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The diversity of case studies reported in the published literature, and on-going debates about credibility and the use of case study in qualitative research practice, suggests that differences in perspectives on case study methodology may prevent researchers from developing a mutual understanding of practice and rigour.

Methodological discussion of qualitative case study research is timely, and a review is required to analyse and understand how this methodology is applied in the qualitative research literature. The aims of this study were to review methodological descriptions of published qualitative case studies, to review how the case study methodological approach was applied, and to identify issues that need to be addressed by researchers, editors, and reviewers.

An outline of the current definitions of case study and an overview of the issues proposed in the qualitative methodological literature are provided to set the scene for the review. Case study research is an investigation and analysis of a single or collective case, intended to capture the complexity of the object of study Stake, As a study design, case study is defined by interest in individual cases rather than the methods of inquiry used.

The selection of methods is informed by researcher and case intuition and makes use of naturally occurring sources of knowledge, such as people or observations of interactions that occur in the physical space Stake, Multiple data collection and analysis methods are adopted to further develop and understand the case, shaped by context and emergent data Stake, Case study research has been defined by the unit of analysis, the process of study, and the outcome or end product, all essentially the case Merriam, The case is an object to be studied for an identified reason that is peculiar or particular.

Classification of the case and case selection procedures informs development of the study design and clarifies the research question.

Stake proposed three types of cases and study design frameworks. These include the intrinsic case, the instrumental case, and the collective instrumental case. The intrinsic case is used to understand the particulars of a single case, rather than what it represents. An instrumental case study provides insight on an issue or is used to refine theory. The case is selected to advance understanding of the object of interest.

A collective refers to an instrumental case which is studied as multiple, nested cases, observed in unison, parallel, or sequential order. More than one case can be simultaneously studied; however, each case study is a concentrated, single inquiry, studied holistically in its own entirety Stake, , Researchers who use case study are urged to seek out what is common and what is particular about the case.

This involves careful and in-depth consideration of the nature of the case, historical background, physical setting, and other institutional and political contextual factors Stake, An interpretive or social constructivist approach to qualitative case study research supports a transactional method of inquiry, where the researcher has a personal interaction with the case.

The case is developed in a relationship between the researcher and informants, and presented to engage the reader, inviting them to join in this interaction and in case discovery Stake, A postpositivist approach to case study involves developing a clear case study protocol with careful consideration of validity and potential bias, which might involve an exploratory or pilot phase, and ensures that all elements of the case are measured and adequately described Yin, , The future of qualitative research will be influenced and constructed by the way research is conducted, and by what is reviewed and published in academic journals Morse, If case study research is to further develop as a principal qualitative methodological approach, and make a valued contribution to the field of qualitative inquiry, issues related to methodological credibility must be considered.

Researchers are required to demonstrate rigour through adequate descriptions of methodological foundations. Case studies published without sufficient detail for the reader to understand the study design, and without rationale for key methodological decisions, may lead to research being interpreted as lacking in quality or credibility Hallberg, ; Morse, This includes paradigm and theoretical perspectives that have influenced study design.

Without adequate description, study design might not be understood by the reader, and can appear to be dishonest or inaccurate. Reviewers and readers might be confused by the inconsistent or inappropriate terms used to describe case study research approach and methods, and be distracted from important study findings Sandelowski, This issue extends beyond case study research, and others have noted inconsistencies in reporting of methodology and method by qualitative researchers.

Sandelowski , argued for accurate identification of qualitative description as a research approach. She recommended that the selected methodology should be harmonious with the study design, and be reflected in methods and analysis techniques. Similarly, Webb and Kevern uncovered inconsistencies in qualitative nursing research with focus group methods, recommending that methodological procedures must cite seminal authors and be applied with respect to the selected theoretical framework.

Methodological integrity is required in design of qualitative studies, including case study, to ensure study rigour and to enhance credibility of the field Morse, Case study is not an inherently comparative approach to research. The objective is not statistical research, and the aim is not to produce outcomes that are generalizable to all populations Thomas, Comparisons between case study and statistical research do little to advance this qualitative approach, and fail to recognize its inherent value, which can be better understood from the interpretive or social constructionist viewpoint of other authors Merriam, ; Stake, Case study research has been used as a catch-all design to justify or add weight to fundamental qualitative descriptive studies that do not fit with other traditional frameworks Merriam, This has resulted in inconsistency in application, which indicates that flexibility comes with limitations Meyer, , and the open nature of case study research might be off-putting to novice researchers Thomas, The development of a well- in formed theoretical framework to guide a case study should improve consistency, rigour, and trust in studies published in qualitative research journals Meyer, The purpose of this study was to analyse the methodological descriptions of case studies published in qualitative methods journals.

To do this we needed to develop a suitable framework, which used existing, established criteria for appraising qualitative case study research rigour Creswell, b ; Merriam, ; Stake, The criteria proposed by Stake provide a framework for readers and reviewers to make judgements regarding case study quality, and identify key characteristics essential for good methodological rigour.

Although each of the factors listed in Stake's criteria could enhance the quality of a qualitative research report, in Table I we present an adapted criteria used in this study, which integrates more recent work by Merriam and Creswell b. Stake's original criteria were separated into two categories. This second list was the main criteria used to assess the methodological descriptions of the case studies reviewed.

The complete table has been preserved so that the reader can determine how the original criteria were adapted. Adapted from Stake , p. The critical review method described by Grant and Booth was used, which is appropriate for the assessment of research quality, and is used for literature analysis to inform research and practice. A critical review is used to develop existing, or produce new, hypotheses or models.

This is different to systematic reviews that answer clinical questions. The highest ranked journals were selected for searching. The search was limited to the past 5 years 1 January to 1 March The objective was to locate published qualitative case studies suitable for assessment using the adapted criterion.

Viewpoints, commentaries, and other article types were excluded from review. Title and abstracts of the 45 retrieved articles were read by the first author, who identified 34 empirical case studies for review.

All authors reviewed the 34 studies to confirm selection and categorization. In Table III , we present the 34 case studies grouped by journal, and categorized by research topic, including health sciences, social sciences and anthropology, and methods research. Consensus was to allocate to the methods category. In Table III , the number of studies located, and final numbers selected for review have been reported.

In the health category, there were 12 case studies of health conditions, health services, and health policy issues, all published in Qualitative Health Research. Seven case studies were categorized as social sciences and anthropology research, which combined case study with biography and ethnography methodologies. All three journals published case studies on methods research to illustrate a data collection or analysis technique, methodological procedure, or related issue.

The methodological descriptions of 34 case studies were critically reviewed using the adapted criteria. All articles reviewed contained a description of study methods; however, the length, amount of detail, and position of the description in the article varied. Few studies provided an accurate description and rationale for using a qualitative case study approach. In the 34 case studies reviewed, three described a theoretical framework informed by Stake , two by Yin , and three provided a mixed framework informed by various authors, which might have included both Yin and Stake.

Few studies described their case study design, or included a rationale that explained why they excluded or added further procedures, and whether this was to enhance the study design, or to better suit the research question. In 26 of the studies no reference was provided to principal case study authors.

From reviewing the description of methods, few authors provided a description or justification of case study methodology that demonstrated how their study was informed by the methodological literature that exists on this approach. The methodological descriptions of each study were reviewed using the adapted criteria, and the following issues were identified: An outline of how the issues were developed from the critical review is provided, followed by a discussion of how these relate to the current methodological literature.

A third of the case studies reviewed appeared to use a case report method, not case study methodology as described by principal authors Creswell, b ; Merriam, ; Stake, ; Yin, Case studies were identified as a case report because of missing methodological detail and by review of the study aims and purpose.

These reports presented data for small samples of no more than three people, places or phenomenon. Case reports were not a case of something, instead were a case demonstration or an example presented in a report. These reports presented outcomes, and reported on how the case could be generalized.

Descriptions focussed on the phenomena, rather than the case itself, and did not appear to study the case in its entirety. This does not suggest that case study methodology cannot be multimethod, however, methodology should be consistent in design, be clearly described Meyer, ; Stake, , and maintain focus on the case Creswell, b.

To demonstrate how case reports were identified, three examples are provided. The findings were a historical case report, which resulted from an ethnographic study of vegetarianism. This case study reported how digital storytelling can be used with indigenous communities as a participatory method to illuminate the benefits of this method for other studies.

Case selection is a precursor to case analysis, which needs to be presented as a convincing argument Merriam, Descriptions of the case were often not adequate to ascertain why the case was selected, or whether it was a particular exemplar or outlier Thomas, There were exceptions in the methods category Table III , where cases were selected by researchers to report on a new or innovative method.

Possible limitations of a convenience sample were not acknowledged. Purposeful sampling was used to recruit participants within the case of one study, but not of the case itself Gallagher et al. To demonstrate how researchers provided a good justification for the selection of case study approaches, four examples are provided. The final example, Coltart and Henwood , provided a detailed account of how they selected two cases from a sample of 46 fathers based on personal characteristics and beliefs.

They described how the analysis of the two cases would contribute to their larger study on first time fathers and parenting. Adequate contextual description is required to understand the setting or context in which the case is revealed. In these case studies, contextual boundaries, such as physical and institutional descriptions, were not sufficient to understand the case as a holistic system, for example, the general practitioner GP clinic in Gallagher et al.

Missing contextual boundaries suggests that the case might not be adequately defined. Additional information, such as the physical, institutional, political, and community context, would improve understanding of the case Stake, In Boxes 1 and 2 , we present brief synopses of two studies that were reviewed, which demonstrated a well bounded case.

In Box 1 , Ledderer used a qualitative case study design informed by Stake's tradition. By providing a brief outline of the case studies in Boxes 1 and 2 , we demonstrate how effective case boundaries can be constructed and reported, which may be of particular interest to prospective case study researchers. Ledderer used a qualitative case study research design, informed by modern ethnography.

The study is bounded to 10 general practice clinics in Denmark, who had received federal funding to implement preventative care services based on a Motivational Interviewing intervention. The study context was adequately described, providing detail on the general practitioner GP clinics and relevant political and economic influences. Methodological decisions are described in first person narrative, providing insight on researcher perspectives and interaction with the case.

Forty-four interviews were conducted, which focussed on how GPs conducted consultations, and the form, nature and content, rather than asking their opinion or experience Ledderer, , p. The duration and intensity of researcher immersion in the case enhanced depth of description and trustworthiness of study findings. Analysis was consistent with Stake's tradition, and the researcher provided examples of inquiry techniques used to challenge assumptions about emerging themes.

Several other seminal qualitative works were cited. The themes and typology constructed are rich in narrative data and storytelling by clinic staff, demonstrating individual clinic experiences as well as shared meanings and understandings about changing from a biomedical to psychological approach to preventative health intervention.

Conclusions make note of social and cultural meanings and lessons learned, which might not have been uncovered using a different methodology. The context of the case is bounded by the three summer camps of which the researchers had prior professional involvement. A case study protocol was developed that used multiple methods to gather information at three data collection points coinciding with three youth camps Teen Forum, Discover Camp, and Camp Strong.

Gillard and colleagues followed Yin's principles, using a consistent data protocol that enhanced cross-case analysis.

Data described the young people, the camp physical environment, camp schedule, objectives and outcomes, and the staff of three youth camps. The findings provided a detailed description of the context, with less detail of individual participants, including insight into researcher's interpretations and methodological decisions throughout the data collection and analysis process. There is evidence of researcher immersion in the case, and Gillard reports spending significant time in the field in a naturalistic and integrated youth mentor role.

This case study is not intended to have a significant impact on broader health policy, although does have implications for health professionals working with adolescents. Study conclusions will inform future camps for young people with chronic disease, and practitioners are able to compare similarities between this case and their own practice for knowledge translation.

No limitations of this article were reported. Limitations related to publication of this case study were that it was 20 pages long and used three tables to provide sufficient description of the camp and program components, and relationships with the research issue. Researcher and case interactions and transactions are a defining feature of case study methodology Stake, Narrative stories, vignettes, and thick description are used to provoke vicarious experience and a sense of being there with the researcher in their interaction with the case.

The role and position of the researcher needed to be self-examined and understood by readers, to understand how this influenced interactions with participants, and to determine what triangulation is needed Merriam, ; Stake, Triangulation of sources was used to reveal as much depth as possible in the study by Nagar-Ron and Motzafi-Haller , while also enhancing confirmation validity. Methodological justification was insufficient in several of the studies reviewed Barone, ; Bronken et al.

This was judged by the absence, or inadequate or inconsistent reference to case study methodology in-text. In six studies, the methodological justification provided did not relate to case study.

There were common issues identified. This occurred when researchers cited Stake or Yin, or both Mawn et al. In 26 studies there were no citations for a case study methodological approach. The findings of this study have highlighted a number of issues for researchers. A considerable number of case studies reviewed were missing key elements that define qualitative case study methodology and the tradition cited.

A significant number of studies did not provide a clear methodological description or justification relevant to case study. Case studies in health and social sciences did not provide sufficient information for the reader to understand case selection, and why this case was chosen above others. The context of the cases were not described in adequate detail to understand all relevant elements of the case context, which indicated that cases may have not been contextually bounded.

There were inconsistencies between reported methodology, study design, and paradigmatic approach in case studies reviewed, which made it difficult to understand the study methodology and theoretical foundations. Poorly described methodological descriptions may lead the reader to misinterpret or discredit study findings, which limits the impact of the study, and, as a collective, hinders advancements in the broader qualitative research field.

The issues highlighted in our review build on current debates in the case study literature, and queries about the value of this methodology. Case study research can be situated within different paradigms or designed with an array of methods. In order to maintain the creativity and flexibility that is valued in this methodology, clearer descriptions of paradigm and theoretical position and methods should be provided so that study findings are not undervalued or discredited.

Case study research is an interdisciplinary practice, which means that clear methodological descriptions might be more important for this approach than other methodologies that are predominantly driven by fewer disciplines Creswell, b. Authors frequently omit elements of methodologies and include others to strengthen study design, and we do not propose a rigid or purist ideology in this paper.

On the contrary, we encourage new ideas about using case study, together with adequate reporting, which will advance the value and practice of case study.

The implications of unclear methodological descriptions in the studies reviewed were that study design appeared to be inconsistent with reported methodology, and key elements required for making judgements of rigour were missing. It was not clear whether the deviations from methodological tradition were made by researchers to strengthen the study design, or because of misinterpretations. Morse recommended that innovations and deviations from practice are best made by experienced researchers, and that a novice might be unaware of the issues involved with making these changes.

To perpetuate the tradition of case study research, applications in the published literature should have consistencies with traditional methodological constructions, and deviations should be described with a rationale that is inherent in study conduct and findings.

Providing methodological descriptions that demonstrate a strong theoretical foundation and coherent study design will add credibility to the study, while ensuring the intrinsic meaning of case study is maintained. The value of this review is that it contributes to discussion of whether case study is a methodology or method. We propose possible reasons why researchers might make this misinterpretation. If the rich meaning that naming a qualitative methodology brings to the study is not recognized, a case study might appear to be inconsistent with the traditional approaches described by principal authors Creswell, a ; Merriam, ; Stake, ; Yin, If case studies are not methodologically and theoretically situated, then they might appear to be a case report.

Case reports are promoted by university and medical journals as a method of reporting on medical or scientific cases; guidelines for case reports are publicly available on websites http: The various case report guidelines provide a general criteria for case reports, which describes that this form of report does not meet the criteria of research, is used for retrospective analysis of up to three clinical cases, and is primarily illustrative and for educational purposes.

Case reports can be published in academic journals, but do not require approval from a human research ethics committee. Traditionally, case reports describe a single case, to explain how and what occurred in a selected setting, for example, to illustrate a new phenomenon that has emerged from a larger study.

A case report is not necessarily particular or the study of a case in its entirety, and the larger study would usually be guided by a different research methodology. This description of a case report is similar to what was provided in some studies reviewed. This form of report lacks methodological grounding and qualities of research rigour.

The case report has publication value in demonstrating an example and for dissemination of knowledge Flanagan, However, case reports have different meaning and purpose to case study, which needs to be distinguished. Findings of our review suggest that the medical understanding of a case report has been confused with qualitative case study approaches.

In this review, a number of case studies did not have methodological descriptions that included key characteristics of case study listed in the adapted criteria, and several issues have been discussed.

Adequate page space for case study description would contribute to better publications Gillard et al. Capitalizing on the ability to publish complementary resources should be considered. There is a level of subjectivity involved in this type of review and this should be considered when interpreting study findings. Qualitative methods journals were selected because the aims and scope of these journals are to publish studies that contribute to methodological discussion and development of qualitative research.

Generalist health and social science journals were excluded that might have contained good quality case studies. Journals in business or education were also excluded, although a review of case studies in international business journals has been published elsewhere Piekkari et al.

The criteria used to assess the quality of the case studies were a set of qualitative indicators. A numerical or ranking system might have resulted in different results. Stake's criteria have been referenced elsewhere, and was deemed the best available Creswell, b ; Crowe et al. Case study research is an increasingly popular approach among qualitative researchers, which provides methodological flexibility through the incorporation of different paradigmatic positions, study designs, and methods.

However, whereas flexibility can be an advantage, a myriad of different interpretations has resulted in critics questioning the use of case study as a methodology. Using an adaptation of established criteria, we aimed to identify and assess the methodological descriptions of case studies in high impact, qualitative methods journals. Few articles were identified that applied qualitative case study approaches as described by experts in case study design.

There were inconsistencies in methodology and study design, which indicated that researchers were confused whether case study was a methodology or a method. Commonly, there appeared to be confusion between case studies and case reports.

Without clear understanding and application of the principles and key elements of case study methodology, there is a risk that the flexibility of the approach will result in haphazard reporting, and will limit its global application as a valuable, theoretically supported methodology that can be rigorously applied across disciplines and fields.

The authors have not received any funding or benefits from industry or elsewhere to conduct this study. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online May 7. Box , Bendigo, Victoria , Australia. Accepted Apr 7. For our purposes, the most pertinent philosophical assumptions are those which relate to the underlying epistemology which guides the research. Epistemology refers to the assumptions about knowledge and how it can be obtained for a fuller discussion, see Hirschheim, Guba and Lincoln suggest four underlying "paradigms" for qualitative research: Orlikowski and Baroudi , following Chua , suggest three categories, based on the underlying research epistemology: This three-fold classification is the one that is adopted here.

However it needs to be said that, while these three research epistemologies are philosophically distinct as ideal types , in the practice of social research these distinctions are not always so clear cut e. There is considerable disagreement as to whether these research "paradigms" or underlying epistemologies are necessarily opposed or can be accommodated within the one study.

It should be clear from the above that the word 'qualitative' is not a synonym for 'interpretive' - qualitative research may or may not be interpretive, depending upon the underlying philosophical assumptions of the researcher. Qualitative research can be positivist, interpretive, or critical see Figure 1. It follows from this that the choice of a specific qualitative research method such as the case study method is independent of the underlying philosophical position adopted.

For example, case study research can be positivist Yin, , interpretive Walsham, , or critical, just as action research can be positivist Clark, , interpretive Elden and Chisholm, or critical Carr and Kemmis, These three philosophical perspectives are discussed below.

Positivists generally assume that reality is objectively given and can be described by measurable properties which are independent of the observer researcher and his or her instruments. Positivist studies generally attempt to test theory, in an attempt to increase the predictive understanding of phenomena. In line with this Orlikowski and Baroudi , p. Examples of a positivist approach to qualitative research include Yin's and Benbasat et al's work on case study research.

Interpretive researchers start out with the assumption that access to reality given or socially constructed is only through social constructions such as language, consciousness and shared meanings. The philosophical base of interpretive research is hermeneutics and phenomenology Boland, Interpretive studies generally attempt to understand phenomena through the meanings that people assign to them and interpretive methods of research in IS are "aimed at producing an understanding of the context of the information system, and the process whereby the information system influences and is influenced by the context" Walsham , p.

Interpretive research does not predefine dependent and independent variables, but focuses on the full complexity of human sense making as the situation emerges Kaplan and Maxwell, Examples of an interpretive approach to qualitative research include Boland's and Walsham's work.

Critical researchers assume that social reality is historically constituted and that it is produced and reproduced by people. Although people can consciously act to change their social and economic circumstances, critical researchers recognize that their ability to do so is constrained by various forms of social, cultural and political domination.

The main task of critical research is seen as being one of social critique, whereby the restrictive and alienating conditions of the status quo are brought to light. Critical research focuses on the oppositions, conflicts and contradictions in contemporary society, and seeks to be emancipatory i. One of the best known exponents of contemporary critical social theory is Jurgen Habermas, who is regarded by many as one of the leading philosophers of the twentieth century.

Habermas was a member of the Frankfurt School, which included figures such as Adorno, Horkheimer, Lukacs, and Marcuse. Examples of a critical approach to qualitative research include Ngwenyama's and Hirschheim and Klein's work. This definition draws attention to the collaborative aspect of action research and to possible ethical dilemmas which arise from its use.

It also makes clear, as Clark emphasizes, that action research is concerned to enlarge the stock of knowledge of the social science community. It is this aspect of action research that distinguishes it from applied social science, where the goal is simply to apply social scientific knowledge but not to add to the body of knowledge. Action research has been accepted as a valid research method in applied fields such as organization development and education e.

In information systems, however, action research has been mostly ignored, apart from one or two notable exceptions e. A brief overview of action research is the article by Susman and Evered , and in information systems the article by Baskerville and Wood-Harper is a good place to start.

References on Action Research. Case study research is the most common qualitative method used in information systems Orlikowski and Baroudi, ; Alavi and Carlson, Although there are numerous definitions, Yin defines the scope of a case study as follows:. Clearly, the case study research method is particularly well-suited to IS research, since the object of our discipline is the study of information systems in organizations, and "interest has shifted to organizational rather than technical issues" Benbasat et al.

Case study research can be positivist, interpretive, or critical, depending upon the underlying philosophical assumptions of the researcher for a fuller discussion, see the section of Philosophical Perspectives above. Yin and Benbasat et al. After early ground-breaking work by Wynn , Suchman and Zuboff , ethnography has now become more widely used in the study of information systems in organizations, from the study of the development of information systems Hughes et.

Ethnography has also been discussed as a method whereby multiple perspectives can be incorporated in systems design Holzblatt and Beyer, and as a general approach to the wide range of possible studies relating to the investigation of information systems Pettigrew, In the area of the design and evaluation of information systems, some very interesting work is taking place in a collaborative fashion between ethnographers on the one hand, and designers, IS professionals, computer scientists and engineers on the other.

The Panel Session was chaired by Allen S. The presentation on the subject of Judging Ethnographic Manuscripts is available.

Grounded theory is a research method that seeks to develop theory that is grounded in data systematically gathered and analyzed. According to Martin and Turner , grounded theory is "an inductive, theory discovery methodology that allows the researcher to develop a theoretical account of the general features of a topic while simultaneously grounding the account in empirical observations or data.

Grounded theory approaches are becoming increasingly common in the IS research literature because the method is extremely useful in developing context-based, process-oriented descriptions and explanations of the phenomenon see, for example, Orlikowski, Although there are many different modes of analysis in qualitative research, just three approaches or modes of analysis will be discussed here: It could be argued that grounded theory is also a mode of analysis, but since grounded theory has been discussed earlier, that discussion will not be repeated here.

Hermeneutics can be treated as both an underlying philosophy and a specific mode of analysis Bleicher, As a philosophical approach to human understanding, it provides the philosophical grounding for interpretivism see the discussion on Philosophical Perspectives above. As a mode of analysis, it suggests a way of understanding textual data. The following discussion is concerned with using hermeneutics as a specific mode of analysis.

Hermeneutics is primarily concerned with the meaning of a text or text-analogue an example of a text-analogue is an organization, which the researcher comes to understand through oral or written text. The basic question in hermeneutics is: Radnitzky , p. The idea of a hermeneutic circle refers to the dialectic between the understanding of the text as a whole and the interpretation of its parts, in which descriptions are guided by anticipated explanations Gadamer , p.

It follows from this that we have an expectation of meaning from the context of what has gone before. The movement of understanding "is constantly from the whole to the part and back to the whole" ibid, p. As Gadamer explains, "It is a circular relationship. The anticipation of meaning in which the whole is envisaged becomes explicit understanding in that the parts, that are determined by the whole, themselves also determine this whole.

There are different forms of hermeneutic analysis, from "pure" hermeneutics through to "critical" hermeneutics, however a discussion of these different forms is beyond the scope of this section.

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Interpretive research methodologies and methods are not new but are today in a minority position in political science disciplinary training and mainstream journals. Over the last decade, there has been increasing interest in, and recognition and support of, "qualitative" methods in the social sciences broadly and in the discipline of political science, in particular.

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Chapter 11 Descriptive and interpretive approaches to qualitative research Robert Elliott and Ladislav Timulak Qualitative research methods today are a diverse set, encompassing approaches such as.

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Qualitative research is designed to explore the human elements of a given topic, while specific qualitative methods examine how individuals see and experienc. Duquesne University has established a reputation as a locus for interpretive and qualitative research in the humanities, with phenomenological, hermeneutic, post-structural, critical theory and feminist research in departments such as philosophy, communications and English literature.

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Although interpretive research tends to rely heavily on qualitative data, quantitative data may add more precision and clearer understanding of the phenomenon of interest than qualitative data. The basis of qualitative research lies in the interpretive approach to social reality." (Holloway, , p.2) "Qualitative research, also called naturalistic inquiry, developed within the social and human sciences, and refers to theories on interpretation (hermeneutics) and human experience (phenomenology).