Tag Archives | qualitative research

Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design | John Creswell & Cheryl Poth

The cover of Creswell & Poth's Qualitative Inquiry and Research DesignI am in the awkward situation of learning sociological method after having spent my entire higher education studying theology. Starting from scratch is overwhelming, to say the least! Creswell and Poth’s text makes the journey easier.

Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design describes five overarching ways to do research:

  1. Narrative Research studies individuals and their stories.
  2. Phenomenological Research studies a several people who share the same experience.
  3. Grounded Theory Research studies a process, action, or interaction with a view to develop a theory.
  4. Ethnographic Research studies a group that shares the same culture.
  5. Case Study Research studies a specific event, program, or activity.

Each approach digs into the subject in a different way, providing a different perspective. Creswell and Poth bring the unique features of each approach to light brilliantly in the final chapter by taking a case study and reframing it in each of the other four approaches.

Creswell and Poth’s text hits the sweet spot where understandability and depth of insight meet. It brings clarity the the research methods required to do effective sociological work.


Creswell, John W. and Cheryl N. Poth. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. 4th Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2018.

Practical Theology and Qualitative Research | John Swinton & Harriet Mowat

The cover of Swinton & Mowat's Practical Theology and Qualitative Research

Practical theology and qualitative research are two very different disciplines. Neither are easy to summarize, let alone define.

Swinton and Mowat begin with with practical theology:

Practical Theology is critical, theological reflection on the practices of the Church as they interact with the practices of the world, with a view to ensuring and enabling faithful participation in God’s redemptive practices in, and for the world. (7)

The church reflects copiously and rigorously on the interpretation of scripture. Practical theology offers rigorous theological reflection on the actual practices of the church.

Next up: qualitative research. Swinton and Mowat survey a few definitions before settling on McLeod’s:

Qualitative research is a process of careful, rigorous enquiry into aspects of the social world. It produces formal statements or conceptual frameworks that provide new ways of understanding the world, and therefore comprises knowledge that is practically useful for those who work with issues around learning and adjustment to the pressures and demands of the social world. (30)

Qualitative research is rooted in rooted in a methodology, typically constructivism, that views reality as constructed by the subject. Qualitative research with a constructivist ontology and epistemology then uses various methods, “specific techniques that are used for data collection and analysis” (69).

There is a key tension between the worlds of practical theology and qualitative research. Many theologians hold a view of ontology and epistemology (i.e. God exists outside our sensory world and makes himself known through revelation) that contradicts the constructivist foundation of qualitative research. Swinton and Mowat acknowledge this tension and attempt to demonstrate, through definitions and case studies of specific theological qualitative research projects, how these tensions can be resolved.

Our task has been to lay down some foundational understandings of how Practical Theology can utilize qualitative research in a way that retains the integrity of both disciplines and allows theology in general and Practical Theology in particular to remain faithful and confident in its identity and task. (265)

In the end, qualitative research is a tool to help theologians discern and interpret situations rigorously and faithfully.


Swinton, John and Harriet Mowat. Practical Theology and Qualitative Research. 2nd Ed. London: SCM Press, 2016.

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