Justifying Your Generic Qualitative Research Design

Qualitative Methodology

There are many options to choose from when selecting a research design for a qualitative dissertation study. Your qualitative research design will always follow from your research problem and purpose, but what happens when your study does not seem to fit a phenomenological design or a case study? Sometimes a generic qualitative research design is the right approach. Here we will discuss how to make the case that a generic qualitative design is right for your study.

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Qualitative designs like phenomenology, case study, ethnography, and others are driven by specific research questions and assume certain philosophical underpinnings. Yet sometimes the research problem, purpose, and questions call for an approach that incorporates the strengths of different qualitative designs without adhering to the philosophical assumptions inherent in those designs. In this instance, choosing a generic qualitative research design is a good option, as it provides the required flexibility.

Justifying a generic qualitative research design requires researchers to have a thorough understanding of other qualitative research designs. This is to ensure that a) they can discuss why another research design is not more appropriate for the proposed study, and b) they understand the strengths of other designs that are suitable for a generic qualitative study. When justifying the design, discuss the strengths and limitations of other qualitative design options. Then, move to your justification of the generic qualitative design. For each element of the qualitative designs you are “borrowing” for your study, highlight why that element is a good fit for your study. Then, you will need to justify why you are using that aspect of the research design exclusively. For example, using the interview aspect of phenomenological designs might be the best option for your study, but you are not interested in understanding the lived experiences of your participants. Then you need to justify why you are using the interview approach but without examining participants’ lived experiences.

There are numerous articles about generic qualitative research designs which are also helpful for justifying your own approach (e.g., Kahlke, 2014; Percy, Kostere, & Kostere, 2015). These may be beneficial when supporting your research design. However, do not simply rely on the work of others. Your chair will want to see that you have done your work and your research to understand other research design options before concluding that the generic qualitative approach is most appropriate for your dissertation. Following the suggestions above will help you do this.


Kahlke, R. M. (2014). Generic qualitative approaches: Pitfalls and benefits of methodological mixology. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 13(1), 37-52.

Percy, W. H., Kostere, K., & Kostere, S. (2015). Generic qualitative research in psychology. The Qualitative Report, 20(2), 76-85.