Questionnaire in qualitative case study

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    Lisa D

    I am about to conduct a qualitative case study and thinking about using questionnaire to connect some background and descriptive data about students’ attitude and reaction to wiki. The questionnaire will be distributed to around 70 students, but it’s not meant to be a quantitative study, so I will just report some descriptive data and triangulate them with interview data. 

    My problem is that I can’t find proper literature to backup my use of questionnaire in qualitative study. I will really appreciate it if anyone can point me to appropriate references or resources. Thanks a lot!!



    There is not a big problem with using a questionnaiere in qualitative research. I think this could go under a mixed-methods design according to the book by Creswell and Piano Clark: (it’s the German Amazon page).

    Nadia Ahouari_Idri


    It is a mixed methodology used in a case study. You can use both if you change your main method from qualitative to  a mixed methodology (both qualitative through the interview and quantitative through a questionnaire)

    Good luck

    Lisa D

    Nadia & Ingo:

    Thanks a lot for your feedback. My problem is that I only have 26 students. So I am worried that the size of the participants are not big enough to be counted as quantitative data. Any advice?



    26 is not much, but I would say it is enough to call it quantitative. I have seen regressions with fewer observations.

    Lisa D


    Nice to know that. 🙂


    Yes, you can used it in your mixed method design approach only to triangulate your findings of the qualitative case study which will ultimately strengthening your findings. I think that 70 participants are enough for your study but please read Cohen,Morrison and Mannion, entitled: Research Methods in Education (7th Edition)-They reflect clearly on return rate of questionnaires and triangulation of research findings..


    Well, if you are proposing to use a structured (e.g. closed question plus one or two open questions in a structured way), then this part of your study is not qualitative.  Think about using this quantitative data as a way of informing the next stage of your work (or, as you say, providing some context to your qualitative case study.   There is lots of literature on ‘mixed method’ approaches.. although this probably is defined in various ways by researchers.  Be careful when you later analyse your qualitative case study that you adopt an appropriate epistemological stance – and are aware of relevant qualitative research theory ..and approaches, so that you don’t fall into the trap of using ‘quantitative / or positivistic’ approaches when analysing your case study.  Some researchers prefer to steer clear of mixed methods in order to avoid this potential problem.. but I use mixed methods all the time. 

    Pat Bazeley

    Actually, the kind of questionnaire I think you are describing is more of a qualitative than a quantitative instrument – it’s just that it sometimes uses numbers rather than words to record the answers. You are making an interpretive judgement in the design of your questions, the respondent is interpreting again when they respond to your question, and then you interpret their responses and the statistical associations (especially if you start using factor analysis or modelling based on multiple regressions). So, I would happily combine what you learn from the different sources, and consider them all to be coming from the same (constructivist/interpretivist) epistemological position (i.e., don’t get yourself tied up in knots over it). I would also strongly recommend integrating your writing from the different sources around the topics or issues for your study rather than organizing your writing by method of data collection.


    Hmmmm…. I certainly agree with some aspects of Pat’s response… (combining what you learn from different sources).. but I am confident that there will be many qualitative researchers who would be uncomfortable with the suggestion that the use of factor analysis and multiple regression based analyses can be considered within an interpretivist position.  Arguably, the whole point of factor analysis is to offer an ‘objective’ means of reducing data based on quantitative measures. But, hey ho… academics are unlikely to agree on these sorts of issues.  The researchers will have to make up their own minds.  

    Pat Bazeley

    There are so many decision points along the way in any analysis of survey/questionnaire data that there is no way the process could be considered to be anything other than ‘interpretive’. For a start, take a look at Green et al’s paper (Green, J., Statham, H., & Solomou, W. (2008). Assessing satisfaction: insights from a multi-methods study. NCRM Working Paper Series, 462. Retrieved from to see some of the issues in how people interpret scale items. Then consider, once you have some numbers the decisions that are made, based on interpretive judgement, about how to manage outliers, or non-normally distributed data, whether ‘significance’ really is significant, etc., and more particularly, in “interpreting factors” or building a multiple regression model – both of the latter capable of giving very different results depending on what variables are included in the analysis, and so on. In qualitative work, we talk about a double hermeneutic when referring to our interpretation of someone’s interpretation of their experience. Seems to me that here, in statistical survey analysis the process involves something more like a triple or even quadruple hermeneutic!


    I’ve been following these questions and answers and found it very relevant for my research thank you everyone. I will seriously consider triangulating existing questionnaire data with interview data, regards Shahieda


    Research is not governed by any strict rules.  Anything which captures reality is right.  The use of questionnaire and also the use of qualitative methodology is totally justifiable.

    Dr Mike Lambert

    Lisa, this may be helpful:


    The last time I ventured into giving my opinion on this sort of debate.. got me into some ‘hot water’… because academics don’t seem to agree very much when it comes to discussing ‘epistemological stance’.  If you’re looking for literature that combines different methodological approaches, then presumably, a search of ‘mixed methods’ should lead to something useful.  I’d suggest that you need to think more about (or come to terms with) your own epistemological stance – that is, what do you consider and accept to be a valid and appropriate way of gaining knowledge (of course, in the relation to the research question that you are asking)? So far, you have only talked about methods so I can’t comment on what might be appropriate… (and probably won’t have time to comment even if you tell me!).. this is something for you to ponder about and decide.  When you have that straight(er) in your mind.. you can then start to justify to the outside world why you are taking the approach that you decide upon.. and I see absolutely no reason why you should not be able to defend the use of a quantitative / structured descriptive survey as precursor to starting a qualitative study.  

    I know this is not a simple reply, but then, life is not simple. 

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