The role of theory in qualitative data analysis is continually shifting and offers researchers many choices. The dynamic and inclusive nature of qualitative research has encouraged the entry of a number of interested disciplines into the field. These discipline groups have introduced new theoretical practices that have influenced and diversified methodological approaches. To add to these, broader shifts in chronological theoretical orientations in qualitative research can be seen in the four waves of paradigmatic change; the first wave showed a developing concern with the limitations of researcher objectivity, and empirical observation of evidence based data, leading to the second wave with its focus on realities - mutually constructed by researcher and researched, participant subjectivity, and the remedying of societal inequalities and mal-distributed power. The third wave was prompted by the advent of Postmodernism and Post- structuralism with their emphasis on chaos, complexity, intertextuality and multiple realities; and most recently the fourth wave brought a focus on visual images, performance, both an active researcher and an interactive audience, and the crossing of the theoretical divide between social science and classical physics. The methods and methodological changes, which have evolved from these paradigm shifts, can be seen to have followed a similar pattern of change. The researcher now has multiple paradigms, co-methodologies, diverse methods and a variety of theoretical choices, to consider. This continuum of change has shifted the field of qualitative research dramatically from limited choices to multiple options, requiring clarification of researcher decisions and transparency of process. However, there still remains the difficult question of the role that theory will now play in such a high level of complex design and critical researcher reflexivity.
Karen Moran Jackson and Ric Brown
Making appropriate methodological and analytic decisions in educational research requires a thorough grounding in the literature and a thorough understanding of the chosen methodology. Detailed preplanning is important for all method types and includes an understanding of the assumptions, limitations, and delimitations of the study. For quantitative research, researchers should be cautious with data analysis decisions that give preference to statistically significant results, noting that quantitative research can proceed with intents other than confirmatory hypothesis testing. Decisions and procedures that are used to search for low p values, rather than answer the driving research question, are especially problematic. Presentation of quantitative results should include components that clarify and account for analytic choices, that report all relevant statistical results, and that provide sufficient information to replicate the study. Consideration should also be given to joining recent initiatives for more transparency in research with the use of preregistered studies and open data repositories. For qualitative research, researchers should be thoughtful about choosing a specific method for their project that appropriately matches the method’s framework and analytic procedures with the research aim and anticipated sample. Qualitative researchers should also strive for transparency in their method description by allowing for a view of the analytic process that drove the data collection and iterative dives into the data. Presentation of qualitative results requires a balance between providing a compelling narrative that establishes the trustworthiness of results with the judicious use of participant voices. Mixed methods research also requires appropriate integration of different data types.
Ann Briggs and Marianne Coleman
Research in educational leadership and management spans settings from early childhood to tertiary education and life-long learning. From its mid-20th-century beginnings as a tool for organizing educational systems, the wide range of methodologies in present use reflects the shifting focus of the field. The current mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches indicates differing epistemological stances and a range of purposes from instrumental responses to government policy initiatives, through investigation of issues of social justice, to personal enquiry into leadership influence on environments for learning. Research in the field encompasses the values and dilemmas underpinning educational leadership roles, the enactment of middle leadership, teacher leadership and student leadership, and includes leaders conducting research to improve their own practice. Multiple aspects of decision-making are involved in educational leadership research. The philosophical assumptions of researchers inform their positivist or interpretivist stance and the associated choices of quantitative or qualitative methodology. The external drivers of the investigation, together with its purpose and scope, influence the choice of research approach —for example, data-mining, survey, case study, action research—and technique—interview, questionnaire, documentary analysis, narrative, and life-history. These approaches and techniques in turn invite a range of analytical methods, from statistical modeling, systematic qualitative data analysis and discourse analysis to auto-ethnographic critical reflection and reflective narrative. The interpretation of the analysis hinges on the purpose of the research: to understand, inform, improve, or bring about change. Twenty-first-century challenges for the field include expanding theory beyond a largely Western-centric focus; responding to the development of new theories of leadership, including the voice of non-leaders in perspectives on leadership; ensuring that research informs policy rather than vice versa; and addressing the sheer volume and nature of data available through emerging technologies.
Real groups constitute themselves as representatives of social structures, that is, of communicative processes in which it is possible to identify patterns and a certain model of communication. This model is not random or incipient, rather it documents collective experiences as well as the social characteristics of these groups, their representations of class, social environment, and generational belonging. In the context of qualitative research methods in the fields of social sciences and education, group discussions gained prominence mainly from research conducted with children and young people. As a research method, they constitute an important tool in the reconstruction of milieux and collective orientations that guide the actions of the subjects in the spaces in which they live. This article begins with some considerations about group interviews, highlighting the Anglo-Saxon model of focus groups, the Spanish tradition of group discussions from the School of Qualitative Critics in Madrid, and group discussions conceived in the 1950s at the Frankfurt School in Germany. Next, the theoretical-methodological basis of group discussions and the documentary method developed in Germany in the 1980s by Ralf Bohnsack are presented. Both procedures are anchored mainly in Karl Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge, but also in Pierre Bourdieu’s ethnography and sociology of culture. Finally, from the results of three research projects in education carried out in Mexico, Chile, and Brazil, the potential of this research and approach to data analysis is assessed. Based on the principle of abduction, the documentary method inspires the creation of analytical instruments rooted in praxis and that can delineate educational experiences in different contexts.