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Qualitative Analysis of Life Episodes Michelle Hilscher Slide 1.

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1 Qualitative Analysis of Life Episodes Michelle Hilscher Slide 1

2 Historical Background to Qualitative Analysis… Wilhelm Wundt -Born in Germany in Medical graduate Assistant to Helmholtz Founded Leipzig experimental lab Died near Leipzig in 1920 Slide 2

3 Wundts Intellectual Roots -German idealist conceptualization of science based on unity of knowledge. -Wundt had his philosophy of science, but was also open to other views. Relates to Danzigers idea about phenomena and lenses… Slide 3

4 Wundts Philosophy of Science 1. Experimental psychology is appropriate for studying the lower mental activities (i.e., sensing, perceiving, feeling). 2. Social psychology (i.e., psych as social science) is appropriate for studying the higher mental processes (i.e., by analyzing the products of social relations like language, myth, customs). 3. Psychology is fundamental. All other sciences depend on perception, so are secondary to psychology. 4. Philosophy is needed to critically assess the information we gather in the natural and social sciences, and in psychology. *** Wundt also argued that social psychology could be as objective as experimental psychology although it could not be studied in the lab (Danziger, 1983). Slide 4

5 Wundts Volkerpsychologie - Background Volkerpsychologie = cultural psychology or ethnopsychology. The idea of a Volk comes from Herder who compared social relations based on community (a Volk) and those based on power or contract. [Related to German nobility…] Herder is very important because he took social psychology out of the realms of introspection and thought it more important to study the interactions between people. Language was key for Herder, something that would also be important to Wundt. Slide 5

6 Wundts Volkerpsychologie - Basics 1. Psychophysical parallelism – all linguistic utterances are symptoms of the state of the soul. Expression (verbal & physical) linked to underlying mental state which causes spontaneous gestures and verbalizations. 2. Gestural communication underlies social interaction – people understand what gestures imply. 3. Relationships evolve over time thanks to human memory. Opposing this view would be one that says there is no connection between minds, that everything is stimulus-response based, and that there is no ability to have a history with someone. Slide 6

7 Why Wundts Volkerpsychologie Failed External reasons… - Most social psychologists of the time couldnt read his work because they didnt speak German. - Even if they could have, they would have seen it as alien and would have deemed it no different from mysticism because it runs counter to the view of psychology as purely experimental and also speaks of a mental basis to actions rather than mere drives/instincts underlying them… Internal reasons… - He didnt really know how to study it. - Theoretical limitations – linguistic repudiation (as per Bühlers critique): Language may not be unidirectional as Wundt argued (impression expression; reversed by listener?); but rather there may be interpretation and subjectivity. Language may be inferential and connotative; much can go unsaid but be inferred… Slide 7

8 What can we take from all this when thinking about qualitative analysis? 1.Not everything needs to be studied in the lab… what happens when we decontextualize the individual? Is everything we are studying just isolated within the individual, or is some of it due to their context in the world? 2.Is the laboratory not a context in and of itself? Does it not impose its own social system? 3.Language is key (as per Wundt), but so is the non-verbal. The content of language is not cut-and-dried, a lot can be inferred which is why you must interpret. 4.You cant simply take what you hear as the facts of the situation, you have to put yourself into the shoes of the speaker. Slide 8

9 Current Trends in Qualitative Analysis… -Used in psychology research but often critiqued (lack of subjectivity?) -Early exploration followed up by quantitative inquiry vs. mixed methods -Use of computer coding programs vs. raters Slide 9

10 Beginning a Qualitative Project… Phenomena & A Research Question The Interview The Interpretive Process Contextualizing Your Findings Slide 10

11 Phenomena & A Research Question You need: -A phenomenon -A contrast between variables -Life episodes surrounding this phenomenon Some examples from my own research… -Emotional life experiences (positive versus negative) -Creativity (writing and performance) -Poetry reception (read, hear, see) -Film viewing (melodrama, film noir) Slide 11

12 The Interview Who should I interview? Where should the interview be conducted? How do I prepare the interviewee? How do I prepare myself? The format of the interview… Slide 12

13 The Interpretive Process Category Generation. Identifying in-text patterns. Phenomenology is, on the one hand, description of the lived-through quality of lived experience, and on the other hand, description of meaning of the expressions of lived experience (van Manen, 1997, p. 25). What are categories? The necessity for SUBJECTIVITY and OBJECTIVITY. Slide 13

14 Transcript Illustration. Id lived in the Annex for 5 years and I moved to Woodbine and Danforth at the beginning of May. It was like moving to a completely new country. I felt so different and the energy of the people and the traffic was foreign. Everything was new and I felt inundated with new things. In the new house I came to the habit of looking out the front window in the evenings. The view is one of the streetlights and Danforth Avenue. On one particular night I looked out and it must have been dusk, but the sky was so big and there was this tangerine glow because the sun was setting. I went and got my notebook and then sat with this view of the sky and handwrote the poem. I just started to describe what I saw and the poem just fell out. I worked from this feeling I had inside myself, and tried to draw the picture so someone else would see that sky and in reading the poem, feel it too…Emotionally I think I put that isolation I was feeling right into the poem, as well as the awe of being in a place that is very urban but at the same time finding this big beautiful sky. I guess I was a bit emotional and feeling close to nature in a way… Slide 14

15 Transcript Illustration. I read this poem at a reading hosted by a friend of mine. The reading was a bit of a strange setting – a sports bar that was taken over on Sunday mornings by the artists. It was almost like the poets were going to church! We all got together and wed forget that it was a sports bar, it was a nice, laid-back atmosphere with coffee and people going out for a cigarette between readers. The audience was very diverse, and not necessarily performance poets. This was a morning reading, so a slightly more mature crowd with some really great older poets reading their stuff. People who appreciate the depth of writing, not just the shock-value of words. Not that they minded shock-value! There was no formal stage and I liked that. I got up at the front of the room, and I didnt start formally, rather I just got up there and chatted a bit. Looked at them, said a few pleasantries about the venue and the weather. I put everyone at ease and then took a deep breath to signify that I was going to start. I think I confused them because all of a sudden I went from being a nice guy talking about weather who then switches to a lunatic up there talking about religion – that really caught them. The audience was hooked and I got them to understand that it was more of a comic piece than anything. I would pause at words and give the eyebrow up to let them realize that it was okay –its okay to react anyway you want. I didnt force it down their throats… I read the poem in two modes – the STRONG, SERIOUS, AUTHORITATIVE voice, and then Id slow down and make the audience feel okay again. It was a great mixture, and no one misinterpreted it. I was a bit afraid, but I used the fear –harnessed it by thinking that I was a bit rebellious, and didnt truly care if they liked the poem of not. Slide 15

16 Category Application. Naming Definition Illustration Coding Id lived in the Annex for 5 years and I moved to Woodbine and Danforth at the beginning of May. It was like moving to a completely new country. I felt so different and the energy of the people and the traffic was foreign. Everything was new and I felt inundated with new things. In the new house I came to the habit of looking out the front window in the evenings. The view is one of the streetlights and Danforth Avenue. On one particular night I looked out and it must have been dusk, but the sky was so big and there was this tangerine glow because the sun was setting. I went and got my notebook and then sat with this view of the sky and handwrote the poem. I just started to describe what I saw and the poem just fell out. I worked from this feeling I had inside myself, and tried to draw the picture so someone else would see that sky and in reading the poem, feel it too…Emotionally I think I put that isolation I was feeling right into the poem, as well as the awe of being in a place that is very urban but at the same time finding this big beautiful sky. I guess I was a bit emotional and feeling close to nature in a way… Action Setting Slide 16

17 I read this poem at a reading hosted by a friend of mine. The reading was a bit of a strange setting – a sports bar that was taken over on Sunday mornings by the artists. It was almost like the poets were going to church! We all got together and wed forget that it was a sports bar, it was a nice, laid-back atmosphere with coffee and people going out for a cigarette between readers. The audience was very diverse, and not necessarily performance poets. This was a morning reading, so a slightly more mature crowd with some really great older poets reading their stuff. People who appreciate the depth of writing, not just the shock-value of words. Not that they minded shock-value! There was no formal stage and I liked that. I got up at the front of the room, and I didnt start formally, rather I just got up there and chatted a bit. Looked at them, said a few pleasantries about the venue and the weather. I put everyone at ease and then took a deep breath to signify that I was going to start. I think I confused them because all of a sudden I went from being a nice guy talking about weather who then switches to a lunatic up there talking about religion – that really caught them. The audience was hooked and I got them to understand that it was more of a comic piece than anything. I would pause at words and give the eyebrow up to let them realize that it was okay –its okay to react anyway you want. I didnt force it down their throats… I read the poem in two modes – the STRONG, SERIOUS, AUTHORITATIVE voice, and then Id slow down and make the audience feel okay again. It was a great mixture, and no one misinterpreted it. I was a bit afraid, but I used the fear –harnessed it by thinking that I was a bit rebellious, and didnt truly care if they liked the poem or not. Action Setting Slide 17

18 The Interpretive Process continued … Theorizing… Look for particulars… How does each transcript stand out? What is unique to each person? Why might that be? Look for universals… How do all the transcripts relate? What is similar between them? Why do you think these themes or structures (categories) are important? Build a bridge between the transcripts for each individual… What is each individuals set of interviews telling you? Build a bridge between all the transcripts… What is the whole body of transcripts telling you about the phenomenon youre interested in? Slide 18

19 Statistical Analysis. Are the patterns significant? Factor Analysis Clusters of categories are revealed. Analysis of Variance Category frequencies are examined in the light of independent variable conditions. Slide 19

20 Contextualizing Your Findings. After youve come up with your own theory, then you can look to see whats out there… You can contextualize your findings in many ways… -Laymans version of your phenomenon (e.g., media sources, blogs, messageboards, etc.) -Whats in the psychology literature? (e.g., PsycInfo, PsycARTICLES, library catalogue are good sources). -Whats in the literature of other disciplines about your topic? (e.g., sociology, philosophy, biology). Slide 20

21 -Reflection on self as interviewer and on what you are being told. -Preliminary contact where individual is briefed about the topic of research and where researcher gets an idea of how to get into the conversation during the interview later on. -What life events are central to life history reports, and which ones are minimized? -Life history research relies on one main interview along with multiple follow-ups. The Long of It – Life History Research Slide 21


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