Research Genres

Research Genres, image courtesy of US Army

Research Genres

by Dr. Sharon Short
I am delighted and grateful that I was able to conduct my dissertation study in an environment where qualitative research is respected. This is not always the case. One of the students in my program mentioned to a colleague that she was planning a qualitative study, to which this individual responded, “Oh, then it isn’t real research.” Recognition of ethnographies, life stories, case studies, and the like as “real” research is joyfully welcomed by students of the social sciences who know that numbers are incapable of telling all there is to know about a subject, concept, or phenomenon. Having said this, however, I can appreciate scholars within the hard sciences questioning the legitimacy of an approach to research that allows such an astonishing array of options.
Qualitative inquiry has become an umbrella category for a bewildering variety of research procedures and reporting forms. These variations of qualitative approaches are sometimes identified as research traditions or research genres, and as many as 45 different types have been cataloged. Naturally, some of these traditions have become more thoroughly developed than others and are more widely known and applied than others. According to Jacob (1987), each such tradition or genre “forms a coherent whole, comprising internally consistent assumptions about human nature and society, foci of study, and methodology” (p. 1), somewhat like sports games that each adhere to their own sets of rules.
Since there are so many different “games” to choose from within the qualitative paradigm, and since each one requires expertise in its own unique assumptions and practices in order to be employed effectively, scholars recommend that researchers (especially novice researchers) select one or at most two of these genres within which to become knowledgeable and proficient. Furthermore, they encourage adherence to one genre as a whole rather than selectively using elements from different ones, at least until one has become very experienced.
Therefore, the next decision after one has committed to a qualitative research paradigm is to determine the most appropriate research genre for one’s research question. I found the following resources particularly helpful in understanding and selecting the genre within which to conduct my study.  See the following sources for more insights!
Sources:
Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Glesne, C., & Peshkin, A. (1992). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (Rev. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Jacob, E. (1987). Qualitative research traditions: A review. Review of Educational Research, 57(1), 1-50.
Piantanida, M., & Garman, N. B. (1999). The qualitative dissertation: A guide for students and faculty. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.