Qualitative research is a key form of research in education; the findings of such projects frequently play a central role in shaping policy and practice. First time qualitative researchers require clear and practical guidance from the outset. However, given the diversity of both subject matter and methodological approaches encompassed by qualitative research, such guidance is not always easily come by.
Qualitative Educational Research in Action: Doing and Reflecting is a collection of ten first-hand accounts by educational researchers of qualitative inquiries they carried out. The subjects are diverse, taking in school restructuring, policy analysis, critical literacy, phenomenology and the student teacher relationship. Each chapter outlines the research question investigated and provides an overview of the project's findings, before going on to describe how each researcher approached the challenges of their particular inquiry. The researchers reflect upon the unexpected turns qualitative research can take and the way such projects can move through different theoretical and methodological positions, often ending up significantly removed from the original premise, but all the more valuable for that.
Anyone conducting qualitative research in education will be heartened and inspired by this collection, and will also find in it invaluable guidance on dealing effectively with the idiosyncrasies and pitfalls of qualitative research - guidance that is all the more valuable for coming from those who have themselves navigated similar difficulties.
Tom O' Donoghue is Associate Professor of Education and Deputy Dean of the Faculty at the University of Western Australia's Graduate School of Education.
Keith Punch is Professor of Education at the University of Western Australia.