Education Case Study and Qualitative Research


Qualitative research has an important role in understanding various disciplines of this world and how they complement other forms of knowledge. The core Qualitative research methods can be described as ways to comprehend in-depth interviews of individuals and small groups, systematic field observation of their behavior and analysis of documentary data (Darlington & Scott, 2002, p. 2).

Initialization and Recognition

The initialization of qualitative research was the traditional period in which the development of evolutionary ethnography took place and appeared as a positivistic approach to deploy qualitative methods as its main data collection tool. This was the beginning of qualitative development which was attributed with the provision of objective colonizing accounts of field experiences, whereby researchers co-operated with nineteenth-century imperial governments in the suppression and exploitation of natives (Denzin and Lincoln 1998:15). They recorded through the use of observation that small interviews and documental analysis play an important role in operation of primitive societies and issued their interpretation of what was going on as the truth about evolution and native peoples.

Researchers then analyzed that they have the choice to employ different theoretical models, and the boundaries between different disciplines became indistinct so that theories, techniques and approaches could be borrowed, mixed and matched according to the research task. This type and stage marked a distinct difference from which they identified the ‘modernist’ and ‘traditional’ phases as researchers begin to move away from natural science and recognise multiple approaches embracing a more creative, artistic approach to research (Phillimore & Goodson, 2004, p. 14).

After getting to know such type, they deployed the models on some articles to discover more innovative approaches to data collation, utilising it on personal experiences for acquiring more traditional techniques for collecting qualitative data, such as participant observation, in-depth interviews and ethnography. Since early research orientations include critical ethnography in their origins in early forms of anthropological research shaped by colonialism and imperialist modes of thinking, therefore qualitative was included in ethnography studies.

A qualitative dissertation from the statement of the problem through the presentation of the data and the analysis and interpretation of results differs from a traditional viewpoint. Researchers are usually influenced about qualitative research from an ethnographical viewpoint in which they are supposed to develop an interest or a ‘what’s going on here’ perspective, immerse in the situation, gather all the data possible (interviews, documents, observations), and analyze the data with some framework that would emerge from the data (Meloy, 2002, p. 3).

Ethnography presents the qualitative with a purposeful exploration but from an insider’s perspective that indicates personal opinions are involved that provide the researcher with a chance to make explicit and give voice to the unspoken, the unheard, and the invisible. The initial expectations of participants’ relationships and their experiences of evolution and current status helps the researcher in the data collection included personal observations of the individuals’ verbal and non-verbal behaviour (including body language and voice into-nations), along with their interactions with others, including their partners (Donoghue & Punch, 2003, p. 17). This gave information about the status of their relationship in context with an insider/outsider perspective.


Positionality or standpoint epistemology allows the researcher to conduct partial and incomplete texts analyses, which are culturally situated and are of great interest between the investigator’s personal history and research certainly extends beyond qualitative research and the social sciences. Since positionality is an important criterion for evaluating qualitative research, therefore it was realized that qualitative research is the need of acknowledging the researcher’s positionality that when intersects with that of the researched, built our understandings and constructions which is not a unique observation, since knowledge is not created in a vacuum.

There is a unique relationship between the researcher, the researched, and the world of institution of higher education, such as researcher ethics who examines the relationships between the researcher and the gatekeepers who facilitate or hinder the researcher’s access to research participants (Merchant & Willis, 2001, p. 20).

Researcher’s identity in context with outsider/Insider Perspective

Researcher’s identity does not reflect to the outer world his or her inside perspectives that are crucial to the research setting. For example researcher x, who is an Indian has been living in the United States for more than 4 years. Being an Asian Indian does make him or her, subjected to an insider in several ways to the culture and ways of life of Asian Indian research participants, giving advantage in understanding their perspectives. This means internally he or she is influenced and practicing his or her own culture or is ethnographically conscious about some beliefs like and behaviors, like preferring to eat Indian food and wearing Indian dresses on weekends or while at home because it made them feel ‘at home’. As a researcher, this aspect was also reflected in the language that was most often used for interviews taken either in Hindi or English, whichever they felt comfortable in, and most of them chose Hindi. This in itself indicated their desire to maintain their Asian Indian identity, which they also emphasized for their children, as an insider the researcher found it easy to understand why these parents were so keen that their children should maintain their Indian identity, and not become totally ‘Americanized’.

On the other hand identity making in an outsider setting means to the research setting in two important ways. First, researcher x does not have any children and has not personally experienced some of the dilemmas Asian Indian parents may face in regard to bringing up their children in a cultural setting much different from the one they grew up in. Based on the casual conversations with some Asian Indians and other international friends who had children, person x witnesses some perspective on these conflicts. Those perspectives provided an opportunity to person x to understand in depth the reactions of these parents when they see their children getting ‘Americanized’.


Thus we conclude that insider/outsider positionality is crucial to the findings of research, whether case study or ethnography because a researcher is liable to put him in the shoes of the participants’ viewpoint.


Darlington Yvonne & Scott Dorothy, (2002) Qualitative Research in Practice: Stories from the Field: Allen & Unwin: Crows Nest, N.S.W.

Donoghue Tom & Punch Keith, (2003) Qualitative Educational Research in Action: Doing and Reflecting: RoutledgeFalmer: London.

Meloy M. Judith, (2002) Writing the Qualitative Dissertation: Understanding by Doing: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of Publication: Mahwah, NJ.

Merchant M & Willis Ingram Arlette, (2001) Multiple and Intersecting Identities in Qualitative Research: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ.

Phillimore Jenny & Goodson Lisa, (2004) Qualitative Research in Tourism: Ontologies, Epistemologies and Methodologies: Routledge: New York.