Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 11 October 2008

Learning to Conduct Qualitative Research

I finally finished my meditation research project in late June with a first draft paper.  I let it rest for a month or so and then came back to it.  I revised it seven times and now have a version worth reading.  This paper was accepted at the Society for Phenomenology and Human sciences and I will present it this Thursday (Oct 16) at their annual conference.  The paper will also be in consideration for publication in Human Studies (a scholarly journal).  I’m deeply grateful to my faculty adviser, Dr. Valerie Bentz, who has provided guidance, editing feedback, and who invited me to submit my paper to the SPHS conference and speak on a panel with her and a few fellow students.  I am nervous about speaking at this conference because I’m such a novice when it comes to phenomenology.

I do think that the best way to learn how to conduct qualitative research, especially phenomenology, is to do it.  Here’s a few insights from my learning process on this project:

  • Don’t get attached to the framework or outline you use to write the paper. I applied the “spiral of mindful inquiry” framework that is outlined in Mindful Inquiry in Social Research by Bentz and Shapiro.  The framework has four turns in a spiral (critical social science, phenomenology, hermeneutics and Buddhism).  Each turn had 3-5 sub-turns.  It was too ambitious to try to include all aspects of this framework into one paper.  The first draft was 39 pages!

  • Don’t be seduced into putting too much of the collected narrative into the paper. There were so many wonderful quotes from my study participants that I wanted to include.  I needed to really condense and narrow down the number of quotes.  I can use this rich material in a future paper.

  • Make sure you give a thorough explanation of your research process. My first few drafts did not include enough explanation of how I did the research.  It is particularly important to include the research approach when conducting phenomenological research.


  1. Thank you for another insighful post! I admire your ability of pointing out (by blogging) little things that others don’t take the time to mention


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