which methodology?

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    I am doing a research study on the information behaviour (i.e., how do people find and use information for a variety of purposes) of women researchers. Information here has a subjective meaning and therefore can be interpreted differently. The study aims at identifying the information needs, information sources used and the process of finding information, the barriers participants may face and finally to describe how information found was put into use. Due to the exploratory nature of the study I will collect data by using diaries and interviews.


    My question is in which methodological approach would you describe my study? It seems to me that it is not a case study because a case study is a bounded system and my topic is about information behaviour, and I could sample indefinitely. Ethnography is also a form of qualitative research examined but the emphasis in this study is not on the socio-cultural interpretation and observation will be not used due to ethical reason.  A grounded theory study is also a form of qualitative research examined but the emphasis is not on building a substantive theory from the data, rather exploration, depth investigation and description.


    Sometimes, I came to a conclusion that the research literature does not offer an answer with regard to what type of research methodology my study can be categorised. Because I am not a research methodologist, it is important for me to hear from you and learn from your experiences. 

    Pat Bazeley


    It is clear you have done some sound introductory reading on different methodologies. Perhaps it is best that you simply use that reading to give you ideas about what is possible, while you focus on what it is you want to know, your purpose in wanting to know that, and where you might want to locate that theoretically, rather than on trying to apply a particular methodology. Having worked out your purpose and a framework for understanding the issues, and from that, your questions, you can then work out how best to find out the answers to your questions. Keep a record of your decisions and how you made them, so you can justify your choices. 

    You would find Joseph Maxwell’s book on Qualitative Research Design (Sage, 2e – 2005, 3e – 2013) very helpful in planning  your study. You might also find Sally Thorne’s Interpretive Description (Left Coast Press, 2008) helpful, as she talks about research situations that do not fit any of the ‘classical’ methodologies. 



    Dear Pat,

    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge. I have read Sally Thorne’s Interpretive Description book but I still have a question on wether or not her work differ from other ‘classical’ methodologies’ such as grounded theory, naturalistic inquiry and ethnography.

    In addition and perhaps more importantly, does her methodology is the same as what Merriam (1998) called a generic qualitative inquiry and what Sandelowski (2000) put forward as “fundamental qualitative method”

    I really appreciate your thoughts. 

    Best wishes,


    Pat Bazeley

    I guess you could say, very similar. But again I ask, why do you need to attach a label, and remind you of the point I made in my first reply – keep your focus on your questions, and what you need to find out in order to answer those, drawing on the ideas you might get from a range of different methodological authors.


    I do agree with Pal. You are doing research to find out certain answer. You might be knowing what you are doing. Is it necessary to give name to the methodology how has one reached certain results or findings if method is clearly spelled and agreed upon as a valid one?

    A little bit more. Even in quantitative methodology based on induction, deduction is made now and then. What will call you this method of research: inductive or deductive. Further qualitative methods are also used. If data from different variables recurrently appear in combination, one has to give a name or thematic nomenclature or dimensional construct. Please refer to early researches of social areas by Chicago School of Ecology. If you call these recurring combinations themes, will the quantitative research will become qualitative research?

    The point is in a research we do use different explanatory and explanatory methods, but the research is know by the problem it explore and broad framework in which it is carried out.


    Rather concentrate on the practical aspects of the research than name calling. What can be done to answer the research question and not what name should be given to such activity. They can be branded later towards the end of the study especially that you seem to be reading much on research methodology.


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