Maxwell Qualitative Research Design: Goals

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

Chapter 2: Goals: Why Are You Doing This Study?

  • Goals include motives, desires, and purposes.
  • "A clear understanding of the goals motivating your work will help you to avoid losing your way or spending time and effort doing things that don't advance these goals (p. 15)."
  • "First, they (goals) help to guide your other design decisions to ensure that your study is worth doing, that you get something of value out of it. Second, they are essential to justifying your study, a key task of a funding or dissertation proposal (p. 15)."
  • Personal, Practical, and Intellectual Goals

    • There are three kinds of goals - personal, practical, and professional (or intellectual). Personal goals may or may not be related to the reasons for conducting the study. Personal goals are influenced by various topics, issues, and questions. They can be very motivating and influential in designing and conducting the study.
    • Personal goals influence the approach of the study.
    • What is necessary is to be aware of these goals and how they may be shaping your research, and to think about how best to achieve them and to deal with their influence.
    • The difference between practical and professional goals: "Practical goals are focused on accomplishing something - meeting some need, changing some situation, or achieving some objective. Intellectual (or professional) goals, in contrast, are focused on understanding something - gaining insight into what is going on and why this is happening, or answering some question that previous research has not adequately addressed (p. 21)."
    • You should frame your research question in such a way that you can actually attain or achieve the practical goals.
    • Practical goals provide reasons for the study but should not dictate the question. Instead, they provide the justification for the research.
  • What Goals Can Qualitative Research Help You Achieve?

    • "Understanding the meaning, for participants in the study, of the events, situations, experiences, and actions they are involved with or engage in (p. 22)."
    • "Understanding the particular context within which the participants act, and the influence that this context has on their actions (p. 22)."
    • "Identifying unanticipated phenomena and influences, and generating new, "grounded" theories about the latter (p. 22)."
    • "Understanding the process by which events and actions take place (p. 23)."
    • "Developing causal explanations (p. 23)."

      • "Part of the reason for the disagreement has been a failure to recognize that quantitative and qualitative researchers tend to ask different kinds of causal questions. Quantitative researchers tend to be interested in whether and to what extent variance in x causes variance in y. Qualitative researchers, on the other hand, tend to ask how x plays a role in causing y, what the process is that connects x and y (p. 23)."
    • "Generating results and theories that are understandable and experientially credible, both to the people you are studying and to others (p. 24)."
    • "Conducting formative evaluations, ones that are intended to help improve existing practice rather than to simply assess the value of the program or product being evaluated (Scriven, 1967, 1991) (p. 24)."
    • "Engaging in collaborative or action research with practitioners on research participants (p. 24)."
    • Systematic, serious reflection about goals and motives for a study is essential.