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During Weeks 3 and 4, you learned about various qu



During Weeks 3 and 4, you learned about various qualitative research designs. This week, you will build on this knowledge. Select two of the five research designs. Define and explain the features of each design using the resources provided and three other quality resources. Next, develop data collection processes for each of the selected designs that include discussions of sample size, sampling technique, data collection materials, and instrumentation. You can include diagrams if you would like.

You are already familiar with the types of instruments used in quantitative data collection, but these are distinctly different from what is useful in qualitative studies. Qualitative instruments must be structured so that you are collecting deep and broad data to fully understand the research question. In most cases, you must design an instrument to extract specific experiential information from your participants. Data collection can occur through face-to-face interviews, focus groups, or observation; there are also other ways to select qualitative data.

When constructing your data collection plan, it must be clear and it must contain all the steps that you will take when collecting information from your participants. You will have to include any secondary data that you will collect. Secondary data can include documents or other evidence that can contribute to understanding the central phenomenon under study. How will you ensure a data saturation? Remember, practices like member checking, follow-up interviews, or transcript review are used by qualitative researchers to ensure data saturation.

Ultimately when writing this section of your study, it must be logical, repeatable, and reproducible. Every research decision must be based on accepted research practices; remember to include sources in your research plan to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge and the support of the academic community.

Length: 4-5 pages, not including cover and references pages.

Your assignment should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards. Be sure to adhere to Northcentral University's Academic Integrity Policy.


Faulkner, C. A., & Faulkner, S. S. (2019). Research methods for social workers: A practice-based approach (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford

Given, L. M. (2008). The SAGE encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (Vols. 1-0). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc

NCU School of Business Best Practice Guide for Qualitative Research Design and Methods in Dissertations 2nd Edition

Sikkens, E., van San, M., Sieckelinck, S., Boeije, H., & de Winter, M. (2017). Participant recruitment through social media: Lessons learned from

Qualitative data analysis and CAQDAS. (2014). In Silver, C., & Lewins, A. Using software in qualitative research (pp. 9-34). 55 City Road, London

SAGE Research Methods

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research


Pub. Date: 2012

Product: SAGE Research Methods


Methods: Artistic inquiry, Action research

Disciplines: Anthropology, Business and Management, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Communication

and Media Studies, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Economics, Education, Geography, Health, History,

Marketing, Nursing, Political Science and International Relations, Psychology, Social Policy and Public Policy,

Social Work, Sociology

Access Date: January 24, 2023

Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc.

City: Thousand Oaks

Online ISBN: 9781412963909

© 2012 SAGE Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When undertaking qualitative research, the scholar/researcher has a multiplicity of roles and responsibilities,

often enacted simultaneously. Many of these roles are so intuitive and commonly understood that they are

rarely discussed in standard methods texts. However, other roles, particularly the role of the researcher in

relation to study participants, have generated a great deal of controversy and angst and have been debated

endlessly across all of the disciplines in which qualitative research has both epistemological and methodolog-

ical acceptance. The goal of this entry, then, is to make visible the many roles of the qualitative researcher

and to provide a sense of the larger scholarly framework within which these roles are enacted and examined.

The researcher's roles are discussed in two sections. Tacit roles have to do with the knowledge and com-

monly understood practices that the researcher brings with him or her to the study concerning how scholarly

research should proceed. In any of the tacit roles, the researcher is the recognized expert who must ensure

that the research proceeds according to accepted standards and procedures. Interactionist roles, on the other

hand, have to do with how the researcher conceptualizes and frames his or her role in relation to study par-

ticipants and what effect the researcher's presence might have on the thoughts and actions of research par-

ticipants and the knowledge that accrues from the study. The interactionist issues that arise are considered

reflexively by the researcher, who then must make a decision about how best to proceed given the unfolding

circumstances of the research.

Tacit Roles

The researcher's role begins at the stage of research conceptualization. At this point, the researcher takes on

the role of an informed “ideas” person. The researcher uses his or her prior knowledge of an area of study

within a discipline, or across more than one discipline, to propose a well-crafted and coherent project with

clearly articulated research questions. The research project could be a stand-alone project for a limited time

frame, or it could be part of a much larger program of study unfolding over a longer period of time, perhaps

a decade or more. In either case, in the role of the “ideas” person, the researcher has a number of respon-

sibilities, the understanding of which is internalized throughout the process of attaining a PhD and develops

further as new research projects are undertaken. Because the vast majority of researchers do have a PhD,

the responsibilities of the ideas person are well understood by all scholars but are rarely discussed. Some of

them include the following:

• Keeping current and abreast of the scholarly literature (including philosophical discussions, theoreti-

cal developments, and research findings) related to the topic under consideration

• Maintaining a critical awareness of the issues/questions needing further examination

• Having a thorough understanding of the parameters of qualitative research

• Proposing a project that is manageable and can be completed successfully


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• Ensuring that the research will be conducted according to accepted methodological and ethical stan-


• Seeking appropriate funding so that an investigation can be done as fully and thoroughly as possible

• Ensuring that the research is meaningful in terms of its contribution both to the discipline in particular

and to knowledge or society in general

The qualitative researcher maintains the role of ideas person throughout the study, constantly and reflectively

blending the theoretical framework(s) of the study with the qualitative observations to provide new and/or

unique interpretations of how participants come to develop certain meanings and practices within their social


Although the role of the ideas person is always present, once the research project begins, the researcher also

may assume a number of other roles. Foremost among these are the rather overlooked, but very important,

roles of research administrator and manager. All qualitative research projects, whether done as solo projects

or by collaborative teams, have myriad administrative aspects such as keeping track of expenditures, hiring

assistants and supervising them, paying attention to reporting requirements for grants, preparing survey in-

struments, organizing transportation, purchasing any necessary equipment and/or software, sending out ad-

vertisements or letters of contact and of thanks for participation, and a variety of other necessary paperwork.

In some cases the researcher has a great deal of responsibility for these tasks, whereas in other cases a

hired project director or another staff member looks after these details in consultation with the researcher.

Nonetheless, even if not attending to all of these details himself or herself, the researcher needs to be cog-

nizant of the progress made on administrative matters to ensure that the project moves forward satisfactorily.

Whereas there is some overlap with the administrative role, the managerial role is distinct and draws on slight-

ly different knowledge and expertise. In the managerial role, the qualitative researcher must make ongoing

and important decisions about the conduct and management of the research—decisions that could ultimately

affect the legitimacy of the study's findings and contributions. Such decisions would include elements such as

research location and timing, access to participants, supervision of research assistants, daily problem solving,

data analysis, and preparation of findings. In the managerial role, the researcher acts as the primary problem

solver, perhaps needing to make a number of important decisions on a daily basis about the conduct of the

research and the intellectual analysis/presentation of the resulting data. Without this crucial role, the research

project could be adversely affected by a number of smaller or larger problems, such as a subtle drift away

from the study objectives, errors in procedure, or the violation of ethical standards, any of which could have

devastating consequences for the academic legitimacy of the study and the reliability of the findings.

Throughout the research project, from conceptualization to implementation to completion, the researcher also

must take on the role of research ethicist. In qualitative research, ethical considerations are paramount and


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cannot be underestimated. The research must be conducted to ensure that human participants are informed

and protected and that there generally will be no adverse affects from their participation (although it must

be noted that this is not always completely controllable given that some study participants may feel various

degrees of upset at recounting their experiences to the researcher). It is the researcher's responsibility to un-

derstand ethical issues and norms in qualitative research and to ensure that an appropriate ethics protocol

has been approved by his or her institution and that the approved protocol is upheld throughout the research.

The importance of ethical considerations must be communicated to research assistants, who must be trained

to handle any ethical issues that might arise when working with human subjects.

Another important tacit role for the qualitative researcher is that of mentor. The most obvious mentoring role

is with graduate students and other research assistants who are paid to work on the project. In such situa-

tions, the researcher may need to spend a certain amount of time instructing assistants in the best practices

of the particular methodology being used, coaching them on a variety of issues (e.g., good interviewing or

observational techniques, how to take good fieldnotes, what to expect and what to observe in a given setting)

and allowing them to participate in data-related activities such as the development of coding categories and

the actual coding and analysis of the data collected. Graduate research assistants also may be involved in

helping to prepare the results of the study for conference presentations and possibly for publication. Involv-

ing graduate students in the various stages of research does take additional time, but the researcher who is

working with graduate students, particularly at the doctoral level, usually does feel some obligation to enable

the students to learn from the project so that they will have a better idea about managing and conducting their

own research projects later on as their academic careers progress. Similarly, the researcher who is a principal

or main investigator may do a certain amount of mentoring with co-investigators who are less experienced

with the administrative requirements and problem solving that accompany larger qualitative research projects.

Interactionist Roles

Qualitative research encompasses a wide range of methodologies, including everything from analysis of vi-

sual media and document interpretation to interviewing and various types of ethnographic observation of hu-

mans in their environments. Despite this range, there is a strong association of qualitative research with the

latter two methodologies, involving either direct one-on-one contact with individuals who have agreed to talk

about their experiences or the incorporation of the researcher into a setting where the people being studied

are going about the business of daily life. Accordingly, the researcher roles that receive by far the most atten-

tion in the scholarly literature have to do with the ways in which the researcher interacts with study participants

and his or her own reflections on those interactions. Although every qualitative research project is unique in

some way because of the questions asked and the type of people studied, there are nonetheless many com-

mon areas of concern related to interactionist roles across a variety of very different qualitative studies.


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There have been a number of different typologies of, and terms for, researcher roles in relation to the people

they study. Lynda Baker, writing about observation as a qualitative research methodology, provides a very

good summary of both the ways in which researcher roles have been conceptualized over time and the prob-

lems associated with each, including roles such as the following:

Nonparticipant: The researcher has no involvement with individuals and observes from a distance, sometimes

via software or other electronic means.

Complete Observer: The researcher is present in the setting but only listens and observes and does not in-

teract. His or her role as a researcher might not be known.

Observer as Participant: The researcher is present in the setting and primarily observes, although some brief

interactions with participants may occur.

Participant as Observer: The researcher actively participates in a number of activities with the group, to the

point where he or she may be identified as a friend or colleague.

Complete Participant: The researcher studies a group in which he or she is already active as a member but

does not reveal his or her research role.

Complete Member: The researcher studies a group in which he or she is or has been active and reveals his

or her role as a researcher.

Although the roles noted are discussed in relation to ethnographic observation, versions of them also may

be evident when doing a study based on interviewing. Regardless of which role the qualitative researcher

assumes and whether or not the research is based on interviewing, observation, or some combination of the

two, there are a number of skills and qualities that the researcher must bring to these roles to be effective.

Renee Fox, reflecting on her five decades as an ethnographic researcher, suggested that the skills that are

paramount for ethnographic fieldwork include skills in observation, interviewing, recording, and remembering;

the ability to be self-reflexive without narcissism; the ability to recognize empathically the connection between

the researcher and the researched; interpersonal skills and an ability not only to listen but also to really hear

what is said and meant; awareness not only of language but also of gesture and silence; an appreciation for

the importance of the routine aspects of social life; and an unwavering work ethic for the many hours that are

necessary to perform the emotional and mental labor required for detailed fieldnotes.

A key issue that always arises and must be navigated by the researcher is that of the “insider” versus “out-

sider” role. Insiders are individuals who either have experienced or have knowledge about the issues being

studied (e.g., domestic violence) or have membership in the group being studied (e.g., persons with AIDS,

a particular ethnic group). As insiders, study participants know firsthand about the concerns, feelings, so-

cial norms/conventions, beliefs, daily activities, and/or cultural practices related to the issue or group. Re-


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searchers who have no personal experience with a particular issue or are not members of a particular group

are outsiders. The insider/outsider dichotomy raises a number of dilemmas regarding the role of the re-

searcher having to do with issues such as acceptance, trustworthiness, and the impact of insider or outsider

status on the perceptions of participants. Some authors believe that it is essential to maintain some element

of the outsider role (i.e., academic or intellectual distance) throughout the study, whereas others insist that the

qualitative researcher's role as an objective and dispassionate observer is not always realistic, achievable, or

even desirable. Arguments have been made that, particularly if researchers are insiders, claiming any sort of

objectivity or distance can actually inhibit accurate perceptions and observations. In such cases, researchers

are encouraged to demonstrate their understanding of the complexities of the situation, thereby increasing

the integrity of the study and their findings. Most researchers come to an awareness and acceptance of their

insider or outsider status and deal with the implications of that status (and possible shifts in it) throughout their


The role as an insider or outsider is only one of many possible interactionist roles that might confront the

researcher during the course of a qualitative study. Some of these additional roles may be assumed by the re-

searcher, whereas others may be assigned to the researcher by participants. In the latter case, the researcher

may need to actively discourage participants from thinking of him or her in a particular role that could be po-

tentially harmful to the study, to the participants, and/or to the researcher. Some of the most common roles

include the following:

Friend. Much has been written about the difficulties of having friends as participants or informants in a study

or of using a friend as an access mechanism into a group. Nonetheless, particularly with a long and in-depth

study, the researcher may develop a bond with at least one participant that develops into a true friendship.

Although some authors think that there is nothing inherently wrong with a friendship arising from research, it

may complicate the study in that the researcher then must be aware of how a developing friendship may alter

the situation and/or the accounts of participants. The researcher also must come to terms with the fact that he

or she cannot freely share everything about the research with a participant who is, or has become, a friend.

Mentor. On occasion, the researcher may take on a mentoring role with study participants. For instance, in

his study of African American high school students, Marc Hill noted that his previous role as a teacher caused

some of the students to seek him out for advice and a sympathetic ear, thereby giving rise to a mentoring role

that he had not anticipated.

Negative Agent. There is always the risk that the researcher's mere presence will alter the behavior of partic-

ipants or the conditions of their social setting in some way. This can be particularly true in an intimate setting

such as the home. The term negative agent was coined by Amy Jordan, who noted in her study of media use

in the home that her presence as a researcher seemed to escalate the tensions among family members and/

or cause them to rethink their roles in the family. It is very possible that the researcher may unwittingly take


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on a role as a negative agent by causing participants to reflect on their beliefs or their social conditions.

Parent. Particularly in qualitative research involving children, researchers who are themselves parents may

come to feel a great attachment to their participants. Deborah Ceglowski, for example, described how she fell

in love with one particular child during her research at a Head Start program and how she struggled to sep-

arate her researcher self from her parent self. This struggle also affected her role as a participant observer

staff member at the program in that she sometimes felt that the full-time staff members were not doing what

was best for this child.

Professional. A researcher who has a previous professional identity may find that the other role as a pro-

fessional can aid him or her in gaining access to a community where that professional role is recognized.

Because of the researcher's prior work experience, he or she may be regarded as a knowledgeable profes-

sional who truly understands the issues within a particular environment, and so participants are willing to re-

ally open up about their experiences in that setting. On the other hand, a researcher's prior professional role

may arouse suspicion. Will participants' thoughts and feelings be kept confidential, or will the researcher im-

part information to management? In such situations, the qualitative researcher may need to work extra hard

to reassure participants that a prior professional role does not in any way compromise participants' personal


Social Activist. Although there is general agreement that an interventionist role is to be avoided, there are

some instances where taking a social or political activist stance is the only way to move the research forward

or is the only morally appropriate course of action. In their work within a Navajo community, Bryan Brayboy

and Donna Deyhle noted that naming the racism that they observed and that participants recounted to them

was the only way to develop a complete understanding of the educational problems faced by Navajo youth.

Although there were repercussions to their stance, the authors nonetheless believed that to take any other

position would have been irresponsible and would have weakened the research findings. Similarly, some re-

searchers have found themselves taking a socially active role when participants are in a dangerous or critical


Therapist. Of all the roles thrust on the researchers by participants, the role of therapist is the one that is uni-

versally disavowed and deemed to be the most problematic. Particularly when using a one-on-one interview

methodology, the researcher may be privy to painful memories and incidents that participants have never dis-

closed previously. Similarly, in an observational study, the researcher may feel a great desire to intervene in a

situation to improve things for participants. Fox referred to this as the “therapeutic temptation.” Being regard-

ed as a therapist puts the researcher in a precarious position because he or she is not trained as a therapist

and the purpose of the research is not to provide therapy even when participants clearly need assistance.

Also frequently discussed in the qualitative literature is how the researcher's role is a component of the dif-


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fering power or social relations between the researcher and research participants. Power imbalances can

arise because of demographic differences between the researcher and study participants, including social

class, race, ethnicity, and level of education. Power differences also can be related to a perceived inequality

between the researcher (who is the authoritative figure and is in control of the study) and participants (who

provide the raw material for the study). The qualitative researcher needs to build a bridge to the study par-

ticipants so that they will trust him or her and will reveal aspects of the issue being studied or allow the re-

searcher to observe their regular practices. The researcher builds this bridge by a number of means, including

demonstrations of empathy, nonjudgmental interest, caring, honesty, and openness. However, no matter how

empathetic the researcher or how trusting the participants, there is still an unequal balance of power. The

researcher is responsible for the study, and the participants might not be entirely sure what the researcher

is going to do with the information given or the observations made or how the researcher will interpret and

describe their accounts. Participants also may feel that they are not getting enough back or are not being

adequately compensated for the disclosure of their life experiences to the researcher.

In situations where participants have come to view the researcher as an insider and/or a friend, the power

imbalance may be even more apparent when the researcher suddenly seems to revert to the researcher role.

Numerous authors have commented that their participants have become uneasy or disappointed when, dur-

ing mundane and friendly conversations, the researchers began to take notes or pulled out a tape recorder. In

these cases, participants often comment that the researchers put on their “researcher hat.” In such situations,

participants can feel betrayed that the bond they feel is really not reciprocal and that it is only business as

usual for the researchers. Similarly, the researchers may feel guilty that they have ruined critical moments in

their developing relationships with participants. Many researchers have recounted that, having had this expe-

rience once, they ensure that they do not again revert to the researcher role during routine friendly encounters

with participants. However, there are also just as many accounts of researchers running into the washroom

or to another private place and writing down as much of those sorts of conversations as they can accurately

recall. This illustrates the fine line in qualitative and ethnographic research between the researcher becoming

so familiar to participants that they think of him or her as a normal part of their setting and the researcher

using participants as a pathway into a particular worldview or set of practices.

Although much of the discussion about the researcher's role centers on the researcher's interactions with,

and obligations to, participants, in some settings the researcher's role may actually be co-opted and used by

participants themselves. Often this happens when the researcher also has a professional identity (e.g., health

care professional, engineer, teacher) that is recognized by participants. For instance, Carol Haigh and her col-

leagues suggested that some participants in their study of postoperative epidural pain management used the

researcher to further their own agendas such as by asking the researcher to bring their concerns/grievances

about their care to someone in a position of higher authority within the clinical setting or asking for clarification

of medical information given to them. The researcher should always be aware that participants may have their


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own reasons for participating in the research and that they have the right to question the researcher's motives

and practices.

Finally, it should be noted that the researcher has a reflexive role in conducting qualitative research. Reflexiv-

ity concerns the need for the researcher to reflect on his or her role(s) and on the general nature of the rela-

tionship between the researcher and the studied. Qualitative researchers understand that they need to think


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