Educational Research: The Qualitative Path

Book Club: Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. [Link to 4th edition]

As I transitioned between the worlds of healthcare and higher education, I noted the differences in approaches and considerations to the hierarchies of research and evidence base. In healthcare the RCT is the respected way forward, but in education I was learning to ‘look through the lens’ and value qualitative research. Now I am aware that in nursing, a strong body of qualitative literature exists, but in the world of critical care it’s fair to say that quantitative methods rule. In educational research, John Hattie has utilised the ‘big data’ approach and created some of the first meta-analysis data and findings to guide theory and curriculum in education.

As I critiqued the articles for my academic projects, my biases and preconceptions around qualitative research, no doubt impacted on any critical analysis formed. However, the theoretical frameworks and paradigms led me to a new world of epistemelogical, ethnography, action research, phenomenology, grounded theory, mixed methods and the narrative. I found educational articles are sometimes long and extremely ‘wordy’, and took many twists and turns before getting to the main points. But I grew to appreciate the narrative studies, where the researcher embeds themselves in the lives of the subjects and their everyday lives are brought out in the stories being told. The Hawthorne effect and one person’s biases, are two quick critiques of such an approach but the art of storytelling can provide so much more for the reader than a table of statistics.

Some appreciations of educational qualitative research:

  • The search for “The Truth” by Roller (2013)
  • Engaging in the environment
  • Collecting the data in qualitative research
  • Theoretical frameworks and paradigms
  • Process in identifying key themes
  • Ethical issues within qualitative research
  • The qualitative versus quantitative debate

The same steps of the quantitative research process occur in the qualitative approach, where the identification of a need or a problem occurs, this then provides the road map for the research journey. The justification and how then the project will be of benefit still needs to be explained in the research methodology.

Here are a small sample of the education focused articles that were part of my formal studies:

Just recently this discussion on Twitter around a journal now only accepting quantitative articles for submission. Some fields of healthcare research are really only suitable for the qualitative methodology and not to be classified as a p value.



Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative (pp. 146-166). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. [Link to 4th edition]

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge [sample].

Ismail, S. (2009). Popular pedagogy and the changing political landscape: a case study of a women’s housing movement in South AfricaStudies in Continuing Education31(3), 281-295.

Kalman, J. (2000). Learning to write in the streetInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education13(3), 187-203.

Larsson, S. (2009). A pluralist view of generalization in qualitative researchInternational journal of research & method in education32(1), 25-38.

Roller, M. (2013) Distinctive qualities of qualitative research. Research Design Review.