Stake The Nature of Qualitative Research

Stake, R. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Chapter 3: The Nature of Qualitative Research

  • "Case study researchers use the method of specimens as their primary method to come to know extensively and intensively about the single case (p. 36)."
  • Experiential Understanding

    • "Quantitative researchers have pressed for explanation and control; qualitative researchers have pressed for understanding the complex interrelationships among all that exists (p. 37)."
    • "Qualitative research tries to establish an empathetic understanding for the reader, through description, sometimes thick description, conveying to the reader what experience itself would convey (p. 39)."
    • Quantitative researchers regularly treat uniqueness of cases as 'error,' outside the system of explained science. Qualitative researchers treat the uniqueness of individual cases and contexts as important to understanding. Particularization is an important aim, coming to know the particularity of the case (p. 39)."
    • "Qualitative research uses these narratives to optimize the opportunity of the reader to gain an experiential understanding of the case (p. 40)."
  • Interpretation as Method

    • "Standard qualitative designs call for the persons most responsible for interpretations to be in the field, making observations, exercising subjective judgment, analyzing and synthesizing, all the while realizing their own consciousness (p. 41)."
    • "An ongoing interpretive role of the researcher is prominent in qualitative case study (p. 43)."
  • Other Characteristics of Qualitative Research

    • "All research is a search for patterns, for consistencies (p. 44)."
    • Patterns are to qualitative research as correlation or covariation is to quantitative research.
  • Recognition of Faults

    • "New puzzles are produced more frequently than solutions to old ones. Its contributions to disciplined science are slow and tendentious. The results pay off little in the advancement of social practice. The ethical risks are substantial. And the cost in time and money is high, very high (p. 45)."
    • "Subjectivity is not seen as a failing needing to be eliminated but as an essential element of understanding (p. 45)."
    • Qualitative researchers " not have widely agreed-upon protocols that put subjective misunderstandings to a stiff enough test (p. 45)."

On pp. 47 - 48, Stake creates a chart that lists the defining characteristics of a qualitative study. The information below is copied verbatim from his chart:

Defining Characteristics

1. It is holistic:

    its contextuality is well developed; 
    it is case oriented (a case is seen to be a bounded system);
    it resists reductionism and elementalism; and
    it is relatively noncomparative, seeking to understand its object more than to understand how it differs from others.

2. It is empirical:
    it is field oriented;
    its emphasis is on observables, including the observations by informants;
    it strives to be naturalistic, noninterventionistic; and there is a relative preference for natural language description, sometimes disdaining grand constructs.

3. It is interpretive:
    its researchers rely more on intuition, with many important criteria not specified;
    its on-site observers work to keep attention free to recognize problem-relevant events; and
    it is attuned to the fact that research is a researcher-subject interaction.

4. It is empathic:
    it attends to actor intentionality;
    it seeks actor frames of reference, value commitments;
    although planned, its design is emergent, responsive;
    its issues are emic issues, progressively focused; and
    ts reporting provides vicarious experience.


Characteristics of Good Qualitative Study (in addition to the above)

1. Its observations and immediate interpretations are validated:
    triangulation of data is routine;
    there is deliberate effort to disconfirm own interpretations;
    its reports assist readers to make their own interpretations; and
    its reports assist readers in recognition of subjectivity

2.    It is nonhortatory, resisting the exploitation of the specialist's platform.

3.    It is sensitive to the risks of human subjects research.

4.    Its researchers are not just methodologically competent and versed in some sbstantive (sic) discipline but versed in the relevan (sic) disciplines.

Qualitative Studies Vary Depending on These Options

1.    Aimed at knowledge production versus practice; policy assistance.
2.    Seeks to represent typical cases versus what may best yield understanding.
3.    Honors multiple realities (relativism) versus single view.
4.    Reporting provides formal generalizations versus vicarious experience.
5.    Intends to provide value conclusions versus facilitating value debate.