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Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design

Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design
Choosing Among Five Approaches

Fourth Edition

December 2016 | 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

Perfect for students working on a qualitative thesis!

Dr Marie Mallory
Communication Studies, Liberty University
August 18, 2021

Creswell and Poth provide an critical overview of the major methodological approaches to qualitative research. My Introduction to Qualitative Research students are able to easily grasp concepts that are complex. As such, I perceive the book provides a great foundation.

Dr Richie Roberts
Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation, Louisiana State University
November 9, 2020

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
April 23, 2018

Clarity, context, approachability. It works.

Dr Leslie-Jean Thornton
Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State Univ-downtown
July 19, 2018