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Qualitative Methods

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❶Volume 11 , No.

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Unstructured Interviewing
Ranks & Geography
Direct Observation

This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.

When applying qualitative research methods , the emphasis is put on the natural setting and the pointsof views of the research participants.

Additionally, special consideration is given to the researcher as person. He or she is not the independent observer in a white coat — a picture that is often drawn when natural scientists are depicted.

As Denzin and Lincoln write: We can only see what our class, culture, race, gender or other factors allows us to recognize. There are plenty of examples for this in our everyday life. One day I needed a longer cable and asked the secretary whether the institute had such a cable. I had already looked through the cupboard where the cables are stored but did not find anything.

The secretary then went together with me to the same cupboard and gave me a long transparent cable. I had looked for something black and therefore did not see it. The same happens when you conduct research and simply do not consider that the thing you look for might be red or blue or even patterned instead of black and white. There are numerous famous examples where major discoveries were delayed or where observations were ignored because they did not fit prevalent theory and thus inhibiting progress and knowledge generation.

When you are interested, take a look at the already mentioned books by Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. I am not sure whether you, the reader, already have a clear position about how you see the world that you want to examine in your research project. But you should grasp by now that qualitative research is not desk research, we go out into whatever we consider the real world, observe and talk to people, interact with them aiming to understand what is important to them and how they perceive the world.

Self-reflection is our constant companion and from the very beginning to the end of a research project it is important to consider who we are, how we are perceived by others and as what kind of person we enter the field.

This also influences the type of research question we select. In this section, I draw on the writings by John Dewey ] , another influential author. Very reassuring for beginning researchers, he states that research follows a uniform structure, which applies to our everyday life as well as to science. In other words, there are familiar elements in conducting research and we can draw on knowledge that we already have gained in our everyday life.

Dewey describes the research process as follows:. It is a situation that makes us fell disturbed, troubled, confused; it is ambiguous and contradictory. This leads us to formulate a problem statement and to determine a way to solve this problem. Dewey puts it very simply: In consequence, research is and should be based on real life problems and should not contain fictitious elements.

Often questions are derived from the personal biography or social context of the researcher. The connection between social context and personal biography is for example obvious in the following student projects I supervised in the past:. After having come across an uncertain situation, the next step is to clearly identify and formulate the problem.

This is very important as the problem statement is like a lens through which you look at reality, it reduces the complexity of reality and structures the research field. Further, you derive more detailed research questions and hypothesis from it and this can only work successfully when the point of departure, the stated problem, is comprehensible and unambiguously spelled out. See also the chapter on research design for computer-assisted analysis in di Gregorio and Davidson Once you have an idea what you want to study, you should spend a number of hours or days in the library.

Maybe someone else has already solved your problem or there are existing studies that have looked at the same or similar issues you are interested in. This does not mean that you have to start all over again and think of a new topic for your research project. Maybe other researchers before you have looked at different aspects, or maybe the study was conducted a long time ago and repeating it would be fruitful.

Or it can be the case that in previous studies a quantitative instead of qualitative approach was chosen; you could add to it by approaching the topic from a qualitative perspective. In the main, it is essential to know on what kind of information you can build on and how you can contextualize your study.

If you cannot find anything in your first search for literature, look for comparable topics. Others may not have exactly researched the issue you are interested in but something very similar, e. Look a bit to the left and to the right of the topic you are interested in when searching for key words in library catalogues. Another issue is type of literature.

Often my students come back from a first visit to the library and tell me that they found a few books but two out of the three are loaned for the next three months. Books are okay to look at, but for other reasons than finding up-to-date research results. The first places where new findings are disseminated are at conferences. Third, direct observation tends to be more focused than participant observation.

The researcher is observing certain sampled situations or people rather than trying to become immersed in the entire context. Finally, direct observation tends not to take as long as participant observation. For instance, one might observe child-mother interactions under specific circumstances in a laboratory setting from behind a one-way mirror, looking especially for the nonverbal cues being used. Unstructured interviewing involves direct interaction between the researcher and a respondent or group.

It differs from traditional structured interviewing in several important ways. First, although the researcher may have some initial guiding questions or core concepts to ask about, there is no formal structured instrument or protocol. Second, the interviewer is free to move the conversation in any direction of interest that may come up. Consequently, unstructured interviewing is particularly useful for exploring a topic broadly.

While some researchers offer guidelines for qualitative samples, there is evidence that suggests others do not strictly adhere to them. THOMSON for example carried out a review of fifty research articles accessed using Proquest ABI Inform 1 , with the search parameter "grounded theory" in citation and abstract, and found sample sizes ranging from five to There is an obvious tension between those who adhere to qualitative research principles, by not quantifying their samples—and those who feel that providing guidance on sample sizes is useful.

Some researchers have gone further than providing guidelines and have tried to operationalise the concept of saturation, based on their own empirical analysis. This sought to identify common characteristics between communities and cultural groups. The model suggests that each culture has a shared view of the world, which results in a "cultural consensus"—the level of consensus of different topics does vary but there are considered to be a finite set of characteristics or views.

Their work was undertaken from a market research perspective to assist in the development of robust bids and campaigns. Because of their analysis, they hypothesized that twenty to thirty in-depth interviews would be needed to uncover ninety to nine-five per cent of all customer needs.

They examined the codes developed from their sixty interviews, in an attempt to assess at which point their data were returning no new codes, and were therefore saturated.

Their findings suggested that data saturation had occurred at a very early stage. Of the thirty six codes developed for their study, thirty four were developed from their first six interviews, and thirty five were developed after twelve.

Their conclusion was that for studies with a high level of homogeneity among the population "a sample of six interviews may [be] sufficient to enable development of meaningful themes and useful interpretations" p. This is particularly apparent in what they call "funded work" or that limited by time. They suggest that researchers do not have the luxury of continuing the sort of open-ended research that saturation requires.

This is also true when the point of saturation particularly in relation to an approach like grounded theory methodology, which requires that all of the properties and the dimensions are saturated they consider to be "potentially limitless" p. They go on to add that sponsors of research often require a thorough proposal that includes a description of who, and how many people, will be interviewed at the outset of the research see also SIBLEY, They further suggest that this also applies to ethics committees, who will want to know who will be interviewed, where, and when, with a clearly detailed rationale and strategy.

This is no less relevant to PhD researchers. A reading of the application requirements of some of the World's top 50 Universities 2 suggests it is not uncommon for universities to require applicants to explicitly document their intended sample size, prior to registration. The University of Toronto for example ranked 29th in , requires prospective students of PhD research programmes to "[j]ustify the anticipated sample size and its representativeness. This also appears to trouble current postgraduate students.

When do I stop gathering data? As an example of how this issue affects current postgraduate students, a brief search of the prominent Internet forum PostgraduateForum. Throughout the supervisory process the study is scrutinised by national, and often international, experts, and once completed, the methodology and findings scrutinised further. If a high level of rigour is to be found in the types of methods used in research studies then it should be in PhDs.

With this in mind it was decided to examine the issue of sample size in the context of PhDs studies. The following research questions were developed to explore this issue:. How many participants are used in PhD studies utilising qualitative interviews? And do these numbers vary depending on the methodological approach? A content analysis of a PhD database was undertaken on the website: A comprehensive listing of theses with abstracts accepted for higher degrees by universities in Great Britain and Ireland since " 9 "the only comprehensive published listing of British theses accepted annually for higher degrees by some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world; the Universities of Great Britain and Ireland" Searching was undertaken between 3rd August and the 24th August on , abstracts in the collection; last updated 2 July , volume 58, 3rd update of 8 to identify PhD studies which stated they had used qualitative i.

To explore any differences between diverse research approaches a categorisation of 26 different qualitative research approaches from diverse disciplines was used TESCH, While studying qualitative research software TESCH found 26 different types of qualitative methodological tradition and categorised them into four groups: A "standard search" was used, with the following parameters applied: The following criteria were used to exclude cases:. Abstracts that did not state the exact number of interviews i.

Abstracts that stated that the author had been part of a fieldwork team were excluded. Abstracts that specified more than one interview for one participant were excluded i. Abstracts from other professional qualifications such as PhDs in clinical psychology DClinPsy 12 , for example, where single client case studies are prevalent, were excluded.

This was intended to provide consistent criteria, that meant only studies that explicitly detailed the actual number of people interviewed once as part of the work, are included. Also, this study looks only at the use of one to one personal interviewing, and as such, the use of focus groups is not included in this analysis. The remaining studies were collected into the sample. The abstracts were searched and the following details recorded from each:. Table 1 shows the results from the analysis.

It provides the number of studies identified from each research approach as identified by TESCH, , and the number of studies which made up the study sample, when the inclusion criteria were applied. Finally, it identifies how many of these studies utilised interviews as the only method, and provides this figure as a percentage of the overall sample.

Descriptive statistics for each methodological group [ 30 ]. Table 1 shows that the overall range of the numbers of participants used was from 95 using a case study approach to 1 also using a case study and a life history approach. Of the studies analysed the median and mean were 28, and 31 respectively, suggesting perhaps that the measures of central dispersion were generally consistent.

However, the distribution is bi-modal 20 and 30 and the standard deviation was Below this Figure 1 provides an illustration of the distribution of the sample, i.

Number of studies by each individual sample size [ 31 ]. Figure 1 shows a bi-modal distribution with a skewness 13 of 0. The most important result from the chart however is the distribution of the sample.

Figure 1 shows the prevalence of the studies that included 10, 20, 30 and 40 participants as their sample size. This pattern continues with the prevalence of studies using 50 and 60 as their sample size comparative to the numbers around them i. In total, the sample sizes ending in a zero account i. A test for the randomness of fluctuations 15 indicated that there was very strong evidence against the randomness of fluctuations: The pattern of non-fluctuation is more clearly illustrated below in Figure 2.

Number of studies with a sample ending in each integer [ 34 ]. A Chi-squared "goodness-of-fit" test 16 was then used to test the null hypothesis that samples used in qualitative studies are equally likely to end on any integer.

Table 1 also shows the descriptive results of the analysis of the 26 approaches identified by TESCH, in an attempt to discover whether the methodological approach affects the number of interviews undertaken. The analysis returned an uneven distribution of approaches among the studies used in the sample. Of the 26 approaches identified by TESCH, seven did not return any studies that fitted the search criteria, and a further one did not return any studies into the sample once the inclusion criteria were applied.

As a result, detailed statistical analysis was not possible. However, it was clear that there were approaches that utilised interviews in their method more frequently than others did. Of the 26 qualitative approaches, nine returned more than 10 studies eight after the inclusion criteria were applied. The most popular approaches used in PhD studies for this analysis were: The approach utilising interviews most frequently were case study projects 1, This is followed by grounded theory studies However, these means are achieved from comparatively few studies.

The more studies returned into the sample for this analysis, the lower the mean tended to become. Perhaps more worthy of note is the fact that of the major approaches i. Finally, the data were compared to the guidelines given by various authors for achieving saturation in qualitative interviews see page 3.

The number of studies used in this analysis is shown below as a proportion of the whole for that approach:. No ethnoscience studies were found that fitted the inclusion criteria. A wide range of sample sizes was observed in the PhD studies used for this analysis. The smallest sample used was a single participant used in a life history study, which might be expected due to the in-depth, detailed nature of the approach, while the largest sample used was 95 which was a study utilising a case study approach.

The median, and mean were 28 and 31 respectively, which suggests a generally clustered distribution. However, the standard deviation at The most common sample sizes were 20 and 30 followed by 40, 10 and The significantly high proportion of studies utilising multiples of ten as their sample is the most important finding from this analysis.

There is no logical or theory driven reason why samples ending in any one integer would be any more prevalent than any other in qualitative PhD studies using interviews. If saturation is the guiding principle of qualitative studies it is likely to be achieved at any point, and is certainly no more likely to be achieved with a sample ending in a zero, as any other number.

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Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research. FQS is a peer-reviewed multilingual online journal for qualitative research. FQS issues are published tri-annually. Selected single contributions and contributions to the journal's regular features FQS Reviews.

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Jul 02,  · While studying qualitative research software TESCH found 26 different types of qualitative methodological tradition and categorised them into four groups: the characteristics of language, the discovery of regularities, the comprehension of the meaning of text or action, and reflection.

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Qualitative Research Definition: Qualitative research is a market research method that focuses on obtaining data through open-ended and conversational communication. This method is not only about “what” people think but also “why” they think so. The qualitative research method allows for in. Quantitative research methods describe and measure the level of occurrences on the basis of numbers and calculations. Quantitative data collection methods are based on random sampling and structured data collection instruments. summarize, compare and generalize. Qualitative studies, on the contrary, are usually based on non-random.

Cookie Info is tracked by us since April, Over the time it has been ranked as high as in the world, while most of its traffic comes from USA, where it reached as high as 69 position. Popular qualitative data collection methods used in business studies include interviews, focus groups, observation and action research. Moreover, grounded theory and document analysis can be also used as data collection method in qualitative studies.