Qualitative Research – Final Reflection


Individual Process Paper Requirements

This paper is a final reflection on the process of doing qualitative research. In this paper you should:

  • Describe your growth as a qualitative researcher over the past 10 weeks using concrete details and examples to demonstrate areas of growth as well as areas you are still mastering
  • Reveal how you are pushing yourself toward new understandings, especially concerning the complexity of the research process
  • Connect your experience to class readings and class discussions. Show us some key topic areas you are grappling with… Be sure to use proper APA format

You may want to revisit past RDRs and show how your thinking has progressed. You may want to reflect on topics such as contextual interpretation, subjectivity, ethics, the analysis process, validity, and rigor.

Process papers should be between 4 and 8 double-spaced pages, not to exceed 8 pages.

Group mini-products will be evaluated separately from individual process papers. We will average the group grade on the mini-product with the individual grade on the process paper. 



This paper is a review of the learning process I have gone through this quarter in this class in the form of a qualitative research paper. I propose to expose my journey from someone who had barely ever thought about research, let alone qualitative research, to someone who is now able to appreciate the power of this method of analysis of the world around us. Instilled with my own bias and metacognition, I will describe what were the salient concepts acquired through the readings, class activities, and assignments.

The research question I want to answer is: “How does Lucas understand the qualitative research process?”


As an engineer undergraduate, research for me was far into the realms of Doctoral students and the confines of microfilms in the libraries. As a worker, I was always involved in project management and the implementation of software systems. Always very hands on and practical work with little need to do or consume research.

Coming into the LDT program I had to decide between qualitative and quantitative research methods. My reasoning was that I’ve got some statistical background from Industrial Engineering and that I had virtually no contact with qualitative research. I have not regretted this decision and feel that the course has provided me with valuable skills for observing the world and for consuming and producing qualitative research. It has given me a whole new set of lenses to critique my own design and thought process.

Hopefully this paper will illustrate the main take aways from the course along with evidencing my learning process and methods. By no means I am intend to claim that this qualifies as true qualitative research as the process of data collection and analysis was not initiated as such – it was an afterthought that induces a top down approach to finding meaning. I came in with what I wanted to find in the data and found it. My personal bias is also exacerbated by the fact that I am a full participant-observer (Taylor & Bogdan, 1998). I tried to be as objective as possible and hopefully attended to at least some of the “Criteria for a Good Ethnography” (Spindler & Spindler, 1987, pp.18-21):

      1. Observations are contextualized: I attempted to describe my individual process in this paper yet leaving out the in-class description since the intended audience of this paper were part of this context.
      2. Hypothehis emerge in situ: the learning process and this paper shows evidently that I came in with no prior knowledge of the subject and came out with what I feel like a solid basis for future work.
      3. Observation is prolonged and repetitive: is a quarter long enough? Was I really observing repetitively my own actions? I could argue towards both ends of the spectrum where if I was not consciously observing myself with the purpose of this research paper, the observations were not made. On the other hand, my blog, assignments, and memory serve me with sufficient data for this analysis.
      4. Native view of reality in attended: well, I don’t think I can go more native that being the native myself.
      5. Elicit sociocultural knowledge in a systematic way: the process of maintaining every interaction with course documented in my blog could be considered a systematic approach to eliciting my sociocultural knowledge even though there is no record of sociocultural factors that might have affected my learning.
      6. Data collection must occur in situ:  in the sense that I am collecting data from myself, I would consider that all data collection was collected by me, for me, and within myself.
      7. Cultural variations are a natural human condition: I was unable to find throughout the process that my cultural background somehow affected my learning. Even though I am from Brazil, my education has been entirely   within the American and British systems, allowing me to feel ‘at home’ in this context and with the readings presented.
      8. Make what is implicit and tacit to informants explicit: hopefully I am able to layout implicit behaviors and communications patterns in this paper by detailing my thought process behind each claim.
      9. Interview questions must promote emic cultural knowledge in its most natural form: I used the questions presented in the description of this assignment as a guide during my self-mental-interview. I feel like they were sufficient to elicit what I have learned.
      10. Data collection devices: I used pencil, paper, camera, and the blog as devices to collect my data.

Surprisingly, according to this analysis above, this paper could very well be qualified as a qualitative research paper. As discussed in the last class of this course, there are several examples of alternative and artistic research such as poems, performances, novels, and documentaries. ‘The field allows it all’ (notes from week 10 class, 2015). All in all I felt that this was a valid approach to structure and present the data collected, even though the data collection itself was not originally intended for the purpose of this paper – but for the purpose of learning.


Data Collection

The structure of the course involved a series of readings, mini-lectures, in-class group discussions, individual papers, and practice of qualitative research. The main topics covered were presented in a logical progression (Appendix A) that scaffolded our understanding towards the existing base knowledge about the field. A series of readings were assigned to support our in-class discussions and to present the current research and thinking about each topic. Written assignments were used to assess the class’ progression through the course. Finally, we conducted a short practice version of qualitative data collection and then ensued to analyze the data and present a mini-product.

My methodology for absorbing the content was primarily to be engaged with the content by attending all classes, reading and writing all that was assigned. While reading and during class I noted down important concepts that jumped out at me on paper. I was testing the notion that by going analogue and physically writing down my thoughts I might get the benefits of embodied learning: “The embodied interaction with things creates mechanisms for reasoning, imagination, “Aha!” insight, and abstraction. Cultural things provide the mediational means to domesticate the embodied imagination.” (Hutchins, 2006, p.8) These notes were then photographed and put in my blog (lucaslongo.com) for archival purposes.

Data Analysis

For this paper, I wallowed through the data – my notes – and interviewed myself mentally about the entire experience. I produced amended notes that summarized general knowledge pieces I have absorbed (Appendix B). These notes were initial guides as to the subject matter to be included in this paper. They also inspired me by presenting me with the opportunity to experience grounded-theory (Taylor & Bogdan, 1998) in the sense that writing this paper in a qualitative research paper was the best way to present what I have learned from this course.

In being a hyper-metacognitive participant observer in this research process, I will now present the main propositions from the readings and the practice research process.


The assignment of conducting qualitative research was a crash course in the field. Even though highly structured and scaffolded by the educators, the process allowed for experiencing the multiple steps, processes and analysis required. The progression of observing, preparing interview questions, interviewing, making sense of the data, and finally writing it up felt like a genuine simulation of the real thing. 

In particular, we had very little time to come up with a context we wanted to observe and define a research question that interested us. For me that was and still seems to be the hardest step of research: what is an interesting question to ask? Is there a problem to be found? How much research has already been done in this area? Do I know enough about the context to be able to extract meaning from it? But I guess this key and the seed of all research, alluding to the “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” mantra that echoes in my head from my undergraduate studies.

The observation and interview processes did not draw up many insights for me other than the interview questions preparation phase. I had never structured an interview before and found that the strategies discussed in class and in the readings were extremely helpful for understanding how to better extract information from the informants. Probing and markers were the concepts that most stood out for me as techniques that I will take with me.

The process of analyzing the data and writing up the product showed me how much data was collected from a simple one hour observation and two hour long interviews. I was also surprise as to how much meaning can be extracted from micro-analyzing what was said by the informant. Not to mention the fact that our final conclusion or theory, truly emerged from the data. My group was worried that as much as we discussed, we did not feel like we had anything interesting to say about our context. At the last moment, when arranging the propositions, a general cohesive thought emerged from them, allowing to generate a conclusion that was both backed by evidence and that had meaning for us. I was initially skeptical about the method of coding exhaustively the data yet I was completely debunked in my convictions having experienced it first hand.

Finally, one framework that I found very helpful in the process was Petr’s diagram (Appendix C) that made the process somehow tangible in my mind. It is a great representation of grounded theory and the qualitative research process. Obviously this diagram was backed up by our readings and fruitful class discussions, without which it would not have had such an impact on me. It especially helped my in thinking about and creating propositions, the claims that we could back up with evidence all the way to the future implications of our findings: “Turtles all the way down”.


Throughout this paper, I attempted to summarize the learning process I went through and what I learned from this course. It has further consolidated my learning about qualitative research, validated some of my learning methods, and made me aware of all the pedagogical techniques designed into the course itself. Considering I would not have been able to engage in a meaningful conversation with other qualitative researches prior to this course, I consider this experience a success in learning (and being taught) about the field. Thank you.

Looking ahead I see room for improvement in my writing skills especially in citing previous research. This ties into to my technique of reading and note taking. I look back at the readings and find no highlights of meaningful phrases. My notes as a photograph on the blog are not searchable. Because of this I had to go back into the readings again to pull out citations. I had to try to understand my sometimes messy handwriting and make sense of it. With this in mind I am abandoning hand written notes in favor of going straight to digital.

I also feel that I have to work on my own master’s project research question and start to plan out my research. I feel that this class gave me significant skills, techniques, and concepts to be able to do so. My entrepreneur traits have a tendency to look for a solution with a top down approach. Now I have grounded theory to reduce my anxiety of getting to ‘The’ solution – I see that I must dive into context I want to meddle in, observe it exhaustively, understand how the natives navigate, analyze and then finally be better equipped to propose, claim and who knows solve a problem.

Appendix A – Course Progression


  1. The Nature of Qualitative Research
  2. Qualitative Methods — Why and When
  3. Data Collection: Observation
  4. Data Collection: Interviewing
  5. Examining Subjectivity
  6. Analysis: Making Sense of the Data
  7. Considering Validity and Rigor
  8. Ethical Issues


See Reference section below


  1. RDR #1: The Observation Process
  2. Qualitative Research Critique
  3. RDR #2: The Interview Process
  4. Draft of “mini-products” 
  5. Qualitative Product Paper
  6. Qualitative Process Paper (this paper)

Appendix B – Amended Notes

Notes I generated in preparation for this paper:

Paper’s Structure:  

Act 1
Tell story from Week 1 – Week 10
Novelty of the subject

Act 2
Data analysis

Act 3
Main takeaways
Strengths and weaknesses
Room for improvement

Wallowing through blog notes:

Main take aways from the class: 

  • Qualitative research – or research itself.
  • The power of writing
  • Frameworks and concepts
    • Turtles all the way down
    • I as a camera
    • Grounded theory
    • Probing
  • Criteria for good ethnography
  • Participant observer – cool! Almost like spy work
  • Finding a research problem – that’s the hardest part I think
  • Interview preparation
  • Interview behavior
  • Coding – did not believe in it at first
  • Propositions – Petr’s diagram
  • Validity – just be clear how you wrote it – Geisha
  • Learning acquires you – Legitimate Peripheral Participation

 Pushing myself

  • Improve on writing skills
  • Read and read and read more research
  • Identify my own research problem
  • Tension between researching and creating solutions
  • Stand on giant’s shoulder and do something?
  • Become a giant for others to be able to do something?
  • Interview process I think I’d do well
  • Need to practice more in extracting meaning from data, not so instinctive for me – never has been – I take facts for face value – maybe a good quality for less-biased field data collection and data analysis.

Appendix C – Petr’s Research Diagram

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Note: references are not in alphabetical order to preserve chronological sequence

Reading Assignments:

The Nature of Qualitative Research

Merriam, S. (2002). Introduction to Qualitative Research. In S. Merriam & Associates (Eds.) Qualitative Research in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp. 3-17.

Miles, M.B., & Huberman, A.M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook. (Second Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. pp. 1-12.

Spindler, G. & Spindler, L. (1987). Teaching and Learning How to Do the Ethnography of Education. In G. Spindler & L. Spindler (Eds.) Interpretive Ethnography of Education at Home and Abroad. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 17-22.

Creswell, J. (2003). “A Framework for Design,” Research design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. pp. 3 -24.

Becker, H. (1996). The Epistemology of Qualitative Research. In R, Jessor, A. Colby, & R. Shweder (Eds.) Ethnography and Human Development. Chicago: University of Chicago. pp. 53-71. (link)

Geertz, C. (1973). “Thick Description, “The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books. pp.3-30. (link)

Data Collection

Taylor, S., & Bogdan, R. (1998). “Participant Observation, In the Field,” Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods. (Third Edition). New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 45-53, 61-71.

Glesne, C., & Peshkin, A. (1992). “Making Words Fly,” Becoming Qualitative Researchers: An Introduction. White Plains, NY: Longman. pp. 63-92.

Weiss, R. (1994). “Interviewing,” Learning from Strangers: The Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies. NY: Free Press. pp. 61-83, 107 – 115.


Peshkin, A. (1991). “Appendix: In Search of Subjectivity — One’s Own,” The Color of Strangers, The Color of Friends. Chicago: University of Chicago. pp 285-295.  

Peshkin, A. (2000). The Nature of Interpretation in Qualitative Research. Educational Researcher 29(9), pp. 5-9. (link)


Taylor, S., & Bogdan, R. (1998). “Working With Data,” Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods. (Third Edition). New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 134-160.

Charmaz, K. (1983). “The Grounded Theory Method: An Explication and Interpretation,” In R.

Emerson (Ed.) Contemporary Field Research: A Collection of Readings. Boston: Little, Brown. pp. 109-126.

Graue, M. E., & Walsh, D. (1998). Studying Children in Context: Theories, Method, and Ethics. Thousand Oaks: Sage. pp. 158-191 and 201-206.

Page, R., Samson, Y., and Crockett, M. (1998). Reporting Ethnography to informants. Harvard Educational Review, 68 (3), 299-332.

Emerson, R., Fretz, R., & Shaw, L. (1995). “Processing Field Notes: Coding and Memoing,” Writing Ethnographic Field Notes. pp. 142 – 168.

Validity and Rigor

Johnson, R. (1997). Examining the Validity Structure of Qualitative Research. Education, 118, pp. 282-292.

Wolcott, H. (1990). On Seeking –and Rejecting– Validity in Qualitative Research. In E. Eisner & A. Peshkin (Eds.) Qualitative Inquiry in Education: The Continuing Debate. New York: Teachers College. pp. 121-152.

AERA (2006). Standards for Reporting on Empirical Social Science Research in AERA Publications. Educational Researcher 35(6), pp. 33-40.

Anfara, Jr., V., Brown, K, & Mangione, T. (2002). Qualitative Analysis on Stage: Making the Research Process More Public. Educational Researcher 31(7), pp. 28-38. (link)


Altork, K. (1998). You Never Know When You Might Want to Be a Redhead in Belize. In K. deMarrais (Ed.) Inside Stories: Qualitative Research Reflections. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 111-125.

 Lincoln, Y. (2000). Narrative Authority vs. Perjured Testimony: Courage, Vulnerability and Truth. Qualitative Studies in Education 13(2), pp. 131-138.

Products of Qualitative Research

Cohen, D. (1990). A Revolution in One Classroom: The Case of Mrs. Oublier. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 12(3), pp. 311-329. (link)

McDermott, R. (1993). Acquisition of a Child by a Learning Disability. In S. Chaiklin & J. Lave (Eds.) Understanding Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University. pp. 269-305. (link)

Rosenbloom, S., & Way, N. (2004). Experiences of Discrimination among African American, Asian American, and Latino Adolescents in an Urban High School. Youth and Society 35(4), pp. 420- 451. (link)

Other readings:

Edwin Hutchins (2006). Learning to navigate. In S. Chaiklin & J. Lave. (Eds.). Understanding practice: Perspectives on activity and context, pp. 35-63. New York: Cambridge University Press.