Qualitative research

qualitative research
issues and suggestions
Albert Boonstra
June 28th 2012
My perspective
Most of my own research is qualitative. I study IS implementation
processes in their context.
Conducting qualitative research is difficult, but also challenging and
Associate editor of ISJ, a journal specialized in qualitative research
(v. good category).
The ISJ encourages submissions that reflect the wide and interdisciplinary
nature of the subject and articles that integrate technological disciplines
with social, contextual and management issues, based on research using
any appropriate research method. The ISJ has particularly built its
reputation by publishing qualitative research and it continues to welcome
such papers
Contents (20 minutes)
Qualitative research
Five common problems
Five comments from reviewers
Five suggestions for qualitative researchers
Some concerns and ideas
Qualitative research
Aims at understanding real life situations
Suitable for the business and management domain,
where academic research is often criticized for its lack of relevance
Results do often catch attention because it describes and analyses a
rich story
What is qualitative research? (1)
Seeking understanding by talking to people, focus on text.
Engaged with people in real organizations
Based on the notion that knowledge is context dependent
Data are approached by questions such as:
-what is happening
-why is it happening
-how has it come to happen, and
-when did it happen
What is qualitative research? (2)
Includes a broad category of partially overlapping research types,
including action research, case study research, ethnography,
grounded theory
Qualitative research can be exploratory, explanatory, developing,
validating or falsifying theories
Five common problems of qualitative research papers
Five common problems of qualitative research papers
Study is not informed by theory, theoretical
contribution is limited or the qualitative data are
not well connected with theory.
Strengths of qualitative research method are not
Research questions do not justify a qualitative
Research method section is not precise and vague.
Writing style Writing, especially the results section is messy,
wordy, not organized around research questions and
hard to comprehend.
Five comments from reviewers
‘..The model is quite narrow, it is hard to build a bridge to the case
A mismatch between a clean model suitable for using quantitative
methods, and the case study, which has a lot of potential richness..’
Link between model and data. Variable model combined
with qualitative approach
Five comments from reviewers
‘..The research method of this research seems to be content
analysis, whereas typical case-studies tend to examine the
context, process and relationships. In fact, most of the data
analysis involves classifying narratives into the framework.. ‘
Limited use of the strengths of a qualitative approach
Five comments from reviewers
‘..In fact, case study is just the right technique. It would be good
to elaborate the time taken for the interviews, the type of
questions asked, more details on the interviewees etc ..’ (ISJ)
More elaborated method section
Five comments from reviewers
‘..This criticism regards the description of the data. While the
paper does provide some quantitative information about the
dataset, more information about the "thickness" of the data
(Geertz, 1973) is required..’ (EJIS)
Rich description of data
Five comments from reviewers
‘..In terms of discussion, I gather that the qualitative data is
interpreted to provide strength to the argument developed.
However, I am not able to find the argument arising from the
data leading to the four groups presented later..’ (ISJ)
Weak link between data and contribution
Five suggestions
Five suggestions
Qualitative research is time-consuming and involves a high
degree of skills and expertise.
Undertake qualitative research as part of a team.
Discuss early versions of your work with people who are able
to provide constructive and developmental feedback.
Five suggestions
Select a candidate journal at the start of the research project (plus
a fall back option).
Study a few very good related qualitative research papers.
Think about candidate research questions and theoretical
contribution right from the start.
Five suggestions
Start writing, right from the start. Writing is thinking.
Develop your writing style. Be to the point, well structured,
Tell a story to the reader, that develops from a motivation and a
question to a conclusion in a logical way.
Remove unnecessary parts, which distract the reader from main
line (baby-killing).
Five suggestions
Research method section is important and not straightforward. Tell
the readers what you did, but also why. Be as transparent as
Five suggestions
Present the data analysis/results in a structured fashion,
close to the research questions. Reviewers dislike the
messy presentation of results of many qualitative research
Lack of adequate courses on qualitative research
Negative bias to qualitative research
Decreasing number of leaders of qualitative approaches
Ideas for our group
In our group we should embrace methodological pluralism
Collaboration of quantitative and qualitative researchers to produce
mixed method papers
Qualitative researchers should collaborate and help each other to
improve quality
Some resources
Dubé and Paré (2003) Rigor in IS positivist case research. MISQ
Hennink, Hutter, Bailey, (2011) Qualitative Research Methods,
Excellenct chapter about writing qualitative research.
Miles and Huberman, (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis, Sage.
Excellent sources
Wolcott, (2001) Writing up qualitative research, Sage.
Focus on writing and publishing qualitative research.
Flyvbjerg (2006), Five misunderstandings about case-study
research, Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2): 219-245.

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