Doing Qualitative Research
Avoiding Misunderstandings

Edward G. Rozycki, Ed. D.

edited 8/19/11


CAUTION: It is very important to realize...

that qualitative research NEED NOT involve any use of statistical procedures. Consequently, NONE of the concerns we have when quantitative procedures are used may be pertinent. NONE of the following questions need be answered with a yes:

a. Has the size of the target population been determined? (i.e. N = ?)

b. Can variables be defined? Are they nominal variables? Can they be ordered? Can an interval scale be used? Can a rational scale be used?

c. Is the population under observation representative of a particular larger population?

d. Need we assume that population characteristics are normally or near-normally distributed?

e. Is the methodology clearly spelled out in advance of data collection?

f. Is the literature review exhaustively researched prior to developing a methodology?

g. Does the dissertation have the typical five-chapter layout: 1) justification, 2) literature review, 3) methodology, 4) results, 5) discussion & recommendations?



An Introduction from

COLMR, The Center for Leadership and Management Research

What are the uses and value of qualitative research?

Qualitative research is characterized by an emphasis on describing, understanding, and explaining complex phenomena - on studying, for example, the relationships, patterns and configurations among factors; or the context in which activities occur. The focus is on understanding the full multi-dimensional, dynamic picture of the subject of study.

Its approaches contrast with quantitative methods that aim to divide phenomena into manageable, clearly defined pieces, or variables. Quantification is good for separating phenomena into distinct and workable elements of a well-defined conceptual framework. But when we focus research on what we already know how to quantify, (e.g., what can be reliably quantified), we may miss factors that are key to a real understanding of the phenomena being studied. The downside of quantification is that it does not always support (as well as qualitative methods) understanding of complex, dynamic, and multi-dimensional wholes.

Qualitative methods are useful, not only in providing rich descriptions of complex phenomena, but in constructing or developing theories or conceptual frameworks, and in generating hypotheses to explain those phenomena.

More questions answered by COLMR at:

What are the methodological challenges in qualitative research?

What are some key qualitative research methods?

What is the role of qualitative research in hypothesis testing?

Informative Sources

Qualitative Research Methods in Education
Dr. Antonia D'Onofrio's ED714 webpage

The Dissertation Doctor
Qualitative Dissertation Outline

Qualitative Measures
Qualitative research is a vast and complex area of methodology ...

The Qualitative Report - Qualitative Research Web Sites
Case Study Method and Qualitative Research Page
... University of Toronto's Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research Methodology
The Many Methods of Qualitative Research

There are many more to be found on-line about this important approach to research.