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As you make your way through the readings and resources for this week’s Discussion, you begin to realize that social and political forces as well as scientific curiosity shaped the development of modern qualitative research. These readings also make it clear that qualitative research is not a single, homogenous endeavor. Rather, qualitative researchers: come from a variety of disciplines, engage their objects of study from multiple perspectives,present their results in numerous formats,extend scientific knowledge beyond the confines of the experiment or survey,engage the audience to be self-reflective, and potentially illuminate opportunities for social change.This week’s course of study provides you with a contextual understanding of qualitative research, which will form the foundation for understanding the methods and rationale. These will also help you begin a thoughtful process for considering the choice of qualitative research as your methodology for your doctoral research.For this Discussion, you will explore the foundations and history of qualitative research methods. You also will consider the unique characteristics that distinguish qualitative research from other forms of inquiry.To prepare for this Discussion:Review the Learning Resources related to qualitative research and consider the reasons researchers choose qualitative research methods for exploring a phenomenon of interest.Use the Course Guide and Assignment Help in the Learning Resources to help you search for other books, encyclopedias, or articles that introduce and describe qualitative research. By Day 3Consider the statement: Qualitative researchers study people in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.Using the Learning Resources and other academic sources you found, expand on this simple statement. In 3–4 paragraphs, explain several dimensions of this paradigm that make qualitative research interesting and unique. Be sure to use the terminology you are learning (including but not limited to “phenomena”, “constructivist,” and “naturalistic”), and provide historical context. Be sure to support your main post and response post with at least four reference to the week’s Learning Resources and other scholarly evidence in APA style.
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Premises, Principles, and Practices in
Qualitative Research: Revisiting the
Foundations
In: SAGE Qualitative Research Methods
By: K. Charmaz
Edited by: Paul Atkinson & Sara Delamont
Pub. Date: 2011
Access Date: May 24, 2019
Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc.
City: Thousand Oaks
Print ISBN: 9781849203784
Online ISBN: 9780857028211
DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9780857028211
Print pages: 977-993
© 2010 SAGE Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This PDF has been generated from SAGE Research Methods. Please note that the pagination of the
online version will vary from the pagination of the print book.
SAGE
SAGE Research Methods
2010 SAGE Publications, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Premises, Principles, and Practices in Qualitative Research: Revisiting
the Foundations
KathyCharmaz
http://qhr.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/14/7/976
18 ppSAGE Publications, Inc.
2455 Teller RoadThousand OaksCalifornia91320United States of America
September, 2004147976976993
Contact SAGE Publications at http://www.sagepub.com
10.1177/1049732304266795
Encoding from PDF of original work
Charmaz, K.(2004) ‘Premises, principles and practices in qualitative research: Revisiting the foundations’,
Qualitative Health Research, 14, 976-993.
In this keynote address, the author focuses on what we bring to qualitative inquiry and how we conduct our
research. What we do, why we do it, and how we do it remain contested issues. She proposes that we look at
our methodological premises anew, revisit our principles, and revise our practices. Throughout this address,
she draws on Goffman’s methodological insights to provide a foundation for reassessing qualitative inquiry.
She argues that researchers can build on Goffman’s ideas to strengthen their methodological practices
and research products. Last, she counters current institutional scrutiny of qualitative inquiry and suggests
unacknowledged benefits of this work.
Keywords
Erving Goffman; insider’s view; truths; credibility; transformation of the researcher
When preparing my remarks, I thought it useful to revisit the ideas of a native Albertan, Erving Goffman, one
of our most eminent ethnographers and social analysts. Many of you have drawn on his insights about total
institutions, stigma, self-presentation, and frame analysis (Goffman, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1974).1 Goffman was
born in Mannville, Alberta, attended high school in Winnipeg, studied chemistry at the University of Manitoba,
and eventually received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto. Throughout this address, I will
return toGoffman, because his perspective on qualitative methods raises significant contemporary concerns.
Goffman shared his views of methods privately with his closest students and colleagues but provided little
concrete advice for his readers.2 In a recent issue ofSymbolic Interaction, Howard Becker (2003) said of
Goffman,
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He felt very strongly that you could not elaborate any useful rules of procedure for doing field
research and that, if you attempted to do that, people would misinterpret what you had written,
do it (whateverit was) wrong, and then blame you for the resulting mess. He refused to accept
responsibility for such unfortunate possibilities. (p. 660)
Despite Goffman’s misgivings, a number of us have been elaborating methodological rules, recipes, and
rationales. Sometimes, other researchers adopt or adapt them to good or bad effect, depending on your point
of view. In the following remarks, I aim to elaborate some useful ideas and build on Goffman for articulating
them. I believe that we can build on general principles and construct practice guidelines to enact. Hence, I will
take the risk of being misinterpreted, but, of course, if your research—or mine—goes awry, we can always
blame Goffman.
On a more serious note, I wish to consider methodological premises, principles, and practices that I have
struggled with for years and continue to struggle with now. I hope that my remarks might resonate with
concerns you have faced and might spark your thinking. For the past three decades, I have been studying
people who have chronic illnesses and physical disabilities through an interview study of 165 intensive
interviews. I started with primary interests in how individuals experience time and how they construct or
reconstruct self after having a serious episode of illness. During the past few years, I have become interested
in suffering and its meanings in people’s lives. Studying topics such as self, time, and suffering in the
lives of people with chronic illnesses has made both the potentials for qualitative research and problems of
conducting it more apparent, which I will discuss below.
But first, let me begin with a story about Karen Liddell,3 who struggled with chronic pain from a devastating
neck injury, escalating reliance on pain medication, relentless emotional turmoil, an unreliable and uncertain
body, and the prospect of continued poverty. Karen’s striking dark hair, perfect features, smooth skin, and
graceful figure portray a woman younger than her 46 years. Her elegant carriage, clear gaze, and calm
composure belie the physical, emotional, and financial struggles she has had and continues to experience.
Karen has been married and divorced three times; she calls herself a “serial commitmentist.” She lives in an
inexpensive duplex with her 18-year-old son, Joshua, who is having problems in high school. At the time I
first talked with her, she discovered Joshua had been forging her name on notes and ditching school. After
learning what Joshua had done, Karen’s last ex-husband, Larry, caused a ruckus at school, and then Joshua
ran away for a day.
Larry was an affluent developer who had construction projects throughout the state. During their marriage,
Karen and Larry lived in a large home in the country with farm animals, a garden, a pool, and a gym.
Karen had concentrated on raising her three sons from her earlier marriages, maintaining the household, and
keeping their contracting business in order. She said that she married Larry partly because he would be an
excellent provider and he was very good with the boys. Larry adopted Joshua, because, as Karen put it,
[Josh’s] dad had just fallen off the planet; he had his own drug addiction going on; he had a Master’s
degree in psychology, so these are not stupid people, just people with drug problems which is pretty
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common in my age group.
Karen’s serious medical problems began in 1993, when she became drowsy while driving her Jeep home one
night just before dawn. She had been up for hours as a volunteer attending what turned out to be false labor
of an expectant mother. She said,
I started to drift off the road, so my, the tire got caught and I overcorrected and according to a
witness, I rolled six to eight times and then once end to end back across the highway and smashed
into a telephone pole and during that time, you know, it was very surreal. There was a lot—that thing
about being in slow motion and feeling yourself getting caught and banged but being kind of in an
altered state through it, and then the car was completely annihilated, the back end was ripped off
and I remember feeling surprised that when I went to crawl out the back end, ‘cause there was no
back end, that I could walk, that I could move, because I was sure when it was happening that I
was dead—that that was the dead, and I went through—it was a very spiritual experience actually
because I felt that I went through the process of dying short of dying and then they took me, they
came and… got me MediFlight, and took me back and stapled me up and gave me pain meds and
sent me home and it was truly miraculous that I wasn’t hurt more than I was, because basically what
happened then is there was no physical fracture or anything in my neck but it set in a process of
degenerative disk disease which then began to progress pretty rapidly from that point forward.
Since then, Karen has had chronic fatigue, possible fibromyalgia, and growing dependence on pain
medication. She felt caught between worries about its long-term effects and fears of being incapacitated
without it. Karen faced the lingering reverberations of broken trust and loss. Her story indicates how
interwoven her physical and emotional distress were. She said,
My ex-husband had kind of a double life going on as it turns out; he would disappear for two or
three days at a time which became increasingly worse. He had colitis … part of it was his colitis but
part of it, [as] it turned out was a hidden cocaine addiction so I couldn’t continue to—in my chronic
pain condition and his behavior, just kept me so stressed out where I couldn’t function emotionally
and physically to a point. That’s why I say my survival was at stake …it hurt me. And there was
no support there for my pain issue. …I always had to be the one who had to be strong because
he’d be gone on these disappearing things and then somebody had to hold down the fort and keep
everything going when this would happen. And then sometimes it would take him a week to recover
because whatever he was doing would cause his colitis to flair up, so I was always forced to be in
the position of the emotional anchor in the family and it was so exhausting to me and again I had
to keep escalating that pain medication then to continue on and normally, then, at the time the disk
was fully herniated so I was being treated for chronic pain but there was still some questions to the
validity of my pain factor whether it was emotionally induced or physically and some question as to
whether it was a lot psychological, that I was perhaps, you know, had a painful addiction and was
just self-medicating.
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Karen’s problems escalated with the divorce, while her prospects plummeted. She won her independence
but lost her financial stability and everything else as well. For a period, Karen lost much of the world she had
known, and subsequently, her sense of identity crumbled. She said,
He ended up with everything and I got nothing; he even got my kids because he had the financial
power in the relationship so five years ago I had to start virtually with nothing and then within a year
and a half my son had been back with me and I had to just trust that time would—because they didn’t
understand—I protected them from a lot of what was going on in that relationship so I had to virtually
start over with nothing including my children and it was very traumatic. But I figured if I could survive
that, I could survive just about anything, but it literally saved my life because it wasn’t too long after
that I ended up in spinal surgery, that my condition had gotten where I was losing my left arm, my left
arm was going gimpy because it was radiating and no long through controllable through medication.
Karen’s statements foretell a fascinating tale about growing troubles and failing health; however, I include
them here to stimulate our thinking about qualitative research. How might these interview statements reflect
larger issues about inquiry? What might we learn about methodological premises, principles, and practices
from this story and analytic stories of similar experiences? Which principles might we adopt? How might we
integrate them in our research practice?
I chose Karen Liddell’s accounts to highlight because her statements exemplify situations that other people
with chronic illness share, albeit not always so starkly. Karen experienced the rippling effects of having an
ambiguous chronic condition that affected every aspect of her life. What we have here are Karen’s accounts
drawn from an interview and several lengthy informal conversations. We gain a view of her concerns as
she presents them to us, rather than as events unfold. Multiple visits over time combined with the intimacy
of intensive interviewing do provide a deeper view of a person’s life than single structured or informational
interviews can offer. Nonetheless, anyone’s stories may differ markedly from an ethnographer’s recording of
the actual events on which those stories are based. In keeping with his emphasis on the roles people play in
their unfolding dramas, Goffman (1989) said, “I don’t give hardly any weight to what people say, but I try to
triangulate what they are saying with events” (p. 131). Goffman believed that in three-person situations, you
had a better chance to see what ordinarily occurred in the setting, because each person had to maintain his
or her usual ties to the other two people.
Goffman’s strategy would work in most situations although Karen broaches the kind of topics that elicit
conversational sanctions. In-depth interviews can allow these topics to emerge. People with chronic
conditions find that others silence their stories and discount their suffering. What they are silenced about
may be among the most important things to learn about them. Silences are significant (Charmaz, in press-a,
in press-b, 2002b). I think Goffman would agree on that point. He would look for how, when, and in which
contexts silences emerge and how people behave toward them. Goffman would observe who has legitimacy
to choose to be silent or to break silences, and who is forced to remain silent.
I want to learn what silences mean, but also wish to listen to what people say about them and glean which
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feelings their silences appear to evince. Having her disclosures monitored was not new to Karen. Her friends
limited what she could say. Her parents and brother distanced themselves from her troubles, not wanting to
hear of them. Of course, others, like Karen’s teenage son, Joshua, might “hear” a story but not “know” what it
means. When Karen had constant dizziness, I asked her if he knew. She said,
He knew, but he’s 17, he thinks everything is all about him. Number 1, he’s a man, and the second
thing is, he thinks everything in his world is a big drama and I’m just, I’m the parent and I’m—he
doesn’t get a lot that goes on with me.
To underscore how people silence individuals with chronic illnesses, consider Martha Roth’s case. Martha
was a 54-year-old divorced woman who had been a small business owner before she became too disabled
to work. For many years, fibromyalgia had limited her life; then, a diagnosis of breast cancer led to sequential
mastectomies. The chemotherapy and radiation treatments made her deathly ill. Despite her extreme weight
loss, baldness, and lack of energy, Martha’s friends and family trivialized her illness. They silenced and
abandoned Martha. The brother whom she had raised not only deserted her but also confiscated her profits
from their shared business. She said, “For my father and his wife this was kind of like get over it, Martha,
it was like I had a toothache or an earache or something, it was like just get over it. I mean they were not
supportive at all” (Charmaz, in press-a).
PREMISES
When reflecting on these stories and comparing my methods with Goffman’s, we can find basic
methodological premises. I revisit several that merit close attention with which I struggle. The first premise
concerns how we focus our inquiry. Along time ago, Henri Bergson (1903/1961) said, “Philosophers agree
in making a deep distinction between two ways of knowing a thing. The first implies going all around it, the
second entering into it” (p. 1). We can know about a world by describing it from the outside. Yet to understand
what living in this world means, we need to learn from the inside. Starting from the inside is the initial step to
develop a rich qualitative analysis. Thus, my first premise follows.
A Deep Understanding of Studied Life Means Entering It
Many qualitative studies claim to follow Bergson’s (1903/1961) lead by stating that they portray an insider’s
view of an experience. But do they? Gaining an insider’s view is far more problematic—and arduous—than
researchers acknowledge. Some ethnographies portray life inside the studied experience such as Timothy
Diamond (1992) and Gary Alan Fine’s work (see, for example, 1986, 1996, 1998). Some interview studies
and multiple methods studies do also. Janice M. Morse’s (see, for example, Morse, 2001b; Morse & Penrod,
1999) studies of suffering get inside the experience. However, like quantitative studies, much qualitative
research goes around the topic rather than into it. Rather than offering an incisive analytic interpretation of the
experience as lived, qualitative studies often offer a description that defines it as observed—from a distance.
Those studies that profess to use grounded theory methods often talk about the phenomena from the outside
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but may not enter them. Thus, such studies do not break the studied phenomena open to make an interpretive
rendering from the inside.
How do you know when you have entered the world you study? For Goffman (1989), it means more than
having members disclose strategic secrets, a common index of acceptance. His view of entering the studied
world bears some resemblance with the old conception of “going native,” in which the researcher converts to
the worldview and practices of the studied people.4 Goffman’s researcher exists somewhere between his or
her former identity and one embedded in the studied setting. Perhaps potential adoption of the studied world
rather than total conversion characterizes Goffman’s stance. Goffman’s “shoulds” include feeling that you
could settle in and leave your academic identity behind. Then you reproduce the same body rhythms, rate of
movement, and, I imagine, cadence of speech—naturally. You do not engage in mimicry, such as mimicking
accents, because, as Goffman observes, mimicking people’s accents makes them angry.
For those of us who do interview research or documentary studies, entering the phenomenon poses more
problems. Although the context and content of an intensive interview may foster intimacy, we seldom share
sustained contact with our participants. We may not even sustain intimate contact during the interview. If we
become uncomfortable, we can shift our questions and likely our hands, shoulders, and feet. I suspect that
some interviewers give their participants clear nonverbal messages: Tell me your story but don’t tell me any
more than I can bear to hear. At the end of the interview, we get up and leave.
Entering the phenomenon means being fully present during the interview and deep inside the content
afterward. Not only does this focused attention validate your participant’s humanity, it also helps you to take
a close look at what you are gaining. Entering the phenomenon means that you come to sense, feel, and
fathom what having this experience is like, although you enter your participants’ lives much less than an
ethnographer does. Entering the phenomenon also means that your active involvement with data shapes the
analysis. Afew descriptive codes and a powerful computer program do not suffice.
We enter the phenomenon to discover what is significant from the viewpoints and actions of people who
experience it. We cannot assume that we already know what is significant. This point brings us to my second
premise.
Meanings Matter
To appreciate what is happening in a setting, we need to know what things mean to participants. Meanings
render action and intention comprehensi …
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