Possible Exam Questions for MB 870 Qualitative Research Methods


  1. Compare and contrast grounded theory, ethnographic interviewing (Spradley-style), and cultural domain analysis. How are they similar in their assumptions about (a) how people think, and (b) what the goals of research are? How are they different? Please answer fully.

  2. You have a hypothesis that firms that are more environmentally sensitive are more profitable. Profitability is easy to measure. Environmental sensitivity is harder to measure. Let’s assume that you cannot interview members of the organizations. How would you go about measuring the environmental sensitivity of firms (using such materials as web pages, press releases, and internal memos). Be sure to discuss issues of validity, such as the difference between espoused theory and theory-in-use.

  3. What do the Goodwin professional vision paper and the Shweder and D’Andrade systematic distortion paper have to say about how people think? What are the implications for doing etic qualitative research?

  4. Compare and contrast content analysis and grounded theory. Be sure to consider similarities/differences in aims, type of data, procedures, epistemology and relation to quantitative approaches.

  5. Is coding best described as (a) measurement (i.e., creating variables for analysis), (b) analysis, or (c) a description of human information processing? Explain.

  6. Suppose a consultant is brought in to see why a project went wrong at an organization. The objective is to learn the truth about what happened in order to guard against a similar failure in the future. The consultant visits the organization and obtains from management a list of key players in the project. He then interviews these people, and also interviews people that are named by them. He asks all of them what went wrong. He then puts together a composite picture (weighting some people’s accounts more than others, based on his judgment of the accuracy of their reports), and presents the result to management.  (a) Is this a good methodology given the research objective? (b) Where would you place the attitude toward the interviewees that is implicit in this methodology along the continuum of subject-respondent-informant-expert? (c) Is this an emic or etic study? (d) In general, when is an emic study called for and when is an etic study called for? (e) How is the emic/etic distinction related to positivist/other distinctions? Is etic synonymous with positivist? Is emic by definition not positivist?

  7. Is it possible to create an etic model of competitive advantage that applies cross-culturally?

  8. Is it possible to apply an emic model of organizational success cross-culturally?

  9.  Suppose someone wants to understand which attributes of entrepreneurs (e.g., personality, upbringing, resources, etc.) lead to long term success. Should they collect emic or etic data? Why? Use this as a jumping-off point to provide a general set of guidelines for when to conduct emic versus etic studies.

  10. Critically examine how intra-cultural variability is handled in qualitative work. By intra-cultural variability I mean the variability in perceptions and behaviors among members of a sample group (such as a set of nurses in a hospital). How do the ethnographies and grounded theories that emerge from qualitative studies handle the variability? How do cultural domain analyses that purport to describe the structure of a cultural domain (e.g., how nurses think about types of tasks) do it?

  11. In any given organization, there are some qualities of individuals which are rewarded and respected and other qualities that are not. In other words, there is an understanding – a culture -- of what constitutes good performance. As a consultant, you are charged with interviewing members of the organization and determining what that understanding or culture is. How do you go about it?

  12. What kinds of research questions is cultural domain analysis best suited for?

  13. Coding is perhaps the most fundamental and universal element in text analysis. Discuss how coding is used in different kinds of studies, ranging from descriptive work (e.g., Spradley) to theory building (e.g., grounded theory) to theory testing (e.g., content analysis). Be sure to discuss similarity and differences across these different kinds of studies with respect to:  objectives, how validity is handled, problems that crop up, and types of texts used.

  14. Consider the following statement: “Very often, coding is not only how qualitative research is done, it is what we are studying when we do qualitative research.” Explain what this refers to, and discuss. (Be sure to comment on Goodwin’s “professional vision” paper.)

  15. You are interested in how musicians in the Boston area perceive the music world around them – the clubs, the bands, the public, the business. Design a rigorous study to capture these perceptions.

  16. In the phrase “qualitative data analysis”, the adjective “qualitative” can be read as modifying either “data” or “analysis”. This suggests the possibility that both data and methods can be classified in terms of a qualitative vs quantitative dimension, as shown in the table below.















Discuss each of the four cells of the table, giving examples of specific methodologies that fit in each one. In addition, discuss the usefulness and sharpness of the qual-quant distinction, and as well as the data-analysis distinction.

  1. According to Thomas Kuhn, qualitative methods are not well-suited for testing hypotheses. Discuss this claim.

  2. Consider the following statement: “Very often, coding is not only how qualitative research is done, it is what we are studying when we do qualitative research.” Explain what this refers to, and discuss. (Be sure to comment on Goodwin’s “professional vision” paper.)

  3. Describe a study in which the tools of cultural domain analysis (e.g., freelists, pilesorts, paired comparisons, MDS, etc.) would be useful. In other words, present a research question which is best answered via cultural domain analysis, and then sketch out the methods section of a research proposal for answering the question.

  4. Consider the following statement: “Very often, coding is not only how qualitative research is done, it is what we are studying when we do qualitative research.” Explain what this refers to, and discuss. (Be sure to comment on Goodwin’s “professional vision” paper.)

  5. Describe how one can enhance the potential validity (internal and external) of a qualitative research project throughout the research process; that is, in (a) creating a research design; (b) analyzing your data; and (c) writing up your findings.

  6. Present and support your own point of view in response to the following statement: It is important to identify the philosophical orientation that informs one's research, but it is not critical. Data are data. Whether you approach your research as a standard case study, as an applied research project, or as an effort at emancipatory research, for instance, you will likely arrive at many similar findings.  Make sure to cite pertinent literature.

  7. Suppose you want to understand how moment-by-moment emotions relate to work motivation. Design a qualitative study to research this question.

  8. Describe in detail and critically assess the grounded theory methodology of Glaser and Strauss.

  9. Compare and contrast content analysis and grounded theory approaches to text analysis. Be sure to explain in detail the procedures and concepts of each approach.

  10.  Discuss the points of common ground between the approaches of Spradley, Levi-Strauss and Strauss-Glaser (grounded theory).

  11. Critique the paper by Sutton & Rafaeli. Was qualitative research used in exemplary fashion?

  12. Discuss the implications of the paper by Goodwin (“Professional Vision”) on qualitative research. How is what we study related to how we study? Are informants fundamentally different from researchers?