Qualitative Research for Instructional Technology

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Qualitative Research for Instructional Technology


A trend of the past several years has been the growing use of qualitative research for educational research. Qualitative research, broadly defined, means "any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification. Where quantitative researchers seek causal determination, prediction, and generalization of findings, qualitative researchers seek instead illumination, understanding, and extrapolation to similar situations. Qualitative analysis results in a different type of knowledge than does quantitative inquiry. " (Hoepfl, 1997, p.13). "During the past several decades, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, naturalistic inquiry (or qualitative research) has gained considerable acceptance. Nevertheless, the debate between quantitative and qualitative methodologies, as competing positions, persists. It is important to recognize the limitations of viewing quantitative and qualitative methods as completely different or competing approaches" (Custer, 1996, p. 4). What exactly are the basic differences between the two forms of research? Hoepfl (1997) explains it by saying that "phenomenological inquiry, or qualitative research, uses a naturalistic approach that seeks to understand phenomena in context-specific settings. Logical positivism, or quantitative research, uses experimental methods and quantitative measures to test hypothetical generalizations (p. 14)". Custer (1996) also points out that "the qualitative-quantitative dichotomy dates back as early as the 17th century where quantitativists were characterized by some as ‘vulgar statisticians’".

Basic Features:

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...." The decision to use qualitative methodologies should be considered carefully, though. "By its very nature, qualitative research can be emotionally taxing and extraordinarily time consuming. At the same time, it can yield rich information not obtainable through statistical sampling techniques" (Hoepfl, 1997, p. 37).


Custer, R. L. (1996). Qualitative research methodologies. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 34, 3-6.

Hoepfl, M.C. (1997, Fall). Choosing qualitative research: A primer for technology education researchers. Journal of Technology, 9, 12-39.

Johnson, S. D. (1995, Spring). Will our research hold up under scrutiny? Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 32, 3-6.

Sutton, B. (1993). The rationale for qualitative research: A review of principles and theoretical foundations. Library Quarterly, 63, 411-430.

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