Qualitative methods are viewed as central to the theory of emerging adulthood, but there remains a relative dearth of qualitative inquiry that fully captures the richness and complexities of emerging adulthood life. One of the challenges to conducting such research is the lack of familiarity with qualitative methods. Accordingly, this article describes foundational issues in qualitative inquiry by delineating the commonalities among all qualitative approaches. Meta-theoretical issues regarding ontology, epistemology, and methodology are discussed, as rigorous qualitative inquiry must always be aware of and transparent about how these issues inform and constrain the methods used. A step-by-step guide––including design of research questions, methods of data collection, sampling, and analysis––is presented to demonstrate how to conduct research that fully utilizes the affordances of rigorous qualitative inquiry. Examples from research on emerging adulthood are used to illustrate each decision made during the qualitative inquiry research process.
- life course
- qualitative methods