The field of qualitative research in education (also spoken of as ethnography, qualitative field study, case study, naturalistic research, and interpretive research) is extremely rich and diverse and encompasses several different versions of its aim and methods as influenced by the Chicago School of Sociology, the Verstehen tradition in sociology (including symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, ethnomusicology, the ethnography of communication, and other types of micro-ethnography), the ethnographic tradition in cultural anthropology and fieldwork sociology, and notions of educational connoisseurship and criticism. In addition, ideas drawn from philosophical hermeneutics, social constructionism, postmodern theory, feminist theory, and critical theory of society shape conceptions of qualitative research as a way of studying the social world.

Some forms of qualitative research involve empirical investigation of the social world by means of field study or fieldwork employing the approach of participant observation.  Qualitative research as field study emphasizes observation in situ-that is, learning by means of a (relatively) sustained presence in a situation or setting and observing the goings-on there.  Moreover, participant observation is not merely a methodology but an epistemology: the inquirer-as-fieldworker assumes that immersion in, intimate familiarity with, and/or empathetic participation in the human action he or she studies is necessary for grasping, understanding, and eventually portraying the meaning of social action.  

Not all qualitative studies, however, are fieldwork in this traditional sense. In fact some contemporary forms of qualitative research are actually quite critical of the traditional approach to fieldwork as participant observation. Some qualitative studies employ life history methodologies, examine the constitution and meaning of cultural artifacts, or focus on the constitution and operation of various discourse practices.

Qualitative research offers an array of meaningful methodological frameworks for exploring a range of educational matters: e.g., examining the intersection of language, culture, and schooling; the relationship between schools and their communities; the formation and enactment of school and curricular reform and other policy initiatives, and so on.  Therefore, students aiming to develop a special focus in qualitative research must seek out opportunities to explore the use of qualitative research in investigating substantive issues in their particular field of interest (e.g., curriculum design, educational policy, language education, higher education, adolescent development).

 The Qualitative Research focus area is intended to help students develop: 

  1. Competence in understanding and addressing methodological, epistemological, ethical, and political issues that cut across the field of qualitative research (and across all of social science research, more generally).
  2. Competence in multiple means of generating, interpreting, and reporting qualitative data.
  3. Competence in locating/situating/linking the understandings and skills comprising (1) and (2) within an interpretive frame of reference (cultural anthropology; traditional naturalistic, Verstehen sociology; feminist epistemology; post-structural theory; critical theory of society, etc.


Foundational Methods Course (4 hours)

All students entering fall 2015 or later, will take a Foundational Methods Course. It is recommended that students take this introductory foundations course in their first year of the doctoral program. 

Currently available:  CI 550/EPSY 573/SPED 550: Methods of Educational Inquiry

Basic Courses (4-8 hours)

The student must take 4-8 basic research hours. It is recommended that a student take a course from the following list and a basic quantitative course, such as CI 590 Quantitative Research Literacy.

ANTH 411/EPSY 465 Methods of Cultural Anthropology
CI 509 Curriculum Research: QRM Qualitative Research Methodology
CI 509 Curriculum Research: AR Action Research
CI 519 Methods of Child Study
CI 580 QRL Qualitative Research in Language and Literacy Education
EPOL 585 Enthographic Methods in Educ
EPS 515 Philosophy and Educational Research
EPSY 490E Case Study Research Methods
EPSY 577 Foundations of Qualitative Methods
EPSY 578 Qualitative Inquiry Methods
HCD 591 Qualitative Methods

Advanced Courses (8 hours)

CI 552 Qualitative Writing
CI 562 Linguistics in the School Curriculum
CI 590 Narrative Inquiry
CI 590 Research in Progress
SOC 580/COMM 580 Advanced Interpretive Methods
SOC 583 Qualitative Research Methods
SOC 586 Adv Social Statistics I