In summary, a qualitative research question mainly focuses on “W” questions; distributions across or within large populations are of lesser importance and often cannot be examined due to the nature of qualitative research itself. The question should not be too broad, but also not too narrow. And you should be able to examine it at all. A prerequisite is that you can gain access to the field. You may have formulated a perfect qualitative research question, if putting it into practice requires talking to all ministers in your country and you do not have the right connections, your project cannot be realized. Before you continue to invest a lot of time and effort in a research idea, check out whether you can find participants. Talking to pupils in schools often takes a long process of getting permissions from the school board; you cannot just go to a schoolyard and talk to kids there. Military institutions are another case, where you need to adhere to specific procedures to be allowed access. Recently some students wanted to interview people that have converted to Islam, but were not able to find individuals that were willing to participate. Others were interested in people that are addicted to sports; they ended up changing their topic as they did not manage to get contact with such persons. In qualitative research terms, they could not access the field. Thus, there are not only institutional hurdles to overcome. It is probably easiest to find participants for your research, when the research question is based on your personal background or related to your social context. In other cases it is not impossible, but more difficult.
Research based on qualitative methods, and methodological commentary on such research, have expanded exponentially in the past decades. This is the case across a number of disciplines including sociology, social anthropology, health and nursing, education, cultural studies, human geography, social and discursive psychology, and discourse studies. As the degree of internet in qualitative research is global, the scope of the journal is truly international as well as interdisciplinary, capitalizing on the current popularity of qualitative research methods across all of the social and cultural disciplines.
Jen Tarr is Assistant Professor in Research Methodology in the Department of Methodology. She has been teaching qualitative methods for over a decade to students from a range of disciplines and skill levels. A health sociologist by background, she has recently completed a Methodological Innovations research project on chronic pain communication, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council via the National Centre for Research Methods. Her work is published in leading journals such as Qualitative Research , Sociology of Health & Illness and Ethnography .