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Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design

Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design
Choosing Among Five Approaches

Fourth Edition
Additional resources:

January 2017 | 488 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Winner of the 2018 Textbook & Academic Authors Association's The McGuffey Longevity Award

In the revised Fourth Edition of the best-selling text, John W. Creswell and new co-author Cheryl N. Poth explore the philosophical underpinnings, history, and key elements of five qualitative inquiry approaches: narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study. Preserving Creswell's signature writing style, the authors compare the approaches and relate research designs to each of the traditions of inquiry in a highly accessible manner. Featuring new content, articles, pedagogy, references, and expanded coverage of ethics throughout, the Fourth Edition is an ideal introduction to the theories, strategies, and practices of qualitative inquiry. 

Learn more about John W. Creswell's qualitative research and mixed methods research titles as well as his 2017 spring/summer mixed methods research workshops!

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About the Authors
Analytic Table of Contents by Approach
List of Tables and Figures
1. Introduction
Purpose and Rationale for the Book  
What Is New in This Edition  
Positioning Ourselves  
Definition of Qualitative Research  
Selection of the Five Approaches  
Key Book Readings  
2. Philosophical Assumptions and Interpretive Frameworks
Questions for Discussion  
Situating Philosophy and Interpretive Frameworks Within the Research Process  
Philosophical Assumptions  
Interpretive Frameworks  
The Practice of Using Interpretive Frameworks in Qualitative Research  
Linking Philosophy and Interpretive Frameworks in Qualitative Research  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
3. Designing a Qualitative Study
Questions for Discussion  
The Characteristics of Qualitative Research  
When to Use Qualitative Research  
What a Qualitative Study Requires From Us  
The Features of a “Good” Qualitative Study  
The Process of Designing a Qualitative Study  
Ethics in Qualitative Research  
The Design Structures of a Plan or Proposal  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
4. Five Qualitative Approaches to Inquiry
Questions for Discussion  
Deciding Among the Five Approaches  
Narrative Research  
Phenomenological Research  
Grounded Theory Research  
Ethnographic Research  
Case Study Research  
Comparing the Five Approaches  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
5. Five Different Qualitative Studies
Questions for Discussion  
A Narrative Study (Chan, 2010; see Appendix B)  
A Phenomenological Study (Anderson & Spencer, 2002; see Appendix C)  
A Grounded Theory Study (Harley et al., 2009; see Appendix D)  
An Ethnographic Study (Mac an Ghaill & Haywood, 2015; see Appendix E)  
A Case Study (Frelin, 2015; see Appendix F)  
Differences Among the Approaches  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
6. Introducing and Focusing the Study
Questions for Discussion  
Interrelating the Study Problem, Purpose, and Questions Within Research  
The Research Problem Statement  
The Purpose Statement  
The Research Questions  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
7. Data Collection
Questions for Discussion  
The Data Collection Circle  
Five Approaches Compared  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
8. Data Analysis and Representation
Questions for Discussion  
Ethical Considerations for Data Analysis  
Three Analysis Strategies  
The Data Analysis Spiral  
Analysis Within Approaches to Inquiry  
Comparing the Five Approaches  
Computer Use in Qualitative Data Analysis  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
9. Writing a Qualitative Study
Questions for Discussion  
Ethical Considerations for Writing  
Several Writing Strategies  
Overall and Embedded Writing Strategies  
A Comparison of Writing Structures Across Approaches  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
10. Standards of Validation and Evaluation
Questions for Discussion  
Validation and Reliability in Qualitative Research  
Evaluation Criteria  
Comparing the Evaluation Standards of the Five Approaches  
Chapter Check-In  
Further Readings  
11. “Turning the Story” and Conclusion
Turning the Story  
A Case Study: “Campus Response to a Student Gunman”  
A Case Study  
A Narrative Study  
A Phenomenology  
A Grounded Theory Study  
An Ethnography  
Chapter Check-In  
Appendix A. An Annotated Glossary of Terms
Appendix B. A Narrative Research Study—“Living in the Space Between Participant and Researcher as a Narrative Inquirer: Examining Ethnic Identity of Chinese Canadian Students as Conflicting Stories to Live By”
Appendix C. A Phenomenological Study—“Cognitive Representations of AIDS”
Appendix D. A Grounded Theory Study—“Developing Long-Term Physical Activity Participation: A Grounded Theory Study With African American Women”
Appendix E. An Ethnography—“British-Born Pakistani and Bangladeshi Young Men: Exploring Unstable Concepts of Muslim, Islamophobia and Racialization”
Appendix F. A Case Study—“Relational Underpinnings and Professionality—A Case Study of a Teacher’s Practices Involving Students With Experiences of School Failure”
Name Index
Subject Index


Instructor Teaching Site

SAGE edge for Instructors supports teaching by making it easy to integrate quality content and create a rich learning environment for students.

  • Test banks provide a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity to edit any question and/or insert personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
  • Editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides offer complete flexibility for creating a multimedia presentation for the course.
Student Resource Site

SAGE edge for Students provides a personalized approach to help students accomplish their coursework goals in an easy-to-use learning environment.

  • Mobile-friendly eFlashcards strengthen understanding of key terms and concepts
  • Mobile-friendly practice quizzes allow for independent assessment by students of their mastery of course material
  • Web Exercises and meaningful web links facilitate student use of internet resources, further exploration of topics, and responses to critical thinking questions
  • EXCLUSIVE! Access to full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected to support and expand on the concepts presented in each chapter

“The Fourth Edition of Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design is refreshingly readable and will be accessible to students of all levels. This is a great text on the subject. Kudos to the authors!"

Charles Quist-Adade
Kwantlen Polytechnic University

“In my teaching experience, I have found this to be the best text for teaching an introductory course in qualitative research, as it demonstrates in a clear and systematic manner how qualitative research can be undertaken in the five most popular approaches in contemporary applied social science research.”

William Donlan
Portland State University

“I have been using Creswell’s text since I studied the first edition as a student myself, and every edition has been a notable improvement on what was already an excellent book. I have yet to see another book that packs in as much vital information with such clarity and friendly writing.”

Grant Kien
California State University, East Bay

“Creswell and Poth’s newly revised edition of Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design represents an accessible yet in-depth resource for developing an understanding of both the main approaches to qualitative research in the social sciences, as well as the wide variation across and beyond these approaches.”

Kai A. Schafft
Penn State University

“Creswell and Poth bring clear guidelines to the area of qualitative research – an excellent resource for building the framework for a successful qualitative study.”

Roy Roehl
University of Alaska Fairbanks

“An excellent, detailed and clear guide for anyone seeking further knowledge about qualitative inquiry.”

Billie Severtsen
Washington State University

This is an update on a solid work on this topic. It provides a great overview of the five approaches listed and reviewed.

Dr Mark Hardgrove
Graduate Studies, Beulah Heights University
November 28, 2017

Clarity, context, approachability. It works.

Dr Leslie-Jean Thornton
Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State Univ-downtown
November 10, 2017

This is the most comprehensive course text in qualitative research that I have come across and is written with the novice researcher in mind. Great for establishing a foundation in students minds on qualitative research methods.

Mr John Anderson
Sociology Dept, Ball State University
August 19, 2017
Key features

  • Strengthened focus on inclusivity and diversity is reflected in examples and references throughout the book.
  • Additional visual depictions of the five approaches assist visual learners and enhance student understanding.
  • Two new studies in Chapter 5 provide new insights on case study and ethnographic research.
  • Greater integration of issues of data management and articles reflective of developments in data collection introduces new ways of gathering qualitative data.
  • Expanded end-of-chapter exercises give readers more opportunities to test their understanding and apply concepts.
  • A wide range of coverage includes comparison of theoretical frameworks, ways to employ standards of quality, and strategies for writing introductions, collecting data, analyzing data, writing a narrative, and verifying results.
  • An emphasis on social justice as one of the primary features of qualitative research can be seen throughout the book.
  • A wealth of in-book resources include a detailed glossary of terms, an analytic table of contents that organizes the material in this book according the five approaches, and complete journal articles that model designing and writing a study within each of the five approaches.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 8

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