In this Third Edition of his bestselling text, John W. Creswell explores the philosophical underpinnings, history, and key elements of each of five qualitative inquiry traditions: narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study. In his signature writing style, the author relates research designs to each of the traditions of inquiry in a highly accessible manner. He compares theoretical frameworks, ways to employ standards of quality, and strategies for writing introductions to studies, collecting data, analyzing data, writing a narrative, and verifying results. 

"This text provides a wonderful introduction, using accessible language, to theories and practices related to the design and conduct of qualitative inquiry. Moreover, it remains a good first resource for students who want to pursue qualitative inquiry; that is, they can return to this text to review fundamental concepts and to find references to other resources about specific topics, approaches, and strategies."
Carey E. Andrzejewski, Auburn University

To find out more about John Creswell and his work, please visit: and

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Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Philosophical Assumptions and Interpretive Frameworks
Chapter 3. Designing a Qualitative Study
Chapter 4. Five Qualitative Approaches to Inquiry
Chapter 5. Five Different Qualitative Studies
Chapter 6. Introducing and Focusing the Study
Chapter 7. Data Collection
Chapter 8. Data Analysis and Representation
Chapter 9. Writing a Qualitative Study
Chapter 10. Standards of Validation and Reliability in Qualitative Research
Chapter 11. "Turning the Story" and Conclusion
Appendix A. An Annotated Glossary of Terms
Appendix B. A Narrative Research Study
Appendix C. A Phenomenological Study
Appendix D. A Grounded Theory Study
Appendix E. An Ethnography
Appendix F. A Case Study


Instructor Teaching Site
The Instructor Teaching Site includes powerpoints and testbanks for each chapter.
Student Study Site
This open access student study site includes chapter quizzes, links to SAGE journal articles, and flashcards to reinforce and enhance students' understanding of important chapter topics.

“This text provides a wonderful introduction, using accessible language, to theories and practices related to the design and conduct of qualitative inquiry. Moreover, it remains a good first resource for students who want to pursue qualitative inquiry; that is, they can return to this text to review fundamental concepts and to find references to other resources about specific topics, approaches, and strategies.”

Carey E. Andrzejewski
Auburn University

“Students find Creswell’s books very “user friendly”. They like his writing style, clear ideas, and simple enough language. At the same time, the book presents in-depth information, but because this information is stated in clear simple terms, it makes it easier for the students to comprehend it without difficulty.”

Nataliya V. Ivankova
University of Alabama at Birmingham

“A very welcome addition to doctoral courses and bookshelves!”

Jeannine E. Klein
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

"I've never found one I like better!"

Trudy Salsberry
Kansas State University

"Clean and comprehensive. Easy for students to follow."

David R. Osborn
Denver Seminary
Key features

New to the Third Edition

  • Integrates discussions of the philosophical assumptions with the interpretive lens in qualitative inquiry in a rewritten Chapter 2, showing how to use an interpretive framework in a qualitative study
  • Incorporates two new studies in Chapter 5, one illustrating narrative research and one on grounded theory
  • Expands coverage of interviewing and observing, and adds new guidance on online data collection into Chapter 6
  • Increases discussion of data analysis, including Giorgi's phenomenological approach, together with updating of information on software packages in Chapter 8

What Is New in This Edition

Since I wrote the first and second editions of this book, the content of the book has both remained the same and changed. In this edition I introduce several new ideas:

· Based on reviewers' feedback, I reworked Chapter 2 on the philosophical assumptions and the interpretive frameworks used by qualitative researchers. I needed to better position philosophy and frameworks within the overall process of research. I also sought to clarify the relationship between philosophy and interpretive frameworks, and to discuss interpretive frameworks as they are currently being used in qualitative research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011).

· In Chapter 3 I have added a new section on ethical issues that traces the types of qualitative ethical dilemmas likely to arise at different phases of the research process. In this way I am expanding the ethical coverage in this book.

· In discussing each of the five approaches in this book, as mentioned in Chapter 4, I have added passages on each of the five related to "defining characteristics" of the approach. Readers will have my best assessment of the key features of the approach summarized in one place. Also in Chapter 4

I have moved from relying primarily on one book for each approach in the last edition to using two books to construct a picture of the approach in this edition. I have done this because of the popularity of multiple approaches for understanding each approach, and the value of constructing an understanding of each approach from multiple authors.

· I also updated the illustrative articles that I used in the book in Chapter 5 and removed articles that were outdated. Consequently, I added two new articles: one in narrative research (Chan, 2010) and one in grounded theory (Harley et al., 2009). I decided to keep the gunman incident case study in (Asmussen & Creswell, 1995) because the issue of safety on college campuses remains a critical concern in the literature given recent campus violence.

· In the discussion about research questions, I simplified the discussion about subquestions and focused on how subquestions sub-divide the central question into several parts. I also provide additional illustrations of subquestions drawn from different qualitative approaches.

· In the area of data collection, I cannot overlook the technological developments in data collection, and any treatment of qualitative methods needs to incorporate new ways of gathering qualitative data electronically. I have added on-line methods of qualitative data collection into the discussion in Chapter 7. I have also added additional information about observational techniques to expand discussions in earlier editions of this book.

· In data analysis, in Chapter 8, I added in new techniques that are being discussed for analyzing the data in each of the five approaches and I cite recent references. I also updated the discussion about qualitative computer software analysis packages.

· In the writing of qualitative research, as presented in Chapter 9, I added more information about reflexivity, its importance, and how it might be incorporated into a qualitative study.

· At the end of each chapter you will find sample exercises to practice specific skills introduced in the chapter. Many of these exercises have been rewritten in this new edition to reflect my growing understanding of the specific skills that a qualitative researcher needs to know.

· In the final chapter, I have not only "turned" the initial qualitative gunman case study into a narrative project, a phenomenology, a grounded theory study, and an ethnography, I have made more explicit what changes actually occurred in this reworking.

· As with all new editions, I have updated the references to include recent books on qualitative research methods as well as select journal articles that illustrate these methods.

Many areas have also remained the same as in the last edition. These include:

· The core characteristics of qualitative research have remained the same.

· An emphasis on social justice as one of the primary features of qualitative research is continued in this edition. While a social justice orientation may not be for everyone, it has again been given primacy in the latest edition of the SAGE Handbook on Qualitative Research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011).

· A healthy respect exists for variations within each of the five approaches. I have come to understand that there is no single way to approach an ethnography, a grounded theory study, and so forth. I have selectively chosen what I believe to be the most popular approaches within each approach and to highlight books that emphasize them.

· On a similar note, I have continued to use the five approaches that have now stood the test of time since the first edition. This is not to say that I have not considered additional approaches. Participatory action research, for example, could certainly be a sixth approach, but I include some discussion of it in the interpretive framework passages in Chapter 2 (Kemmis & Wilkinson, 1998). Also, discourse analysis and conversational analysis could certainly have been added as an additional approach (Cheek, 2004), but I added some thoughts about conversational approaches in narrative approaches. Mixed methods, too, is sometimes so closely associated with qualitative research that it is considered one of the genres (see, Saldaña, 2011). However, I see mixed methods as a distinct methodology from qualitative inquiry, and one that bridges qualitative and quantitative research. Further, it has its own distinct literature (see Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011), and thus I wanted to limit the scope of this book to qualitative approaches. Accordingly, I have chosen to keep the five approaches that I started with and to expand within these five approaches.

· I continue to provide resources throughout the book for the qualitative researcher. I include a detailed glossary of terms (and have added terms from the last edition), an analytic table of contents that organizes the material in this book according the five approaches, and I include complete journal articles that model designing and writing a study within each of the five approaches. For both inexperienced and experienced researchers, I supply recommendations at the ends of chapters for further reading that can extend the material in this book.

The term that I used in the first edition, "traditions," has now been replaced by "approaches," and I continue this use of terms in the third edition. My approach signals that I not only want to respect past approaches, but I also want to encourage current practices in qualitative research. Other writers have referred to the approaches as "strategies of inquiry" (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005), "varieties" (Tesch, 1990), or "methods" (Morse & Richards, 2002). By research design, I refer to the entire process of research from conceptualizing a problem to writing research questions, and on to data collection, analysis, interpretation, and report writing (Bogdan & Taylor, 1975). Yin (2009) commented, "The design is the logical sequence that connects the empirical data to a study's initial research questions and, ultimately, to its conclusions" (p. 29). Hence, I include in the specific design features from the broad philosophical and theoretical perspectives to the quality and validation of a study.

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ISBN: 9781412995306