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Designing Qualitative Research

Designing Qualitative Research

Sixth Edition

© 2016 | 352 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Addressing the complexity, flexibility, and controversies of qualitative research’s many genres, Designing Qualitative Research, Sixth Edition gives students, research managers, policy analysts, and applied researchers clear, easy-to-understand guidance on designing qualitative research. While maintaining a focus on the proposal stage, this best-selling book takes readers from selecting a research genre through building a conceptual framework, data collection and interpretation, and arguing the merits of the proposal. Extended discussions cover strategies that researchers can use to address the challenges posed by postmodernists, feminists, and critical race theorists, as well as others who interrogate historical qualitative inquiry. The book also includes thoughtful discussion on trustworthiness and ethics, in addition to dealing with time, resource, and political stressors inherent to the research process. Throughout the book, the authors emphasize the importance of being systematic but also inspire readers with potential “Aha!” moments and opportunities to do research in close connection with people and communities.

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1. Introduction
The Challenges  
Developing an Arguement  
Overview of the Book  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
2. Qualitative Research Genres
Major Genres  
Critical Genres  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Dialogue Between Learners  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
3. Trustworthiness and Ethics
Bringing Ethics Into Trustworthiness  
Ethics: Focusing on People  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Dialogue Between Learners  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
4. The What of the Study: Building the Conceptual Framework
Sections of the Proposal  
Building the Conceptual Framework: Topic, Purpose, and Significance  
Literature Review and Critique of Related Research  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Dialogue Between Learners  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
5. The How of the Study: Building the Research Design
Meeting the Challenge  
Justifying Qualitative Research  
The Qualitative Genre and Overall Approach  
Getting Concrete: The Setting, Site Population, or Phenomenon  
Selecting a Sample of People, Actions, Events, and/or Processes  
The Researcher's Role: Issues of Personal Biography, Positionality, Entry, Rapport, Reciprocity, and Ethics  
Anticipate Reviewers' Concerns  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Dialogue Between Learners  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
6. Basic Data Collection Methods
In-Depth Interviewing  
Life Histories, Narrative Inquiry, and Digital Storytelling  
Documents and Historical Analysis  
Objects and Artifacts of Material Cultures  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Dialogue Between Learners  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
7. Specialized and Focused Data Collection Methods
Using Internet and Digital Applications  
Multimodal Approaches  
Interaction Analysis  
Dilemma Analysis  
Combining Data Collection Methods  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Dialogue Between Learners  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
8. Managing, Analyzing, and Interpreting Data
Recording, Managing, Transcribing, and Translating Data  
Data Analysis  
Generic Data Analysis Strategies  
Analytic Procedures  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Dialogue Between Learners  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
9. Stressors: Time, Resources, and Politics
Planning Resources for a Large Study  
Topsy-Turvy Politics and Research  
Planning Master's Thesis and Dissertation Research  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Dialogue Between Learners  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  
10. Arguing the Merits of Your Proposal and Envisioning the Final Report
Criteria of Soundness  
The Essential Qualitativeness of the Research  
The Value of the Qualitative Approach  
Demonstrating Precedents  
Envisioning the Final Report, the Dissertation, or the Book  
A Final Word  
Dialogue Between Authors  
Further Reading  
Key Concepts  


Instructor Teaching Site

Calling all instructors!
It’s easy to log on to SAGE’s password-protected Instructor Teaching Site at for complete and protected access to all text-specific Instructor Resources for Designing Qualitative Research, Sixth Edition, by Catherine Marshall and Gretchen B. Rossman. Simply provide your institutional information for verification and within 72 hours you’ll be able to use your login information for any SAGE title! 

  • Editable, chapter-specific Microsoft® PowerPoint® slides offer you complete flexibility in easily creating a multimedia presentation for your course. 
  • Sample course syllabi for semester and quarter courses provide suggested models for use when creating the syllabi for your courses.
  • EXCLUSIVE! Access to certain full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected for each chapter. Combine cutting-edge academic journal scholarship with the topics in your course for a robust classroom experience.
  • Lively and stimulating ideas for class activities can be used in class to reinforce active learning. 

    Student Study Site
    Use the Student Study Site to get the most out of your course!
    Our Student Study Site at is completely open-access and offers a wide range of additional features, including something no other publisher offers: SAGE Journal articles!

    The open-access Student Study Site includes the following:

    • Mobile-friendly eFlashcards reinforce understanding of key concepts outlined in the chapters.
    • EXCLUSIVE! Access to certain full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected for each chapter. 

    "This is a handy, practical text for newcomers to qualitative research who are preparing a proposal."

    Jon Travis, Texas A&M University - Commerce

    "This is by far the most readable text on methodology I've used in my work with education graduate students. Its careful, detailed and rich explanation of the research process makes it a crucial tool for anyone working with students who are ready to begin the process of qualitative research. But it is the thick, authentic descriptions of researchers actively engaging in the puzzles and dilemmas of doing complex, ethical, and socially powerful research that makes it an invaluable guide for the student at all stages in their research process. It is a text that a student will return to over and over again, and become that dog eared companion that accompanies them from the beginning to end of their research journey."

    Catherine McGregor, University of Victoria

    “A student friendly book that would have been beneficial to my own research development in graduate school.”

    Ifeoma Amah, University of Texas at Arlington

    “The authors create a mosaic of qualitative research procedures using text, tables, figures, and vignettes that move the reader between the theoretical and practical aspects of conducting quality research.”

    LeAnn Putney, University of Nevada - Las Vegas

    “This text will be helpful to graduate students when they first encounter qualitative research and its possibilities. It is both practical and philosophical, and it provides useful advice on strategies to embrace and pitfalls to avoid.”

    Mary Jean Herzog, Western Carolina University

    Good introductory text with useful diagrams and resource lists. It includes a variety of methodologies that might appeal to the wide range of students in the class. It is also more affordable than many other intro texts.

    Dr Shannon McManimon
    Educational Studies Dept, Suny College At New Paltz
    October 18, 2016

    We adopted this as a suggested reading for our course because understanding research is an essential part of our doctoral program. The text is well laid out, provides a great source of references for further study, and outlines most types of qualitative research in a way that is understandable and applicable.

    Dr Cheryl Baker
    College of Graduate Studies, Plymouth State University
    July 13, 2015

    Do not like the structure - back and forth dialog between the two authors

    Dr Stephen Collesano
    Sociology Dept, William Paterson University
    June 5, 2015

    There's a lot to like about this text, and particularly the activities and supports that come with it. The content of the Creswell book just aligned better with the University's goals and objectives for the course--particularly providing a depth of understanding on the specific research methodologies.

    Dr Adena Miller
    Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, University Of Denver
    May 5, 2015

    I am continuing to evaluate appropriate texts for this proposed course.

    Humanities Fine Arts Dept, Front Range Community College
    April 6, 2015


    Key features


    • Contemporary issues, methods, and considerations that have emerged in the last few years include discussions on arts-informed inquiry, multimodal inquiry, critical dis­course analysis, case studies, grounded theory, autoethnography, and examples of the bur­geoning use of social media and various computer and Web-based applications.
    • New questions for the new cen­tury—one now dominated by social networking—explore the  issues and design dilemmas of today’s qualitative researchers.
    • New vignettes cover such topics as researchers’ challenges in designing research with homeless, refugee, and immigrant populations; the interplay between ethics and trustworthiness; and exquisite sensitivity in research on sexual harassment.
    • Coverage of ethics and trustworthiness is now earlier in the book (Chapter 3), placing these key attributes front and center.
    • Suggestions for planning for data analysis at the proposal stage and for managing analysis in writing final reports have been added.
    • A new Dialogue Between Authors section in every chapter depicts how the authors’ experiences in teaching and advising have informed the development of the new edition.
    • New and revised Dialogue Between Learners sections feature the exchange of thoughts and ideas of two novice qualitative researchers.
    • The new Some of Our Favorites listing at the end of each chapter’s Further Reading section provides recommended references for further exploration.
    • The advances and challenges presented by new technologies and provocative, creative modes of presentation are incorporated throughout.
    • All references have been updated, and new scholarly works are cited throughout.


    • The book addresses the ways that research can be attuned to policy and practice—from problem identification to formatting the presentation of findings to the explicit focus on trustworthiness, credibility, and ethics.
    • The personal, ethical, and political dilemmas that the researcher may face are emphasized throughout the book.
    • Examples and vignettes are current, especially in terms of cross-national research and the issues that arise. 

    Sample Materials & Chapters

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 7

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