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SUGGESTED OUTLINE FOR THE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH REPORT
A research report should convince the reader of the significance, soundness, and thoroughness of the study. It should describe the research questions posed, the conceptual framework used or developed, the foundational literature(s) and related research traditions, the overall approach to the study, the methods of data gathering and analysis, how the researcher ensure the study’s trustworthiness, ways that participants collaborate in the research process, and the tentative conclusions or “lessons learned.” The methods used in the conduct of the study should be described fully, including any interview protocols or observation schedules used. There should be a detailed discussion of the role of the researcher during the conduct of the study as well as the natural history of the inquiry. The conclusions may be presented in any one of a number of ways: thematically, historically/ chronologically, or ideographically, for example. Finally, the report should indicate how the study will contribute to theory, to policy, to practice, and (perhaps) to methodology. The report should be no more than 25-30 pages long and should be carefully proofread for content, organization, logical development, and mechanics.
- Introduction – 1-2 pp.
Summarize the study. Write this section after you have written the others.
- The Research Topic – 3-5 pp.
Describe the problem or topic the study has investigated the research questions are posed and previous research in this area is discussed. (Review of Literature).
Describe the theoretical framework guiding the study, if you are using one. This too may be related to previous research or compared to illustrate the lack of study in this manner or perspective.
Discuss how the study is a specific investigation of a more general phenomenon. Link it to a social science discipline, if appropriate.
Briefly discuss your thinking on the topic. If you are already familiar with it, briefly discuss the research literature on the topic. There is no need to review additional literature for this section. Include what you know or your thinking about the topic.
Discuss why this topic has significance for education (formal or non-formal), pressing social problems, policy issues, the participants, or yourself. Why do we need to learn more about this topic? This is the “so what” question.
- Research Design and Methods – 10-12 pp.
Please note that this section is the most important for the purposes of the course. If it is not thoroughly and competently done, the rest of the paper suffers.
This section details the conduct of the study. Since this is a research course, this section is the place where you demonstrate at lease a rudimentary mastery of the knowledge and skills of the course.
Describe the overall approach to data collection: case study, ethnography, for example. Discuss how the approach emerged, or if you already had it in mind when you began the study. Discuss your design decisions using the methodological literature.
Describe the population of interest. Examples include elementary special needs classrooms, groups of religious women, bereaved mothers, Carnegie schools, cooperative work organizations.
Describe the particular setting or sample of people selected. Discuss your preliminary thinking about the selections, how this changed over time, and what prompted those changes. Discuss what you might go in a subsequent study. Use the methodological literature to discuss your decisions.
Describe the ways you gathered data. Be specific about how often, where, when, with whom; numbers of field notes generated or interviews conducted or observations made, this should also include a discussion of the types of data generated: interview transcriptions, observational records documents, videos filmed, artifacts collected. Discuss the sampling decisions that led you to collect these data rather than some other set. Discuss how the participants collaborated in gathering data, if such was the case.
Describe the processes of data analysis. Theme development, typologies generated, emergent insights. Use of analytic memos, coding schemes, graphic representations of data. Discuss how the participants’ insights were sought and incorporated. Use the methodological literature to discuss your choice of methods and processes of data analysis.
Discuss what you did to try to be sure that the study was well thought-out, ethical, and sturdy, given its small scale. Examples include use of a critical friend, sharing with participants, triangulation of methods or sources. What might you do in a designing a longer-term study?
Discuss your role as you conducted the study. Provide vignettes from your personal journal reflecting emerging insights or crises. Discuss any specific role dilemmas that emerged. Use the methodological literature t discus your points.
Point a natural history of the study. Discuss how your conception of the phenomenon of interest changed over the course of the study; design decisions revised; new twists in data gathering. Try to be comfortable discussing the messiness of inquiry and how the serendipitous can have profound influence on our thinking.
- Findings – 7-9 pp.
Describe the major conclusions or “lessons learned” from the study.
Use categories to organize the data: themes, historical periods, type of individual, critical incidents. No one way is the best; it depends on the data and how you choose to interpret and present them. Develop each category using assertions and then direct quotes or narrative summaries to support each point. This is critical: even though this is a small-scale study and your conclusions are tentative and preliminary, you should convince the reader of their soundness. Build a chain of a logic or evidence ti support the conclusions and interpretations you have come to.
Suggestion: it is better to present and develop fully a portion of the findings (i.e., one category or theme) than to skim over the surface of all the data without development.
- Significance and Implications – 2 pp.
Discuss how the learnings might relate to theoretical ideas or related literature. Restate the specific focus of the study.
Discuss how this small-scale study or a more elaborated study on this topic might contribute to research, policy, and practice; it may also contribute to theory and/or methodology.
Suggest further directions fore research or make recommendations for policy and/or practice either within the specific organization studied or for the profession.
Appendices: Interview questions, larger excerpts of data, pictures of context for ethnographies, diagrams, other information that makes references in the paper clearer.
VII. works cited.
Pages: 24, double spaced