NSF speaks on qualitative research

Rarely do you find an academic science foundation producing a serious paper on qualitative research.  While browsing the internet, I came across a paper that the National Science Foundation published following a 2003 workshop.  The paper titled “Workshop on Scientific Foundations of Qualitative Research” is an academic paper that laid out a roadmap for the NSF to begin awarding grants for qualitative research. 

The paper is not terribly long. The actual paper is only about 10 pages though the appendix balloons the entire document to 147.  As a practitioner, I found it somewhat helpful if I applied a “qualitative” eye to it as I read.  For me, I gained the most by keeping the question, “How might this concept be applied to my practice?” rather than reading it for literal knowledge. 

Here is the link to the entire paper http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2004/nsf04219/nsf04219.pdf

Click the link below to read two paragraphs from the paper’s Executive Summary about the organization of the paper.


This report is organized into two major sections–

general guidance for developing qualitative

research projects and recommendations for

strengthening qualitative research. The intent of

the first section of the report is to serve as a primer

to guide both investigators developing qualitative

proposals and reviewers evaluating qualitative

research projects. The discussion in this section

addresses six key questions: What is “Qualitative

Research?” What is the Role of Theory in

Qualitative Research? How Does One Design

Qualitative Research? What Techniques Are

Appropriate for Analyzing Qualitative Data? What

Are the Most Productive, Feasible, and Innovative

Ways of Combining Qualitative and Quantitative

Methods? What Standards Should Be Used to

Evaluate the Results of Qualitative Research?

The workshop report contains a summary of

participants’ discussion of and answers to these



The second section of the report presents

workshop recommendations for designing,

evaluating, supporting, and strengthening

qualitative research. Workshop participants

recognized the importance and prestige of NSF

funding, the desirability of making qualitative

projects competitive in the NSF review process,

and the value of research resources provided by

an NSF award. Workshop members made two

sets of recommendations: recommendations for

the design and evaluation of qualitative research

projects and recommendations for supporting and

strengthening the scientific foundations of social

science qualitative research in general.

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