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Much to-do about the details, just try to be kind to yourself and remain focused.

—A. Hissong


The information provided in this chapter will assist the reader to:

  • Understand the structure of a qualitative research study.

  • Identify the need for assumptions, scope, limitations, subject criteria, and selection of participants for a qualitative study.

  • List and explain data collection techniques in qualitative research.

  • Understand the constructs of analyzing, reporting, and drawing conclusions related to qualitative research.


A qualitative research study needs to be given boundaries and to be put into a suitable context for readers. Readers should be able to understand quickly where a study fits into the scheme of professional literature. They should also be made aware of any of the author’s assumptions about the underlying principles of the study, glean the limitations of the study, and know if there are any overriding issues that are likely to influence the outcomes or interpretation of the outcomes. Finally, readers should be able to find the meanings of all terms used if they are not obvious. This information will enable readers to understand the qualitative researcher’s general intentions and to follow the researcher’s train of thought. The research report should include sections on the study’s definition of terms, assumptions, limitations, subject criteria, and selection.

Assumptions and Limitations

The first step in establishing a study’s boundaries is to think about your own assumptions regarding the study and the premises upon which it is formulated. Researchers customarily examine their assumptions carefully and state them to the reader near the beginning of the study. Readers need not agree with your assumptions but are able to follow the logic of your propositions and to understand why you approached the study as you did.

Assumptions are underlying principles that the researcher believes or accepts but that are difficult to prove in any concrete way. In qualitative research, they are basic values or views about the world. They include such values as the notion that people are basically good or that people want to function independently in their day-to-day activities. These ideas are very difficult to prove with the population at large or even with a small research group. Two kinds of assumptions need to be examined: first, assumptions about the ideological principles upon which the study is based, and second, assumptions that are made concerning the processes used in the study. People adhere to certain ingrained principles that will affect the way they approach situations and, therefore, the way they design research studies. Making your assumptions known in the early stages of describing a study is important so the readers know where you stand on issues related to the research and where they ...

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