A Reflection on Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design

While reading through chapter three of the book Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches, Creswell raised two points that I found to be very informative in conducting qualitative inquiry.  The first point was that there are varied designs that can be used to frame a qualitative inquiry. Creswell, however, finds it useful to design a qualitative inquiry following the scientific method; an approach to which I agree. I work better when I have a set of guidelines to follow. I believe the scientific method provides the skeleton onto which I can anchor the meat of my research – from stating the research questions and hypothesis, through data collection and analysis, to discussion of the implications of the findings. While I prefer the scientific method to anchor my research, it is up to the individual researcher to choose the design that best fits his/her philosophical framework. On the other hand, as I read chapter two of the book Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiry I came to realize that maybe seeing the world as one, my own, may not be enough. Therefore I need to learn and become familiar with the multiple realities of the world I live in and the varied qualitative research designs that will help me understand those worlds better.  Having an open mind will help me to study the real world situation “without interjecting predetermined constraints on the findings” (Patton, 2002a).

Secondly, Creswell states that qualitative researchers need to be sensitive to vulnerable populations and to take great care not to place participants at risk from imbalanced power relations (Hatch, 2002; as cited in Creswell, 2012). I find the advice to be very useful especially for a beginner researcher like myself. As I continue to learn the ethical issues related to conducting qualitative research, I must also learn to be mindful of the nature of power balances I might find at my research site. Respecting the native culture and whatever power relationship they have within themselves and the wider community is paramount. A qualitative researcher, therefore, must tell the multiple stories they find in their research in a way that does not compromise the power relationship found in vulnerable populations. Our research should not in any way compromise and/or jeopardize further the relationship and power imbalances our participants are already experiencing. However, critical pedagogy and critical theory as described in Part II of the book Paradigms and Perspectives in Contentions, (Olesen as cited by Denzin and Lincoln, 2011), argues that “getting mad is no longer enough.”  Qualitative researchers need to learn to act and expose the injustice and power imbalance in marginalized societies so that hegemony can be stopped.

In chapter four, Creswell discusses the five approaches to qualitative inquiry.  I am relatively new to most of the approaches i.e. narrative approach, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case studies.  There are many similarities and differences amongst the five approaches. I will however, reflect on one of these approaches namely the case study approach. I was introduced to the case study approach when I was taking a classroom management course for my graduate degree in education. I have used the case study approach before to study whether utilizing an inquiry method for learning lessens incidents of misbehavior in my classroom. When I started teaching in the Baltimore City Public Schools, I had major problems with classroom management stemming from students’ misbehavior. As a way to lessen the incidents (i.e., fighting, classroom disruptions such as table banging, and lack of participation in class activity) I developed two inquiry based unit plans geared to helping students create their own meaning of concepts and topics. It was a case study approach and I tracked the number of incidents in each period while using the inquiry learning approach. I realize now after reading Creswell’s chapter four that my case study approach was lacking in many levels. I only used one method of collecting data which was observing the type and frequency of disruptive incidents. Creswell suggests using several methods of data collection including interviews, audiovisual, documentation, and artifacts to capture data that will help to develop a detailed analysis of the problem. Thus, reading these two chapters has broadened my understanding of the various approaches, designs, and ethical issues related to qualitative research.


Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches (3rd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, T. S. (2011). Paradigms and Perspectives in Contention. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (pp. 91-94). New York, NY: SAGE.

Patton, M. Q. (2002a). Strategic themes in qualitative inquiry. Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.


One thought on “A Reflection on Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design

  1. Kendrick Jones

    the article was about using different approaches or methods to solve problems, teach, & do things. Creswell followed a method that he found would increase his teaching skills in many ways. He did his research on several things, collected data, & came with a conclusion on how to solve the problem.


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