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Qualitative Studies in Special Education

(Wing Institute Abstract)

The paper provides an overview of qualitative research with particular emphasis on its use in special education. Qualitative research is defined along with proposals for establishing credibility measures and quality indicators for qualitative research designs. The paper provides examples of what the authors believe to be exemplary qualitative research studies and how they have been incorporated in the education policy and practices.

Quality Indicators for Qualitative Research

Interview Studies (or Interview Components of Comprehensive Studies)
  • Appropriate participants are selected (purposefully identified, effectively recruited, adequate number, representative of population of interest).
  • Interview questions are reasonable (clearly worded, not leading, appropriate and sufficient for exploring domains of interest).
  • Adequate mechanisms are used to record and transcribe interviews.
  • Participants are represented sensitively and fairly in the report.
  • Sound measures are used to ensure confidentiality.
Observation Studies (or Observation Components of Comprehensive Studies)
  • Appropriate settings and/or people are selected for observation.
  • Sufficient time is spent in the field (number and duration of observations, study time span).
  • Researcher fits into the site (accepted, respected, unobtrusive).
  • Research has minimal impact on setting (except for action research, which is purposely designed to have an impact).
  • Field notes are systematically collected (videotaped, audio taped, written during or soon after observations).
  • Sound measures are used to ensure confidentiality of participants and settings.
Document Analysis
  • Meaningful documents (texts, artifacts, objects, pictures) are found and their relevance is established.
  • Documents are obtained and stored in a careful manner.
  • Documents are sufficiently described and cited.
  • Sound measures are used to ensure confidentiality of private documents.
Data Analysis
  • Results are sorted and coded in a systematic and meaningful way.
  • Sufficient rationale is provided for what was (or was not) included in the report. Documentation of methods used to establish trustworthiness and credibility are clear.
  • Reflection about researchers’ personal positions and perspectives are provided.
  • Conclusions are substantiated by sufficient quotations from participants, field notes of observations, and evidence of documentation inspection.
  • Connections are made with related research.

Source: Qualitative Studies in Special Education, 2005

Authors: Ellen Brantlinger, Robert Jimenez, Janette Klingner, Marleen Pugach, and Virginia Richardson

Publisher: Council for Exceptional Children

Citation: Brantlinger, E., R. Jimenez, J. Klingner, M. Pugach, and V. Richardson, Qualitative Studies in Special Education, Council for Exceptional Children. 2005, Vol.71, No.2, pp. 195-207

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