Tradition — Qualitative traditions, also known as approaches, view the more multidimensional and multidisciplinary paradigm of research (conceptions of self, ethics, the environment, etc. (Creswell, p. 51). It is an approach or mind-set to the way research is conducted, but more than that it is the approach to the subject matter that may be sociological, cultural, historical, etc. — all depending on the expertise of the researcher, the desired inquiry, and the theoretical grounding that is most appropriate for the project (p. 103).

In general, there are five qualitative traditions/approaches to research studies:

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Narrative — Narrative is a method and phenomenon of study — it focuses on experiences, stories, and the spoken or written text that gives and account of events and actions that are then chronologically connected (pp. 70-2).

Phenomenological — Narrative studies report single individual, phenomenological studies account the meaning of issues for several experiences of their “lived” experiences of a concept. This describes what the participants have in common, as they experience something. The overall purpose reduces individual experiences to group experiences that may be understood and extrapolated to others (pp. 80-1).

Grounded Theory — moves beyond description and generates or discovers new theory (p. 103).

Ethnographic research focuses on an entire culture group — shared patterns of behavior, belief, etc. (p. 90).

Case Study research focuses on an issue that is explored through one or more cases within a bonded system or case over time looking at , patterns of change, etc. (pp. 96-8).

When looking at individual studies, we can identify characteristics of the above by into mode of inquiry, type of study necessary, and most important, the overall purpose and extrapolation of the study results:

1. Women who lose their husbands while in deployment — Phenomenological Study due to extrapolation of grief and other emotions from larger group over time.

2. Rape victims in the military — Phenomenological theory that could be alone or combined with case study since all victims share a bonded system (military). The issue is also looking at shared experiences and coping mechanisms, so mixed combination might be more advantageous.

3. A class that achieves academic excellence despite being in a poor area with teachers of limited experience. The class is a bonded system, but the experiences are more shared in nature; Case study or phenomenological approach. However, if the researcher has a theoretical assumption as to why the class is excelling, a Grounded Theoretical approach could also be utilized.

4. Aged in nursing units and living longer than expectations. Phenomenological approach that takes into account the anecdotes they share, but if the researcher forms a hypothesis that the reason for the longevity is X, then it may be combined with a Grounded Theory Approach to explain a phenomenon.

5. Latino community in a wealthy and progressive community. The integration of the media, businesses and the culture of the community means there are shared experiences suggests that Ethnographic research be a focus (Latino) yet their experiences may also be phenomenological in nature.


1. Women who lose their husbands while in deployment. Phenomenological a. Takes the individual narrative approach and juxtaposes it onto a group that has at least one commonality (military wives).

b. Takes the issue of shared experience, in this case grief, to combine it to find some common steps that are taken to adjust. This coping mechanism is then combined from individual to group and extrapolated so that the human community can find commonality and perhaps ways to cope with their own tragedy (Creswell, pp. 80-4).

2. Rape victims in the military. Phenomenological.

a. Records individual experiences within a group structure that is not ethnically common, but common in theme (military). The experiences are unique, but when combined, become phenomenologically sound.

b. The focus on the research is to find commonalities in coping mechanisms so rape victims can go on with their careers. The phenomenological approach may, in this case, be combined with a case study approach because the group is closed (military) and the experience common (rape) (Creswell, pp. 80-4; 96-99).

3. Class achieving despite poor area, and inexperienced teachers. Case Study approach combined with Grounded Theory.

a. The class is a bonded system with some shared experiences; poverty, most parents uneducated, teachers with little experience. The researcher needs to look at the class as a unit, and find what commonalities and differences are apparent and what issues occur to ensure success; this is the of the research.

b. However, once the case study materials become more robust, the researcher will likely develop a theoretical basis for the reasons for success, and thus the conclusion of the research will not simply be to account for the class issues, but to explain in an academic manner how and why this occurred — a grounded theory (Creswell, p. 103-5).

4. Nursing units who live longer than expected. Phenomenological and Theoretical.

a. The nursing research is similar to the class research share some common experiences even though they are likely of differing ages, ethnicities, and demographic make-up. The Phenomenological portion of the research will look at their living arrangements, the way they are treated, and their sharing of anecdotes to explain their well-being. Combining these narratives into a broader paradigm is phenomenological research (Creswell, pp. 103-5).

b. However, retelling the reasons for the phenomenon is likely insufficient within this research model. Thus, it is likely that the researcher will move to a theoretical approach that states a hypothesis similar to: patients in X nursing home live longer than expected because of a combination of issues that makes their life more stable and positive.

5. Latino community in urban area. Ethnographic and phenomenological.

a. The community shares cultural bonds (Latino) and uses local cultural institutions to share their story (newspapers, restaurants, businesses). This moves the narrative into both a phenomenological study and ethnographic study because it combines methods for uncovering an issue.

b. At the heart of the community, though, is an ethnic issue that bodes the question: what separates this Latino group from others that causes this group to develop a wealthy and progressive community? It is also possible that this research will included some aspects of grounded theory. The researcher could also combine these two approaches into a case study of a shared community over time (Creswell, 90-92; 103-5).


Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design; choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage publications.