Describing Qualitative Methods in Educational Research: The Annotated Infographic

As I described in my last post, Understanding Educational Research and Design, I have spent a significant amount of the last year reading and evaluating the educational research literature for its structure, themes, and methods. I found problems; too many articles lacked epistemological framing, glossed over faulty sampling and data collection, provided minimal information on analytical processes, and failed to advance the literature in any meaningful way.  As this concerns me in terms of the future of educational research, I have started to develop a collection of downloadable, CC-licensed visual articles that address some of the issues I found in the literature.

One of the qualities I enjoy about educational research is its strong tradition of using qualitative, quantitative, and mixed study designs. However, too often I found articles that described qualitative data collection without information about participants or the collection process, qualitative findings without information on the analytic processes, or qualitative collection processes without information on analysis or findings.   It was difficult to tell if the problems lie in the study design and implementation or whether these were shortcuts made in writing and reporting.

When researchers take short cuts in reporting research processes – qualitative or quantitative – they inevitably and irreparably devalue the work.  The usefulness of a research article hinges on the reader’s ability to assess the quality and personal relevance of the research.  The reader cannot evaluate the research if the author does not provide specific kinds of information about the work.

The following visual article reviews some of the critical methodological pieces that must make it into a research article (regardless of prescribed word counts), if a reader is to be able to make meaning of the work.  While I have presented my argument through a lens of qualitative methodologies, at least one Twitter follower suggested that it was relevant to all research, regardless of methodological tradition.  I tend to agree with him, but will be creating one specific to a quantitative lens soon. Also, a shout-out to all the Twitter followers who reviewed this visual article before I published it here. Special thanks go to Margy MacMillan and Chelsea O’Brien for their detailed feedback.  Also, thanks to my friend and SCHEV colleague Tod Massa for looking at this about a dozen times over the last week and finally telling me today that it might be okay.


Downloadable PDFevaluatingqualitativeresearch-1

  1. For more information on criteria for quality in quantitative research:

Lincoln, Y. S. (1995). Emerging criteria for quality in qualitative and interpretive research. Qualitative Inquiry, 1(3), 275-289.

Mays, N., & Pope, C. (2000). Assessing quality in qualitative research. British Medical Journal, 320 (7226), 50.

Trochim, W. (2006). Qualitative Validity. Research Methods Knowledge Base

2.  For more information on thematic analysis:

Charmaz, K. (2003). Grounded theory. Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods, 81-110.

Fereday, J., & Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006). Demonstrating rigor using thematic analysis: A hybrid approach of inductive and deductive coding and theme development. International journal of qualitative methods, 5(1), 80-92.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology. Handbook of Qualitative Research, 17, 273-285.

Vaismoradi, M., Turunen, H., & Bondas, T. (2013). Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. Nursing & health sciences, 15(3), 398-405.

3.  For more information on qualitative research methods and strategies (general):

Bogdan, R., & Biklen, S. K. (1997). Qualitative research for education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry (Vol. 75). Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory . Sage Publications, Inc.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Two other books I tend to rely on for qualitative research are Sharan Merrian (2009) Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation (3rd Edition) and for case studies, Robert Yin (2008) Case Study Research: Design and Methods (4th Edition).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Gogia says:

      Hi Britt! Yes, I love that Merrian book – it’s on my shelf :). And you remind me that Yin wrote an article on different types of content analysis (probably leading up to the book) that is one of the most cited articles I’ve seen when educational researchers doing qual work actually cite their methods sources…I’ll have to go find it and add it. Thanks 🙂


      1. No problem. And I failed to mention my old proposal professor at U of Nebraska, John Creswell, who is also well cited in research circles.


  2. Hagar Labouta says:

    Hi Laura! Thanks for the blog! I have a naive question from a nanoscientist coming from the quantitative world of numbers 🙂 Why do I have to ground my method into theories…if my work is using qualitative methods and its not my intention to enrich the literature with new epistemologies and I am being transparent about the steps I used, why do I still have to describe this with some philosophical terms maybe or categorize it under an umbrella of inductive or deductive theories.


    1. Laura Gogia says:

      Great question and one that you will probably answer for yourself as you proceed with your reading and studies. I will offer two answers, although there are probably a dozen that would apply. Answer #1) qualitative research methods are steeped in the idea that people and their research are not objective. Quantitative research is not objective – we both know that. What we discover even through random control experimentation is influenced by the questions we ask. Furthermore, ask any statistician worth their salt and they’ll tell you that statistical analysis is influenced by the statistician in a million ways based on the way you treat the data (it’s called analysis for a reason…it’s something people DO to the data, it doesn’t just appear out of the blue). So. People are not, cannot be objective. Therefore, we explain our beliefs and orientation so that the reader can decide how our biases may be influencing our interpretations. If we use a common vocabulary for explaining our orientations (with sources that can be accessed by our readers) we go along way in increasing our ability to be understood. Answer #2. If you are explaining your steps – and why you made the decisions you did (which is part of explaining your steps along the way) – then you are inherently revealing your underlying philosophies…and your question becomes somewhat moot. Hope that helps 🙂


  3. Hagar Labouta says:

    Thanks Laura…very helpful in deed! I love your insights…and you are right the more I read about it the more I understand how significant it is to use common language when describing our methods and this includes common methodology titles …philosophical concepts, etc.


  4. Reblogged this on Caroline+Kühn and commented:
    An excellent article that helps and guides my thinking about key points to consider when writing the methodology of my research.


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