Qualitative research methods
A second major branch of empirical social research
A number of scholars question the idea of ‘reality’ as something entirely external to the mind, existing independent of our understanding of it and unchanged by our study of it
Qualitative researchers often see reality as created rather than discoveredThe interaction between our beliefs and some physical external world creates our ‘reality’We can never know the world ‘as it is’ because our understanding shapes the worldIn addition, our study of some physical, external world changes that world, so we may be chasing our tail
Qualitative researchers seek to understand the “reality” individuals and groups experienceThey conclude that there are multiple realities, all of which can be seen as valid
Features of qualitative research
“all qualitative research exhibits seven basic characteristics. The most important are (1) thick description, or rich and relevant descriptions of the social, cultural, linguistic, and material contexts in which people live; (2) the presentation of the perspective of the people being studied (theemic, or natives', point of view); and (3) the use of relatively small and purposefully selected (rather than large and randomly selected) samples. reserved.
Qualitative inquiry also involves (4) the inductive development of explanation, concepts, and theory; (5) reliance on observational and interview data; (6) the use of textual data involving content and thematic analysis (rather than numerical data and statistical analysis); and (7) techniques of verification that assess the trustworthiness of data, replication, and saturation.”Qualitative Research fromEncyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group.
How does this affect their work and their methods?
Qualitative researchers normally attempt to gain a great deal of information about a small number of subjectsMaintain rich contextCome to know a group or situation intimately“Immerse” themselves in a situation
Qualitative researchers seek guidance from research subjects as to the meanings of their behavior/beliefs
Qualitative researchers recognize that they are not truly ‘objective’ in their approach to the subject under studyThey prefer to recognize and discuss their point of view in studying the topicThey challenge the claims of objectivity made by quantitative researchers
Flexible methods/Adjustmentand spontaneity
Qualitative researchers often adjust their methods as they go along, based on early findingsGradually come to understand the topic of studyQuantitative researchers would be concerned that early results are incomparable to later resultsInductive approach rather than deductive
Researcher must develop the ability over time to address the scene/issuesResearcher is informed by theory, but tries to be as open as possible to the meanings available in the scene
Parallel quantitative and qualitative methods
Reliability and validity
Qualitative researchers argue that there is no point in trying to establish "validity" in any external or objective sense because there is no ‘objective’ external reality to compare our research findings to.
Evaluating the quality of qualitative research
CredibilityTransferabilityDependabilityConfirmabilityFrom:Measuring occupational performance: Supporting Best Practice in Occupational Therapy, by Mary Law, Carolyn Manville Baum, and Winnie Dunn. Published by SLACK Incorporated, 2005 ISBN 1556426836, 9781556426834
Credibility involves establishing that the results of qualitative research are credible or believable from the perspective of theparticipantin the research.Participants are often consulted regarding the researcher’s conclusions
Transferability refers to the degree to which the results of qualitative research can be generalized or transferred to other contexts or settings.Those who wish to "transfer" the results to a different context are responsible for making the judgment of how sensible the transfer is.
The qualitative researcher can enhance transferability by doing a thorough job of describing the research context and the assumptions that were central to the research.
The idea of dependability emphasizes the need for the researcher to account for the ever-changing context within which research occurs.The researcher is responsible for describing the changes that occur in the setting and how these changes affected the way she approached the study.
Qualitative research tends to assume that each researcher brings a unique perspective to the study.Confirmabilityrefers to the degree to which the results could be confirmed or corroborated by others.
Strategies for enhancingconfirmability
Document the procedures for checking and rechecking the data throughout the study.Allows other researchers to evaluate the studyAnother researcher can take a "devil's advocate" role with respect to the results, and this process can be documented.
Actively search for and describe andnegative instancesthat contradict prior observations.Conduct adata auditthat examines the data collection and analysis procedures and makes judgments about the potential for bias or distortion.