This raises the question of the extent to which this particular qualitative methodology is successful in terms of large generalizations.
In general, the qualitative method of data acquisition and research has many advantages over the more restrictive and rigid quantitative methodologies. Qualitative research seeks a more in-depth and holistic view of the subject and is particularly well suited in terms of taking account of the plethora of variables that may occur in the process of investigation. Quantitative research on the other hand is usually bounded by questions of measurement and invariably starts with a predetermined set of parameters about the research and is therefore restricted in terms of its contextual and investigative potential. Qualitative research is therefore more successful in education research and the social sciences; where the subjective element and the participation of the data sample group are also taken into account. Many researchers prefer this methods as they are of the opinion that that the overall social context and complexity is lost when textual data are quantified. (Myers M. D)
On the other hand, qualitative research also has a number of important weaknesses in terms of generalized research results. For example, the quantitative method "Cannot quantify how many of your audience answer one way or another "and "Cannot generalize your findings to your broader audience or the public in general" (Qualitative Research Methods) These aspects therefore makes extrapolation of the data in terms of the larger population problematic.
However, it should also be noted that the author is well are of these limitations. "I was keenly aware of the limitations of this qualitative research..." (p.608) the author is also aware of the extent to which"... The researcher has the ability to frame the questions and dialogue in a manner that merely leads to the reinforcement of preconceived notions and/or the extent to which informants may respond based on their perceptions of the researcher" (p.608). As a result certain aspects were built into the research design to prevent distortion due to personal bias and preference, particularly in terms of the ethnographic method and the way that the researcher developed close ties with the students.
Notwithstanding these attempts to prevent bias in the research, the study uses a very intimate and almost "immersive" ethnographic methodology. The author refers more than once to the close contact and the personal nature of the relationships that were established between the subjects and the researcher. While this aspect has its own advantages in terms of the goals of contextuality in qualitative research, it can also lead to findings which may be biased to a certain extent and not representative of the larger student community.
Another factor that has to be taken into account in terms of representation is the fact that all the students were with the AVID program, and the author clearly points out that these students have more support in terms of the rationalization of racial biases than many other minority students. In fact this aspect mentioned as a supportive of the argument for the AVID program.
In the final analysis, while one may critique the possible limitations of a study of this nature in terms of its ethnographic qualitative methodology, one also has to take into account the relevance of these findings. Simply stating that they may not be relevant due to the methodology used in terms of the larger student population is not a denial of their possible validity. The author certainly makes a very logical and cogent point in this study; namely that the aspect of gender perceptions of education and gender related educational achievements is an variable that certainly seems not to have been adequately taken into account in the literature. What is possibly needed is a form of 'triangulation' between qualitative and quantitative research in this particular study. In other words, a more quantitative research study could be used to supplement, test and add to the findings of this qualitative study, in order to ascertain the larger and more general application of the central thesis.
Hubbard L. 'The role of gender in academic achievement '(2005) International
Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education Vol. 18, No. 5, September-October 2005, pp. 605-623
Myers M.D. Qualitative Research in Information Systems. Retrieved June 22, 2007 at http://www.qual.auckland.ac.nz/
Qualitative Research Methods. Retrieved June 22, 2007 at http://www.orau.gov/cdcynergy/soc2web/Content/activeinformation/tools/toolscontent/qualitativemethods.htm