Presentation on theme: "An Introduction to Qualitative Research Peter Harper."— Presentation transcript:
An Introduction to Qualitative Research Peter Harper
The “Moments” of Qualitative Research Denzin NK Lincoln YS (1999) The Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks
The Traditional Period the first moment - early 1900’s until second world war “objective” colonizing accounts of field experiences that were reflective of the positivist scientist paradigm The “other” who was studied was alien, foreign and strange This period is dominated by the concept of ethnography Ethnography = “the process and product of describing and interpreting cultural behaviour.” (Schwandt 2001) Ethnography is often used synonymously with “fieldwork”
The Traditional Period the first moment - early 1900’s until second world war Bronislaw Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands 1918
The Traditional Period the first moment - early 1900’s until second world war Margaret Mead in Samoa 1926
The Traditional Period the first moment - early 1900’s until second world war
In the field one has to face a chaos of facts…. In this crude form they are not scientific facts at all; they are absolutely elusive, and can only be fixed by interpretation…. Only laws and generalizations are scientific facts, and fieldwork consists only and exclusively in the interpretation of the chaotic social reality, in subordinating it to general rules. (Malinowski, 1916/1948, p.328; quoted in Geertz 1988, p.81)
The Traditional Period the first moment - early 1900’s until second world war The emergence of sociology featured a positivist belief in a "science of society" that, by explaining the causes of social phenomena, could improve social conditions. American sociologists extracted from the European intellectual inheritance a particular nuance of positivism, the idea that quantification tied to the formulation of sociological problems in terms of the hypothetico-deductive model enabled causal explanations of empirical phenomena. This approach has stood in tension with interpretivist approaches ever since. The field came to be marked by a bipolar opposition, with quantitative methods associated with causal explanation of macro-social phenomena and qualitative methods with interpretivist understandings of micro-social phenomena. Fielding, Nigel (2005).
The Traditional Period the first moment - early 1900’s until second world war The Chicago School is usually seen as the champion of qualitative method during sociology's childhood. In 1927 William OGBURN was appointed to bring in a "scientific" sociology based on statistics and by the 1940s, with PARSONS' rise at Harvard and Columbia's growing dominance in survey research and opinion polling, US sociology had shifted to a quantitative paradigm. In the 1950s a group of quantitative sociologists came to Chicago from Columbia and Everett HUGHES stood virtually alone as representative of the earlier tradition. Fielding, Nigel (2005).
The Traditional Period the first moment - early 1900’s until second world war Everrett HUGHES was at Chicago from 1938 to His course in field observation methods was compulsory for students of sociology, anthropology and social science. HUGHES was the driving force in developing participant observation as a distinct methodology because he and his students had to justify their procedures against constant criticism from statisticians. The other key Chicago figure in qualitative methodology was Herbert BLUMER, whose symbolic interactionism was developed as an explicit insurgency against positivist sociology. Fielding, Nigel (2005, May). The Resurgence, Legitimation and Institutionalization of Qualitative Methods [23 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research [On-line Journal], 6(2), Art. 32. Available at: [Date of Access: Month Day, Year].
The Modernist Phase the second moment – post war years to 1970’s Traditional approaches continue and are still valued. During this period many writers attempt to “formalise” qualitative research e.g. Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967). The post-positivist movement is a powerful influence with researchers attempting to apply the principles of reliability and validity to constructivist and interactionist approaches.
The Modernist Phase the second moment – post war years to 1970’s Modernist ethnographers and sociological participant observers attempt rigorous study of important social processes such as deviance and social control A seminal, much quoted study, from this period is “Boys in White” (Becker et al 1961) This study attempted to make qualitative research as rigorous as quantitative and used “standard statistics” to analyse the data (later described as quasi statistics).
The Modernist Phase the second moment – post war years to 1970’s “The Discovery of Grounded Theory” at the end in 1967 “Boys in White” at the start in 1961 and The Modernist phase or, “Golden Age”, is bounded by :
Blurred Genres the third moment – 1970 to 1986 By this stage qualitative research encompasses a wide range of paradigms, strategies and methods: Symbolic Interactionism Positivism Post-Positivism Ethno-methodology Critical Theory (Marxist) Phenomenology Naturalistic Inquiry Structuralism Semiotics Feminism Constructivism Various ethnic paradigms Paradigms Blurred Genres the third moment – 1970 to 1986
Grounded Theory Case Study Historical Biographical Ethnographical Action research Clinical Research Strategies
Blurred Genres the third moment – 1970 to 1986 Interviewing Observation Visual Personal Experience Documentary Methods
Blurred Genres the third moment – 1970 to 1986 The naturalist, post positivist and constructionist paradigms gained power in this period. By the end of the 1970’s several qualitative journals were in place. Urban Life (Now the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography) Qualitative Sociology Symbolic Interaction Studies in Symbolic Interaction
Blurred Genres the third moment – 1970 to 1986 Local Knowledge In 1983 The Interpretation of Cultures in 1973 and The beginning and end of the Blurred Genres phase is defined by two books by Geertz:
Blurred Genres the third moment – 1970 to 1986 Geertz argued that: the old functional, positivist, behavioral, totalizing, approaches to human disciplines were giving way to To a more pluralistic, interpretive, open - ended perspective
Crisis of Representation the fourth moment – the mid 1980’s to the present A “profound rupture” occurred in the mid -1980’s with publication of: Anthropology as Cultural Critique (Marcus & Fischer 1986) The Anthropology of Experience (Turner & Bruner 1986) Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus 1986) Works and Lives (Geertz 1988) “These works made research and writing more reflexive, and called into question the issues of gender, class and race. They articulated the consequences of Geertz’s ‘blurred genres’ interpretation of the field in the early 1980’s.”
Crisis of Representation the fourth moment – the mid 1980’s to the present Issues of reliability, once thought of as settled, now become problematic again. Interpretive theories are now more common than grounded theories. Reflections the relationship between field work and writing emerge
A Triple Crisis the fifth moment – the present Three crises emerge from the discourses of poststructuralism and postmodernism The Representational Crisis The Legitimization Crisis Praxis
A Triple Crisis the fifth moment – the present The Representational Crisis This crisis addresses the degree to which qualitative researchers can capture lived experience. It is argued now that such experience is created in the social text written by the researcher.
A Triple Crisis the fifth moment – the present The Legitimization Crisis This crisis centres on the traditional issues of reliability, validity and generalisability. The central questions arising from this crisis is how can qualitative research be evaluated.
The crisis of representation and the crisis of legitimisation are interrelated and produce the third - how are the outcomes of qualitative research to be used especially if “society is only a text”. A Triple Crisis the fifth moment – the present The Praxis Crisis
The Research Process An Analytical Framework Ontology Epistemology Methodology The ontological orientation of the researcher, in terms of his or her beliefs about reality, determine their epistemological perspective on knowledge. The epistemological orientation of the researcher is determined by his or her beliefs about reality and influences their choices of research methodology. The methods used by the researcher are determined by his or her ontological and epistemological orientation
Inductive reasoning is based on meticulous observation, e.g., we can observe that metal expands when it is heated. Inductive Reasoning
Non-Probability Sampling Purposive Convenience Snowball Volunteer Quota Sample units are deliberately chosen because they have specific attributes. Samples are taken from conveniently available people or things. A self selected convenience sample. Used in populations of people where one participant identifies subsequent ones. Similar to stratified random sampling but without randomisation.
Qualitative Data Collection
Traditional Types of Interview The Structured or Closed Interview The Semi structured Interview The Unstructured or Open Interview
Traditional Types of Interview The Structured or Closed Interview The structured interview uses closed questions, i.e., questions that require either a yes or know answer or require a choice of answer to be made. This approach is commonly used in survey research and hardly ever in qualitative research. It is useful for deductive exploration of a clearly defined research question. The interviewer controls the process in structured interviewing as well as the direction of the interview.
Traditional Types of Interview The Semi-structured Interview The semi-structured interview may use both open and closed questions This approach is commonly used in qualitative research and sometimes in quantitative research. It is useful for deductively exploring research questions but allows for inductively derived new perspectives. The interviewer controls the process in semi-structured interviewing and the overall direction of the interview but allows the interviewee some control over the direction of the interview.
Traditional Types of Interview The Unstructured or Open Interview The unstructured interview uses open questions, i.e., questions that encourage the interviewee to offer in depth information. This approach is commonly used in qualitative research and hardly ever in quantitative research. It is useful for inductive exploration of loosely defined research questions or even as a means to develop research questions. The interviewer controls the process in unstructured interviewing but has little control over the direction of the interview.
Issues in Qualitative Interviewing There is an issue of who is in control of the process, i.e., whether there is a traditional hierarchical researcher – participant relationship or, whether there is a equal relationship in which both interviewer and interviewee are both participants. QUESTION: can there ever be a truly equal relationship between researcher and participant?
Issues in Qualitative Interviewing There is a representation issue, i.e., to what extent does the interviewer change or influence the data being collected / generated through the interview, and therefore to what extent is interview data a true representation of the interviewee’s experience. QUESTION: can the interviewer ever experience the interviewees experience? QUESTION: what are the consequences for any conclusions derived from the interview?
The active interview is interactional. From a traditional interviewing standpoint this approach is open to “bias” or “contamination” but in Holstein and Gubrium’s words: “This criticism only holds, however, if one takes a narrow view of interpretive practice and meaning construction. Bias is a meaningful concept only if the subject is a preformed, purely informational commodity that the interview might somehow taint.” (Holstein and Gubrium 1997, p.126) Active Interviewing (Holstein and Gubrium)
Types of Observation Gold (1958) The Complete Observer The Observer as Participant The Participant as Observer The Complete Participant neutrality covert Gold, R.L. (1958) Roles in sociological field observations. Social Forces, 36,
Practicalities of Observation Observation is a highly skilled activity and attention needs to be paid to: What to observe Gaining access to the setting Determining the focus of the observation How to observe How to record observations The ethics of observation.
Issues in Qualitative Observation The two predominant issues are: The validity of observation The reliability of observation These issues stem from a post-positivist / modernist stance. From a post-modernist stance, traditional reliability and validity are not an issue. Observation is considered particularly strong when used in combination with other methods.
The Principles of Qualitative Interpretation
Qualitative Analysis Qualitative data usually consists of the words or actions of research participants, gained through interviews, observation, documents or diaries. Qualitative analysis involves bringing order, structure and meaning to this mass of information so that conclusions can be made and communicated.
There are as many different approaches to qualitative analysis as there are qualitative researchers (Tesch 1990) Tesch described three main types depending on their focus. Characteristics of language e.g. content analysis Discovery of regularities e.g. grounded theory Comprehension of meaning e.g. phenomenology Qualitative Analysis
Crabtree and Miller (1999) describe the interpretation of qualitative data as a “complex and dynamic craft” and compare it to a “dance”: “Interpretation is like a night at the big dance. The dance begins with an invitation to attend. These invitations state the intent, establish the context, determine the guests, suggest what to bring and wear, and propose boundaries for what to expect. It’s a senior high school prom or a community contra dance. This is the initial describing phase of interpretation.……..” Qualitative Analysis
“…..Once at the dance and with the fun under way, however, the dance often changes. New partners appear, the music shifts, the unexpected happens, you and some of your closest friends change, and new relationships form. You must keep re-describing and adjusting, gathering new information; this is the iteration between data collection and interpretation. There is an opening dance that sets the tone for the evening, much as the initial organizing style frames the interpretive possibilities. The big dance event ends with a closing dance that, one hopes, resolves the evenings tensions.” Qualitative Analysis
The process of qualitative interpretation is described by Crabtree and Miller as having five phases “through which one iteratively spirals and shifts”. The five phases are: Describing Organizing Connecting Corroborating and Legitimating Representing the Account These five phases should not be seen as linear or sequential but rather as parallel, overlapping and interweaving processes. Qualitative Analysis
The describing phase is characterised by self examination; an examination of the context in which the interpretation is occurring in terms of both the past and the future. During the describing phase researchers reflect on their preconceptions and what part these preconceptions play in the interpretive process; on what they have learned form collecting new data; and on the direction the research should take from this point. Describing Qualitative Analysis
“A common error in clinical qualitative research is switching from a critical or constructivist paradigm back to a materialistic, positivist paradigm part of the way through the research process, most often at the interpretive moment”. The cultural forces pushing and pulling towards universal, reliable, and valid truths with generalizable, predictable, and controllable outcomes is subtle, persistent, and powerful.” (Crabtree and Miller 1999) Describing Qualitative Analysis
On a more pragmatic level, the describing phase is a time for asking questions about the nature, appropriateness, and quality of the data collected in terms of the research questions being explored. What are the boundaries of the research? What additional data needs to be collected to legitimise, or test, emerging conclusions? Describing Qualitative Analysis
Crabtree and Miller use the term organizing to describe “how one enters the data and reorganizes it in a way that helps answer the research question”. The process of connecting, Crabtree and Millers third stage, is closely related to organizing and mutually interdependent. Organizing and Connecting Qualitative Analysis
Crabtree and Miller describe 3 organizing styles: The Editing Style The Template Style The Immersion and Crystallization Style Organizing and Connecting Qualitative Analysis
The editing style describes the interpreter entering the text “much like an editor searching for meaningful segments, cutting, pasting and rearranging until the reduced summary reveals a helpful interpretation.” The interpreter does not use a template but searches for “meaningful units or segments” in the text which are coded and categorised and, during the connecting phase, organised into explanatory patterns or themes. Grounded theory is an example of an editing organizational style The Editing Style Qualitative Analysis
analysis begins at the same time as data collection The Editing Style categorising coding clustering observing interviewing transcribing describing reflecting verifying theorising recording interpreting writing
Smoking “Cheeking Teacher” “Messing about” Absenteeism CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS Caning Essay Suspension Telling Parents THEORISING Is there a hierarchy of punishment? Is there a hierarchy of crimes? Is there a relationship between these hierarchies?
Qualitative Analysis The template style uses a template derived from theory, research tradition, pre-existing knowledge, and/or a summary reading of the text; templates can be predetermined or created after data collection. Units are often behavioural and are refined iteratively during the connecting phase into an explanatory framework. The Template Style
analysis begins at the same time as data collection The Template Style categorising coding using a pre-determined template clustering observing interviewing transcribing describing reflecting verifying theorising recording interpreting writing
CODING Template Predetermined CodesRelated Quotations Misdemeanors Good Behaviour Punishments Rewards Relationships with Teachers Relationships with other Pupils Compliance with rules Organisational Structure New Codes
The immersion / crystallization style makes the most demands of the three styles on the interpreter and is difficult to describe precisely. In broad terms Crabtree and Miller define it as “prolonged immersion into and experience of the text and then emergence, after concerned reflection, with an intuitive crystallization of the data.” Borkan (1999) acknowledges the difficulty in providing a “cookbook” step by step description of the immersion / crystallization style suggesting that “its successful execution may be more akin to artistic expression” The Immersion and Crystallization Style Qualitative Analysis
analysis begins at the same time as data collection Immersion and Crystallization Style crystallization immersion observing interviewing transcribing describing reflecting verifying theorising recording interpreting writing
The corroborating and legitimating phase is concerned with the validity of the interpretation in the sense of its trustworthiness and credibility. Crabtree and Miller propose that together, the organizing, connecting and corroborating and legitimating phases comprise the core of the interpretive process. Corroborating and Legitimating Qualitative Analysis
Corroborating and Legitimating verification of the interpretation by participants who have provided the original data and; the utilisation of multiple perspectives, i.e., having two or more people (often members of a research team) independently interpret data and comparing the similarities and differences in the interpretation. There are numerous approaches to corroborating and legitimating qualitative interpretation. Two strategies frequently used are: Qualitative Analysis
The final of Crabtree and Miller’s five phases, representation of the account, refers to the way in which the research will be reported, the story told, how it will be written up. Representing the Account Qualitative Analysis
“Although we usually think of writing as a mode of ‘telling’ about the social world, writing is not just a mopping-up activity at the end of a research project. Writing is also a way of “knowing” – a method of discovery and analysis. By writing in different ways, we discover new aspects of our topic and our relationship to it. Form and content are inseparable.” (Richardson 1998, p345) Representing the Account Writing as Research Qualitative Analysis
The relationship between writers and their readers is a complex phenomena and a recurring theme in relativist research paradigms. Case study researchers have speculated on the role of the reader in generalizing research findings (Gomm 2000). Winter (1989) describes the outcome of research activity as a “dialogue” between reader and writer. Representing the Account The Reader as Participant Qualitative Analysis