Ethnography, Observational Research, and Narrative Inquiry

Employing Multiple Methods

It is important to underscore that one cannot point to a single clear definition of a qualitative study. Oftentimes researchers triangulate data by combining different types of qualitative approaches and even including quantitative elements. For example, Doheny-Farina (1985) conducted a study of the collaborative writing process in a new software company. He visited the company for three to five days a week over eight months. His visits ranged from one to eight hours. His key informants were the company's top five executives, two middle managers, and two outside consults. He took 400 pages of field notes of three types: observational, theoretical, and methodological. He tape-recorded meetings, and he also conducted 30 open-ended and discourse-based interviews.

Doheny-Farina analyzed the data by reviewing it chronologically and developing a coding scheme as he reviewed. From the data he discovered a major theme and sub-theme. His analysis describes the writing of the company's business plan within its organizational context.

Essentially, his data showed that the organizational context shaped the writing of the business plan while the writing of the business plan shaped the organizational context.

Although the article Doheny-Farina wrote about his study starts out much like a traditional research report, it reports its results as a story with a chronology and a discussion of themes. He also offers theoretical, pedagogical, and research implications. He concludes by allowing that he is offering a model that is not necessarily generalizable but nonetheless valuable.

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Introduction