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Successful and rigorous qualitative research requires careful planning of purpose, methods, and theoretical frameworks. The qualitative researcher must locate the study in time, space, and culture, and must also locate herself or himself in the study. This is in order to thoroughly and publicly explore his or her purpose, role, and potential biases. Through this process, the researcher defines the ways in which these and other factors inform the research. Finally, the qualitative researcher must take thought of methodology—as opposed to method—and must understand the difference between the two.

In this paper, I review basic principles of qualitative inquiry with regard to the nature of qualitative data and theoretical frameworks. I then explore the issues of location and methodology as applied to qualitative inquiry in geoscience education research through examples relevant to the discipline. I describe the process of locating the study, and the ways in which the researcher defines his or her place therein. I then discuss the differences between method and methodology. Finally, I review four specific methodologies, including hermeneutics, phenomenology, ethnography, and policy analysis.

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