Publication Details

This article was originally published as Agostinho, S, Naturalistic inquiry in e-learning research, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 4(1), 2005. Original article available here.


Qualitative research means many things to many people. This evolving field of inquiry embraces a wide array of approaches, methods and techniques, and is accompanied with ongoing debate over what constitutes “quality” and “rigour”. This paper provides insight into how the Naturalistic Inquiry Paradigm (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) was operationalized in an educational technology research study that investigated the use of World Wide Web technology in higher education. A framework that situates the research study within the qualitative research literature sets the context of the research approach, a justification of how the study was “compliant” with Naturalistic Inquiry is presented and the paper concludes by presenting a model for judging the “quality” of such research. Data collection and analysis methods employed are summarised as the paper’s focus is to illustrate how methodological issues pertaining to Naturalistic Inquiry were addressed and justified to represent a rigorous research approach, rather than presenting the results of the research study. The purpose of this paper is to provide insight and serve as a guide to assist researchers when undertaking this form of qualitative inquiry.

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