American Journal of Educational Research
ISSN (Print): 2327-6126 ISSN (Online): 2327-6150 Website: Editor-in-chief: Ratko Pavlović
Open Access
Journal Browser
American Journal of Educational Research. 2017, 5(12), 1228-1233
DOI: 10.12691/education-5-12-10
Open AccessLiterature Review

Qualitative Research and Subjective Impressions in Educational Contexts

George Damaskinidis1,

1SemioLab Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Pub. Date: December 29, 2017

Cite this paper:
George Damaskinidis. Qualitative Research and Subjective Impressions in Educational Contexts. American Journal of Educational Research. 2017; 5(12):1228-1233. doi: 10.12691/education-5-12-10


It is common belief that evidence produced by qualitative research is bounded by the researcher’s personal interpretation, and as such is subjective and not generalizable. Qualitative researchers’ personal involvement could highlight hidden aspects of social life and provide insight into people’s perspectives. In educational contexts, research aims to critically inform educational judgments and decisions in order to improve educational action. This study assesses the argument that qualitative research can offer no more than subjective impressions with an emphasis on structured observation as opposed to audio recordings and field notes for the purposes of observation. This discussion includes related concepts such as “point sampling”, “(negative) demand characteristics” and “participants’ reactivity” and reflexivity. The study concludes by arguing that the claim that qualitative research can offer no more than subjective impressions is a rhetorical device rather than a methodological position. Quantitative researchers strive to produce scientific data based on objective evaluations by avoiding any personal involvement in their evaluations and by investigating causal relationships in the widest possible populations. It is this growing interest in generalizability in the qualitative tradition that indicates the researchers’ concern in making their research valid and as widely accepted as possible.

audio recording educational context field notes qualitative research quantitative research structured observation subjectivity

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit


[1]  Bassey, M. (2007). “On the kinds of research in educational settings.” In M. Hammersley (ed) Educational Research and Evidence-based Practice (141-150). London: Sage and The Open University.
[2]  Burgess, H., Sieminski, S. and Arthur, L. (2006) Achieving Your Doctorate in Education. London: Sage.
[3]  Denscombe, M. (2007). “Critical incidents and learning about risks: the case of young people and their health” In M. Hammersley (ed) Educational Research and Evidence-based Practice (204-219). London: Sage and The Open University.
[4]  Robson, C. (2002). Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-researchers. Oxford: Blackwell.
[5]  Hartley J. and Chesworth K. (2000). “Qualitative and quantitative methods in research on essay writing: No on way” Journal of Further and Higher Education, 24(1): 15-24.
[6]  Hammersley, M. (2007). Educational Enquiry. Milton Keynes: The Open University.
[7]  Hellawell, D. (2006). “Inside-out: Analysis of the insider-outsider concept as a heuristic device to develop reflexivity in students doing qualitative research.” Teaching in Higher Education, 11(4): 483-494.
[8]  Rallis, S.F. and Rossman, G.B. (2010). “Caring reflexivity”. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(4): 495-499.
[9]  Kiraly, D. (2001). “Towards a constructivist approach to translator education’. Quaderns, Revista de traducció, 6: 50-53.
[10]  McIntosh, P. (2010). Action research and reflective practice. Creative and visual methods to facilitate reflection and learning. London: Routledge.
[11]  Pennington, M.C. (1992). “Reflecting on teaching and learning: A developmental focus for the second language classroom.” In J. Flowerdew, M. Brock, & S. Hsia (eds.) Perspectives on Second Language Teacher Education (47-65). Hong Kong: City Polytechnic of Hong Kong.
[12]  Cage N. (2007). “The paradigm wars and their aftermath: a ‘historical’ sketch of research on teaching since 1989” In M. Hammersley (ed) Educational Research and Evidence-based Practice (151-166). London: Sage and The Open University.
[13]  Shulman, L.S. (1987). “Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform.” Harvard Educational Review, 57(1): 1-22.
[14]  Kantowitz, B.H., Roediger, H.L. & Elmes, D.G. (2009). Experimental psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
[15]  Denzin, N.K. (1983). “Interpretive interactionism”. In G. Morgan (ed), Beyond Method: Strategies for Social Research (129-146). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
[16]  Tripp, D. (1993). Critical Incidents in Teaching. London: Routledge.
[17]  Edley, N. and Wetherell M. (1997). “Jockeying for position: the construction of masculine identities.” Discourse and Society 8: 203-217
[18]  Augoustinos, M., Tuffin, K. and Rapley, M. (1999). “Genocide or failure to gel? Racism, history and nationalism in Australian talk.” Discourse and Society, 10: 351-378.
[19]  Shortall, T. (2001). “An overview of research” In C.R. Caldas-Coulthard and C.M. Varela (eds) (2001) Research Methods. Birmingham: University of Birmingham.
[20]  Sapsford R. and Jupp, V. (2006) (2nd ed). Data Collection and Analysis. London: Sage and The Open University.
[21]  Wilson, T.D. and Streatfield, D.R. (1980). "You can observe a lot..."’ A study of information use in local authority social services departments” In T.D. Wilson and D.R. Streatfield (eds) Project INISS (Information Needs and Information Services in Local Authority Social Services Departments). Sheffield: University of Sheffield, Postgraduate School of Librarianship and Information Science.
[22]  Orne, M.T. (1962). “On the social psychology of the psychological experiment: With particular reference to demand characteristics and their implications.” American Psychologist, 17(11): 776-778.
[23]  Taylor, S. (2001). “Locating and conducting discourse analytic research” In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor and S.J. Yates. (eds) Discourse as Data (5-48). London: Sage and The Open University.
[24]  Leech, N.L., Dellinger, A.B., Brannagan, K.B. and Tanaka, H. (2010). “Evaluating mixed research studies: A mixed methods approach.” Journal of Mixed Methods Research 4(1): 17-31.
[25]  Schofield, J.W. (2007). “Increasing the generalizability of qualitative research.” In M. Hammersley (ed) Educational Research and Evidence-based Practice (181-203). London: Sage and The Open University.