The Perpetual Search for Parsimony: Enhancing the Epistemological and Practical Utility of Qualitative Research Findings

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While it appears that the term parsimony has been used in the context of qualitative research and qualitative research methodology, there is a distinct absence of writing that actually explores, seeks to define, understand, critique, apply and/or evaluate the concept in qualitative research literature.


This paper explores a number of issues pertaining to parsimony in qualitative research. It is the hope of the authors that this paper might raise awareness of the hitherto unexplored issues, stimulate some further interest in these and prompt other qualitative researchers to contribute to the ensuing debate.


While there are currently no definitive criteria for determining the parsimony of qualitative research findings, it would be epistemologically inappropriate and philosophically incongruent to import and translate quantitative notions of parsimony. However, the ideas, principles and epistemological functions that parsimony serves can and should be applied to the qualitative paradigm. The authors suggest that more than one type of qualitative parsimony is required. The authors advance the argument that there is a relationship between the degree of parsimony and the elegance, ease of accessibility and straightforwardness (some might say – beauty) of the writing/findings; the level of expertise of the researcher; and the quality of the data collection interview. The authors also assert that there are a number of practices which, when adhered to, can enhance the parsimony of the findings and that here are a number of major implications arising from qualitative findings that lack parsimony.


To acquire a personal use copy of this work, contact John Cutcliffe at john.cutcliffe@wright.edu.



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