Many of today’s researchers share Ogburn’s ideas about science, objectivity, andquantification, stemming back at least to the ideas Descartes explicated more than 300 years ago(Christians, 2010; Hamilton, 1994).
Not For Everyone
Not everyone trained in qualitative methods, however, takes to them. O’Connor (2001),in a brief written account of her experiences as a Ph.D. student of Bogdan’s and Biklen’sresearch methods courses (Bogdan & Biklen, 2008), reported on the six weeks of qualitativemethods training in the required first-year methods sequence that Biklen taught at SyracuseUniversity
The most striking memory I have from that class was how we as students separated ourselves out. There were those students who just didn’t connect with the process. It was too unclear. Those unknowns, I began learning, was what I loved…I liked and understood the ambiguity, the inquiry, the discovery. The handful of us who went onwith the qualitative process began to sit on the same side of the room talking among ourselves and feeling very engaged in the process. Other classmates were frustrated.
O’Connor meant by “those of us who went on with the qualitative process” that thesewere the students who took the optional one-year course of study on qualitative methods thatBogdan taught the following year.O’Connor’s account of her classmates and herself fit well with Dewey’s (1958)observations of other philosophers who rejected the pragmatist emphasis on experience becauseof its instability and precariousness and the difficulty of understanding it. Perhaps a bit crankily,he wrote that some have abandoned the study of experience and substituted
securityand certainty” (p. xi) (emphasis in original). They prefer, said Dewey, to craft universals, laws of nature, and systems that emphasize unity among entities. They back away from particulars, pluralism, and processes of change.
Products of Qualitative Research
Qualitative research is worth doing because of the amazing range of products that canresult. These products include theories and/or typologies grounded in personal, contextualizedinterpretations of experience. In addition, qualitative methods yield rich descriptive material thatresearchers sometimes let stand on its own because of its value in fostering deeper understandings and its capacities to illuminate other similar situations. This descriptive materialcan also be re-crafted to become items in various types of instruments such as surveys, clinicalrating scales, and practice guidelines.Qualitative methods can also be used in concert with experiments and research on direct practice, such as social work, nursing, therapy, counseling, and education, in order to understandhow participants experience the interventions. Some qualitative researchers create performancesand write songs and poetry that use the words of informants so that audience members canunderstand other people’s experiences and participate in them imaginatively.