State of Qualitative Research in Engineering Education: Meta-Analysis of JEE Articles, 2005–2006


  • Mirka Koro-Ljungberg,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Educational Psychology University of Florida
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    • Mirka Koro-Ljungberg is an associate professor of qualitative research methodology at the University of Florida, in the Department of Educational Psychology. She received her doctorate from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Currently, her research interests focus on qualitative methods, the conceptual and theoretical foundations of qualitative inquiry, as well as on exceptional learners. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Florida she conducted research as a visiting scholar at the University of Georgia

  • Elliot P. Douglas

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering University of Florida
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    • Elliot P. Douglas is an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida. He received his doctorate in Polymer Science and Engineering from the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. His research interests in engineering education are in the areas of active learning, critical thinking, and the use of qualitative methods

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With recent calls for expanding the scope and rigor of engineering education research, use of qualitative methods to answer research questions that can not be answered through quantitative methods is taking on increasing significance. Well-designed qualitative studies often build on epistemological consistency across theoretical perspectives, research questions, and research methods. We examine recent articles published in the Journal of Engineering Education to determine the overall prevalence of qualitative articles and the extent to which they appear epistemologically and methodologically consistent with the goals of qualitative inquiry. We find that there are very few qualitative articles published, and even fewer which show epistemological consistency across different aspects of the research design. These issues may limit the rich, descriptive information that could be gained from qualitative inquiry, limiting the contributions qualitative studies could make to engineering education. We call on researchers to expand their use of qualitative methods and to design their studies with careful attention to epistemological consistency across the design.