The state of qualitative research in education is addressed in this paper in terms of three categories of scientific inquiry (following Heap, 1992) and the varying place and function of qualitative work in each of these categories. The argument is put that one of these categories of inquiry, specifically cultural human sciences, offers the educational enterprise distinctive theoretical and analytic advantages not shared by the others. An illustration is provided concerning an issue that is both central and particular to educational research: the intertwining of intellectual, curricular, social and moral work accomplished routinely in classrooms. The paper concludes that empirically rich, programmatic and explicitly theorized research continues to hold most promise for the confident and sustained progression of qualitative traditions in education. �� 2006 Taylor & Francis.