Maxwell Qualitative Research Design: A Model

Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Preface to the First Edition:

  • The distinction between the design of a study and its proposal according to Maxwell: Your design is the logic and coherence of your research study - the components of your research and the ways in which these relate to one another. Your proposal, on the other hand, is a document that communicates and justifies your design to a particular audience (p. xii)."
  • Conceptualize the design of your study; then write the proposal.

Chapter 1: A Model for Qualitative Research Design

  • " A good design, one in which the components work harmoniously together, promotes efficient and successful functioning; a flawed design leads to a poor operation or failure (p. 2)."
  • "The activities of collecting and analyzing data, developing and modifying theory, elaborating or refocusing the research questions, and identifying and addressing validity threats are usually all going on more or less simultaneously, each influencing all of the others (p. 2)."
  • Qualitative research design is recursive and circular not sequential and linear. It involves cycles of reflection and refinement.
  • "Design in qualitative research is an ongoing process that involves 'tacking' back and forth between the different components of the design, assessing the implications of goals, theories, research questions, methods, and validity threats for one another (p. 3)."
  • The components of a study interact with one another; they are not isolated. (Wondering - Could it be said that they function as a system? Could it be a design system?)
  • The important points to include and questions to ask when designing a study (all copied verbatim from p. 4):

    •  "Goals. Why is your study worth doing? What issues do you want it to clarify, and what practices and policies do you want it to influence? Why do you want to conduct this study, and why should we care about the results?
    • Conceptual Framework. What do you think is going on with the issues, settings, or people you plan to study? What theories, beliefs, and prior research findings will guide or inform your research, and what literature, preliminary studies, and personal experiences will you draw on for understanding the people or issues you are studying?
    • Research Questions. What, specifically, do you want to understand by doing this study? What do you not know about the phenomena you are studying that you want to learn? What questions will your research attempt to answer, and how are these questions related to one another?
    • Methods. What will you actually do in conducting this study? What approaches and techniques will you use to collect and analyze your data? There are four parts of this component of your design: (1) the relationships that you establish with the participants in your study; (2) your selection of settings, participants, times and places of data collection, and other data sources such as documents (what is often called 'sampling'); (3) your data collection methods; and (4) your data analysis strategies and techniques.
    • Validity. How might your results and conclusions be wrong? What are the plausible alternative interpretations and validity threats to these, and how will you deal with these? How can the data that you have, or that you could potentially collect, support or challenge your ideas about what's going on? Why should we believe the results? (p. 4)."
  • All components of the research design are connected. These connections are not rigid. In fact, Maxwell uses a rubber band analogy to explain the connections and interactions. "This 'rubber band' metaphor portrays a qualitative design as something with considerable flexibility, but in which there are constraints imposed by the different parts on one another, constraints which, if violated, make the design ineffective (p. 6)."
  • The environment, which includes resources, research skills, perceived problems, ethical standards, context, data gathered, and concluding results, influence and impact the design.
  • Maxwell suggests that we all create a design map for every study that we conduct. A design map is the written completion of Figure 1.1: The Interactive Research Design Model. It includes the written account of a research question, goals, a conceptual framework, methods, and validity.
  • The Organization of This Book
  • The Exercises in This Book

    • Analytic memos are ways of capturing reflective thinking on paper. "What all of these have in common is that they are ways of getting ideas down on paper (or in a computer), and of using this writing as a way to facilitate reflection and analytic insight (p. 12)."
    • Researchers need to write about their research often and systematically throughout the course of the study. Memos help you understand your work.
    • "The first is that you engage in serious reflection, analysis, and self-critique, rather than just mechanically recording events and thoughts. The second is that you organize your memos in a systematic, retrievable form, so that the observations and insights can easily be accessed for future examination (p. 13)."