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Going beyond the text:The challenge(s) of interpretation in qualitativeresearch
Christine Griffin, Department of PsychologyQualitative Methodology Forum symposium, University of Bath27 January 2015
Interpretation and its challenges
Interpretation = the construction of meaningThere is something more to be said hereWhat can (and can’t) count as ‘data’Interpretation and the research processDrawing on examples from ‘Young consumers’ study
Passing the “dead social scientist test”
The distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘contrived’ data‘Naturally occurring talk’ = “spoken language that is produced entirely independently of the actions of the researcher” (Potter, 1997, p.148)‘Naturalistic records’ should replace research interviews as the “defaulttechnique” forthe analysis of social interactions in qualitative psychology research (Potter and Hepburn, 2005)Aim = “to avoid active researcher involvement” (P & H, 2005)
The importance of beingthere:‘Emic’ and ‘Etic’ approaches
Distinction between ‘Emic’ and ‘Etic’ analysesThe impossibility of neutrality:Billig’s‘Banal Nationalism’ (1995)“theanalyst is not safely removed from the scope of investigation.Wemight imagine that we possess a cosmopolitan broadness of spirit. But, if nationalism is a wider ideology, whose familiar commonplaces catch us unawares, then this is too reassuring. We will not remain unaffected. If the thesis is correct, then nationalism has seeped into the corners of our consciousness; it is present in the very words we might try to use for analysis.”(1995, p.12).
Examples fromESRCstudy of ‘Young consumers’
Researchteam (2001 – 2005):Christine Griffin (PI: Birmingham University) & AnnPhoenix (CI: Open University)RAs: Janine Hunter (Birmingham) &RosaleenCroghan(Open University)Researchquestions:a) What does the relationship between consumption and identitymean for youngpeople?b) How do parents and teenagers negotiate about money and‘stuff’?
Young consumers study: Research design
Questionnaires to 1,354 young people aged 12/13 and 15/17 in 23 state schools inBirmingham, Milton Keynes & Oxford on things they had bought/been givenrecently and what these objects meant to them60semi-structured group discussions with 335 young people explored this issue in more depthDisposablecameras given to 28 young people & follow-up interviews about their favourite possessionsInterviewswith 20 parents and 16 teenage childrenObservationalcase studies with 11 groups of young people
Two examples from onegroupdiscussion
‘Researcher-inspiredconversations’carried out in June 2002.Statesecondary school in outersuburb of Birmingham,primarilyworking class student population of diverse ethnicities, including white, South Asian and African Caribbean groups.Firstfive years intake were single sex (girls only), with a relatively small co-educational 6th form.This group involved fiveyoung women aged 12 and13 fromYear 8Twoof the girls identified themselves as ‘Asian’ (ZabyandReena), one as ‘mixed parentage’ (Karen), and two as ‘white’(Gemma and Becky).
(1) The ‘hand cream moment’ (seehandout)
431 CG:D’youthink in your school or people your age there's a big range in theamountof money people have got to spend?433Reena: Yeah (1) yeah434 Becky:Yeah435 Karen:Yeah(1) mm-mm436 CG: Even in your school?437Zaby:Herey’areman (1) you need to cream your hands438 CG: Have some people got a lot more?439 Karen:Many(1) huh440Zaby: Herey’are(1) I’ll give you some cream [inaudible] (laughter)441Reena: Go on then (laughs) You wanted some more [basis?] so I’ll get it
442 CG: Some have got a lot more money than others?443Reena:Theylook a bit crusty444 Karen:Yeahthey have and they show it445Zaby:Butthere’s nothing wrong with having money people just think there is but it's not (1) it’s justcosyour parents work more harder than some peoples447 Karen:It'snot even working harder it just depends on what job you've got448Reena:Yeah449 Becky:Somepeople might not have much money but they've got their favourite job, they’ve got thejobthat they always wanted and I don’t think451 Gemma: (loud) Like (1) did you see Airport yesterday and that man who was always working?453Reena: Yeah, I watched it454 Becky:Iwatched it455 Gemma: He’s worked there for 20 years, and it's not even an expensive job it's just his dream457 CG: Break for hand cream (laughs)
457 CG:Breakfor hand cream (laughs)458Zaby: Yeah (1) I have to have cream in my bag (1) and deodorant459Reena: She’s always [inaudible]460 Karen: Don’t be horrible461Zaby: You have to have cream and deodorant in your bag462Reena:Zabyis a bit [inaudible]463 Karen: Yep (laughs)464 CG:Arethere particular things that (1) say if you want to keep your style up and you haven't got enough money (1)what doyou do?466Zaby: Beg467 Gemma: Ask my dad468 Karen: Ask mum (1) if she says no I go to my dad but I don't do it often cos it causes arguments470Reena: What I do (1) is just like (1) I wait (2) I'll get it eventually471 Karen: Or I just mix some different clothes (1) or just look at it472Zaby: And think OK I’ll just put different clothestogether
473 Gemma: (loud, interrupts) I want to cut some too short jeans to make some shorts474Zaby: You need to get some proper cream475 Gemma: That is proper cream (indignant)476Zaby: No it’s not477 Karen: It’s Nivea cream that you need478 (All talk at once)479 Karen: You need a proper bottle480 Gemma: I’ve got a proper bottle481Zaby: You need proper (1) like Nivea (1) that's like cheap your make482Reena: I've got Nivea483 Karen: Yeah (1) but shopping (1) it’s the shops you go in you see484 Gemma: I don’t like shopping (1) it wears me out485 Becky: Sorry Miss (2)shhhh[to other girls]486Zaby: I can’t stand people that go to one shop and then487 Gemma: [inaudible]488Zaby: I suppose they know what they want to get (1) but
(2) The ‘flag-waving episode’ (seehandout)
England football team lost quarter final match against Brazil 5 days previously, putting England out of the 2002 World Cup.Throughout the interview,Zabywas twirling a small (approximately 1” by 0.5”) hand-made Brazil flag between her fingers on the table in front of her.Sitting on my immediate right, and two seats to the left ofZaby, Gemma was wearing a T-shirt bearing a large printed version of the England flag (ie. a red cross on a white ground) that entirely covered the front of the garment, including the sleeves.
498 CG:Haseverybody (1) um been into the World Cup?499Zaby:Yeahdefinitely (emphatic)500 (all talk at once)501 Karen:Evenmy mom's watching it502 Gemma: We watched the match503Zaby:Brazil, Brazil (chanting in background)504 Karen:I need to watch my manRonaldo*505 Gemma:Wescored the first goal (loud)506Zaby:Yeahbut who scored two?507 Karen:Who lost (1) who lost (jumbled talking)
523 Gemma: (loud) England is the best. ENGL-A-A-ND (shouts)524Zaby: If they're so good then how come they've only won the WorldCuponce and they're out?526 Gemma: Because injuries we’ve always had [all talk at once] all ourpeoplehave had (inaudible)528Zaby:Ssh529 CG: In the class as a whole though?530 Karen: Most people the majority support England [inaudible]531Zaby: Most of the like most of the black girls in the school supporterBrazil532Reena: Brazil533Zaby: All these lot reckon just cos you live in England you shouldsupport them
Some final comments….
The importance of research engagement‘Being there’ vs. ‘contaminating the data’‘Being there’ vs. ‘being dead’Willig, C. (2012).Qualitative interpretation and analysis in psychology. Maidenhead, Berks: Open University Press.

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