Theory, Approach, Methods in Qualitative Study

Subject: Sciences
Pages: 5
Words: 1394
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: PhD


This paper analyzes the relationship between theory, approach, and methods in qualitative studies. This analysis occurs in the context of a proposed study that aims to investigate how to diversify funds to enhance the financial stability of Clayton County Library. This paper explains the conceptual framework and research approaches that characterize the proposed study. Explanations of alternative qualitative approaches also appear in this paper, coupled with reasons for their exclusion from the study. The last section of this paper explains the justification for all the approaches proposed in the study.

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Conceptual Framework for my Qualitative Research Plan and Justifications for using it

Theoretical and conceptual frameworks often determine the types of questions asked in research papers by shaping the direction of the research and outlining the data collection and analysis processes (Maxwell, 2005). Researchers affirm the use of theoretical frameworks for creating arguments, positions, and themes for answering research questions (Hooper & Gunn, 2014). Ideally, the theoretical framework would be useful in investigating how to diversify funds to enhance the financial stability of Clayton County Library, but since it creates arguments and positions for specific research positions, it is less attractive for the proposed research (Imenda, 2014).

The proposed study is a socioeconomic paper, with an exploratory focus. Stated differently, it does not argue for, or against, a specific position, but explores whether an idea (a financial diversification strategy) is feasible for creating financial stability at Clayton County Library, or not. Based on the limitations of the theoretical framework, in this regard, a conceptual framework is more appropriate for the proposed study

My choice for a conceptual framework stems from the need to connect different concepts derived from the body of literature outlined in the research prospectus. Patton (2014) affirms this need because she says conceptual frameworks often link different concepts of literature to sustain the necessity for the research questions. The conceptual framework is different from the theoretical framework because it fills the gaps created by the latter (suggests absent paths attributed to theoretical frameworks) (Willi, Nguyen, Melewar, & Dennis, 2014).

In line with this argument, the main purpose of having a literature review in my study is to corroborate my findings with previous studies that have investigated the same topic. Therefore, it is important to document all the sources I use and evaluate the rationale for using them to develop the study’s structure. The above processes provided the right impetus for developing the conceptual framework outlined below

Conceptual Framework

The above conceptual framework comprises three stages – inputs, processes, and output. The input stage outlines the main sources of data for the research (interview findings and secondary literature). The process stage analyzes these pieces of information by seeking expert opinions about them and comparing the findings with previous research intrigues. This process gives way to a final stage of the research process (output stage), which outlines basic assumptions, principles, limitations, and financial options for Clayton County Library.

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Maxwell (2005) says a sound conceptual framework should be easy to develop and understand. It should also show the distinctions and ideas that surround the research topic. The proposed conceptual framework captures real issues about the research and packages them in three easy steps – inputs, processes, and output. In line with this reasoning, Strong (2014) and Veg-Sala (2014) say, well-developed conceptual frameworks should address the desired research goals.

The main goals of the proposed study appear in the research questions. The first question aims to understand how Clayton County may diversify its sources of funds to become more financially stable. The second question explores alternative sources of funding that could help Clayton County Library become more financially stable. The conceptual framework described above captures these research questions in the output section because it gives possible financial options of diversification and the basic principles and assumptions that should guide this strategy. By meeting these criteria, it outlines a well-informed analytical framework for the proposed study.

Selected Qualitative Approach

My study will use the case study research approach. This approach is the most desirable qualitative option for this paper because the proposed study focuses on one library – Clayton County Library. Therefore, the research dynamics of the paper would only appeal to one institution. Using the case study approach provides several advantages for the study. For example, instead of focusing on the extensive details of financial diversification, the case study approach provides us with valuable and specific details regarding the research focus (Creswell, 2012). Therefore, we get to learn useful details about whether a financial diversification strategy would work at Clayton County Library, or not.

Second Choice

Field research would be the second option for the proposed research. It involves going to the field to collect information about a specific research issue. Sala, Knies, & Burton (2014) and Marriott (2014) say this research approach is a broad depiction of qualitative research because it has an expanded analytical scope. If we extrapolate its use to address the proposed research, I would have to collect information regarding financial diversification strategies by studying the practices of other libraries, located in other jurisdictions.

The main reason for excluding the field research approach in the proposed study is the expanded focus of analysis that it would have introduced to the research (Mostafa, 2014). In other words, instead of the research solely focusing on the Clayton County Library, the proposed study would have borrowed a lot of information about the practices of other libraries in the region. Therefore, the findings of the paper would not have been specific to the central area of study (Clayton County Library).

Third Choice

Ethnography is the third choice of qualitative approach for the proposed research. Its roots stem from anthropology studies that study human societies, ethnicities, and the social characteristics of cultural cohorts (Bell & Taylor, 2014). However, recently, researchers have used it to study different social groups and organizations (Drake & Harvey, 2014). Therefore, its application includes the study of different corporate and institutional practices.

Since Clayton County Library is a public library, it subscribes to existing regulations that govern public library management systems. Because the proposed paper strives to study the efficacy of a financial diversification strategy to stabilize the library’s finances, the ethnographic approach would have helped to identify the opportunities and limitations of doing so. However, this qualitative approach was unattractive because of its limited use in social economics. Therefore, extending its use to the proposed study would have caused application challenges.

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Alignment and Justification of Theory, Qualitative Approach and Methodology

This paper affirms the use of a qualitative research study and a case study research approach. The latter option aligns with the qualitative research methodology because it presents a detailed analysis of the research issue. Besides providing a focused analysis of Clayton County Library, the qualitative research method is also unconstrained because it does not have a limited analytical scope (Priede, Jokinen, Ruuskanen, & Farrall, 2014). This qualitative method supports the inclusion of theory and conceptual frameworks in the proposed analysis because it supports an interdisciplinary analysis (Abascal & Díaz, 2013).

This approach allows the inclusion of theory and frameworks during the process of interpreting the results of the case study. Overall, the proposed conceptual framework provides a platform for carrying out the case study analysis. Through its three-step process, I will be able to analyze specific components of the research process and produce outputs that answer the research question.


Investigating whether a financial diversification strategy could create financial stability for the Clayton County Library is a broad research issue that requires dynamic research approaches and methods. Within a qualitative research setting, this paper affirms the use of a case study research approach for conducting the study. Field research and ethnography are alternative approaches that could serve the same purpose, but their wide scopes and inapplicability in social economics make them less attractive alternatives for the proposed research.

Nonetheless, the three-step conceptual framework proposed in this study, and the case study research approach, connect different concepts in the body of literature outlined in the proposed study. The two tenets of the proposed research also complement one another because the conceptual framework gives the structure of carrying out the case study. Collectively, both tools are instrumental in answering the research question.


Abascal, E., & Díaz, V. (2013). Analysis of 0 to 10-point response scales using factorial methods: a new perspective. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(5), 569-584.

Bell, E., & Taylor, S. (2014). Uncertainty in the study of belief: the risks and benefits of methodological agnosticism. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(5), 543-557.

Creswell, J. (2012). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.

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Drake, D., & Harvey, J. (2014). Performing the role of the ethnographer: processing and managing the emotional dimensions of prison research. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(5), 489-501.

Hooper, C., & Gunn, R. (2014). Recognition as a framework for ethical participatory research: developing a methodology with looked after young people. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(5), 475-488.

Imenda, S. (2014). Is There a Conceptual Difference between Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks? J Soc Sci, 38(2), 185-195.

Marriott, L. (2014). Using student subjects in experimental research: a challenge to the practice of using students as a proxy for taxpayers. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(5), 503-525.

Maxwell, J. (2005). Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.

Mostafa, M. (2014). Functional neuroimaging applications in marketing: some methodological and statistical considerations. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 17(4), 5-13.

Patton, M. (2014). Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.

Priede, C., Jokinen, A., Ruuskanen, E., & Farrall, S. (2014). Which probes are most useful when undertaking cognitive interviews? International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(5), 559-568.

Sala, E., Knies, G., & Burton, J. (2014). Propensity to consent to data linkage: experimental evidence on the role of three survey design features in a UK longitudinal panel. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(5), 455-473.

Strong, C. (2014). The challenge of ‘big data’: what does it mean for the qualitative research industry? Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 17(4), 245-267.

Veg-Sala, N. (2014). The use of longitudinal case studies and semiotics for analysing brand development as the process of assimilation or accommodation. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 17(4), 223-227.

Willi, C., Nguyen, B., Melewar, T., & Dennis, C. (2014). Corporate impression formation in online communities: a qualitative study. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 17(4), 278-302.