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Telling Better Stories? narrative accounts of mixed methods research Jane Elliott Presentation for Mixed methods workshop, Manchester 26 th October 2005
Structure of presentation Narrative, reflexivity and writing Styles of writing about qualitative research Rhetoric in Qualitative and Quantitative research Reflexivity and Quantitative research Case Studies: writing about mixed methods research Telling better stories?
Narrative, Reflexivity and Writing During the last 20 years growing interest in the topic of narrative among qualitative researchers Elliot Mishler (1986) Research Interviewing: context and narrative C.K. Riessman (1993) Narrative Analysis. Narrative and Life History Journal launched 1991 The Narrative Study of Lives Josselson and Lieblich Attention to narratives in qualitative interviews; awareness of importance of researcher in eliciting narratives; interest in concept of narrative identity; awareness that researcher is a narrator
The researcher as narrator Laurel Richardson In our work as researchers we weigh and sift experiences, make choices regarding what is significant, what is trivial, what to include, what to exclude. We do not simply chronicle what happened next, but place the next in meaningful context. By doing so we craft narratives; we write lives. (Richardson, 1990, p10)
Styles of research writing: qualitative/ethnography Van Maanen Styles of writing in ethnography Realist tale/Confessional tale/Impressionist writing Realist Tale Absence of author from the text Focus on concrete details of daily life Aim to display thoughts, feelings and perceptions of those being studied Presents a single, unambiguous interpretation of culture being studied
Styles of research writing: qualitative/ethnography Van Maanen & the Confessional tale Attempts to demystify process of fieldwork Author is highly visible within the text unassuming style of one struggling to piece together something reasonable coherent out of displays of initial disorder, doubt and difficulty (Van Maanen, 1988:75) Do not replace realist tales but rather stand beside them
Styles of research writing: qualitative/ethnography Van Maanen & Impressionist tales Closest to narratives in their form Follow the chronology of the research Include vivid concrete details The idea is to draw the audience into an unfamiliar story world and allow it as far as possible, to see hear, and feel as the fieldworker saw, heard and felt (1988:103)
Reflexivity and quantitative research Judith Aldridge 1993 Sociology confessional account of writing her quantitative masters dissertation Scientific writing conventionally removes the author from the text This constructs a depersonalised and detached author behind the text Clear narrative of literature review, method, results, conclusion, obscures the messy practice of actual research
Rhetoric in Quantitative and qualitative research reports (Bryman, 1988, 1998) Quantitative: Management metaphor Researchers competence & ingenuity design of research; controlling variables; managing data Use of statistics to lend scientific credibility Qualitative: Naturalistic metaphor Presenting the perspective of research subjects Demonstrating authenticity of the research setting How might these be balanced in mixed methods research?
Case Studies: mixed methods research (1) Duncan and Edwards (1999) Lone Mothers, Paid Work and Gendered Moral Rationalities Aim to go inside the closed box of the category lone mothers and examine social differences and social behaviour within it (p5) Focus on agency of lone mothers and processes of combining (or not) paid work and motherhood Research interests lead directly to a need to combine Intensive and extensive research methods Contrast their gendered moral rationalities approach to the human capital approach popular among economists
Case Studies: mixed methods research (1) Duncan and Edwards (1999) Lone Mothers, Paid Work and Gendered Moral Rationalities Predominantly qualitative: interviews with sample of 95 lone mothers in Lambeth and Southwark & in Brighton and Hove [also Goteborg Sweden, & Cleveland USA] Uses Census data to provide contextual description of areas in which their samples are based Methodology discussed very briefly….qualitative research focuses on nature of sample & practicalities of snowball sample rather than interview interaction
The benefits of combining intensive and extensive research This combination of research designs allows us to assess the generality of the qualitative interview information about lone mothers social relations and understandings by using representative quantitative information as a check. Conversely, the interviews provide process explanations for the more descriptive information on lone mothers characteristics found in quantitative data. This allows us to better link evidence on social process and cause (on how and why things happen) with evidence about social patterns (on what has happened). (p7)
Case Studies: mixed methods research (1) Duncan and Edwards Qualitative and quantitative results are compartmentalized into separate chapters Where qualitative and quantitative results are presented side by side (e.g. Ch 5) a naturalistic metaphor is used Simplicity of quantitative analyses facilitates this Strongly realist tone
Compartmentalising qualitative and quantitative results In this chapter we concentrate on lone mothers own understandings and agency using interview information, examining how lone mothers socially negotiate understandings about their lives as mothers bringing up children without a male partner living with them, and about the extent to which mothering is compatible with paid work. This is complemented in the next chapter by an analysis of different lone mothers employment positions using census sources. (Duncan and Edwards, Ch 4, p109)
Mixed methods research: realist tales? Realist and naturalistic tone to presentation of qualitative results Interviewer is removed from the account Identity of interviewer? Quotations from lone mothers presented out of the context of questions asked by interviewer Focus on the content of what is said rather than how it is expressed Transcribed quotations evoke immediacy of spoken word but obscure messiness of much speech Little discussion of how interview transcripts are analysed
Fiona is a manager in the public sector and has never thought about not working: It was the natural order of things, it was what one does during the day. Ive always thought people should work. In contrast to Sylvia, Fionas discussion of undertaking paid work is organised less around perceptions of her childs needs, other than for a good childminder and more around her own need for independence: I feel Im much better off than living on benefits. Work gives me a structure to the day and I get a feeling of achievement from it. Yes, I enjoy the autonomy of working…If I had the choice to work part- time? Not really. I mean I make sure that I take time off so that I can collect [my daughter] from school and I always go to the school appointments and the school shows and all the rest of it. She never misses out.
Gendered Moral Rationalities From interviews with lone mothers Duncan and Edwards identify three main ideal types each containing a different orientation to paid work: Primarily mother Mother/worker integral Primarily worker Three case studies in chapter 4 correspond closely with these ideal types but D & E admit that not all lone mothers fell neatly into one ideal type.
Gendered moral rationalities by social group Triangular diagrams are used to locate women in terms of their gendered moral rationalities. Black groups of lone mothers were more likely to have a mother/worker integral rationality (29 women interviewed) Duncan and Edwards also contrast the moral rationalities of the alternative lone mothers with the more traditional lone mothers, both middle class and working class.
Presentation of quantitative research Very little discussion of methodology Results mainly presented in graphical form in Chapter 5 Tables are all percentage tables Section 5.3 looks at employment over time, but longitudinal nature of the LS is not fully exploited Focus is on differences between employment behaviour of black and white lone mothers Results support the explanation for these differences advanced through the interview evidence i.e. Black lone mothers are more likely to have gendered moral rationalities that favour combining employment with motherhood
Reasons for combining qualitative and quantitative methods We are able to assess the generality of the qualitative interview information about lone mothers social relations and understandings by using representative quantitative information from the British Census as a check. Conversely, the interviews provide process explanations for the descriptive data on lone mothers socio-economic positions found in the census. This allows to better link evidence on social process and cause with evidence about social patterns. (p146)
Tensions, contradictions and difficulties Qualitative work often aims to go beyond categories imposed by quantitative methods but by sampling members of a particular group it can fix individuals within a category (cf Duncan and Edwards analysis using the LS, Table 5.3) Focus on how understandings are socially negotiated, collectively produced and specific to particular cultural and neighbourhood settings, raises questions about the status of the qualitative interview as a data gathering or data producing exercise Assumption that qualitative material gives direct access to process and cause is mistaken Is the quantitative part of the project being used partly to legitimate qualitative findings? What are the alternatives to producing a realist tale? Would an impressionist tale be more valid but less useful?
Case Studies: mixed methods research (2) Wajcman and Martin (2002): Narratives of identity in Modern Management: the corrosion of gender difference? Sociology, 36: Study on the careers of managers Self-completion questionnaire (sample of 470 managers in six large Australian companies) In-depth interviews with 136 managers
Case Studies: mixed methods research (2) Both structured questionnaire and narrative interviews focus on managers careers Quantitative survey data revealed very few differences between the careers of male and female managers No impact on tenure; working overseas; number of companies; centrality of work to identity Women earned less & perceived fewer chances for promotion
Presentation of quantitative research? The management metaphor is very sparingly used and statistics are also kept very simple In our survey we examined…Because the age, sector and education profiles of men and women managers are different, we control for these variables in analysing gender differences (p989) One large table of quantitative results; focus solely on differences between men and women; adjusted means are presented; footnote explains the use of OLS regression and logistic regression.
Wajcman and Martin: Qualitative interviews In-depth interviews concentrated on the identities managers give themselves in their narratives of career and private life (2002, 991) Wajcman and Martin state that their approach neither accepts nor rejects the unity of identity so that they focus on the different narrative identities managers adopt; whether they mesh successfully and whether these patterns differ between men and women.
Wajcman and Martin: Qualitative interviews Wajcman and Martin identify the market narrative within managers accounts of their careers and contrast it with a more traditional bureaucratic narrative Managers represent themselves as largely autonomous agents, unconstrained by authoritative norms and life patterns Market narratives are described as having no overt gender content & as used equally by men and women However, marked gender differences are reported in the way that interviewees integrate a career narrative with their private or family narrative
Wajcman and Martin: Qualitative interviews Lengthy quotations from the interviews are used in the text to support their arguments and analysis Interviews were taped and transcribed and analysis was assisted by the use of NUD.IST 4 (p989) Interviewer is edited out of the text Naturalist rhetoric used to present qualitative findings sits slightly uneasily alongside the theoretical interest in analysing narrative identities.
Wajcman and Martin: Approaches to gender In depth interviews and narrative understanding of identity provides an opportunity for a different understanding of gender Quantitative research suggests that gender differences are not marked However, by comparing the narratives of male and female managers, even in the qualitative analysis, gender is treated as a fixed attribute and operates as an axis for comparison in both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the research
Telling Better Stories? What constitutes a good story? Tension between Compelling and persuasive account Reflexive account that highlights the researchers role in producing the data Should we aim for impressionistic accounts of mixed methods research Do qualitative methods allow us to go beyond comparisons between specific groups? Perhaps quantitative longitudinal methods are better for this? How can we write about quantitative research in a way that is more open/confessional but does not undermine results?