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Response to [Whatever happened …] by Sandelowski


This article argues for qualitative descriptive studies, saying it’s “the method of choice when straight descriptions of phenomena are desired”. Firstly the author starts the topic from a broader view of the context embracing qualitative description as one of the many study methods. Then she focuses on a comparison between qualitative description and quantitative description, as well as other qualitative methods. Last but not the least, she breaks down to several detailed design features of qualitative descriptive studies, concluded with a belief that this method “is alive” and is “a valuable and distinctive component of qualitative research”.


1. The two perceptions of qualitative description.

  • Categorical, as opposed to “noncategorical alternative” – the method already exists but is relatively unacknowledged;
  • Less interpretive than “interpretive description” – researchers do not have to move as far from or into their data.

2. Design features of qualitative descriptive studies

  • [Theoretical/philosophical orientation] Arguably the least “theoretical” of the spectrum of qualitative approaches, in that researchers conducting such studies are the least encumbered by pre-existing theoretical and philosophical commitments;
  • [Sampling] Especially useful, though, is maximum variation sampling;
  • [Data collection] data collection in qualitative descriptive studies is typically directed toward discovering the who, what,and where of events or experiences, or their basic nature and shape;
  • [Data analysis] Qualitative content analysis is a dynamic form of analysis of verbal and visual data that is oriented toward summarizing the informational contents of that data;
  • [Data re-presentation] The expected outcome of qualitative descriptive studies is a straight descriptive summary of the informational contents of data organized in a way that best fits the data.



About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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