Qualitative Research Quality: A Collaborative Inquiry Across Multiple Methodological Perspectives

Joachim Walther, Nicola W. Sochacka, Lisa C. Benson, Amy E. Bumbaco, Nadia Kellam, Alice L. Pawley, Canek M.L. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Background: The field of engineering education research is adopting an increasingly diverse range of qualitative methods. These developments necessitate a coherent language and conceptual framework to critically engage with questions of qualitative research quality. Purpose/Hypothesis: This article advances discussions of qualitative research quality through sharing and analyzing a methodologically diverse, practice-based exploration of research quality in the context of five engineering education research studies. Design/Method: As a group of seven engineering education researchers, we drew on the collaborative inquiry method to systematically examine questions of qualitative research quality in our everyday research practice. We used a process-based, theoretical framework for research quality as the anchor for these explorations. Results: We constructed five practice explorations spanning grounded theory, interpretative phenomenological analysis, and various forms of narrative inquiry. Examining the individual contributions as a whole yielded four key insights: quality challenges require examination from multiple theoretical lenses; questions of research quality are implicitly infused in research practice; research quality extends beyond the objects, procedures, and products of research to concern the human context and local research setting; and research quality lies at the heart of introducing novices to interpretive research. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the potential and further need for the engineering education community to advance methodological theory through purposeful and reflective engagement in research practice across the diverse methodological approaches currently being adopted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-430
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • collaborative inquiry
  • qualitative
  • research evaluation criteria
  • research methods
  • research quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)


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