Principles of conceptualizing a qualitative project

  • Janice M. Morse
  • Peggy Anne Field


When preparing a qualitative research proposal, researchers often find themselves in a paradoxical situation. Researchers have deliberately selected a qualitative method because little is known about the area — yet how can they write about, for instance how they are going to analyse data when the nature of these data are not known? How can a qualitative researcher convince a funding agency that a study is worthwhile when so much is unknown? Whereas quantitative research proposals are generally highly structured and serve to guide the research process, it is not possible to develop a rigid protocol for a qualitative research proposal while still remaining true to the principles of qualitative inquiry. While the quantitative proposal may serve as an indicator that the student is ready to collect data, has identified a theoretical framework and has a sound protocol for data analysis, the qualitative proposal serves only to convince the committee that the topic is worth studying. Despite the fact that the qualitative researcher may not know very much about the research topic or what will be found out, she or he must entice the committee in order to be allowed to proceed. This lack of development may be a handicap if the qualitative proposal is to be submitted to a funding agency, and the onus is on the researcher to convince the granting agency that funding the research is ‘a good risk.’


Qualitative Research Funding Agency Tape Recorder Qualitative Researcher Cover Page 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agar, M.H. (1980) The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Cohen, M.Z., Knafl, K. and Dzurec, L.C. (1993) Grant writing for qualitative research. Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 25, 151–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Estroff, S.E. and Churchill, L.R. (1984) Comment I (ethical dilemmas). Anthropology Newsletter, 25(7), 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Glaser, B.G. (1978) Theoretical Sensitivity, The Sociology Press, Mill Valley, CA.Google Scholar
  5. Van Gennep, A. (1967/92) The research topic: or, folklore without end, in Qualitative Health Research, (ed. J.M. Morse), Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 65–8.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Marshall, C. and Rossman, G.B. (1989) Designing Qualitative Research, Sage, Newbury Park, CA.Google Scholar
  2. Morse, J.M. (1991) On the evaluation of qualitative proposals [editorial]. Qualitative Health Research, 1(2), 147–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Morse, J.M. (1993) Designing funded qualitative research, in Handbook of Qualitative Methods, (eds N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln), Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 220–35.Google Scholar
  4. Sandelowski, M., Davis, D.H. and Harris, B.G. (1989) Artful design: writing the proposal for research in the naturalist paradigm. Research in Nursing and Health, 12, 77–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Janice M. Morse and Peggy Anne Field 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janice M. Morse
    • 1
  • Peggy Anne Field
    • 2
  1. 1.School of NursingPennsylvania State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of NursingUniversity of AlbertaCanada

Personalised recommendations