sym-
tate program change and improvement. bolic world of the people being studied.
Blumer was also one of the first to use group
Symbolic Interaction discussion and interview methods with key
informants. He considered a carefully se-
Poundationa questions lected group of naturally acute observers
and weH-informed people to be a real "panei
W K Q + common set of symbols
of experts" about a setting or situation, ex-
and understandings \\cxs emefged
perts who would take the researcher inside
+o give me.av\'iv\) to people's
the phenomenon of interest, for example,
drug use. As we shall see in the chapter on
Symbolic interaction is a social-psycho- interviewing, group interviews and focus
logical approach most closely associated groups have now become highly valued and
with George Herbert Mead (1934) and Her- widely used qualitative methods.
bert Blumer (1969). It is a perspective that Labeling theorythe proposition that
places great emphasis on the importance of what people are called has major conse-
meaning and interpretation as essential hu- quences for social interactionhas been a
man processes in reaction against behavior- primary focus of inquiry in symbolic inter-
ism and mechanical stimulus-response psy- action. For example, using a sample of 46
chology. People create shared meanings participants in a 12-step group, Debtors
through their interactions, and those mean- Anonymous, Hayes (2000) studied how
ings become their reality. Blumer articulated people who are unable to manage their fi-
three major premises as fundamental to nances responsibly come to feel shame. In
symbolic interactionism: program evaluation, labeling theory can be
applied to such terms as dropouts and at-risk
1. Human beings act toward things on the you th because language matters to staff and
basis of the meanings that the things participants and can affect how they ap-
have for them. proach attaining desired outcomes (Hopson
2000; Patton 2000).
2. The meaning of things arises out of the Though this theoretical perspective
social interaction one has with one's fel- emerged in the 1930s, symbolic interac-
lows. tionists are showing that they can keep up
with the times, for example, by applying
3. The meanings of things are handled in their perspective to "cybersex" on the
and modified through an interpretative Internet. Waskul, Douglass, and Edgley
process used by the person in dealing (2000) have suggested that the new technol-
with the things he or she encounters. ogies of computer-mediated communica-
These premises led Blumer to qualitative
inquiry as the only real way of understand- allow us to examine the nature of human inter-
ing how people perceive, understand, and action in a uniquely disembodied environ-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 113

ment that potentially transforms the nature of tific study of a space-time event like a solar
self, body, and situation. Sexfundamentally eclipse or rat behavior," Walker Percy
a bodily activityprovides an ideal situation (1990:150) has explained, "is that as soon as
for examrng these kinds of potential trans- one scratches the surface of the familiar and
formations. In the disembodied context of comes face to face with the nature of lan-
on-line interaction both bodies and selves are guage," one also finds oneself face to face
fluid symbolic constructs emergent in com- with the nature and essence of being human.
munication and are defined by sociocultural This is so because semiotics, in working to
standards. Situations such as these are sugges- "unite logical analysis with the explanatory
tive of issues related to contemporary trans- enterprise of science" (p. 243), has hit upon
gressions of the empirical shell of the body, the fruitful insight that humans are distinc-
potentially reshaping body-to-self-to-social- tively sign-using and symbol-generating an-
world relationships. (p. 375) imais. Thus, semiotics offers a framework
for "analyzing talk and text" (Silverman
2000:826) or studying "organizational sym-
For our purposes, the importance of sym- bolism" (Jones 1996). The foundational
bolic interactionism to qualitative inquiry is question of semiotics is: How do signs
its distinct emphasis on the importance of (words, symbols) carry and convey meaning
symbols and the interpretative processes in particular contexts?
that undergird interactions as fundamental
to understanding human behavior. For pro-
gram evaluation, organizational develop- Hermeneutics
ment, and other applied research, the study
of the original meaning and influence of Houndafio^at question:
symbols and shared meanings can shed Wkat condi+ions u n d e r
light on what is most important to people, wki^k Q Kuman a c t took p t a c e
what will be most resistant to ehange, and or a produci voas pyoduae.^
what will be most necessary to change if the m a k e i+ p o s s i b l e t o i n t e r p r e t i+s
program or organization is to move in new meanings?
directions. The subject matter and methods
of symbol interactionism also emphasize the In this brief (or not-so-brief, depending on
importance of paying attention to how par- your perspective) excursion through the vari-
ticular interactions give rise to symbolic un- ety of qualitative inquiry, we depart now
derstandings when one is engaged in chang- from phenomenology and its derivative
ing symbols as part of a program im- approaches: heuristic research, ethnometh-
provement or organizational development odology, and symbolic interactionism. Her-
process. meneutics is yet a different theoretical ap-
A related theoretical tradition informing proach that can inform qualitative inquiry
some qualitative inquiry is semiotics, a blend and also help put ali the other theoretical ori-
of linguistics and social science, which fo- entations in this chapter in perspective in
cuss on the analysis of signs by studying that it reminds us that what something
the rules or forms of language as well as the means depends on the cultural context in
relationship between language and human which it was originally created as well as the
behavior (Manning 1987). "The importance cultural context within which it is subse-
of a study of language, as opposed to a scien- quently interpreted. This is a reminder that

each of the theoretical perspectives pre- cism worked from a conception of knowl-
senteei in this chapter emerged from a partic- edge as correct representation of an inde-
ular context to address specific concerns at pendent reality and was (is) almost exclu-
that time. As we adopt and adapt those per- sively interested in the issue of establishing
spectives to current inquiries, we do so in a the validity of scientific knowledge claims"
different historical, scholarly, and cultural (Schwandt 2000:196). In other words, her-
context. meneutics challenged the assertion that an
Hermeneutic philosophy, first developed interpretation can ever be absolutely correct
by Frederich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) or true. It must remain only and always an
and applied to human science research by interpretation. The meaning of a text, then, is
Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) and other Ger- negotiated among a community of interpret-
man philosophers, focuses on the problem ers, and to the extent that some agreement is
of interpretation. Hermeneutics provides a reached about meaning at a particular time
theoretical framework for interpretive un- and place, that meaning can only be based
derstanding, or meaning, with special atten- on consensual community validation. Texts,
tion to context and original purpose. The then, must be "situated" within some liter-
term hermeneutics derives from the Greek acy context (Barton, Hamilton, and Ivanic
word hermeneuein, meaning to understand 1999).
or interpret. Kvale (1987) has suggested,

There is an obvious link between hermeneuein The attempts to develop a logic of validation
and the god Hermes. Hermes is the within the hermeneutical tradition are rele-
fleet-footed divine messenger (he has wings vant for clarifying the validity of interpreta-
on his feet!). As a messenger, he is the bearer of tion in the qualitative research interview.
knowledge and understanding. His task is to The interpretation of meaning is character-
explain to humans the decisions of the gods. ized by a hermeneutical circle, or spiral. The un-
Whether hermeneuein derives from Hermes or derstanding of a text takes place through a
the other way round is not certain. (Crotty process where the meaning of the separate
1998:88) parts is determined by the global meaning of
text. In principie, such a hermeneutical expli-
In modern usage, hermeneutics offers a cation of the text is an infinite process while it
perspective for interpreting legends, stories, ends in practice when a sensible meaning, a
and other texts, especially biblical and legal coherent understanding, free of inner contra-
texts. To make sense of and interpret a text, it dictions has been reached. (p. 62)
is important to know what the author
wanted to communicate, to understand in- Kneller (1984) has offered four principies
tended meanings, and to place documents in for hermeneutic inquiry and analysis that
a historical and cultural context (Palmer can be applied beyond the interpretation of
1969). Following that principie, hermeneu- legends, literature, and historical docu-
tics itself must be understood as part of a ments:
19th- and 20th-century "broad movement
away from an empiricist, logical atomistic, 1. Understanding a human act or product,
designative, representational account of and hence ali learning, is like interpret-
meaning and knowledge Logical empiri- ing a text.
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 115

2. Ali interpretation occurs within a tradi- review of the historical development of her-
tion. meneutics and its influence on qualitative
theory, "Our debt to the hermeneutic tradi-
3. Interpretation involves opening myself tion is large" (p. 111).
to a text (or its analogue) and question-
ing it. Narratology or Narrative Analysis

4. I must interpret a text in the light of my Foundational questions:

situation (p. 68). What does this narrative or story
reveal about the person and wo rld
Hermeneutic researchers use qualitative -from which it carne? How can th is
methods to establish context and meaning narrative be interpreted so that it
for what people do. Hermeneutists "are provides an understanding of cxv\<^
much clearer about the fact that they are con- illuminates the life and culture that
structing the 'reality' on the basis of their in- created it?
terpre tations of data with the help of the par-
ticipants who provided the data in the study Hermeneutics originated in the study of
. . . If other researchers had different back- written texts. Narratology, or narrative anal-
grounds, used different methods, or had dif- ysis, extends the idea of text to include
ferent purposes, they would likely develop in-depth interview transcripts, life history
different types of reactions, focus on differ- narratives, historical memoirs, and creative
ent aspects of the setting, and develop some- nonfiction. The hermeneutical perspective,
what different scenarios" (Eichelberger with its emphasis on interpretation and
1989:9). For concrete examples of hermeneu- context, informs narrative studies, as do
tic investigations in psychology, see Packer interpretivist social science, literary nonfic-
and Addison (1989). tion, and literary criticism. Narrative studies
Thus, one must know about the re- are also influenced by phenomenology's
searcher as well as the researched to place emphasis on understanding lived experi-
any qualitative study in a proper, hermeneu- ence and perceptions of experience. "Todo-
tic context. Hermeneutic theory argues that rov coined the term narratology in 1969 in an
one can only interpret the meaning of some- effort to elevate the form 'to the status of an
thing from some perspective, a certain object of knowledge for a new science'"
standpoint, a praxis, or a situational context, (Riessman 1993:1).
whether one is reporting on one's own find- Personal narratives, family stories, sui-
ings or reporting the perspectives of people cide notes, graffiti, literary nonfiction, and
being studied (and thus reporting their life histories reveal cultural and social pat-
standpoint or perspective). These ideas have terns through the lens of individual experi-
become commonplace in much contempo- ences. Rhetoric of ali kinds can be fodder for
rary social science and are now fundamen- narrative analysis, for example, the rhetoric
tal, even basic, in qualitative inquiry, but of politicians or teachers (Graham 1993).
such was not always the case. Two centuries The "biographical turn in social science"
of philosophical dialogue provide our cur- (Chamberlayne et al. 2000) or the "narrative
rent foundation for understanding the cen- turn" in qualitative inquiry (Bochner 2001)
trality of interpretivism m qualitative re- honors people's stories as data that can
search. As Crotty (1998) concluded after his stand on their own as pure description of ex-

perience, worthy as narrative documentary Ali great literature, I think, lures those who ex-
of experience (the core of phenomenology) or perience it away from the shores of literal truth
analyzed for connections between the psy- and out into uncharted waters where meaning
chological, sociological, cultural, political, is more ambiguous.. . .
and dramatic dimensions of human experi- Ultimately, I erased the boundary between
ence. Robert Coles, Harvard professor of the realm of text which purports to give only
psychiatry and medicai humanities (his title the facts and that of the metaphor-laden story
offers interesting narratological fodder), has which dares (as Sartre once put it) to lie in or-
written The Call ofStories (1989) as a basis for der to tell the truth. But I did so haltingly, and
teaching, learning, and moral reflection. Mi- not in a single confident stroke of understand-
chael White and David Epston in Narrative ing. Indeed, my insight carne only gradually,
Means to Therapeutic Ends (1990) look at the after confronting a form of writing that aims to
power of stories in the lives of individuais straddle the boundary between actual and vir-
and families and the connection between tual worlds, one foot firmly planted in each.
storytelling and therapy. They suggest that These works are hybrids of textual species,
people have adjustment difficulties because essays/stories written in a literary style but
the story of their life, as created by them- shelved (curiously) m the nonfiction section
selves or others, does not match their lived of the library. (pp. 61-62)
experience. They propose that therapists can
help their patients by guiding them in re- Here we have an example of personal nar-
writing their life stories. rative in the form of the narrative re-
The idea of "story," of personal narrative, searcher^ report of his joumey into cross-
intersects with our earlier look at autoeth- genre exploration of the nature of textual in-
nography in which the researcher's story be- terpretation. Later he uses narrative as a
comes part of the inquiry into a cultural phe- method for exploring what it means to be a
nomenon of interest. The language of story professional educational researcher, explor-
carries a connotation different from that of ing the narratives researchers construct
case study. For example, in program evalua- about themselves and implications of those
tions, people may be invited to share their narratives for their relationships with non-
stories instead of being asked to participate researchers (Barone 2000:201-28).
in case studies. The central idea of narrative Tierney (2000), in contrast, examines his-
analysis is that stories and narratives offer torical biographies and testimonios to ex-
especially translucent windows into cul- plore interpretive challenges in using life
tural and social meanings. histories in the postmodern age. His narra-
Much of the methodological focus in nar- tive analysis looks at the intersection of the
rative studies concerns the nature of inter- interpreted purpose of a text, the con-
pretation, as in Norman Denzin's seminal structed and interpreted "truth" of a text,
qualitative works Interpretive Biography and the persona of the author in text creation,
(1989a), Interpretive Interactionism (1989b), ali of which are called into interpretive ques-
and Interpretive Ethnography (1997b). Inter- tion in the postmodern age.
pretation of narrative poses the problem of Tedlock (2000) examines different genres
how to analyze "talk and text" (Silverman of ethnography as constituting varying
2000). Tom Barone (2000) has entered into lit- forms of narrative. She distinguishes life
erary nonfiction to hone his interpretive aes- histories and memoirs from "narrative eth-
thetic: nography," a hybrid form that was created
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 117

Today would you read

us a story that works on
many leveis?

Budding narratologist

in and attempts to portray accurately the bi- tion" because it unsettled "the boundaries
ographies of people in the culture studied that had been central to the notion of a self
but also to include ethnographers' own ex- studying an other" and replaced it with an
periences in their texts. She assesses this as a "ethnographic interchange" between self and
"sea change in ethnographic representa- other within a single text (pp. 460-61).

Narrative analysis has also now emerged oped out of sociology. Heuristic inquiry is
as a specific approach to studying organiza- grounded in humanistic psychology. A dif-
tions. As such, it takes at least four forms: ferent psychology-based perspective is eco-
logical psychology, which represents a differ-
1. organizational research that is written in ent tradition and theoretical orientation
storylike fashion (tales from the field); because it makes different assumptions
about what is important to understand
2. organizational research that collects or-
about the human experience (Jacob 1987).
ganizational stories (tales of the field);
Robert Barker (1968) and Herbert Wright
3. organizational research that conceptual- (1967) of the University of Kansas devel-
izes organizational life as story making oped ecological psychology drawing
and organizational theory as story read- heavily on natural history field studies.
ing (nterpretative approaches); and They see individuais and the environment
4. a disciplinary reflection that takes the as interdependent (Barker and Wright 1955;
form of literary critique (Czarniawska Barker et al. 1978; Schoggen 1978). They be-
1998:13-14). gin with pure, detailed descriptions of an in-
dividual in an environment. They observe
Stories are at the center of narrative analy- (as spectators, not participant observers)
sis, whether they be stories of teaching "streams of behavior" that are subsequent-
(Preskill and Jacobvitz 2000), stories of and ly analyzed in terms of presumed goal-
by students (Barone 2000:119-31), stories of directed actions. "Coders draw upon their
participants in programs (Kushner 2000), ordinary knowledge and perceptions to in-
stories of fieldwork (Van Maanen 1988), sto- fer the goals that actors intend to achieve,
ries of relationships (Bochner, Ellis, and marking off segments of narrative descrip-
Tillman-Healy 1997), or stories of illness tions into segments leading toward specific
(Frank 1995,2000). How to interpret stories goals" (Jacob 1988:17). The ecological meta-
and, more specifically, the texts that tell the phor can also inform psychological clinicai
stories, is at the heart of narrative analysis. research by seeking "to understand the pa-
tienfs concern within the context of his or
her life worldthe patienfs personal, fam-
Ecological Psychology
ily, community, and ecological stories"
(Miller and Crabtree 2000:617).
T~oundationql question: The unit of analysis in ecological psychol-
Wkat is tke rela+ionskip ogy is primarily the individual, but Barker
between kuman bekaviou and and Schoggen (1973) have also applied this
tke environment? approach in delineating Qualities of Commu-
nity Life. What makes this approach of po-
tential interest for program evaluation and
Several theoretical perspectives that in- organizational or community development
form qualitative inquiry are associated with is the focus on goal-directed behavior.
particular disciplines. For example, herme-
neutics is derived from linguistics and phi- They assume that there are subjective aspects
losophy. Ethnography is the primary to behavior which they examine in terms of
method of anthropology, while ethnometh- the goals of human behavior. They also as-
odology and symbolic interaction devel- sume that there is a subjective aspect to the en-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 119

viionments which they usually discuss in

terms of a person's emotional reactions to the
j j r i ; ; ! w y EcLcnar
environment. For example, they might be con-
cerned whether a boy does an activity unwill- IWftyClS-Eiyli 1 !! 1 'm!.' i"h.t-riij-i i"iiY
ingly or unhappily. (Jacob 1988:17) :'JHTLI/!: N."I.I M'iii::IRI!iJ:Vi:':i HFO,'[fi -PJIIS:;V.VI

fj't!:Mj! iVCVd:. it ij: :f!WLv^i.'.Pn."

Ecological psychologists also focus on de- PI.D tO yni'--; ! SiiriM!! i ;.hj-rf bii-iV
lineating the central features of behavior set- jtl-rj'r]ri;!y1'hrdfuf:i?:iVii':tiitioqyw !!'i!i!,'
tings, the particular constellations of places, iT!.l!.'' jyEEfeS. iHilPV mlsViT" ..r!..':i."i):!i'ii'!i;;!
things, and times that constitute a definitive !'"!:> :' airAiWi :; !V! C 'utfj.'m' i:!:i"n:!;'
environment. Such an approach can help iHi"i'!irjj-i,' LU-''!.Vv FIRIS :'i'!i,;!i!' il-!!i!;='!:i"
make explicit what variety of environments I.HW:1 Mik it* fft";!.:: irn-' j-iVt-y"?.! r-
program participants or organization mem- ! il l&afi IS .1 bi!V :!!'!!' !*!! !:i 'nY iij.1 i"n i/iij i r i
: iu,' IVi j |, fi.<i' iilsiriV! h? n!*,!i.l !! i; k i.!.'; i ,Y! .;! r
bers experience.
While ecological psychologists begin ! iVau! '' !-::;J y -I-J J i j; p. LS1? ;: hm
,"p .feirt.aT .'hM-j.1 nMh ,h rVi jiVj='? li i'i! i'1'.'s
with detailed, qualitative descriptionsbased
d r;.^!:':I .MIJM^iftlli?] h?:!- '' Jll:' h.:iM:i:!.';
on observations in natural environments,
' tmtiH .:ii".:r V:!- M-to-iUa.'' ^ri-liiv!!;!1
their coding schemes and analysis proce-
' !! h: n : |:i!,:i! JT.YIH" n ' >
" -:i*i ri! i.
dures are quantitative. Segments of goal-
ns i.!"vJi!i":r Lw i:'i:.IVvi.XViy &\).h!:!iji:i
directed behavior and characteristics of be- i' !'M!' Im!!i' -ii'i ii!'''ii i! dfiSir-jJ
:i ! ! v^y-^i--
havior settings are coded numerically and ififa MMi!' hoWi ^ Nl!i.S.-ii n't ;' iV-^':
analyzed statistically. This illustrates a point ^prfh.JiW r 1 iVv-jiCi"!.! i.'i .'ilMij:' ViiVi! !l. !!:'
to which we shall return later: One can go s!J.!i! i!!fcfd'Yli!i'iiiri'i:i-T''.
from the thick description of qualitative data :T!;ii' tit n^&itf /irwni ;; rn,^ v r !i, ::Vi!r
to quantitative analysis, but not vice versa. ,'i M:; i-rii1!:'!!A'RTJ v.H t' ru!! i.V, ! : I"I \!v. ! i1 ii wA! ! T

One cannot generate thick description and AEW i::=I!T'..i,S!,i:! ia b*'Mr- l^Vi ::'
qualitative narrative from original quantita- ^ M N TI!:' J ! : I 5 : N ! ' : N I ' Y IFCNL

tive data. !" JIL'!?:!: \ I;!:!; i ;: !'J:T i.= i. !i.< ,ii,'ilj' AUi'
!:'I ! I'-

The focus in ecological psychology on the ^'idVOii :ii!'i!!!!1Y ii-.i :ii!i ,'i' .nH-.!!!'!ii!'!!.!!
relationship between human behavior and U.TdMI :1! * y r f p , l Jpi'!'.!:' !!!!>>"!!"
the environment provides a good transition 1111111111111
to the next perspective, systems theory,
which is much more comprehensive and m-
terdisciplinary in examining the context for Parallel to the historical philosophical
human actions in programs, organizations, and methodological paradigms debate be-
and communities. tween positivists and constructivists, there
has been another and corresponding para-
A Systems Perspective digms debate about mechanistic/linear con-
and Systems Theory structions of the world versus organic/sys-
tems constructions. This debate has been
particularly intense among classic organiza-
T^oundational question: tional theorists (Burns and Stalker 1972;
"How and why does this sys+em Azumi and Hage 1972; Lincoln 1985;
a s a whole fwnction a s it does? Gharajedaghi 1985; Morgan 1986, 1989). It
includes concern about definitions of closed

systems versus open systems, and the im- into independent parts as discrete entities of
plications of such boundary definitions for inquiry because the effects of the behavior of
research, theory and practice in understand- the parts on the whole depend on what is
ing programs, organizations, entire soci- happening to the other parts. The parts are
eties, and even the whole world (Wallerstein so interconnected and interdependent that
1980). any simple cause-effect analysis distorts
It is important to note at the outset that more than it illuminates. Changes in one
the term systems has many and varied mean- part lead to changes among ali parts and the
ings. In the digital age, systems analysis of- system itself. Nor can one simply add the
ten means looking at the interface between parts in some linear fashion and get a useful
hardware and software, or the connectivity sense of the whole.
of various networks. The idea of "systems Gharajedaghi and Ackoff (1985:23) are
thinking" was popularized as the crucial quite insistent that a system as a whole can-
"fifth discipline" of organizational leaming not be understood by analysis of separate
in Peter Senge's (1990) best-selling book. A parts. They argue that "the essential proper-
number of management consultants have ties of a system are lost when it is taken
made systems thinking and analysis the cen- apart; for example, a disassembled automo-
terpiece of their organizational develop- bile does not transport and a disassembled
ment work (e.g., Ackoff 1987, 1999a, 1999b; person does not live." Furthermore, the
Kim 1993, 1994, 1999; Anderson and John- function and meaning of the parts are lost
son 1997). Indeed, over the past 30 years, when separated from the whole. Instead of
since publication of Ludwig Von Berta- taking things apart, they insist that a sys-
lanffy's classic General System Theory (1976), tems approach requires "synthetic think-
a vast literature has developed about sys- ing":
tems theory and applied systems research
(e.g., Checkland 1999). Some of it is highly
quantitative and involves complex coin- Synthetic thinking is required to explain system
puter applications and simulations. Given behavior. It differs significantly from analysis.
this broad and multifaceted context, my In the first step of analysis the thing to be ex-
purpose is quite modest. I want to call to the plained is taken apart: in synthetic thinking it
reader's attention three points: (1) A systems is taken to be a part of a larger whole. In the
perspective is becoming increasingly impor- second step of analysis, the contained parts
tant in dealing with and imderstanding are explained: in synthetic thinking, the con-
real-world complexities, viewing things as taining whole is explained. In the final step of
whole entities embedded in context and still analysis, knowledge of the parts is aggregated
larger wholes; (2) some approaches to sys- into knowledge of the whole: in synthetic
tems research lead directly to and depend thinking understanding of the containing
heavily on qualitative inquiry; and (3) a sys- whole is disaggregated to explain the parts. It
tems orientation can be very helpful in fram- does so by revealing their role or fitnction in
ing questions and, later, making sense out of that whole. Synthetic thinking reveals func-
qualitative data. tion rather than structure: it reveals why a sys-
Holistic thinking is central to a systems tem works the way it does, but not how it does
perspective. A system is a whole that is both so. Analysis and synthesis are compleinen-
greater than and different from its parts. In- tary: neither replaces the other. Systems think-
deed, a system cannot validly be divided ing incorporates both.
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 121

Because the effects of the behavior of the have become very important in family re-
parts of a system are interdependent, it can be search and therapy (Schultz 1984; Mont-
shown that if each part taken separately is gomery and Fewer 1988; Rosenblatt 1985;
made to perform as efficiently as possible, the Miller and Winstead-Fry 1982; Hoffman
system as a whole will not function as effec- 1981). A systems approach has also become
tively as possible. For example, if we select one of the central orientations to interna-
from ali the automobiles available thebestcar- tional development efforts in recent years.
buretor, the best distributor, and so on for each Specifically, the farming systems approach
part required for an automobile, and then try to development (Farming Systems Support
to assemble them, we will not even obtain an Project [FSSP] 1986) illustrates some unique
automobile, let alone the best one, because the ways of engaging in qualitative inquiry to
parts zoill not fit together. The performance of a support development, intervention, and
system is not the sum of the independent ef- evaluation from a systems perspective. The
fects of its parts; it is the product of their inter- farming systems approach to evaluation
actions. Therefore, effective management of a and research is worth examining in detail
system requires managing the interactions of because it has developed as a theory-based
its parts, not the actions of its parts taken sepa- yet practical solution to agricultural devel-
rately. (Gharajedaghi and Ackoff 1985:23-24) opment problems.
In the first three decades following World
War II, much international development
This kind of systems thinking has pro-
was conceived as direct technology transfer
found implica tions for program evaluation
from more developed to less developed
and policy analysis where the parts are often
countries. Scientists and change agents
evaluated in terms of strengths, weaknesses,
made technology transfer recommenda-
and impacts with little regard for how the
tions within their disciplinary areas of spe-
parts are embedded in and interdependent
cialization, for example, crops, livestock,
with the whole program or policy (Patton
water, and so on. This approach to develop-
1999c). For example, Benko and Sarvimaki
ment epitomized a mechanistic orientation.
(2000) applied systems theory as a frame-
In reaction to the dismal failures of the
work for patient-focused evaluation in nurs-
mechanistic, specialized technology transfer
ing and other health care areas. Such a
approach to development, a farming sys-
framework, they found, allowed complex
tems approach emerged (Shaner, Philipp,
features of processes in health care to appear
and Schmehl 1982b). Several elements are
by conducting simultaneous analyses of re-
central to a farming systems perspective, el-
latioriships on different leveis and with dif-
ements that lead directly to qualitative
ferent methods. This contrasts with the
methods of research.
mostly one-level, reductionist designs that
have usually been employed in nursing and
1. Farming systems research and develop-
health care research. Their "systemic
ment (FSRD) is a team effort (Shaner,
model" offered insights into system dy-
Philipp, and Schmehl 1982a).
namics in both "downward" and "upward"
directionsand the interconnections of 2. FSRD is interdisciplinary. The team con-
these systems dynamics in affecting patient sists of representatives from a mix of
care and outcomes. both agricultural and social science
In addition to their influence in organiza- disciplines (Cernea and Guggenheim
tional development, systems approaches 1985).

3. FSRD takes place in the field, on real A farming systems approach includes
farms, not at a university or goverrunent both qualitative and quantitative forms of
experiment station (Simmons 1985). inquiry. It includes direct observations, in-
4. FSRD is collaborativescientists and formal interviews, naturalistic fieldwork,
farmers work together on agricultural and inductive analysis, ali within a systems
productivity within the goals, values, framework. Well over 100 such projects in
and situation of participating farmers FSRD have been undertaken worldwide
(Galt and Mathema 1987). (FSSP 1987). There maybe no larger-scale ex-
ample of efforts to integra te naturalistic in-
5. FSRD is comprehensive, including atten- quiry, quantitative methods, and a systems
tion to ali farm family members; ali perspective through interdisciplinary eval-
farming operations, both crops and live- uation and research teamwork for the pur-
stock; ali labor sources; ali income pose of promoting long-term social and eco-
sources; and ali other factors that affect nomic developments.
small farm development (Harwood
FSRD is just one example of a systems ap-
proach to intervention, research, and evalu-
6. FSRD is inductive and exploratory, begin- ation. What this and other systems ap-
ning by open-ended inquiry into the proaches illustrate is that the complex world
nature of the farming system from the of human beings cannot be fully captured
perspective of those in the system and understood by simply adding up care-
(Holtzman 1986). fully measured and fully analyzed parts. At
7. FSRD begins with qualitative description. the system levei (the whole program, the
The first team task is fieldwork to quali- whole farm, the whole family, the whole or-
tatively describe the system (Sands ganiza tion, the whole community), there is a
1986). qualitative difference in the kind of thinking
that is required to make sense of what is hap-
8. FSRD is sensitive to context, placing the pening. Qualitative inquiry facilitates that
farming system in the larger agro- qualitative difference in understanding hu-
ecological, cultural, political, economic, man or "purposeful systems" (Ackoff and
and policy environments of which it is a Emery 1982).
part (Shaner et al. 1982a). A final story will reinforce this point, the
9. FSRD is interactive, dynamic, and process fable of the nine blind people and the ele-
oriented. The interdisciplinary team be- phant, which I used in the second chapter to
gins with inductive exploration, then illustrate the importance of context, and
moves to trying out system changes, ob- which I repeat here because it illustrates so
serving the effects, and adapting to well the real challenge of systems thinking.
emergent findings. The work is ongoing Besides, good stories have layers of mean-
and developmental (FSSP 1986). ing, and this one has phenomenological,
hermeneutic, and even ethnographic impli-
10. FSRD is situationalh/ responsive and adap- ca tions, which the reader may want to reflect
tive. There are many variations in FSRD on, but TIl simply reintroduce it as a systems
projects depending on priority prob- tale. Ironically, it is of ten offered as an exam-
lems, available resources, team member ple of systems thinking, but is, in its usual
preferences, and situation-specific pos- Western telling, actually quite linear and
sibilities (Sands 1986; FSSP 1987). mechanical.
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 123

As the story goes, nine blind people en- groups, programs. Chos or complexity
counter an elephant. One touches the ear theorists and researchers are primarily theo-
and proclaims that an elephant is like a fan. retical physicists, meteorologista, biologists,
Another touches the trunk and says the ele- and other natural scientists. Chos research
phant most surely resembles a snake. The has developed as a highly quantitative spe-
third feels the elephanfs massive side and cialty requiring supercomputer calculations
insists that it is like a wall. Yet, a fourth, feel- (Cambei 1992). But the assumptions that un-
ing a solidly planted leg, counters that it dergird chos theory pose challenges to so-
more resembles a tree trunk. The fifth grabs cial science research at the most fundamen-
hold of the tail and experiences the elephant tal leveis of basic conceptualization.
as a rope. And so it goes, each blindly touch- Complexity theory is already being
ing only a part and generalizing inappropri- viewed as a new paradigm of natural science
ately to the whole. The usual moral of the (Nadei and Stein 1995; Murali 1995; Hall
story is that only by putting ali the parts to- 1993; Holte 1993; Waldrop 1992; Gleick 1987;
gether in right relation to each can one get a Cronbach 1988). At least at the levei of meta-
complete and whole picture of the elephant. phor, chos and complexity notions are be-
Yet, from a systems perspective, such a ing used to inf orm approaches to economics
picture yields little real understanding of the (Ormerod 2001), anthropology (Agar 1999),
elephant. To understand the elephant, it organizational development (Eoyang 1997;
must be seen and understood in its natural Allison 2000), and leadership (Wheatley
ecosystem, whether in frica or Asia, as one 1992). The concepts of system and complex-
element in a complex system of flora and ity are often closely related. For example, the
fauna. Only m viewing the movement of a self-organization of systems, as premised by
herd of elephants across a real terrain, over complexity theory, implies the maintenance
time and across seasons, in interaction with of a certain levei of organization or the im-
plants, trees, and other animais will one be- provement of the systems (Rhee 2000). As
gin to understand the evolution and nature social scientists begin to understand its as-
of elephants and the system of which ele- sumptions, complexity theory about nonlin-
phants are a part. That understanding can ear dynamics may become a new paradigm
never come at a zoo. for approaching human complexities. In the
Thus, are we reminded of the challenge meantime, theory and research about non-
and importanceof bringing a systems linear dynamics (complexity) raise ques-
perspective into qualitative inquiry. tions about how we bring order to what we
observea fundamental epistemological
problem for ali forms of inquiry, including
Chos and Complexity Theory: qualitative inquiry. In Exhibit 3.5 (p. 126), I
Nonlinear Dynamics offer some teasers from Gleick's (1987) pop-
ularization of chos theory to suggest impli-
T-pu^daticmal question: cations for qualitative inquiry.
What is the- unde^iymg order, if At this point, complexity theory offers,
cmy, oj- disorderly phenomena? perhaps more than anything else, a new set
of metaphors for thinking about what we
What are disorderly phenomena? The observe, how we observe, and what we
weather, waterfalls, fluids in motion, volca- know as a result of our observations. Chos
noes, galaxiesand human beings, human theory challenges our need for order and

prediction, even as it offers new ways to ful- Michael Agar, a distinguished anthropol-
fill those needs. While much chos research ogist, used complexity theory, especially the
is highly mathematical, making sense of re- work of John Holland (1995, 1998), to inter-
sults seems to depend heavily on meta- pret fieldwork findings in his study of a her-
phors. Here is an intersection with qualita- oin epidemic among suburban youth in Bal-
tive inquiry that holds particular promise timore County, Maryland. He concluded:
because much work in qualitative analysis,
organiza tional development, and programs Complexity [theory] served, at least at the
includes resort to metaphor (Patton 2000; metaphorical levei, to better define a research
Ronai 1999; Brady 1998). Indeed, Gleick problemexplaining heroin trendsand it
(1987) offers a metaphor to explain the very helps articulate why traditional social re-
nature of inquiry into chos: "It's like walk- search has not answered this most basic ques-
ing through a maze whose walls rearrange tion of drug research: How and why do trends
themselves with every step you take" (p. 24). occur? It also points at the kind of data we
This metaphor fits a great deal of field- need to obtain and organize to do just that,
work in real-world settings, but the implica- however difficult that data might be to obtain.
tions can be so threatening to our need for Furthermore, complexity handles some cur-
order that we ignore the rearranging walls rent anthropological research issueslike the
and describe the maze with a single, static inclusion of the researcher, broadening histor-
diagram. If nothing else, the history and ical and political context, and the issue of pre-
emergent ideas of chos theory may give us dictionas part of its central themes. With
the comfort and courage to describe nonlin- characteristics like holism, emergence, and
ear dynamics (chos) when we find it, with- feedback that map onto anthropological as-
out imposing false order to fulfill the pre- sump tions more so than any previous formal
sumed traditional purpose of analysis. models, complexity is clearly worth a closer
Chos theory challenges us to deal with un- look. (Agar 1999:119)
predictability and indeterminism in human
behavior (Cziko 1989)and therefore in the The metaphors of chos, complexity, and
interventions (programs) we devise to alter nonlinear dynamics open up new possibili-
human behavior as well as the unpredict- ties for doing fieldwork in and understand-
ability and indeterminism of the methods ing those settings that feel like walking
we use to study and evaluate those interven- through a maze whose walls rearrange
tions. themselves with every step you take.

Grounded Theory

T he grounded theory approach is the most influential paradigm for quali-

tative research in the social sciences today.

Norman K. Denzin (1997a:18)

Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 125

gies of theory development in contrast to theory

T^oundational question: generated by logical deduction from a priori
Wka+ tkeory emerges from assumptions.
systematic comparative analysis
and is grounded in fieldwork so In contrasting grounded theory with
as to expl^in wkat kas been and logico-deductive theory and discussing and
is observed? assessing their rela tive merits in ability to fit
and work (predict, explain, and be relevant),
we have taken the position that the adequacy
Now we tum from the fluidity of chos of a theory for sociology today cannot be di-
to the solidity of the ground, specifically, vorced from the process by which it is gener-
grounded theory. Most of the theoretical ated. Thus one canon for judging the use-
perspectives examined thus far focus on a fulness of a theory is how it was generated
particular aspect of human experience: Eth- and we suggest that it is likely to be a better
nography focuses on culture, ethnometh- theory to the degree that it has been induc-
odology on everyday life, symbolic inter- tively developed froin social r e s e a r c h Gen-
actionism on symbolic meanings in be- erating a theory from data means that most
havior, semiotics on signs, hermeneutics on hypotheses and concepts not only come from
interpretations, and phenomenology on the data, but are systematically worked out in
lived experience. Their theoretical frame- relation to the data during the course of the re-
works direct us to particular aspects of hu- search. Generating a theory involves a process of
man experience as especially deserving of research. (Glaser and Strauss 1967:5-6)
attention in our attempt to make sense of the
social world. In contrast, grounded theory This theory-method linkage is of great
focuses on the process of generating theory concem in many of the orientations exam-
rather than a particular theoretical content. ined in this chapter. The idea of a the-
It emphasizes steps and procedures for con- ory-method linkage means that how you
necting induction and deduction through study the world determines what you leam
the constant comparative method, compar- about the world. Grounded theory depends
ing research sites, doing theoretical sam- on methods that take the researcher into and
pling, and testing emergent concepts with close to the real world so that the results and
additional fieldwork. findings are grounded in the empirical
Concern for theory development is often world. Herbert Blumer (1978) has offered a
quite marked in the literature on qualitative metaphor for explaining what it means to
methods. The writings of Glaser (1978, generate grounded theory by being im-
2000), Strauss and Corbin (1998), Denzin mersed in the empirical world:
(1978b), Lofland and Lofland (1984), Blumer
(1969), Whyte (1984), and Becker (1970), to The empirical social world consists of on-go-
name but a few well-known qualitative ing group life and one has to get close to this
methodologists, take as a major focus the life to know what is going on in it. The meta-
task of theory construction and verification. phor that I like is that of lifting the veils that
What distinguishes the discussion of theory obscure or hide what is going on. The task of
in much of the literature on qualitative scientific study is to lift the veils that cover the
methods is the emphasis on inductive strate- area of group life that one purposes to study.

Complexity (Chos) Theory Precepts and

EXHIBIT 3.5 Qualitative Inquiry Implications

Chos Precepts and Assumptions Implications for Qualitative

(Gltick 1987) Inquiry an Human Systems

1. "Nonlinearity means that the act of 1. The entry of the researcher into a setting
piaying the game has a way of changing may do more than create problems of
the rules" (p. 24). validity and reactivity. The researcher's
entry may make it a different setting
altogether-and forever.
2. A butterfly in Beijing flapping its wings 2. Small, minute events can make criticai
may affect the weather in New York differences. Qualitative importance is not
next month or next year. "The butterfly dependent on quantitative magnitude.
effect" has a technical na me: Sensitive For want of a n a i l . . . , the war was lost
dependence on initial conditions (p. 23).
3. A determinstic system can produce much 3. Much qualitative analysis attempts to
more than just periodic behavior. There bring orderfrom chos, identifying
can be "wild disorder" among "islands of patterns in the noise of human complexity.
structure." "A complex system can gve Chos theory suggests we need to learn to
rise to turbulence and coherence at the observe, describe, and value disorder and
same time," each of which is important turbulence without forcing patterns onto
(p. 56). genuine, meaningful chos.

4. "Simple systems can do complicated 4. What presumptions do we bring to field-

things" (p. 167). work and analysis about simplicityand
complexity? These are not neutral terms.
5. "A healthy body is a chaotic one; when 5. How do we observe and describe
you reach an equiibrium in biology you dynamic, constantly changing phenomena
are dead" (p. 298). without imposing a static structure by the
very boundaries we create in seeking to
define and understand?
6. "On the collective scale and on the 6. Chos theory's meanings and implications
personal scale, the ideas of chos for qualitative inquiry in human settings
advance in different ways and for remain to be developed.
different reasons" (p. 316).

The veils are not lifted by substituting, in odology that do not encourage or allow this
whatever degree, preformed images for betray the cardinal principie of respecting the
first-hand knowledge. The veils are lifted by nature of one's empirical world [T]he merit
getting close to the area and by digging deep of naturalistic study is that it respects and
in it through careful study. Schemes of meth- stays close to the empirical domain. (p. 38)
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 127

Ali of the approaches to theory and re- Let me be clear. Grounded theory is a general
search in this chapter use qualitative meth- method. It can be used on any data or combi-
ods to stay grounded in the empirical world. nation of data. It was developed partially by
Yet, they vary considerably in their concep- me with quantitative data. It is expensive and
tualizations of what is important to ask and somewhat hard to obtain quantitative data, es-
consider in elucidating and understanding pecially m comparison to qualitative data.
the empirical world. While the phrase Qualitative data are inexpensive to collect,
"grounded theory" is often used as a general very rich in meaning and observation, and
reference to inductive, qualitative analysis, very rewarding to collect and analyze. So, by
as an identifxable approach to qualitative in- default, due to ease and growing use,
quiry it consists of quite specific methods grounded theory is being linked to qualitative
and systematic procedures (Glaser 2000, data and is seen as a qualitative method, using
2001). In their book on techniques and proce- symbolic interaction, by many. Qualitative
dures for developing grounded theory, grounded theory accounts for the global
Strauss and Corbin (1998:13) emphasized spread of its use.
that analysis is the interplay between re- I can only caution the reader not to confuse
searchers and data, so what grounded the- this empirical use and the spread of its use
ory offers as a framework is a set of "coding with the fact that it is a general method. In
procedures" to "help provide some stan- some quarters of research, grounded theory is
dardization and rigor" to the analytical pro- considered qualitative, symbolic interaction
cess. Grounded theory is meant to "build research. It is a kind of takeover that makes
theory rather than test theory." It strives to routine qualitative research sound good by
"provide researchers with analytical tools positive stigma. Only highly trained grounded
for handling masses of raw data." It seeks to theory researchers can see the difference and
help qualitative analysts "consider alter- the confusion. Much of it revolves around the
native meanings of phenomenon." It em- notion of emergence versus forcing and the
phasizes being "systematic and creative si- lack of use of ali the grounded theory method-
multaneously." Finally, it elucidates "the ological steps. Any kind of data can be con-
concepts that are the building blocks of the- stantly compared. However, it is prudent for
ory." Glaser (1993) and Strauss and Corbin researchers to go with qualitative grounded
(1997) have collected together in edited vol- theory when that is where the resources are to
umes a range of grounded theory exemplars do it and when that is where researchers can
that include several studies of health (life af- reap career and personal rewards. (p. 7)
ter heart attacks, emphysema, chronic renal
failure, chronically ill men, tuberculosis,
Grounded theory has opened the door to
Alzheimer's disease), organizational head-
qualitative inquiry in many traditional aca-
hunting, abusive relationships, women
demic social science and education depart-
alone in public places, selfhood in women,
ments, especially as a basis for doctoral dis-
prison time, and characteristics of contem-
sertations, in part, I believe, because of its
porary Japanese society.
overt emphasis on the importance of and
While grounded theory has become specific procedures for generating theory. In
widely thought of as an approach specific to addition, I suspect its popularity may owe
qualitative inquiry, Glaser (2000) does not much to the fact that it unabashedly admon-
limit it in that way: ishes the researcher to strive for "objectiv-

ity." As discussed earlier in this chapter, the She believes that the guidelines for
postmodern attack on objectivity has found grounded theory offered by Strauss and
its way into qualitative inquiry through Corbin (1990, 1998) "structure objectivist
constructivism, hermeneutic interpretivism, grounded theorists' work. These guidelines
and the emphasis on subjective experience are didactic and prescriptive rather than
in phenomenology. Emergent autoethno- emergent and interactive" (Charmaz 2000:
graphic and heuristic approaches to qualita- 524). In contrast, she believes that in a
tive inquiry place even greater emphasis on constructivist grounded theory, "causality is
the researcher's personal and subjective ex- suggestive, incomplete, and indeterminate.
perience. Those social scientists and aca- . . . It looks at how 'variables' are grounded
demics who find some value in the methods given meaning and played out in subjects'
of qualitative inquiry, namely, in-depth in- lives. . . . Their meanings and actions take
terviewing and observation, but who es- priority over researchers' analytic interests
chew the philosophical undeipinnings of and methodological technology" (p. 524). To
constructivism and interpretivism can find illustrate a constructivist approach to
comfort in the attention paid to objectivity in grounded theory, she presents to the reader
grounded theory. the kinds of questions she would ask to
study a topic such as pain:
It is important to maintain a balance between
the qualities of objectivity and sensitivity I start by viewing the topic of pain subjectively

when doing analysis. Objectivity enables the as a feeling, an experience that may take a vari-

researcher to have confidence that his or her ety of forms. Then I ask these questions: What

findings are a reasonable, impartial represen- makes pain, pain? (That is, what is essential to

tation of a problem under investigation, the phenomenon as defined by those who ex-

whereas sensitivity enables creativity and the perience it?) What defining properties or char-

discovery of new theory from data, (Strauss acteristics do ill people attribute to it? When

and Corbin 1998:53) do they do so? How does the person expe-
rience this pain, and what, if any thing, does he
or she do about it? My questions aim to get at
At the same time, the language of meaning, not at truth. As a result, a con-
"grounded theory" has found its way into structivist grounded theory may remain at a
the constructivist literature. Charmaz (2000) more intuitive, impressionistic levei than an
compares "objectivist" (reality-oriented) and objectivist approach. (Charmaz 2000:526)
constructivist approaches to grounded the-
ory and, though she finds examples of both,
Beyond drawing on the inductive and
believes that the majority of grounded theo-
layered emphases in grounded theory la
rists are objectivist in orientation.
Strauss and Corbin, it is hard to see how
what Charmaz describes is different from
Objectivist grounded theory accepts the basic phenomenological inquiry. As a mat-
positivistic assumption of an externai world ter of philosophical distinctness, then,
that can be described, analyzed, explained, grounded theory is best understood as fun-
and predicted: truth, but with a small t . . . It damentally realist and objectivist in orienta-
assumes that different observers will discover tion, emphasizing disciplined and proce-
this world and describe it in similar ways. dural ways of getting the researcher 's biases
(p. 524) out of the way but adding healthy doses of
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 129

creativity to the analytic process. We shall what conceptual framework will direct
consider the analytic procedures of fieldwork and the interpretation of findings.
grounded theory in more detail in the chap- For example, one can undertake a study
ter on analyzing qualitative data. As a theo- from a feminist perspective, a Marxist per-
retical framework, I have included it in this spective, a capitalist perspective, or a Freud-
chapter because of its emphasis on generat- ian perspective, among others. In these in-
ing theory as the primary purpose of quali- stances, the ideological orientation or
tative social science and its overt embrace of perspective of the researcher determines the
objectivity as a research stance. focus of inquiry.
A feminist perspective presumes the im-
portance of gender in human relationships
Orientational Qualitative and societal processes and orients the study
Inquiry: Feminist Inquiry, in that direction (Guerrero 1999b; Ribbens
Criticai Theory, and Queer and Edwards 1998; Maguire 1996; Reinharz
Theory as Examples 1992; Glennon 1983; Smith 1979). Principies
of feminist inquiry (Guerrero 1999a:15-22;
One of the strengths of qualitative meth- Thompson 1992) can include
ods is the inductive, naturalistic inquiry
strategy of approaching a setting without o a sense of connectedness and equality
predetermined hypotheses. Rather, under- between researcher and researched;
standing and theory emerge from fieldwork n explicitly acknowledging and valuing
experiences and are grounded in the data. "women's ways of knowingj' including
The problem is how to approach the field integrating reason, emotion, intuition,
with an open mind. Phenomenology in- experience, and analytic tfiought;
cludes recommended procedures for be-
n participatory processei that support
coming clear about and taking into account
consciousness-raisiiig and researcher re-
biases and predispositions during both
flexivity; and /
fieldwork and analysis so as to get at the true
essence of the phenomenon under study. going beyond knowledge generation,
Hermeneutics takes the position that noth- beyond "knowledge for its own sake," to
ing can be interpreted free of some perspec- engage in using knowledge for change,
tive, so the first priority is to capture the per- especially "knowledge about women
spective and elucidate the context of the that will coritribute to women's libera-
people being studied. The researcher's own tion and einancipation" (Guerrero 1999a:
perspective must also be made explicit, as 16-17).
must any other tradition or perspective
brought to bear when interpreting mean- How does the lens of gender shape and
ings. affect our understandings and actions?
Orientational qualitative inquiry goes Philosopher Elizabeth Minnich has m-
one step farther. Orientational qualitative vestigated the ways in which conceptual
inquiry eschews any pretense of open- approaches to classifying human beings,
mindedness in the search for grounded or embedded historically, culturally, and po-
emergent theory. Orientational qualitative litically, continue to shape our thinking
inquiry begins with an explicit theoretical or through the very language and categories
ideological perspective that determines available to us. Her book on the subject,

Transforming Knowledge (1990, forthcoming), inquiry challenges the phenomenological

speaks precisely and insightfully to the ori- notion that one can cleanse oneself of such
entation of feminist inquiry. fundamental language-based conceptions
when doing fieldwork and data analysis.
The root problem reappears in different guises Moreover, feminist inquiry provides not
in ali fields and throughout the dominant tra- only conceptual and analytical direction but
dition. It is, simply, that while the majority of also methodological orientation in empha-
humankind was excluded from education and sizing participatory, collaborative, change-
the making of what has been called knowl- oriented, and empoweringforms of inquiry.
edge, the dominant few not only defined them- A quite different theoretical framing for
selves as the inclusive kind of human but also as the inquiry would be a Freudian orientation that
norrn and the ideal. A few privileged men de- assumes that individual behavior must be
fined themselves as constituting mankind/ understood as a manifestation of the strug-
humankind and simultaneously saw them- gle between id, ego, and superego as influ-
selves as akin to what mankind/humankind enced by very early childhood relationships
ought to be in fundamental ways that distin- and sexual experiences that have left their
guished them from ali others. Thus, at the mark on the unconscious. Orientations can
same time they removed women and non- be combined, as in a feminist psychoana-
privileged men within their culture and other lytical framework (Eichenbaum and Orbach
cultures from "mankind," they justified that 1983).
exclusion on the grounds that the excluded Racism and ethnicity can be another de-
were by nature and culture "lesser" people (if fining lensor orientationfor qualitative
they even thought of the others as having "cul- inquiry in research and evaluation (Ladson-
tures"). Their notion of who was properly hu- Billings 2000; Stanfield 1999; Patton 1999d),
man was both exclusive and hierarchical with as can inclusiveness (Mertens 1998, 1999).
regard to those they took to be properly sub- "Queer theory," an orienta tio nal approach
ject to themwomen in ali roles; men who focused on sexual orientation, "took social
worked with their hands; male servants and constructionist insights and added a post-
slaves; women and men from many other cul- structuralist critique of the unified, autono-
tures. mous self," so a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
Thus, they created root definitions of what
transgender orientation informs inquiry as
it means to be human that, with the concepts
"a deconstructive enterprise, taking apart
and theories that flowed from and reinforced
the view of a self defined by something at its
those definitions, made it difficult to think
core, be it sexual desire, race, gender, nation,
well about, or in the mode of, anyone other
or class" (Gamson 2000:348).
than themselves, just as they made it difficult One of the most influential orientational
to think honestly about the defining few. frameworks is "criticai theory," which fo-
(Minnich 1990:37-38) cuses on how injustice and subjugation
shape people's experiences and understand-
ings of the world.
The concepts and conceptual frameworks
we use, whether unconsciously as a matter A criticai social theory is concerned in particu-
of tradition and training or intentionally as a lar with issues of power and justice and the
matter of choice, carry embedded messages ways that the economy, matters of race, class,
about what and who is important. Feminist and gender, ideologies, discourses, education,
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 131

religion and other social institutions and cul- term orientational to describe such studies
tural dynamics interact to construct a social because they are oriented in a particular di-
system. . . . Inquiry that aspires to the name rection or framed from a specific perspec-
criticai mustbe connected to an atteinpt to con- tive. Orientational is a more neutral term
front the injustice of a particular society.... than ideologically based inquiry
Research thus becomes a transformative en- The extent to which any particular study
deavor unembarrassed by the label political is orientational is a matter of degree.
and unafraid to consummate a relationship Ethnographic studies can be viewed as
with emancipatory consciousness. (Kincheloe orientational to the extent that they presume
and McLaren 2000:281,291) the centrality of culture in explaining hu-
man experience. "Criticai ethnography"
Thus, what gives criticai theory its name (Thomas 1993) combines the focus on cul-
what makes it criticaiis that it seeks not ture with the commitinent to use findings
just to study and understand society but for change. Symbolic interactionism is
rather to critique and change society. Influ- orientational in focusing on the importance
enced by Marxism, informed by the pre- of the meanings that emerge as people de-
sumption of the centrality of class conflict in fine situations through interpersonal inter-
understanding community and societal actions. Orientational qualitative inquiry is
structures (Crotty 1998; Heydebrand 1983; a legitimate and important approach to the-
Carchedi 1983), and updated in the radical oretical or ideological elaboration, confir-
struggles of the 1960s, criticai theory pro- mation, and elucidation. What is required is
vides a frameworkboth philosophy and that the researcher be very clear about the
methodsfor approaching research and theoretical framework being used and the
evaluation as fundamentally and explicitly implications of that perspective on study
political, and as change-oriented forms of focus, data collection, fieldwork, and anal-
engagement. Fonte (2001) offers an example ysis.
of criticai theory applied to public policy.
Fonte applies the perspective of Marxist in-
Variety in Qualitative
tellectual Antonio Gramsci to contemporary
American politics, considering how domi- Inquiry: Different Answers
nant and subordinate groups based on race to Core Questions
and gender struggle over power in ways
that make every aspect of life political. Exhibit 3.6 summarizes the theoretical
Within any of these theoretical or ideolog- and philosophical perspectives presented in
ical orientations one can undertake qualita- this chapter. This is not an exhaustive list of
tive inquiry, but the focus of inquiry is deter- theoretical possibilities, but it does include
mined by the framework within which one the most common conceptual and philo-
is operating and findings are interpreted sophical frameworksand it certainly doc-
and given meaning from the perspective of uments the variety of perspectives that can
that preordinate theory. Such qualitative in- inform qualitative inquiry.
quiry, therefore, aims to describe and ex- No consensus exists about how to classify
plain specific manifestations of already-pre- the varieties of qualitative research. As
sumed general patterns. Such inquiry is noted in the opening of this chapter, but
aimed at confirmation and elucidation worth repeating as a review of variety in
rather than discovery. I have chosen the qualitative inquiry, Crotty (1998:5) elabo-

EXHIBIT 3.6 Variety in Qualitative Inquiry: Theoretical Traditions

Perspective Disciplinary Roots Central Questions

1. Ethnography Anthropology What is the culture of this group of people?

2. Autoethnography Literary arts How does my own experience of this culture
connect with and offer insights about this
culture, situation, event, and/or way of life?
3. Reality testing: Philosophy, social What's really going on in the real worid?
Positivist and realist sciences, and What can we establish with some degree of
approaches evaluation certainty? What are plausible explanations for
verifiable patterns? What's the truth insofar
as we can get at it? How can we study a
phenomenon so that our findings correspond,
as much as possible, to the real world?
4. Constructionl5m/ Socoogy How have the people in this setting
constructivism constructed reality? What are their reported
perceptions, "truths," explanations, beliefs, and
worldview? What are the consequences
of their constructions for their behaviors and
for those with whom they interact?
5. Phenomenology Philosophy What is the meaning, structure, and essence of
the lived experience of this phenomenon
for this person or group of people?
6. Heuristic inquiry Humanistic What is my experience of this phenomenon and
psychology the essential experience of others who also
experience this phenomenon intensely?
7. Ethnomethodoiogy Sociology How do people make sense of their everyday
activities so as to behave in socially
acceptable ways?
8. Symbolic interaction Social psychology What comrnon set of symbols and understand-
ings has emerged to give meaning to people's

rated five major theoretical perspectives as tions of qualitative inquiry, but a different
the foundations of social research: positiv- five: biography, phenomenology, grounded
ism (and postpositivism), interpretivism theory, ethnography, and case study. Jacob
(which includes phenomenology, herme- (1987) chose yet a different five for a qual-
neutics, and symbolic interactionism), criti- itative taxonomy: ecological psychology,
cai inquiry, feminism, and postmodernism holistic ethnography, ethnography of com-
(to which he adds an "etc." to suggest the munication, cognitive anthropology, and
open-ended nature of such a classification). symbolic interactionism. Schwandt (2000)
Creswell (1998) also settled on five tradi- highlighted "three epistemological stances
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 133

Perspective Disciplinary Roots CentroI Questions

9. Semiotics Linguistics How do signs (words, symbols) carry and

convey meanng in particular contexts?
10. Hermeneutics Linguistics, philosophy, What are the conditions under which a
iiterary crticism, human act took place or a product was
theoiogy produced that makes it possible to interpret
its meanings?
11. Narratology/ Social sciences What does this narrative or story reveal about
narrative analysis (interpretive): the person and world from which it carne?
Literary crticism, How can this narrative be interpreted to
Iiterary nonfiction understand and illuminate the life and culture
that created it?
12. Ecoiogical psychology Ecology, psychology How do individuais attempt to accomplish
their goals through specific behaviors in
specific environments?
13. Systems theory Interdisciplinary How and why does this system as a whole
function as it does?
14. Chos theory: Theoretical physics, What is the underlying order, if any, of
Nonlinear dynamics natural sciences disorderly phenomenon?
15. Grounded theory Social sciences, What theory emerges from systematic
methodology comparative analysis and is grounded in
fieldwork so as to explain what has been
and is observed?
16. Orientational: ideologies: Poltica!, How is X perspective manifest in this
Feminist inquiry, cultural, and economic phenomenon?
criticai theory, queer
theory, among others

for qualitative inquiry": interpretivism, her- branches showing different "qualitative

meneutics, and social constructivism. strategies." Tesch (1990) identified 27 variet-
Denzin and Lincoln (2000a) organized their ies. Having examined some of the various
reviewof qualitative variety around seven attempts to classify qualitative approaches,
historical periods and seven "para- Miles and Huberman (1994) concluded, "As
digms/ theories": positivist/postpositivist, comprehensive and clarifying as these cata-
constructivist, feminist, ethnic, Marxist, cul- logs and taxonomies may be, they tum out
tural studies, and queer theory. Wolcott to be basically incommensurate, both in the
(1992) created a family tree of 20 distinct way different qualitative strands are defined

and m the criteria used to distinguish them. a How do we know what we know? (episte-
The mind boggles in trying to get from one mological debates about the possibility
to another" (p. 5). and desirability of objectivity, subjectiv-
Adding to this complexity is the practice ity, causality, validity, general- izability)
of combining some perspectives. For exam- a How should we study the world? (method-
ple, one can do a heuristic feminist (orien- ological debates about what kinds of
tational) study, that is, undertake a heuristic data and design to emphasize for what
inquiry from a feminist perspective. Or do purposes and with what consequences)
"criticai ethnography" (Thomas 1993),
What is worth knowing? (philosophical
combing elements of criticai theory and eth-
debates about what matters and why)
nography. Bentz and Shapiro (1998) have of-
fered what they call "mindful inquiry" as a o What questions should we ask? (disciplin-
synthesis of phenomenology, hermeneutics, ary and interdisciplinary debates about
criticai theory, and Buddhism. From phe- the importance of various burning ques-
nomenology they take the focus on experi- tions, inquiry traditions, and areas of in-
ence and consciousness. From hermeneutics quiry)
they take the focus on texts, on the process of How do we personally engage in inquiry?
understanding, and on letting new mean- (praxis debates about interjecting per-
ings emerge from the research process. From sonal experiences and values into the
criticai theory they direct attention to the so- inquiry, including issues of voice and
cial and historical context of both the re- political action)
searcher and the research topic, including
attention to domination, injustice, and op- The same program, organization, or com-
pression. From Buddhism they take the fo- munity studied by researchers from differ-
cus onbecoming aware of one's own "addic- ent perspectives will lead to quite different
tions" and attachments and on practicing studies even though they might ali under-
compassion. In positing this synthesis, they take observations, interviews, and docu-
aim to place the researcher, rather than re- ment analysis. Nor would it necessarily be
search techniques, at the center of the re- possible to synthesize the descriptions and
search process. This adds something of a re- findings of such different studies even
flexive, autoethnographic orientation as though they took place in the same setting.
another foundation of mindful inquiry be- When researchers operate from different
cause the mindful inquirer uses awareness frameworks, their results will not be readily
of personal, social, and historical context, interpretable by or meaningful to each other.
and personal ways of knowing, to shape the While the frameworks provide guidance
research. and a basis for interaction among research-
The variety of qualitative frameworks is ers operating within the same fr ame work,
distinguished by answers to six core ques- the different theoretical frameworks consti-
tions (one for each day of the week plus a tute barriers that impede interaction across
day left over to integrate your answers): and among different perspectives. In effect,
each theoretical framework is a minipara-
What do we believe about the nature ofreal- digm with its own internai logic and as-
ity? (ontological debates concerning the sumptions.
possibility of a singular, verifiable reality This means one cannot reasonably ask
and truth vs. the inevitability of socially which theoretical framework is "right," best,
constructed multiple realities) or most useful. It depends on what one
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 135

wants to do and which assumptions one Finally, a caution would seem in order
shares. Gareth Morgan (1983) stated the about the danger of reifying the theoretical
problem quite succinctly after presenting a distinctions offered in this chapter. Take a
variety of research perspectives: look again at Exhibit 3.1, my reply to a letter
from a graduate student desperate to figure
There was the question as to how the reader
out what category of inquiry she fit into. The
could come to some conclusion regarding the
boundaries between perspectives remain
contrary nature, significance, and claims of
fuzzy. Adherents within each perspective
the different perspectives. . . . I realized that
canbe found arguing about what is essential
there was a major problem h e r e . . . . There is a
to that perspective. Tom Schwandt, who has
fallacy in the idea that the proposi tions of a
studied these distinctions as much as any-
system can be proved, disproved, or evalu-
one and is the lexicographer of the Dictio-
ated on the basis of axioms within that system.
nary of Qualitative Inquiry (2001), offers this
. . . This means that it is not possible to judge
reflection on theoretical distinctions:
the validity or contribution of different re-
search perspectives in terms of the ground as- It seems to be a uniquely American tendency
sumptions of any one set of perspectives, since to categorize and label complicated theoretical
the process is self-justifying. Hence the at- perspectives as either this or that. Such label-
tempts in much social science debate to judge ing is dangerous, for it blinds us to enduring
the utility of different research strategies in issues, shared concerns, and pomts of tension
terms of universal criteria based on the impor- thatcut across the landscape of the movement,
tance of generalizability, predictability and issues that each inquirer must come to terms
control, explanation of variance, meaningful with in developing an identity as a social in-
understanding, or whatever are inevitably quirer. In wrestling with the ways in which
flawe: These criteria inevitably favor research these philosophies forestructure our efforts to
strategies consistent with the assumptions that understand what it means to " d o " qualitative
generatesuch criteria as meaningfulgitidelines for inquiry, what we face is not a choice of which
the evaluation of research. It is simply inade- labelinterpretivist, constructivist, herme-
quate to attempt to justify a particular style of neuticist, or something elsebest suits us.
research in terms of assumptions that give rise Rather, we are confronted with choices about
to that style of research Different research how each of us wants to live the life of a social
perspectives make different kinds of knowl- inquirer. (Schwandt 2000:205)
edge claims, and the criteria as to what counts
as significant knowledge vary from one to an-
other. (pp. 14-15)
li. P r a g m a t i s m
In other words, readers must make their
own decisions about the relative value of Having documented the variety of theoreti-
any given perspective. Each has strengths. cal perspectives that inform qualitative in-
Each has limitations. There is no universal quiry, we now leave the world of theory and
standard that can be applied to choose enter the world of practice and pragmatism.
among these different frameworks. Quite Not ali questions are theory based. Indeed,
the contrary, the diversity itself is a good in- the quite concrete and practical questions of
dicator of the complexity of human phe- people working to make the world a better
nomena and the challenges involved in con- place (and wondering if what they're doing
ducting research. is working) can be addressed without plac-

Sample Internet E-mail Discussion Groups (listservs)

E X H I B I T 3.7 and Sites Relevant to Qualitative Inquiry and Theory

1. Use of ethnographic research methods in education; to

subscribe, send this message to join ethnography-in-education firstname
2. Ethnomethodology/conversation analysis; to subscribe, send this message to join ethno ourname
3. Phenomenology
4. Phenomenography
5. Grounded theory Web site
6. Q Methodology discussion list on this broad approach to the study
of subjectivity; to subscribe, send this message to subscribe Q-METHOD
ourname; for help contact
7. Biographicai Methods for the Social Sciences; to subscribe, send
this message to join BIOG-METHODS
8. A discussion of narrative in everyday life; to subscribe, send this
message to,nz: subscribe psych-narrative
9. Cyber Semiotic Institute
10. Systems theory site
11. H-Net/Oral History Association Discussion List on Oral History; to
subscribe, send this message to subscribe H-ORALHIST

NOTE: Thanks to Judith Preissle, Aderhold Distinguished Professor, Social Foundations of Education, University
of Gergia, for list subscription details. These sites and subscription detaJs may change, and this list is not ex-
haustive.This list is meantto be suggestive of the qualitative analysis resources available through the Internet.
See Chapter 1, Exhibit 1.5; Chapter 4, Exhbit 4.9; and Chapter 8, Exhibit 8.3, for additional qualitative re-
sources through the Internet.

ing the study in one of the theoretical frame- students writing dissertations and academic
works in this chapter. While these intellec- scholars will necessarily be concerned with
tual, philosophical, and theoretical tradi- theoretical frameworks and theory genera-
tions have greatly influenced the debate tion, there is a very practical side to qualita-
about the value and legitimacy of qualita- tive methods that simply involves asking
tive inquiry, it is not necessary, in m y opin- open-ended questions of people and observ-
ion, to swear vows of allegiance to any sin- ing matters of interest in real-world settings
gle epistemological perspective to use in order to solve problems, improve pro-
qualitative methods. grams, or develop policies. In short, in
Indeed, I would go farther (at the risk of real-world practice, methods can b e sepa-
being heretical) and suggest that one need rated jfrom the epistemology out of which
not even be concerned about theory. While they have emerged.
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 137

One can use statistics in straightforward able ways to f ind out what is happening in
ways without doing a philosophical litera- programs and other human settings.
ture review of logical empiricism or realism. The next chapter explores some of the
One can make an interpretation without ways in which qualitative inquiry can con-
studying hermeneutics. And one can con- tribute to practical knowledge and prag-
duct open-ended interviews or make obser- matic understandings. To help make that
vations without reading treatises on phe- transition, this chapter ends with a practical,
nomenology. The methods of qualitative cautionary tale from Halcolm.
inquiry now stand on their own as reason-

X k e . y V p p I e of \Souv-

After Halcolm had completed explaining to a scholarly assembly the many dif-
fering perspectives one could use in looking at the world, he was hungry. While he
answered questions and continued the discussion, he sent a listener to inquire if
the midday meai was ready. The messenger did not return, so Halcolm sent a sec-
ond messenger. The second messenger did not return. So Halcolm wenthimself.
He found the two messengers, the chef, and three visiting scholars engaged in
heated debate. Ignoring the debate, Halcolm asked, "Is the midday meai ready?"
The first and eldest visiting scholar responded, "I have been explaining to these
young men that the state of the food is not the only issue in determining readiness.
A meai is not just food. The meai must include those who would par take of the
food, so the meai is not ready until everything is in order and those who would eat
are assembled."
The second visiting scholar said, "I dared to taste the meai. From the perspec-
tive of a gourmet chef, this meai will never be ready. It is hopeless; let us return to
the city."
The third visiting scholar said, "Readiness is a state of mmd, not a physical
state. Since the food has no mind, the food cannot be ready. Only people can be
The chef added, "The midday meai is at midday every day. At midday the meai
is ready. Why ask if the meai is ready? It is midday. This is the meai. Therefore the
midday meai is ready."
With that, they ali began talking at once making ever finer points, drawing ever
narrower distinctions.
Halcolm, meanwhile, sat down and ate his midday meai.
A student asked why he had not joined the debate to clarify these important is-
sues. Halcolm took another bite and replied, "The apple of your eye won't satisfy
the emptiness in your stomach. There is a time to talk about the nature of eat-
ingand there is a time to eat."
From Halcolm's Guidefor Gourmands
Example of Autoethnographic Writing

Introduction. This excerpt is from the first chapter of Grand Canyon Celebration:
A Father-Son Journey ofDiscovery (Patton 1999a). The excerpt combines inquiry
into a cultural phenomenon of interest with personal reflection on and experi-
ence of that phenomenon, in this case, male coming of age in modern society.
My son Brandon and I were joined by Malcolm, a friend and our Grand Can-
yon guide.

Vishnu Metamorphism

To see the enormity of the Grand Canyon you have to be orbiting the Earth.
To feel it, you have to descend within. To learn from it, you have only to stay
awhile and be present. At least thafs what Malcolm had claimed when he
first urged me to hike with him from Apache Point to Eives Chasm years ear-
lier. And learn I had, about bloody blisters, debilitating thirst, and the impor-
tance of moving quickly when a rock ledge gives way a thousand feet above
the canyon floor, especially if you're standing on it at the time. Modest
learnings. But they left an impression. As did the depth and beauty of the
Malcolm had been bringing questions about his life to the Canyon for
years. And getting answers. I had gotten no answers on that first trip. But
that, Malcolm explained, was because I had brought no questions. Fair
enough. I had come for the hike and a chance to walk among the oldest ex-
posed rocks on the Earth's surface.
But I did get an idea. Standing atop Mount Huethawali and staring across
the Colorado Ri ver at Holy Grail Temple, I imagined someday hiking with
my son, then just entering toddlerhood, and initiating him into manhood
there amidst buttes named King Arthur Castle, Guinevere Castle, and
Excalibur, and gorges named Merlin Abyss and Modred Abyss. Malcolm
called it a vision, which beguilingly transformed a passing notion into a
quest, like framing a telephone doodle and calling it art. What better place for
grandiosity than the Grand Canyon?
The gilt frame, however, didn't quite make it back with me to Minnesota. I
realized that I lacked a few of the basic necessities for conducting an initia-
tion. Tribal elders, for example. Hard to come by if you don't have a tribe. As
are other essentials, like tradition, a sacred place, ritual, terrifying gods to ap-
pease, wisdom to pass on, and life-threatening tests for the initiate to pass
(preferably ones that the initiator has successfully survived). From what I re-
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J.

called of anthropology, strong gender identity would also be a prerequisite.

That, however, might be conjured up. I had felt a vague sense of something
while gazing toward Lancelot Point. Malcolm suggested that the Canyon was
putting me in touch with my masculine collective unconscious. After ten days
in the Canyon such things could be said without soundmg absurd. Like eating
freeze-dried food. It can taste gourmet scrumptious after a hard day hiking, but
cooked at home, it's ghastly. So I found that my Canyon initiation vision didn't
reconstitute well mixed with urban fluoridated water.
But it also didn't evaporate.
Malcolm now smiles and says he never doubted. I, on the other hand, still
find myself amazed that we actually did return with Brandon for an initiation
experience. And, berng a social science researcher, I kept field notes. Not, I
should add, because I had any premonition that they might reveal something
important about a humanist approach to coming of age in contemporary soci-
ety. I did it for family history and, I concede, out of habit. I had spent too many
years in sociological observation to turn off that part of myself just because I
had brought my eldest son into one of the most magnificent landscapes on
earth after many years of anticipation. I considered leaving my scientific side
behind. I even tried .Justbe a father, I told myself. Justbe in the Canyon. Be pres-
ent with Brandon. Don't analyze it while it's happening. Stay with the experi-
Or were those Malcolm's admonitions? Certainly, some part of me was in-
trigued by Malcolm/s belief that he got answers from the Canyon. And, unlike
our first hike years earlier, this time I found I had come with a question, though
I wasn't fully aware of it until our second night.
We were campe d within the inner gorge, just short of the Colorado River,
where White Creek flows out of Muav Canyon into Shinumo Creek. My aching
body craved rest after two hard days hiking, but Brandon's after-dinner ques-
tions about how different cultures define manhood had left me tossing and
turning. He slept near enough for me to hear his slow, evenbreathing. As I stud-
ied him, he rolled from his back onto his side, pulling his knees up fetus-like, al-
most, but not quite, transforming his gangling, 18-year-old frame into a picture
of innocence. He looked like the question he had asked over dinner.
He had begun with a mocking tone: "So, this is my initiation. When do I find
out about the manhood thing? I'm sure you two have come prepared with im-
portant insights. Might as well get on with it. I, your humble initiate, am ali
Our subsequent anthropological discussion about how different societies
define manhood was rooted in cultural relativism as solidly as the large cotton-
wood that sheltered our campsite. The discussion had been serious, intense
and surprisingly lacking in satisfaction. Not for Brandon. For me.
As I gazed at Brandon sleeping, voices argued with each other in my head.
What does a modern father tell his son about being a man? Some voices, re-
corded in my memory long ago, rasped repeatedly like a worn needle stuck in
scratched grooves from the waxen days of graduate school. Others, more re-

cently entered, played intermittently through the scratches. The messages from
different eras competed to be heard, rising to a discordant crescendo, like being
caught in a small gym between opposing fans and their blaring pep bands at a
championship basketball gameexhilarating only if you know which side to
cheer for.
Such imagery being incongruent with my peaceful environs, though I enjoy
both debate and athletic competition, I redirected my inner musings to the
steady gurgle of nearby rapids and the chirping melodies of the canyon night. I
quietly got up to strollback and forth along the creek, pondering what I wanted
to pass on to Brandon about the nature of manhood. I paused in the shadow of
ancient rock and listened as Shinumo's rapids asserted the constant flow of the
present. I tried out possibilities on a disinterested moon: metaphors of male in-
candescence and female florescence.
What was left to tell Brandon that he hadn't already heard from me ad nau-
seam? I could affirm that the moon is disinterested, that the Canyon is rock, and
that life offers many pathways for being a man and developing as a person,
none of them certain. I could offer perspective and Canyon-inspired meta-
phors. . . .
This trip, this "initiation," felt like a last chance. When, if ever again, would I
have Brandon's undivided attention? Or at least some part of it? I was not quite
so delusional as to believe I could attain the impossibly high standard of "undi-
vided attention" with a member in good standing of the generation that grew
up on channel-surfing, But I did have ten uninterrupted days and nights with
Brandon. No outside influences. No competition from television, telephones,
friends or work.
Ten whole days with my son in the Grand Canyon. Ten days before he left homefor
college and the rest ofhis adult life. Ten final days. A last chance.
I returned to where Brandon slept and, gazing at him, considered whether it
much mattered what I had to saywords, after ali, being only words. But
words matter in my world, as do answers. Thought matters. And so I thought
some more until, under the influence of that elixir unique to the small hours
when the body is exhausted and the internai dialogue worn down, I experi-
enced at last a euphoria of analogical clarity. It came as I tumed and peered into
the dark gorge through which we had descended. That very afternoon, we had
traversed the Canyon's Great Unconformity, in one step passing through a gap
of 250 million years across a space that had once been filled with massive
mountains. Recalling that moment took me through what felt like a par aliei un-
conformity, insignificant by standards of Canyon time, but huge when mea-
sured on the modest scale of human evolution. Canyon metaphor offered so-
ciological insight. Malcolm would later say the Canyon had answered my
The Canyon's Great Unconformity had once been filled with towering Pre-
cambrian formations of Bass Limestone, Hakatai Shale, Shinumo Quartzite,
Dox Sandstone, and Cardenas Basalts 800 million to one-and-a-quarter billion
Variety in Qualitative Inquiry |J, 141

years old. They had been turned sideways and thrust up higher than the Rock-
ies by monumental tectonic movements. During this churning, twisting and
thrusting, even more ancient rocks were exposed in places: hardened magma of
Zoroaster Granites and the oldest rock in the Grand Canyon, the metamor-
phosed lava-black Vishnu Schist, 1.7 billion years old. O ver millions of years
these mountains were eroded until the space they once occupied was filled
with sandstone deposited by encroaching seas.
When we arrived at the Great Unconformity, we joked about what it meant
to arrive some place that isn't there. As we hiked on within the depths of the in-
ner canyon, we marveled at the dramatic transition from sand and gravei to
sculptured stone, its significance gradually penetrating with the cold feel of the
marble-like rock. Now, inspired by the memory of that geologic gap, I contem-
plated the chasm that exists between modern society and ancient times. Many
experience the gap as a painful loss. Lately, contemporary male elders have
been trying to fill in the gap, build a bridge back or at least make a connection.
They hope a return to ancient initiation rites will help close the gap. I had been
attracted by that possibility myself, but Brandon's reactions during our hike
down said it wouldn't work, at least not for modern young people who have
tasted choice, experienced the power of intellect, learned to value individuality
and abhor control. The Great Unconformity impressed on me the gap between
past and present when societal customs have been eroded to the point of van-
ishing. Our ancestral past will necessarily and inevitably remain a foundation,
like the ancient Vishnu Schist, formed by 75,000 pounds per square inch of tec-
tonic pressure and named for the Hindu god, the Preserver. The Tapeats forma-
tion now rises atop that preserved foundation, but is neither part of it nor con-
tinuous in time.
I imagined a contemporary coming of age journey that recognizes ancient
foundatons of human experience, but is separate and distinct in accordance
with modern discontinuities and the great unconformity of human potential in
our timesa coming of age process that does not require the societal equivalent
of 75,000 pounds per square inch of pressure to assure conformity. Indeed, a
coming of age process that does not even have conformity as its goal. That
would be the greatest unconformity.
In elucidating the role of traditional initiation for Brandon, Malcolm, my
longtime friend and Canyon guide, also an anthropologist and family thera-
pist, had explained that initiation rites functioned to psychologically separate
sons from parental domination in tribal societies with extended families where
generations would live together in a confined village space. But in modern soci-
ety, just the opposite is the case. Our children are separated from us by daycare,
schools, music, television, peer groups and easy geographic mobility. The chal-
lenge of contemporary times is not to provide for the physical and psychologi-
cal separation of children from parents. Society has evolved multiple mecha-
nisms for detachment. Parents and children today are subjected to
unprecedented centrifugai forces. The challenge now is to bond.

I thought I had come to the Grand Canyon for a ritual of initiationrecog-

nizing and celebrating Brandon's manhood. But as we had descended into the
inner Canyon, the focus shifted for me. There, in the moonlight, I admitted why.
He was leaving home and going off to college. We needed no ceremony to rec-
ognize his independence. It was not in doubt. Nor was his manhood. What I
craved, that ancient rituais could not provide and had not been designed to ar-
range, was connection.
Abruptly, propelled by the force of illusory insight, I turned again away from
the rapids toward Brandon and sleep. A piercing pain in my leg stopped me. I
had connected with a Prickly Pear cactus. Examining the offending thom, I
heard my voice say: "Reality-check." Suddenly self-conscious, I looked
around, then laughed out loud at the ridiculous figure I presented: pacing the
canyon floor dressed only in the ephemeral threads of an emerging sociological
paradigm shift.

SOURCE: Patton (1999a:21-27). Copyright 1999 by Michael Quinn Patton.

Particularly Appropriate
Qualitative Applications

; p p ^ e k v H c e s k i p in T - V a g m a + i s m

A young carp enter, at the beginning of his career, carne to Halcolm in distress.
He had studied diligently to master carpentry. At the completion of his appren-
ticeship, the master carpenters said that his technical competence and skill were
unmatched for one so young.
Halcolm knew ali this, for word of the young man's mastery had reached
even the great one. Yet, Halcolm could also see that the young carpenter was in
great distress. "What troubles you?" Halcolm asked gently.
"My parents, my townspeople, my master teachers have been most generous.
Upon completion of my apprenticeship, they joined together to give me a fine
set of tools. Ihave been trained by the best. I am told that my skills arewhat can
I say without being immodest?my skills are adequate." The young man
paused, his distress obvious and growing even as he spoke.
"Then what is the problem?" asked Halcolm. The young man looked down,
embarrassed in the presence of the great one. It was a long time before he spoke,
and then only in a whisper. "I have no thing to build."
"Ah, I see," said Halcolm.
"No one will give me any orders," continued the young man.

13. 143

"Let me make some inquiries," offered Halcolm. "Return in a week and IT1 tell
you what I have learned."
The seven days were as an agonizing eternity for the young man. At last it was
time to find out what Halcolm had learned through his discrete interviews with a
few knowledgeable and well-connected people.
"I have confirmed ali that you told me," Halcolm began. "Your skill is much re-
spected. Your tools are the finest, given with much affection. Your competence is
not in doubt. And yet, you have nothing to build."
The young man waited for Halcolm to continue.
"During your apprenticeship you did the latticework on the new cathedral.
The craftsmanship you displayed is admire d by ali. You designe d and constructed
the intricate woodwork of the new town hall directrixanother work of great art
admire d even by your masters. You carved and installed the elabora te wine racks
in the guardian's estate. In ali these efforts you have distinguished yourself and
pleased those for whom you built."
The young man was pleased but perplexed as he heard Halcolm affirm the
quality of his work. Indeed, hearing the affirmations deepened his distress atfind-
ing himself now with nothing to build. Halcolm continued.
"You now have nothing to build because the townspeople believe your artistry
and craftsmanship are far superior to their simple needs. They need simple chairs,
tables, and doors. You work on cathedrals, town halls, and estates. You have de-
signed objects of great beauty and complexity. You have not designed and built
objects of great simplicity and practicality. To do the latter only looks easier, but
takes no less skill.
"Build me a simple, functional, and practical bookcase at reasonable cost, and
let us see what the townspeople think. Apply your skills to the everyday needs of
the people and you shall not lack for work."
Halcolm expected the young man to be delighted at the prospect of a solution to
his problemand regular employment. Instead, he saw the distress deepen into
"I do not know how to build simple, practical, and functional things," lamented
the young man. "I have never applied my skills and my tools to such things."
"Then your apprenticeship is not over," said Halcolm.
And they went down to Halcolm's workshop where the young man began to
learn anew.

From Halcolm's Applied Arts and Sciences

Particular!}/ Appropriate Qualitative Applications j. 145

J. Practical Purposes and that this review, while including a great vari-
Concrete Questions ety of applications, is far from exhaustive.
My purpose is to expand the horizons of
Qualitative methods are first and foremost what is possible and appropriate for both
research methods. They are ways of finding practitioners and decision makers. Because
out whatpeople do, know, think, and feelby the opportunities for qualitative inquiry are
observing, interviewing, and analyzing so vast, the examples offered here can be no
documents. The last chapter reviewed how more than teasers, merely hinting at the
qualitative methods contribute to generat- enormous array of qualitative applications
ing and confirming social science theory that are possible.
This chapter reviews how qualitative meth- Moreover, I have not examined in this
ods can contribute to useful evaluation, prac- chapter how the varying theoretical and
tical problem solving, real-world decision paradigmatic approaches discussed in the
making, action research, policy analysis, previous chapter might affect inquiry into
and organizational or community develop- any of these practical issues. For example,
ment. This chapter offers examples of how one might examine program quality, the first
qualitative methods can help answer con- topic below, phenomenologically, ethno-
crete questions, support development, and graphically, or heuristicallyto cite but
improve programs. Ali of these are ways of three possibilities. Or one might simply con-
contributing to what is sometimes called duct interviews and gather observa tion data
"action science" (Argyris, Putnam, and to answer concrete program and organiza-
Smith 1985). tional questions without working explicitly
Qualitative methods are not appropriate with a particular theoretical, paradigmatic,
for every inquiry situation. The aim of this or philosophical perspective. Well-trained
chapter is to illustrate when it may be partic- and thoughtful interviewers can get mean-
ularly appropriate to use qualitative meth- ingful answers to practical questions with-
ods. Certain purposes, questions, problems, out making a paradigmatic or philosophical
and situations are more consonant with pledge of allegiance. Pragmatic and utilitar-
qualitative methods than others. This chap- ian frameworks can guide qualitative in-
ter samples some of the research and evalua- quiry on their practical and applied under-
tion questions for which qualitative inquiry pinnings without having to be attached to or
strategies are especially appropriate and derived from a theoretical tradition. Prag-
powerful. The actual and potential applica- matism, then, is the foundational orienta-
tions of qualitative methods are so diverse tion of this chapter.

A Focus on Quality

^ ^ o m e , give us a taste of your quality.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, scene ii

Quality care. Quality education. Quality agement. Continuous quality improvement.

parenting. Quality time. Total quality man- Quality control. Quality assurance. Malcolm

Baldridge National Quality Award. Quality quality movementW. Edwards Deming

is the watchword of our times. People in and Joseph M. Juranwere preaching qual-
"knowle dge-intensive societies . . . prefer ity in manufacturing before World War II. In
'better' to 'more'" (Cleveland 1989:157). the 1930s, for example, Juran was applying
More requires quantitative dimensions; concepts of empowered worker teams and
better evokes qualitative criteria. continuous quality improvement to reduce
At the most fundamental levei, the de- defects at Western Electric's Hawthorne
bates about abortion, on the one hand, and Works in Chicago (Deutsch 1998; Juran
death with dignity and physician-assisted 1951). Deming and his disciples have long
suicide, on the other, concern, in part, what viewed quality from the customer's per-
is meant by "quality of life" (Humphrey spective, defining quality as meeting or ex-
1991). Kenneth E. Boulding (1985), one of the ceeding customer expectations. More than
most prominent intellectuals of the modern 20 years ago, Philip B. Crosby (1979) wrote a
era, devoted a book to the grand and grandi- best-selling book on "the art of making qual-
ose topic of human betterment. In that book, ity certain." Some of his assertions have be-
he defined development as "the learning of come classic:
quality" (Chapter 8). He struggled, ulti-
ma tely in vain, to define "quality of life." He o The first struggle, and it is never over, is
found the ide a beyond determina tive expli- to overcome the "conventional wisdom"
cation and certainly beyond numerical mea- regarding quality (p. 7).
surement. It is a subject particularly well
o The cost of quality is the expense of do-
suited for in-depth, holistic qualitative in-
ing things wrong (p. 11).
Concern for quality surrounds us in the H Quality is ballet, not hockey (p. 13).
postmodern age. Quality has become the H The problem of quality management is
primary marketing theme of our time, for not what people don't know about. The
example, "Quality Is Job One" (Ford Motor problem is what they think they do know
advertising slogan). Customers demand (p. 13).
quality. This may stem, at least in part, from
H Quality management is a systematic way
the fact that in the busy lives we now lead, at
of guaranteeing that organized activities
least in postindustrial society, we simply
happen the way they are planned. . . .
don't have time for things to break down.
Quality management is needed because
We don't have time to wait for repairs. We
nothing is simple anymore, if indeed it
can't afford the lost productivity of not hav-
ever was (p. 19).
ing things work (either products or pro-
grams). We have taken to heart the admoni-
tion that, in the long rim, it is cheaper do it Efforts to implement these and other
right the first timewhatever "it" or "right" principies swelled crescendo-like into a
may refer to. It is within this larger societal national movement as management con-
context that we shall examine what qualita- sultants everywhere sang of total quality
tive inquiry brings to the challenge of study- management and continuous quality im-
ing and evaluating quality. provement. The music began in the corpo-
The current mania spotlighting quality rate sector, but by the early 1990s the "cult of
can give the impression that this is a rela- total quality" had permeated deeply into the
tively recent concern, but the founders of the government and nonprofit sectors (Walters
Particular!}/ Appropriate Qualitative Applications j. 147

1992). The Malcolm Baldridge National school's documented history of high-quality

Quality Awards became, and remain, the education.
pinnacle of recognition that the mountain- Understanding what people value and
top of quality has been reached. the meanings they attach to experiences,
Nor was concern about quality limited to from their own personal and cultural per-
management books. Robert Pirsig's classic spectives, are major inquiry arenas for quali-
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance tative inquiry. This is especially true when
(1984) was an investigation into quality and making judgments about quality, or valuing,
excellence, themes he revisited in Lila (1991) which brings us to evaluation and quality
ashe explored the "metaphysics of quality/' assurance.

What the Metaphysics of Quality adds to Quality Assurance

James' pragmatism and his radical empiricism is and Program Evaluation
the idea that the primai reality from which
subjects and objects spring is value. By doing
Program evaluation and quality assur-
so it seems to unite pragmatism and radical
ance have developed as separate functions
empiricism into a single fabric. Value, the
with distinct purposes, largely separate lit-
pragmatic test of truth, is also the primary em-
eratures, different practitioners, and vary-
pirical experience. The metaphysics of quality
ing jargon. Each began quite narrowly, but
says pure experience is value. Experience
each has broadened its scope, purposes,
which is not valued is not experienced. The
methods, and applications to the pomt
two are the same. This is where value fits.
where there is a great deal of overlap and,
Value is not at the tail-end of a series of super-
most important, both functions can now be
ficial scientific deductions that puts it some-
built on a single, comprehensive program
where in a mysterious undetermined loca tion
information system.
in the cortex of the brain. Value is at the very
front of the empirical procession. (Pirsig
Program evaluation traces its modem be-
1991:365) ginnings to the educational testing work of
Thorndike and colleagues in the early 1900s.
Program evaluation was originally focused
An important policy question of our time on measuring attainment of goals and objec-
is whether educational quality can be tives, that is, finding out if a program
achieved through state-imposed standards "works," that is, if it's effective. This came to
and mandates. One example of the differ- be called summative evaluation, which origi-
ence between theory and practice in this re- nally relied heavily on experimental designs
gard is captured astutely in a case study by and quantitative measurement of outcomes.
Goodson and Foote (2001) that describes In recent years, program improvement (for-
what happened when a highly successful, mative) evaluation has become at least as
innovative, and creative alternative to tradi- important and pervasive as summative
tional education was confronted by the de- evaluation (Patton 1997a).
mands of contemporary standardized ac- Quality assurance (QA) in the United
countability. They chronicle the resistance of States had its official birth with the passage
a particular school, the Durant School, to the of the Community Mental Health Act
imposition of state standards and mandated Amendments of 1975 (Public Law 94-63).
tests in an effort, ironically, to maintain the This law required federally funded commu-

Important methods of QA include clinicai

case investigations and peer reviews. Ali
mM:m T A
cases that fail to meet certain standards are
PFRWIVf rriNC- :;;'v
reviewed in depth and detail. For example,
"Tii ! ;'"i!Vi:! ir i:!;M:=i;!; iT!.! lH,iT,rilji . i1! i patients who remain hospitalized beyond
! ..-ii i:ij-i frriiiVi-W sii !j/jftiJi Ys- ;i l l ^ j f ;ii|-T! . an accepted or expected period may trigger
j. i^^riii:'!5!!!.!!, "liri.1!1! ; a review. An original difference between
:. , iT:jivi|i M^IV:! | : ; ' r i t ^ f ; . i' i! li !;'i!'i; jHrtftj . :
program evaluation and QA was that QA fo-
: . . : r Y i ! ' i ; i . !:h!i iiii h : i ; i ! ! ^ ' j ^ f e i i f l I. !V! .!<h:i i.j;
: ;
; !
: cused on individuais on a case-by-case basis,
M ftfM -M. i i - j f o l i i ^ ^: i . ! V y . V r l . ; while program evaluation focused on the
^aWd, }d|l;i;vi:i]:iii:!Jfcri:^^^irifii'!!|!:< overall ! program. The traditional concems
with unique individual cases and quality in
ftalAY&rttl11:!.^^ Wtf^^ : QA systems continue to be quite consonant
!:iT 'rn-!Yii' :ti"l'r! :!iJi:iIM-PI!-'! r u
: \ with qualitative methods. Moreover, QA ef-
H*!'. !:;i:i- ji;!V: m & i . forts have now moved beyond health care to
V :-,' Vji^l rh!i-i:;!: ii!i the full spectrum of human service pro-
grams and government services (Human
rnriptu-ktA$ r ; j ; ' { f j & ^ t . :,v; Services Research Institute 1984).
jinap-nsT!!! ^ f g f l , S ^ ^ f l i : In-depth reviews of the quality of care for
participants m programs can draw heavily
on clinicai case files only if the files contain
approprate and valid information. When
nity mental health centers to have QA efforts files are to be used for research and evalua-
with utilization and peer review systems. Its tion purposes, clinicians need special train-
purpose was to assure funders, including in- ing and support in how to gather and report
surers and consumers, thatestablished stan- highly descriptive qualitative data in clinicai
dards of care were being provided. QA sys- case files (Cox 1982). Because there can be
tems involve data collection and evaluation great variation in the quality of clinicai case
procedures to document and support the records, particularly the descriptive quality,
promise made by health and mental health a program of QA must include evaluation of
care providers to funding sources, including and attention to the quality of qualitative
third-party insurance carriers and consum- data available for QA purposes.
ers, "that certain standards of excellence are Moreover, it is useful to distinguish qual-
being met. It usually involves measuring the ity control from quality enhancement. Qual-
quality of care given to individual clients in ity control efforts identify and measure
order to improve the appropriateness, ade- minimum acceptable results, for example,
quacy, and effectiveness of care" (Lalonde minimum competency testing in schools or
1982:352-53). As QA systems have devel- maximum acceptable waiting times before
oped, special emphasis has been placed on seeing a physician in an emergency room.
detecting problems, correcting deficiencies, Quality enhancement, in contrast, focuses
reducing errors, and protecting individual on excellence, that is, leveis of attainment
patients. In addition, QA aims to control well beyond minimums. Quality control re-
costs of health care by preventing over- quires clear, specific, standardized, and
utilization of services and overbilling by measurable leveis of acceptable results. Ex-
providers. cellence, however, often involves individu-
Particular!}/ Appropriate Qualitative Applications j. 149

B38njlsl''iW Comparing Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance

Progrom Evaluation Quality Assuronce

1. Focus on program processes and 1. Focus on individual processes and

outcomes outcomes
2. Aggregate data 2. Individual clinicai cases
3. Goals-based judgment 3. Professional-based judgment
4. intended for decision makers 4. Intended for clinicai staff

alization and professional judgment that control, but attention has shifted to concern
cannot and should not be standardized. Ex- for quality enhancement. Program evalua-
cellence is manifest in quality responses to tion began with an emphasis on summative
special cases or especially challenging cir- judgments about whether a program was ef-
cumstances. Thus, while quality control re- fective or not but has shifted to improving
lies on standardized statistical measures, program effectiveness. In their shared con-
comparisons, and benchmarks, quality en- cern for gathering useful information to sup-
hancement relies more on nuances of judg- port program improvement, program eval-
ment that are often bst captured qualita- uation and QA now overlap and find
tively through case studies and cross-case common ground. Accountability demands
comparisons. can be well served, in part, by evidence that
Traditionally, given their different ori- programs are improving.
gins, program evaluation and QA have had Both accountability and program im-
different emphases. These differences are provement require comprehensive program
summarized in Exhibit 4.1. information systems. We've learned that
The distinctions between QA and pro- such systems should be designed with the
gram evaluation have lost much of their im- direct involvement of intended users; that
portance as both functions have expanded. information systems should be focused on
Program evaluation has come to pay much criticai success factors (not data on every
more attention to program processes, imple- variable a software expert can dream up);
mentation issues, and qualitative data. QA that systems should be streamlined with
has come to pay much more attention to out- utility in mind; and that program improve-
comes, aggregate data, and cumulative in- ment systems benefit from both qualitative
formation over time. What has driven the and quantitative information, both case data
developments in both program evaluation and aggregate data. Indeed, harking back to
and QAand what now makes them more the opening discussion about total quality
similar than differentis concern about pro- management and continuous quality im-
gram improvement and gathering really provement, the systems that support such
useful information. Both functions had their efforts began with a heavy emphasis on sta-
origins in demands for accountability. QA tistical process control and "objective" indi-
began with a heavy emphasis on quality cators of performance, but have come in-

creasingly to value qualitative perspectives on focuses on what spelling means to the stu-
quality. It turns out that one of the particular dent. How is spelling integrated into the
strengths of qualitative inquiry, perhaps student's approach to writing? How does
commonsensically, is illuminating the na- the student think about spelling, approach
ture and meaning of quality in particular spelling, feel about spelling? The answer to
contexts. This takes on added significance such questions requires description of indi-
since "quality of life has become a com- vidual students' perspectives and situations
monly used concept and is showing grow- such that the meaning of the experience for
ing significance in economic and political the students is elucidated.
terms . . . [and] has two aspects, psychologi- The same distinction holds with regard to
cal and environmental, [yet] some research- programs that emphasize deinstitution-
ers have totally neglected the perception of alizationfor example, community mental
the people" (Turksever and Atalik 2001:163). health programs, community corrections,
There are many aspects of program oper- and community-based programs for the el-
ations, includmg implementation activities derly. It is possible to count the number of
and client outcomes, that can be measured in people placed in the community. It is possi-
terms of relative quantity. It makes sense to ble even to measure on standardized scales
count the number of people who enter a pro- certain attributes of their lives and liveli-
gram, the number who leave the program, hoods. It is possible to have them subjec-
and the number who receive or report some tively rate various aspects and dimensions
concrete benefit from the program. How- of quality of life. However, to fully grasp the
ever, many attributes of programs do not meaning of a change in life for particular
lend themselves to counting. Even the quan- persons it is necessary to develop a descrip-
titative scaling of quality attributes is an in- tion of life quality that integrates interde-
adequate way of capturing either program pendent dimensions of quality into a whole
quality or the effect of a program on the that is placed in context: What is their daily
quality of life experienced by participants life like? Who do they interact with? How do
during and after the program. they perceive their lives? How do they make
For example, school outcomes can be sense of what they experience? What do they
looked at both in terms of quantity of change say about the path they are on? How do they
and quality of change. Quantity of change talk about their quality of life? What do they
may involve the number of books read; a compare themselves to when deciding how
score on a standardized achievement test; well they're doing? These are areas of quali-
the number of words spelled correctly; and tative inquiry that support quality enhance-
the number of interactions with other stu- ment efforts and insights.
dents, the teacher, or people of a different Quality has to do with nuance, with de-
race. Each of these outcomes has a corre- tail, and with the subtle and unique things
sponding quality dimension that requires that make a difference between the points on
description rather than scaling. Thus, to find a standardized scale. In-depth quality de-
out what it means to a student to have read a scriptions can illuminate what the lives and
certain number of books is an issue of qual- perspectives of two different people are like,
ity. How those books affected the student one of whom responded on a scale of 5
personally and intellectually is a question of pomts that an experience was "highly satis-
quality. In contrast to counting the correct factory," while the other responded that it
number of words spelled, the quality issue was an "extremely satisfying" experience.
Particular!}/ Appropriate Qualitative Applications j. 151

This is not a question of interval versus ordi- ability-driven evaluation. The accountabil-
nal scaling, but one of meanings. What do ity movement is not so much about achiev-
programs mean to participants? What is the ing quality (the previous section) as it is
quality of their experiences? Answers to about demonstrating responsible use of
such questions require detailed, in-depth, public funds to achieve politically desired
and holistic descriptions that represent peo- results. The U.S. Government Performance
ple in their own terms and that get close and Results Act (GPRA) of 1994 mandates
enough to the situation being studied to un- outcomes reporting by government agen-
derstand firsthand the nuances of quality. cies. Philanthropic foundations are de-
The failure to find statistically significant manding outcomes evaluation (Porter and
differences in comparing people on some Kramer 1999) as are health care systems
outcome measure does not mean that there (Morse, Penrod, and Hupcey 2000). Indeed,
are no important differences among those in every arena of actionhealth, education,
people on those outcomes. The differences criminal justice, employment, mtemational
may simply be qualitative rather than quan- developmentemphasis has shifted from
titative. A carpenter is reported to have ex- providing services to attaining priority out-
plained this point to William James. The car- comes. A good example of this emphasis is
penter, having worked for many different the widely used United Way (1996) manual
people, observed, "There is very little differ- Measuring Program Outcomes:
ence between one man and another; but
what little there is, is very important." Those In growing numbers, service providers, gov-
differences are differences of quality. ernments, other funders, and the public are
calling for clearer evidence that the resources
they expanded actually produce benefits for
Evaluation Applications people. Consumers of services and volunteers
who provide services want to know that pro-
Outcomes Evaluation grams to which they devote their time really
make a difference. That is, they want better ac-
For programs engaged in healing, transforma- countability for the use of resources. One clear
tion, and prevention, the best source and form and compelling answer to the question of
of information are client stories. It is through "Why measure outcomes?" is: To see if pro-
these stories that we discover how program grams really make a difference in the lives of
staff interact with clients, with other service people. (p. 4)
providers, and with family and friends of their
clients to contribute to outcomes, and how the However, reading this manual one would
clients, themselves, grow and change in re- think that the only way to docurnent out-
sponse to program inputs and other forces and comes attainment is with numbers. The fo-
factors in their lives. There is a ricliness here cus is entirely on numerical indicators of
that numbers alone cannot capture. It is only outcomes and statistics in accomplishments.
for a story not worth telling, due to its inherent Percentage increases in desired outcomes
simplicity, that numbers will suffice. (Kibel (e.g., higher achievement test scores) and
1999:13) percentage decreases in undesirable out-
comes (e.g., reductions in rates of child
Outcomes evaluation has become a cen- abuse and neglect) are important to provide
tral focus, if not the central focus, of account- concrete evidence of overall patterns of ef-

fectiveness. What such statistics cannot do, behind the numbers, capture unintended
however, is show the human faces behind impacts and ripple effects, and illuminate
the numbers. This is important to provide dimensions of desired outcomes that are dif-
criticai context when interpreting statistical ficult to quantify (e.g., what it means for
outcomes as well as to make sure that the someone to become "self-sufficient"). Such
numbers can be understood as representing qualitative data can add significantly to sta-
meaningful changes in the lives of real peo- tistical reporting to create a more compre-
ple. hensive accountability system.
In an adult literacy program, the test re- Detailed case studies can be even more
sults showed an average increase of 2.7 important when evaluating outcomes at-
grade leveis over a three-month period. The tainment for program improvement (as op-
people in this sample included posed to externai accountability reporting).
To simply know that a targeted indicator has
a Puerto Rican man who was learning to been met (or not met) provides little infor-
read English so that he could help his ma tion for program improvement. Getting
young daughter with schoolwork; into case details better illuminates what
worked and didn't work along the journey
an 87-year-old African American grand-
to outcomesthe kind of understanding a
mother who, having worked hard
program needs to undertake improvement
throughout her life to make sure that her
children and grandchildren completed
Exhibit 4.2 (p. 155) presents highlights of
school, was now attending to her own
a case study from an employment training
education so that she could read the
program. In addition to illuminating what
Bible herself; and
the outcome of a "job placement" actually
a manager in a local corporation who meant to a particular participant, the case
years earlier had lied on her job applica- documents attainment of hard-to-measure
tion about having a high school diploma outcomes such as "understanding the
and was now studying at night to attain a American workplace culture" and "speak-
general equivalency diploma (GED). ing up for oneself" that can be criticai to
long-term job success for an emigrant like
the woman in the story.
In judging the effectiveness of this pro-
We'11 return to the theme of documenting
gram and making decisions about its future,
outcomes through stories near the end of
it can be as important to understand the sto-
this chapter in the Capturing and Communi-
ries behind the numbers as to have the statis-
cating Stories section. The next section, how-
tics themselves. One can justifiably criticize
ever, looks at the special capacity of qualita-
the past reporting practices of many human
tive inquiry to document individualized
service agencies for having been limited to
outcomes in programs that especially value
successful anecdotes with no accountability
reporting on overall patterns of the effective-
ness. However, swinging the pendulum to
the other extreme of only reporting aggre- Evaluating Individualized
gate statistics presents its own problems and Outcomes
limitations. Numbers are subject to selection
and distortion no less than anecdotes. Individualization means matching pro-
Well-crafted case studies can tell the stories gram services and treatments to the needs of
Particularhj Appropriate Qualitative Applications lj. 153

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individual clients. Successful social and ed- staff are justifiably reluctant to generate
ucational programs adapt their interven- standardized criteria and scales against
tions to the needs and circumstances of spe- which ali clients are compared. They argue
cific individuais and families (Schorr that their evaluation needs are for documen-
1988:257). Flexibility, adaptability, and indi- tation of the unique outcomes of individual
vidualization can be important to the effec- clients rather than for measures of outcomes
tiveness of educational and human service standardized across ali clients.
programs. Highly individualized programs There are numerous examples of indi-
operate under the assumption that out- vidualized programs or treatments. Open
comes will be different for different clients. education, for example, is partly a model
Not only will outcomes vary along specific of educational processes that assumes that
common dimensions, but outcomes will be the outcomes of education for each child
qualitatively different and will involve qual- are unique. Open and experiential ap-
itatively different dimensions for different proaches to education offer diverse activi-
clients. Under such conditions, program ties to achieve diverse and individualized
Particularhj Appropriate Qualitative Applications lj. 155

Behind the Numbers of an Employment Program:

The Story of Li

Outcome Statistics
Completed WORK program, stayed in job placement one year.
Highest wage before WORK program, $8.25 without benefits; wage following WORK
program completion, $11.75 with benefits, more than a 42% increase.
Graduated from technical school with a 3.66 GPA (out of 4.0)
TABE test (math and language skills): reading, 7th grade equivaient; language,
4th grade; spelling, 10.6; math computation, 12.9highest score possible, and applied
math, 9.9. Average increase: 5.4 grade leveis.
Participation data: attended 89 classes at WORK, missed 6 and was late to 1.

Outcome Story
Li entered the employment program called deserted her. She found a cleaning job at a
"WORK" two years after she arrived in the bakery and iater at a hotel. Li had always be-
United States from Vietn m. As a recentimmi- lieved that through education she would get
grant, Li faced language and cultural barriers ahead, so she again took up the study of ac-
at school, at work, and in her day-to-day living. counting, begun in Vietnam, by enrolling in a
She was originaUy from Saigon City, where she local technical coliege four months after arriv-
tookthe nationaltestto study atthe university ing in the United States. After two years in the
but failed both times she took it. She gained United States, she found a data entry job for a
entrance to the Vietnmese Technical Coliege, retail business where she received $8.25 per
where she completed a degree in payroll and hour without benefits. She ost that job when
human resources when she was 23. She soon she had to stay home for a week to care for her
went to work for a Vietnamese company as an very sick daughter. She then went on welfare.
accountant. Li first heard about the employment pro-
Li married a man from North Vietnam de- gram, WORK, from some friends at the techni-
spite her family's opposition. Li and her hus- cal coliege. She entered and concentrated on
band were not accepted in either of their par- improving her English, technical skills, and as-
ents' homes, even though tradition calls for sertiveness with support from program staff.
the married couple to live in the home of the WORK provided tuition assistance, cost-of-
husband's parents. As a result, the couple living support, and bus passes. She also re-
rented a small room where they struggled to ceived tutoring in accounting (1.5 hours per
improve their lives. Shortly after the birth of week) from the program's accountant. The
their daughter, the couple discovered thatthey program secured for her a work experience
might be eligible to go to the United States be- placement ata local bankata rate of $7.25 per
cause the U.S. government was granting visas hour. This work environment proved very
to former officers of the Vietnamese army. Af- stressful because her language skills were in-
ter successfuliy negotiating the difficultappli- adequate and she was teased and harassed by
cation and emigration process, they arrived in other workers.
Minnesota where they knew no one. Accord- The WORK program supported her leaving
ing to Li, her husband began treating her very the bank job so that she could more intensively
badly. He immediately got a job but would not study business English, refine her workplace
give her any financial support Within a year he communications skills, and enhance her ac-


m#4nmm*M contmued

counting software skills. The program case re- found it important to learn interviewing
cords show that at times she expressed feel- skills, since the interview is not common in
ings of hopelessness. Her staff worker Vietnam. She emphasized that WORK played
counseied her to focus on ali the barriers that a criticai role in helping her find a profes-
she had overcome by moving to this country sional job in "American corporate culture,"
and her hopes for a positive future for her explaining, "I compare myself with my friends
daughter. The program supported her return to at the Tech College and even now they don't
the technical college where she graduated have a job. If I didn't have WORK, I probably
with dual diplomas n accounting and data en- wouldn't have a job either." The program staff
try. Shortly thereafter, she began interviewing emphasized the challenges Li faced in gain-
for jobs. She went through more than seven in- ing confidence and learning how to speak up
terviews with different companies before she for herself, issues that the staff continued to
received a final job offerof an accounting posi- work on with her after her job placement.
tion at a retail firm. She said that she had ex- Li believes that WORK played a vital role in
pected more help with placement from the supporting her to overcome the challenges in
program than she got. According to WORK her life. She said, "I can talk to staff about any
staff, there was some confusion about their problem-about my job, money, and my
role in finding a placement for participants. At daughter. I talk to them to figure things out
any rate, Li persevered and felt good about the and solve problems. Even now that I have a
result: "Even though I failed many interviews job, I call and get help from staff." She re-
and I thought I might never get a job, ali the counted getting help dealing with a fellow
staff encouraged me to keep trying. They worker who was making life difficult for her.
talked to me about my good qualities. They Program staff talked her through the process
were ali positive, not negative. In the end, they of discussing the situation with her supervi-
really helped me get a good job even though I sor and getting help to resolve the situation.
didn't understand the mitsof their role at the Li said, "Even though I wasn't successful at
time." home with my husband, I feel like WORK is
While her language and math tests showed my family now. It makes people feel safe here.
great improvement (from elementary-ievel re- The staff encourages us to go forward. If
sults to high school-level results over the there is a problem, they help us solve it. The
two-year period in WORK), Li says that what important thing is that we treat each other
was most important was what she learned at like a family. I iearned so many things here.
WORK about how to be professional in the Things I can't get n school. I learned inter-
workplace and how "to mesh with American view skills, workplace skills, empowerment
culture." Li specifically mentioned that she skills. I learned English that is more effective

outcomes. Moreover, the outcomes of hav- a field trip, follow ed by dictating stories to
ing engaged in a single activity may be quite the teachers and volunteers about that field
different for different students. For example, trip, and then learning to read their stories.
a group of primary school students may take For some students such a process may in-
Particular!}/ Appropriate Qualitative Applications j. 157

on a professional levei for communication. Li feels that her primary challenge is the
WORK helps us not be afraid. They gave me a fact that she is a "foreigner." She says, "An
computer and some cost-of-living support, and American learns one thing and I have to learn
they paid fora pronunciation class. They heped double. I'm slower than another American
me so much." worker, because it's ali new for me."
A friend of Li's interviewed for this case According to Li, her "life has changed a lot
study reported that WORK was "especiaily because of WORK." She explained that before
helpful to Li in making the adjustmentfrom her she received WORK support, it was hard to
culture to this cuture. It was a touchstone for imagine herseif in a professional position in
her. It helped her in her adapting. It was vital." an office environment in this country. Li
Li now works full time. She wakes at 5:30 a.m., noted, "I was so excited to get an office job. It
catches the bus at 6:30, arrives at work at is the luckiest thing in my life, and the biggest
7:30, and begins work at 8:00. She works until challenge." According to Li, one resut of her
4:30 p.m. and immediately takes the bus,arriv- effort with WORK is that she feels she can talk
ing home at 5:30. Several times a week, Li and interact with anyone at work or in the
swims after work at a local community pool. community.She's moresecurein dealing with
Each evening she prepares dinner for her others and has more confidence in herseif. in
daughterand helps her with her homework. Af- addition, Li is abie to manage her own finan-
ter her daughter goes to bed, Li frequently ciai situation and make confident decisions
works on her computer to improve her skills, or about raising her daughter. Her interactions
does other self-study. with her daughter have improved and she says
Li says that she is still working on communi- thatsheis no longerashamed of herdivorce.
cating better in the workplace. Her supervisor Li's future includes short-term and long-
said in an interview:"Weencouraged hertobe- term goals. In the short term, she would like
come more assertive. We wanted her to know to save money to buy the software for Pro-
that it'5 okay to stand up for herseif. It's okay to fessional Payroli Accounting, complete the
be more assertive. It's the American way. She's training, and move nto payroli accounting.
learning." Her job supervisor continued: "WORK She doesn't see herseif staying at her cur-
has been here a couple of times to sit and talk rent company for more than several years.
with myself and the personnel manager when Eventually, she would like to go back to
we were having difficulty with Li and one school to become a CPA and increase her in-
coworker. We wanted their input on what to do. come to support herseif and her daughter.
So we ali kind of worked together to try and One day, Li hopes to travei to Vietnam to visit
solve the problem. They worked really well with her mother.
us and are continuing to do so."

volve learning about the mechanics of lan- cess may be learning how to spell certain
guage: sentence structure, parts of speech, words. For other students the important out-
and verb conjugation, for example. For other come may be having generated an idea from
students the major outcome of such a pro- a particular experience. For yet other stu-

dents the important outcome may have been have. However, in programs that empha-
something that was learned in the exercise size individualization of treatment and out-
or experience itself, such as knowledge eomes, program staff may argue, quite justi-
about the firehouse or the farm that was vis- fiably, that independence has a different
ited. Other students may become more artic- meaning for different people under differ-
ulate as a result of the dietation exercise. Still ent life condi tions. Thus, for example, for
other students may have learned to read one person independence may have to do
better as a result of the reading part of the ex- with a changing family dynamic and
ercise. The criticai point is that a common ac- changed relationships with parents. For an-
tivity for ali students can result in drasti- other person independence may have to do
cally different outeomes for different with nonfamily relationshipsthat is, inter-
students depending on how they approach actions with persons of the opposite sex, so-
the experience, what their unique needs cial activities, and friendships. For still other
were, and which part of the activity they clients the dominant motif in independence
found most stimulating. Educators involved may have to do with employment and eco-
in individualized approaches, then, need nomic factors. For still others it has to do
evaluation methods thatpermit documenta- with learning to live alone. While clients in
tion of a variety of outeomes, and they resist each case may experience a similar psycho-
measuring the success of complex, individu- therapeutic intervention process, the mean-
alized learning experiences by any limited ing of the outeomes for their personal lives
set of standardized outcome measures (e.g., will be quite different. What program staff
improved reading scores, better spelling, or wants to document under such conditions is
more knowledge about some specific sub- the unique meaning of the outeomes for
ject). Qualitative case studies offer a method each client. Staff members need descriptive
for capturing and reporting individualized information about what a client's life was
outeomes. like on entering treatment, the client's re-
A similar case can be made with regard to sponse to treatment, and what the clienfs
the individualization of leadership develop- life was like following treatment. They also
ment, criminal justice, community mental want to report documented outeomes
health, job training, welfare, and health pro- within the context of a clienfs life for "suc-
grams. Take, for example, the goal of in- cessful programs see the child in the context ofthe
creased independence among a group of cli- family and the family in the context of its sur-
ents receiving treatment in a community roundings" (Schorr 1988:257). Such descrip-
mental health center. It is possible to con- tive information results in a set of individual
struct a test or checklist that can be adminis- case studies. By combining these case histo-
tered to a large group of people measuring ries, it is possible to construct an overview of
their relative degrees of independence. In- the patterns of outeomes for a particular
deed, such tests exist. They typically involve treatment facility or modality.
checking off what kind of activities a person The more a program moves beyond train-
takes responsibility for, such as personal hy- ing in standard basic competencies to more
giene, transportation, initiatives in social in- individualized development, the more qual-
teraction, food preparation, and so on. In itative case studies willbe needed to capture
many programs, measuring such criteria in the range of outeomes attained. A leader-
a standardized fashion provides the infor- ship program that focuses on basic concepts
mation that program staff would like to of planning, budgeting, and communica-
Particular!}/ Appropriate Qualitative Applications j. 159

tions skills may be able to measure outcomes means that actively involving people in the
with a standardized instrument. But a lead- development process is an end in itself, not
ership program that engages in helping par- just a means to some more concrete end; the
ticipants think in systems terms about how process is the point rather than simply the
to find leverage points and intervention means of arriving at some other point. The
strategies to transform their own organiza- journey, not the destina tion, is what matters.
tions will need case studies of the actual For example, a planning process for a com-
transforma tion efforts undertaken by partic- munity or organization may be carried out
ipants, for their individual endeavors are with a heavy emphasis on participation and
likely to vary significantly. One may be the involvement such that building relation-
director of a small community-based non- ships and mutual understandings along the
profit organization. Another may be a mid- way is at least as important as the focus of
dle-level government manager. Still another the actual plan produced. The process, in
may be part of a large national organization. such a case, becomes the outcome. That is,
"Transforma tion" will mean very different producing a plan (the apparent intended
things in these different settings. Under such outcome) actually becomes a means to
circumstances, qualitative case study meth- building community (the real desired out-
ods and design strategies canbe particularly come).
useful for evaluation of individualized par- In contrast, other interventions and pro-
ticipant outcomes and organization-level grams play down process. The emphasis is
impacts. on results and outcomes. Even in these
cases, however, some process is undertaken
Process Studies to achieve results and understanding the
A focus on process involves looking at process-outcomes relationship necessitates
how something happens rather than or in ad- documenting and understanding processes.
dition to examining outputs and outcomes.
Evaluations vary in their emphasis on pro- Process evaluations study process. Qualitative
cess in part because programs vary in their inquiry is highly appropriate for studying
attention to process. Some therapy ap- process because (1) depicting process re-
proaches in psychology are highly process quires detailed descriptions of how people
oriented in that they focus on the relation- engage with each other, (2) the experience of
ship between the client and therapist, how process typically varies for different people
the client is approaching issues, how the cli- so their experiences need to be captured in
ent feels about the process, and the nature of their own words, (3) process is fluid and dy-
the interactions that occur during therapy, namic so it can't be fairly summarized on a
rather than focusing only or primarily on be- single rating sale at one point in time, and
havioral outcomes. Groups, programs, even (4) participants' perceptions are a key pro-
entire organizations may be characterized as cess consideration.
highly "process oriented" if how members Process evaluations aim at elucidating
and participants feel about what is happen- and understanding the internai dynamics of
ing is given as much attention as the results how a program, organization, or relation-
achieved. There are styles of community and ship operates. Process studies focus on the
organizational development that operate on following kinds of questions: What are the
the premise "What we do is no more impor- things people experience that make this pro-
tant than how we do it." This statement gram what it is? How are clients brought

into the program, and how do they move A process study is especially approprate
through the program once they are partici- when the following kinds of statements are
pants? How is what people do related to made about some intervention, relationship,
what they're trying to (or actually do) ac- organization, or program:
complish? What are the strengths and weak-
nesses of the program from the perspective We take people through a developmental pro-
of participants and staff? What is the nature cess made up of a series of steps or phases.
of staff-client interactions?
The nature of our process is what makes us
A process evaluation requires sensitivity
to both qualitative and quantitative changes
in programs throughout their development, We are a very process-oriented place.
which typically means monitoring and de-
scribing the details of the program's imple- We need to spend more time processing
mentation. Process evaluations not only whafs going on.
look at formal activities and anticipated out- I'm having trouble getting a handle on the pro-
comes, but they also investigate informal cess.
patterns and unanticipated interactions. A
variety of perspectives may be sought from What is the process? Is it the same for every-
people with dissimilar relationships to the one? Is the process working for people?
program, that is, inside and outside sources.
Process data permit judgments about the A good example of what can emerge from
extent to which the program or organization a process study comes from an evaluation of
is operating the way it is supposed to be op- the efforts of outreach workers at a prenatal
erating, revealing areas in which relation- clinic in a low-income neighborhood. The
ships can be improved as well as highlight- outreach workers were going door to door
ing strengths of the program that should be identifying women, especially teenagers, in
preserved. Process descriptions are also use- need of prenatal care in order to get them
ful in permitting people not intimately in- into the community prenatal clinic. Instead
volved in a programfor example, externai of primarily doing recruiting, however, the
funders, public officials, and externai agen- process evaluation found that the outreach
ciesto understand how a program oper- workers were spending a great deal of time
ates. This permits such externai persons to responding to immediate problems they
make more intelhgent decisions about the were encountering, for example, need for rat
program. Formative evaluations aimed at control, need for EngHsh as a second lan-
program improvement often rely heavily on guage classes, and protection from neglect,
process data. Finally, process evaluations are abuse, or violence (Philliber 1989). The ac-
particularly useful for dissemination and tual interactions that resulted from the
replication of model interventions where a door-to-door contacts turned out to be sig-
program has served as a demonstration pro- nificantiy different from the way the
ject or is considered to be a model worthy of door-to-door process was designed and con-
replication at other sites. By describing and ceptualized. These findings, which emerged
understanding the details and dynamics of from interviews and observations, had im-
program processes, it is possible to isolate portant implications for staff recruitment
criticai elements that have contributed to and training, and for how much time needed
program successes and failures. to be allocated to cover a neighborhood.
Particular!}/ Appropriate Qualitative Applications j. 161

Implementation Evaluation evaluating outcomes. Where outcomes are

evaluated without knowledge of implemen-
A prominent theme running through the tation, the results seldom provide a direction
preceding sections is that qualitative meth- for action because the decision maker lacks
ods are particularly useful for capturing information about what produced the ob-
differences among people and programs. served outcomes (or lack of outcomes). Pure
Evaluating mdividualized outcomes, devel- pre-post outcomes evaluation is the "empty
oping unique case studies of people and pro- box" approach to evaluation.
grams, and documenting the local diversity One important way of studying program
within national or statewide programs implementation is to gather detailed, de-
these are evaluation research issues for scriptive information about what the pro-
which qualitative strategies are particularly gram is doing. Implementation evaluations
appropriate. This section looks more closely answer the following kinds of questions:
at the appropriateness of qualitative meth- What do clients in the program experience?
ods for evaluating program implementa- What services are provided to clients? What
tion. does staff do? What is it like to be m the pro-
It is important to know the extent to gram? How is the program organized? As
which a program is effective after it is fully these questions indicate, implementation
implemented, but to answer that question it evaluation includes attention to inputs, ac-
is important to learn the extent to which the tivities, processes, and structures.
program was actually implemented. In his Implementation evaluations tell decision
seminal study Social Program Implementation, makers what is going on in the program,
Walter Williams (1976) concluded, "The lack how the program has developed, and how
of concern for implementation is currently and why programs deviate from initial
the crucial impediment to improving com- plans and expectations. Such deviations are
plex operating programs, policy analysis, quite common and natural, as demon-
and experimenta tion in social policy areas" strated in the findings of RAND's classic
(p. 267). "Change Agent Study" of 293 federal pro-
In Utilization-Focused Evaluation (Patton grams supporting educational change
1997a), I suggested that if one had to choose (McLaughlin 1976). That study found that
between implementation information and national programs are implemented incre-
outcomes information because of limited mentally by adapting to local conditions, or-
evaluation resources, there are many in- ganizational dynamics, and programmatic
stances in which implementation informa- uncertainties.
tion would be of greater value. A decision
maker can use implementation information Where implementation was successful, and
to make sure that a policy is being put into where significant change in participant atti-
opera tion according to designor to test the tudes, skills, and behavior occurred, imple-
very feasibility of the policy. Unless one mentation was characterized by a process of
knows that a program is operating accord- mutual adaptation in which project goals and
ing to design, there may be little reason to ex- methods were modified to suit the needs and
pect it to produce the desired outcomes. Fur- interests of the local staff and in which the staff
thermore, until the program is implemented changed to meet the requirements of the pro-
and a "treatment" is believed to be in opera- ject. This finding was true even for highly
tion, there may be little reason even to bother technological and initially well-specified pro-

jects; unless adaptations were rnade in the The Follow Through data analysis
original plans or technologies, implementa- showed greater within-group variation than
tion tended to be superficial or symbolic, and between-group variation; that is, the 22
significant change in participants did not oc- models failed to show treatment effects as
cur. (McLaughlin 1976:169) such. Most effects were null, some were neg-
ative, but "of ali our findings, the most per-
If a process of ongoing adaptation to local vasive, consistent, and suggestive is proba-
conditions characterizes program imple- bly this: The effectiveness of each Follow
mentation, then the methods used to study Through model depended more on local circum-
implementation should correspondingly be stances than on the nature ofthe model" (Ander-
open-ended, discovery oriented, and capa- son 1977:13). The evaluators, however,
ble of describing developmental processes failed to study the local circumstances that
and program changes. Qualitative methods affected variations in program implementa-
are ideally suited to the task of describing tion and outcomes. "Little remains in the ex-
such program implementation. isting Follow Through evaluation that spe-
Failure to monitor and describe the cifically addresses the problem of how well,
nature of implementation, case by case, pro- and by what process, program models are
gram by program, can render useless stan- implemented" (Elmore 1976:119).
dardized, quantitative measures of program
The study of these important program
outcomes. The national evaluation of Follow
implementation questions requires case
Through was a prime example of this point.
data rich with the details of program content
Follow Through was a planned variation
and context. Because it is impossible to an-
"experiment" in compensatory education
ticipate in advance how programs will
featuring 22 different models of education to
adapt to local conditions, needs, and inter-
be tested in 158 school districts on 70,00 chil-
ests, it is impossible to anticipate what stan-
dren throughout the nation. The evalua-
dardized quantities could be used to capture
tion alone employed 3,000 people to collect
the essence of each program's implementa-
data on program effectiveness. The
tion. Under these evaluation conditions, a
multimillion-dollar evaluation focused al-
strategy of naturalistic inquiry is particu-
most entirely on standardized outcomes
larly appropriate. For a more extensive dis-
aimed at making possible comparisons of
cussion of evaluating program implementa-
the effectiveness of the 22 models. It was as-
tion, see King, Morris, and Fitz-Gibbon
sumed in the evaluation plan that models
(1987) and Patton (1997a: Chapter 9).
could be and would be implemented in
some systematic, uniform fashion. Eugene
Tucker (1977) of the U.S. Office of Education, Logic Models and
however, has poignantly described the error Theories of Action
of this assumption:

It is safe to say that evaluators did not know A logic model or theory of action depicts,
what was implemented in the various sites. usually in graphic form, the connections be-
Without knowing what was implemented it is tween program inputs, activities and pro-
virtually impossible to select valid effective- cesses (implementation), outputs, immedi-
ness measures. . . . Hindsight is a marvelous ate outcomes, and long-term impacts. For
teacher and in large scale experimentations an example, the classic educational model of
expensive one. (pp. 11-12) the popular DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance
Particular!}/ Appropriate Qualitative Applications j. 163

Education) program in schools followed the

following simple logic model: (1) Recruit rNE \M\C M . ! CHAUNiat
and train select police officers (inputs) to
teach children the dangers of drug use; (2) " M ii!?:-!-.)!!-.'!- W J + L V C T I i'n:i":=::=:i'i-:i)-': ! ME"

have the police, in uniform, teach children in . ^i^ !;!!;'!^ !:*!'! ntf'rf"tCC!
special classes in school (implementation); LHI=.II'!;!:!!-!.!! s"ii i i I . i ! .Vi i V i : : ! " i ! A ? . : : $::-:R? T

and, as a result, the children will (3) find the ; liVri'!! !.^! ^i-i...: ' \ !i::: i !=
j IV! !! rc - i fr~
teaching credible (process evaluation) and i !1 !: ! !l=!i'!:i>.!.!i C L T I !
-ctMij,: K V < : v : s * c

(4) learn facts about drugs (cognitive out- = HtHn! jiH;!"' li 1i n t !:-i strt. d: =.<. ! '=.
come), which will (5) convince them not to I s*i-5|f=ia "tf SI'-!! a mn
j mmh i'i.!.' i! tiiv' rs ! -Vr -
use drugs (attitude change outcome), which iLVi-if rn ii;'iVi'M!riLvE i l ! M k ftV!."'i :ij-i!!;:v

will (6) result in students not using drugs iM M ii r !:i.'i! i' , r ' i ; V ! i ' ,'i Vift.":.! k . l . ' ! 1 ; IJ! : 1.-S-." i

(behavior change outcome), which will ulti- : tWWiMU" !"Su^iiU- 1!:''!:Y.

mately show up in community indicators

showing less drug use (impact). At least that
was the model, or theory. In practice, evalua-
tions of DARE consistently showed that the gram staff, administrators, and evaluation
theory didn't work in practice. researchers spent a day together working on
Attention to program theory has become a logic model for a program, Road to Recov-
a major focus of evaluation research (see ery, that transported cncer patients to treat-
Rogers et al. 2000), and with that attention ment. As a result of thorough contextual
has come some confusion about terminol- analysis and interviews with key infor-
ogy. I distinguish a logic model from a the- mants, including patients and volunteer
ory of change. The only criterion for a logic drivers, the program was reconceptualized
model is that it be, well, lo