Edición Julio 2017

La investigación cualitativa y sus métodos:
Citas literales de los mejores autores

Las fuentes de procedencia de las citas literales, como en Denzin y Lincoln 2011, o Sarah J. Tracy 2016 hacen referencia a la Bibliografía disponible en la página sobre Investigación Cualitativa.


Fuente: Denzin y Lincoln 2011

Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world.


Qualitative research consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible. These practices transform the world. They turn the world into a series of representations, including fieldnotes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos to the self. At this level, qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.

Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials— case study, personal experience, introspection, life story, interview, artifacts, and cultural texts and productions, along with observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts— that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives.


The combination of multiple methodological practices, empirical materials, perspectives, and observers in a single study is best understood, then, as a strategy that adds rigor, breadth complexity, richness, and depth to any inquiry


The word qualitative implies an emphasis on the qualities of entities and on processes and meanings that are not experimentally examined or measured (if measured at all) in terms of quantity, amount, intensity, or frequency.


Proponents of the positivist version contend that there is a reality out there to be studied, captured, and understood, whereas the postpositivists argue that reality can never be fully apprehended, only approximated (Guba, 1990a, p. 22). Postpositivism relies on multiple methods as a way of capturing as much of reality as possible.


Qualitative researchers believe that rich descriptions of the social world are valuable, whereas quantitative researchers, with their etic, nomothetic commitments, are less concerned with such detail. They are deliberately unconcerned with such descriptions because such detail interrupts the process of developing generalizations.


Qualitative researchers use ethnographic prose, historical narratives, first-person accounts, still photographs, life history, fictionalized “facts,” and biographical and autobiographical materials, among others. Quantitative researchers use mathematical models, statistical tables, and graphs and usually write in an impersonal, third-person prose.


We want a social science committed up front to issues of social justice, equity, nonviolence, peace, and universal human rights. We do not want a social science that says it can address these issues if it wants to do so. For us, this is no longer an option.


Fuente: Miles, Huberman y Saldaña 2014

We label ourselves pragmatic realists. We believe that social phenomena exist not only in the mind but also in the world— and that some reasonably stable relationships can be found among the idiosyncratic messiness of life.


Saldaña (2011b) describes more than 20 different qualitative research genres out of many more available to investigators, ranging from well-established traditions such as ethnography, grounded theory, phenomenology, case study, and content analysis to more progressive genres of qualitative research, such as poetic inquiry, narrative inquiry, ethnodrama, autoethnography, and duoethnography.


  • Qualitative research is conducted through intense and/ or prolonged contact with participants in a naturalistic setting to investigate the everyday and/ or exceptional lives of individuals, groups, societies, and organizations.
  • The researcher’s role is to gain a holistic (systemic, encompassing, and integrated) overview of the context under study: its social arrangement, its ways of working, and its explicit and implicit rules.
  • Relatively little standardized instrumentation is used. The researcher himself or herself is essentially the main instrument in the study.
  • The researcher attempts to capture data on the perceptions of local participants from the inside through a process of deep attentiveness, of empathetic understanding, and of suspending or bracketing preconceptions about the topics under discussion.
  • Most of the analysis is done with words. The words can be assembled, subclustered, or broken into segments. They can be reorganized to permit the researcher to compare, contrast, analyze, and construct patterns out of them.
  • Reading through these empirical materials (i.e., data), the researcher may construct certain themes and patterns that can be reviewed with participants.
  • The main task is to describe the ways people in particular settings come to understand, account for, take action, and otherwise manage their day-to-day situations.
  • Many interpretations of this material are possible, but some are more compelling for theoretical reasons or on grounds of credibility and trustworthiness.


Research questions represent the facets of inquiry that the researcher most wants to explore. Research questions may be general or particular, descriptive or explanatory. The formulation of research questions may precede, follow, or happen concurrently with the development of a conceptual framework. They also may be formulated at the outset or later on and may be refined or reformulated during the course of fieldwork.


Formulating more than a dozen or so general research questions is looking for trouble. You can easily lose the forest for the trees and fragment the collection of data. Having a large number of questions makes it harder to see emergent links across different parts of the database and to integrate findings. As we saw in Display 2.4, a solution to research question proliferation is the use of major questions, each with subquestions, for clarity and specificity. It also helps to consider whether there is a key question, the “thing you really want to know.”


Qualitative samples tend to be purposive rather than random. Samples in qualitative studies are usually not wholly prespecified but can evolve once fieldwork begins. The initial choices of participants lead you to similar and different ones; observing one class of events invites comparison with another; and understanding one key relationship in the setting reveals facets to be studied in others. This is conceptually driven sequential sampling.


Random sampling is a gold standard of quantitative research but is used quite minimally in qualitative research because random sampling can sometimes deal you a biased hand. Our sampling tends to be more strategic and purposive because we are focusing on a case’s unique contexts. Admittedly, there are times when we select a case to study because it is accessible to us geographically and immediately— a form of convenience sampling.

How do sampling strategies affect analysis? Maximum variation sampling, for example, involves looking for outlier cases to see whether the main patterns still hold, while homogeneous sampling focuses on people with similar demographic or social characteristics. The critical case is the instance that “proves” or exemplifies the main findings. Searching deliberately for confirming and disconfirming cases, extreme or deviant cases, and typical cases serves to increase confidence in conclusions.

Some strategies benefit inductive, theory-building analysis (e.g., opportunistic or snowball sampling). Politically important cases are “salient” participants who may need to be included (or excluded) because they connect with politically sensitive issues anticipated in the analysis.


The conventional view is that qualitative studies are only good for exploratory or descriptive forays and that strong explanations, including causal attributions, can be derived only through quantitative studies, particularly the classical experimental– control design. We consider this view mistaken. Even the most elegant quantitative procedures deal primarily with associations, not really causes. They can only develop plausible possibilities smoothed across many persons and situations. We consider qualitative analysis to be a very powerful method for assessing causation. But we have to go far beyond assertion, showing an empirical basis for the claim that Y is explained or caused/ influenced by X.


Fuente: Shkedi 2014

Literature in the field of qualitative research that seeks to define this realm presents a list of dozens of significant terms, some of which are parallel, if not identical. Among the terms we can randomly find are “case study,” “action research,” clinical research,” “ethnography,” “content analysis,” “discourse analysis,” “descriptive study,” “discussion analysis,” “documental analysis,” “ethnography,” “field research,” “focus group,” “grounded theory,” “hermeneutics,” “interpretive research,” “narrative research,” “life history,” “life stories,” “naturalistic research,” “participant observation,” “qualitative assessment,” “phenomenology,” “constructivist research,” “post-modern research,” “biography,” and “autobiography,” to name just a few. Tesch (1990) presented perhaps the most comprehensive list, numbering over 40 different types of qualitative research. Each of the terms reflects different emphases, traditions, attitudes and preferences. Some of the terms actually parallel one another; others present different variants of the same or close types of research, while some probably reflect disagreement or controversies between different researchers.


Guba and Lincoln (1998) suggest a distinction between four qualitative research approaches: positivist, post-positivist, critical and constructive. Although we can certainly propose additional approaches, it appears that these four approaches reflect the range of qualitative research paradigm references. Frequently accepted is the dichotomous distinction between positivist research and constructivist research.


Many qualitative researchers conduct their research under a non-constructivist approach, while many others are very loyal to the constructive approach. The distinction between the different research approaches, in all its importance, cannot provide us the key for a clear distinction between the different practices of qualitative research. Researchers who adopt the constructivist approach may conduct research via life stories or ethnography, action research or case studies, a grounded theory or discourse analysis, to mention only a very partial list. But researchers who adopt the post-positivist approach, the critical approach or even the positivist approach may also conduct their research within the research genres mentioned above.


We can sort the terms that identify qualitative research into four “families,” each of which reflects a different aspect of qualitative research: the research approach, genre, method and methodology. These represent four different ways of looking at four different faces of qualitative research.


Although in most cases, researchers tend to identify their research with one of the accepted genres, this identification does not make it easier to distinguish between the different types of studies. While some researchers would categorize their research type as ethnography, it could be referred to by others as case study, while other scholars would call it narrative research, still others would prefer to call it life story, and so on. Identification with a particular research genre is largely a reflection of the research tradition in which the researcher has grown or developed. Moreover, even if some researchers use the same genre name, each may conduct a different study. Some researchers may choose to pursue ethnography which focuses on a post-positivistic approach, and others base their ethnography on constructivist or critical approaches.


Denzin and Lincoln (2000) proposed a comprehensive definition of qualitative research: “Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. […] This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.” (p. 3) Another definition, which partially overlaps the definition above, was offered by Maykut and Morehouse (1994): “Qualitative research […] generally examines people’s words and actions in narrative or descriptive ways more closely representing the situation as experienced by the participants.” (p. 2) Strauss and Corbin (1990) suggested a broader definition: “By the term qualitative research we mean any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification.”

These three definitions, and certainly many others, identify qualitative research, first and foremost, via terminological descriptions, with closeness to the phenomena under study in its natural environment, and by avoiding the use of sophisticated statistical-quantitative tools. It seems that these definitions emphasize the methodological aspects, which are indeed the main characteristics of qualitative research.

Based upon these and other definitions of qualitative research, this book offers a definition based on the following three components:

  • Research based on intuitive human research skills, focused on closeness, participation, and empathy with the phenomena investigated.
  • The use of analytic human research skills, focused on distancing, reflection and control of the process.
  • Research utilizing the language of words, a natural human language in the context of the natural human life.


Fuente: Trochim, 2006 [accesible online: bit.ly/2bJ78uJ]

Depending on their philosophical perspectives, some qualitative researchers reject the framework of validity that is commonly accepted in more quantitative research in the social sciences. They reject the basic realist assumption that their is a reality external to our perception of it. Consequently, it doesn’t make sense to be concerned with the “truth” or “falsity” of an observation with respect to an external reality (which is a primary concern of validity). These qualitative researchers argue for different standards for judging the quality of research.

For instance, Guba and Lincoln proposed four criteria for judging the soundness of qualitative research and explicitly offered these as an alternative to more traditional quantitatively-oriented criteria. They felt that their four criteria better reflected the underlying assumptions involved in much qualitative research. Their proposed criteria and the “analogous” quantitative criteria are listed in the table.

Traditional Criteria for Judging Quantitative Research

Alternative Criteria for Judging Qualitative Research

internal validity


external validity







Fuente: David Williams, 2016

The credibility standard requires a qualitative study to be believable to critical readers and to be approved by the persons who provided the information gathered during the study. Lincoln and Guba recommend several techniques inquirers may use to enhance the credibility of their research: prolonged engagement, persistent observation, triangulation, peer debriefing, negative case analysis, progressive subjectivity checks, and member checking.


This criterion refers to the applicability of findings in one context (where the research is done) to other contexts or settings (where the interpretations might be transferred). Whether findings can be transferred or not is an empirical question, which cannot be answered by the inquirer alone. The target context must be compared to the research context to identify similarities. The more similar, the more likely it is that the findings will be transferable. Persons reading the qualitative inquiry reports have to make this decision.


A fourth standard is confirmability, which refers to the quality of the results produced by an inquiry in terms of how well they are supported by informants (members) who are involved in the study and by events that are independent of the inquirer. Reference to literature and findings by other authors that confirm the inquirer’s interpretations can strengthen confirmability of the study in addition to information and interpretations by people other than the inquirer from within the inquiry site itself.


This is the third standard for judging qualitative studies and refers to the stability or consistency of the inquiry processes used over time. To check the dependability of a qualitative study, one looks to see if the researcher has been careless or made mistakes in conceptualizing the study, collecting the data, interpreting the findings and reporting results. The logic used for selecting people and events to observe, interview, and include in the study should be clearly presented. The more consistent the researcher has been in this research process, the more dependable are the results.


Fuente: C. H. Major; M. Savin-Baden, 2010

(Del apartado Qualitative research synthesis. Top ten arguments for using the approach (pp. 10-16))

Qualitative research synthesis:

  1. Can help contain the information explosion
  2. Helps manage the information explosion
  3. Helps address the problem of knowledge fragmentation
  4. Helps to identify gaps and omissions in a given body of research or within a single article
  5. Provides a different perspective on questions addressed through quantitative approaches
  6. Provides ways to advance theory
  7. Can spark dialogue and debate
  8. Can add a depth dimension to qualitative studies
  9. Can allow for development of evidence-based practice and policy
  10. Is a cost-efficient approach



Fuente: Sarah J. Tracy, 2016

Qualitative quality: creating a credible, ethical, significant study (Cap. 11)


Hence I developed an expansive “big-tent” approach to criteria for qualitative quality, differentiating the end goals of good research from the mean practices that researchers take to get there. This eight-point conceptualization for obtaining quality in qualitative research serves as a pedagogical tool, promotes dialogue among researchers from various paradigms, and encourages the viability and credibility of qualitative research with a variety of audiences.


Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research (Sarah J. Tracy, 2016)

Criteria for Quality
(end goal)
Various means, practices and methods through which to achieve
Worthy topic

The topic if the research is:

  • relevant
  • timely
  • significant
  • interesting
Rich rigor

The study uses sufficient, abundant, appropriate and complex

  • theoretical constructs
  • data and time in the field
  • sample(s)
  • context(s)
  • data collection and analysis processes

The study is characterized by

  • self-reflexivity about subjective values, biases, and inclinations of the researcher(s)
  • transparency about the methods and challenges

The research is marked by

  • thick description, concrete detail, explication of tacit (nontextual) knowledge, and showing rather than telling
  • triangulation or crystallization
  • multivocality
  • member reflections
  • inter-coder reliability (when collaborating on data-analysis)

The research influences, affects, or moves particulars readers or a variety of audiences through

  • aesthetic, evocative representation
  • naturalistic generalizations
  • transferable findings
Significant contribution

The research provides a significant contribution

  • conceptually/theoretically
  • practically
  • heuristically
  • methodologically

The research considers

  • procedural ethics (such as human subjects)
  • situational and cultural specific ethics
  • relational ethics
Meaningful coherence

The study

  • achieves what it purports to be about
  • uses methods and procedures that fit with its stated goals
  • meaningfully interconnects literature, research questions/foci, findings, and interpretations with each other

Ir a la página principal sobre Investigación cualitativa