Qualitative research

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Qualitative research relies on unstructured and non-numerical data. The data include fieldnotes written by the researcher during the course of his or her observation, interviews and questionnaires, focus groups, participant-observation, audio or video recordings carried out by the researcher in natural settings, documents of various kinds (publicly available or personal, paper-based or electronic records that are already available or elicited by the researcher), and even material artifacts. The use of these data is informed by various methodological or philosophical assumptions, as part of various methods, such as ethnography (of various kinds), discourse analysis (of various kinds), interpretative phenomenological analysis and other phenomenological methods.[1] Qualitative research methods have been used in sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology, social work, and educational research.[2][3]

Background[edit]

Qualitative research is informed by several philosophical assumptions and examines aspects of human life such as culture, expression, beliefs, morality, life stress, and imagination.[4] Major paradigms of contemporary qualitative research are derived from a number of prominent branches of philosophy, including positivism, postpositivism, critical theories, and constructivism.[5] A critical review of qualitative inquiry vis-à-vis these paradigms was written by Pernecky.[6]

Approaches to Inquiry[edit]

There are several different research approaches, or research designs, that qualitative researchers use.[7][8] In the academic social sciences, the qualitative research approaches can include the following points:

  1. Basic/generic/pragmatic qualitative research, which involves using an eclectic approach taken up to best match the research question at hand. This is often called the mixed-method approach.
  2. Ethnographic research. An example of applied ethnographic research is the study of a particular culture and their understanding of the role of a particular disease in their cultural framework.
  3. Grounded theory is an inductive type of research, based or "grounded" in the observations or data from which it was developed; it uses a variety of data sources, including quantitative data, review of records, interviews, observation, and surveys.[9][10]
  4. Phenomenology describes an individual's "subjective reality."[11]
  5. Biographical research is aligned to the social interpretive paradigm of research and is concerned with the reconstruction of life histories and the constitution of meaning based on biographical narratives and documents. The starting point for this approach is the understanding of an individual biography in terms of its social constitution, as influenced by symbolic interactionism, phenomenological sociology of knowledge (Alfred Schütz, Peter L. Berger, and Thomas Luckmann), and ethnomethodology (Harold Garfinkel).
  6. Philosophical research is conducted by field experts within the boundaries of a specific field of study or profession, the best qualified individual in any field of study to use an intellectual analysis, in order to clarify definitions, identify ethics, or make a value judgment concerning an issue in their field of study their lives.
  7. Critical Social Research, used by a researcher to understand how people communicate and develop symbolic meanings.
  8. Ethical Inquiry, an intellectual analysis of ethical problems. It includes the study of ethics as related to obligation, rights, duty, right and wrong, choice etc.
  9. Social science and Governmental Research to understand social services, government operations, and recommendations (or not) regarding future developments and programs, including whether or not government should be involved.
  10. Activist research which aims to raise the views of the underprivileged or "underdogs" to prominence to the elite or master classes, the latter who often control the public view or positions.
  11. Foundational research, examines the foundations for a science, analyzes the beliefs, and develops ways to specify how a knowledge base should change in light of new information.
  12. Historical research allows one to discuss past and present events in the context of the present condition, and allows one to reflect and provide possible answers to current issues and problems. Historical research helps us in answering questions such as: Where have we come from, where are we, who are we now and where are we going?
  13. Visual ethnography. It uses visual methods of data collection, including photo, voice, photo elicitation, collaging, drawing, and mapping. These techniques have been used extensively as a participatory qualitative technique and to make the familiar strange.[12][13]
  14. Autoethnography, the study of self, is a method of qualitative research in which the researcher uses their personal experience to address an issue.
  15. Arts-based research is an approach to qualitative study that uses art as data or for reporting.[14][15] The approach recognizes that artful text (such as a poem or play script), performance art (such as a dance performance or instrumental music concert), and visual art (such as painting or sculpture) can be analyzed and interpreted to contribute to a researcher's understanding of emerging themes.[16][15] Art-based research includes participant-produced art either as visual data[17][16] or for elicitation purposes,[16] and researcher-produced art as a means for reporting.[18][17]
  16. Case study aims to better understand a phenomenon. [19] The case study method exemplifies the qualitative researchers' preference for depth, detail, and context.[20] Case study methods are best for researching questions of the human experience.[20]
  17. Data triangulation is a strategy used in qualitative research.[21]

Data collection[edit]

Qualitative researchers may gather information through observations, note-taking, interviews, documents, and artifacts.[22][23][24][15][25][26][27]

Participant Observation[edit]

In participant observation[28] researchers observe participants of a culture-sharing group.[29]

Robert Bogdan traces the history of the participant observation to Howard S. Becker.[30]

Recursivity[edit]

In qualitative research, the idea of recursivity refers to the emergent nature of research design. In contrast to standardized research methods, recursivity allows the research to change the study's design during the data collection phase.[31]

Recursivity in qualitative research procedures contrasts to the methods used experimental forms of research design. From the experimental perspective, data collection, data analysis, discussion of the data in context of the literature, and drawing conclusions should be each undertaken once (or at most a small number of times). In qualitative research however, data are collected repeatedly until one or more specific stopping conditions are met, reflecting a nonstatic attitude to the planning and design of research activities. An example of this dynamicism might be when the qualitative researcher unexpectedly changes their research focus or design midway through a study, based on their first interim data analysis, and then makes further unplanned changes again based on a 2nd interim data analysis. Such an approach would not be permitted in an experiment. Qualitative researchers would argue that recursivity in developing the relevant evidence and reasoning enables the researcher to be more open to unexpected results, more open to the potential for developing new constructs, and the possibility of integrating new results and constructs into the theories and hypotheses that have been developing as the study proceeds.[31]

Data analysis[edit]

Qualitative researchers have a number of analytic strategies available to them.[32][33][34]

Coding[edit]

In general, coding refers to the act of associating meaningful ideas with the data of interest. In the context of qualitative research, interpretative aspects of the coding process are often explicitly recognized, articulated, and celebrated; producing specific words or short phrases believed to be useful abstractions over the data.[35] [36]

Pattern thematic analysis[edit]

Data may be sorted into patterns for thematic analyses as the primary basis for organizing and reporting the study findings.[37]

Recursive abstraction[edit]

As defined by Leshan 2012,[38][39] this is a method of qualitative data analysis where qualitative datasets are analyzed without coding.

Issues with Qualitative Researchers[edit]

Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS)[edit]

Contemporary qualitative data analyses can be supported by computer programs (termed computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software). These programs have been employed without or with detailed hand coding or labeling. These programs do not supplant the interpretive nature of coding. The programs are aimed at enhancing analysts' efficiency at applying, retrieving, and storing the codes generated from reading the data. Many programs enhance efficiency in editing and revising codes, which allow for more effective work sharing, peer review, recursive examination of data, and analysis of large datasets.[citation needed].

Common qualitative data analysis software includes:

A frequent criticism of quantitative coding approaches is that such coding sorts qualitative data into predefined (nomothetic) categories that are reflective of the categories found in objective science. The variety, richness, and individual characteristics of the qualitative data is reduced or, even, lost.[citation needed]

To defend against the criticism that qualitative approaches to data are too subjective, qualitative researchers assert that by clearly articulating their definitions of the codes they use and linking those codes to the underlying data, they preserve some of the richness that might be lost if the results of their research boiled down to a list of predefined categories. Qualitative researchers also assert that their procedures are repeatable, which is an idea that is valued by quantitatively oriented researchers.[citation needed]

Some data analysis techniques rely on using computers to scan and reduce large sets of qualitative data. At their most basic level, numerical coding relies on counting words, phrases, or coincidences of tokens within the data; other similar techniques are the analyses of phrases and exchanges in conversational analyses. Often referred to as content analysis, a basic structural building block to conceptual analysis, the technique utilizes mixed methodology to unpack both small and large corpuses. Content analysis is frequently used in sociology to explore relationships, such as the change in perceptions of race over time (Morning 2008), or the lifestyles of temporal contractors (Evans, et al. 2004).[40][41]

Trustworthiness[edit]

A central issue in qualitative research is trustworthiness (also known as credibility or, in quantitative studies, validity).[42] There are many ways of establishing trustworthiness, including member check, interviewer corroboration, peer debriefing, prolonged engagement, negative case analysis, auditability, confirmability, bracketing, and balance.[42] Data triangulation and eliciting examples of interviewee accounts are two of the most commonly used methods of establishing the trustworthiness of qualitative studies.[43]

Limitations of qualitative research[edit]

As valuable as qualitative research is, it is not without limitations. These limitations include participant reactivity, the potential for a qualitative investigator to over-identify with one or more study participants, "the impracticality of the Glaser-Strauss idea that hypotheses arise from data unsullied by prior expectations," the inadequacy of qualitative research for testing cause-effect hypotheses, and the Baconian character of qualitative research.[44] Participant reactivity refers to the fact that people often behave differently when they are observed. Over-identifying with participants refers to a sympathetic investigator studying a group of people and ascribing, more than is warranted, a virtue or some other characteristic to one or more participants. Compared to qualitative research, experimental research and certain types of nonexperimental research (e.g., prospective studies), although not perfect, are better means for drawing cause-effect conclusions.

Glaser and Strauss,[9] influential members of the qualitative research community, pioneered the idea that theoretically important categories and hypotheses can emerge "naturally" from the observations a qualitative researcher collects, provided that the researcher is not guided by preconceptions. The ethologist David Katz wrote "a hungry animal divides the environment into edible and inedible things....Generally speaking, objects change...according to the needs of the animal."[45] Karl Popper carrying forward Katz's point wrote that "objects can be classified and can become similar or dissimilar, only in this way--by being related to needs and interests. This rule applied not only to animals but also to scientists."[46] Popper made clear that observation is always selective, based on past research and the investigators' goals and motives and that preconceptionless research is impossible.

The Baconian character of qualitative research refers to the idea that a qualitative researcher can collect enough observations such that categories and hypotheses will emerge from the data. Glaser and Strauss developed the idea of theoretical sampling by way of collecting observations until theoretical saturation is obtained and no additional observations are required to understand the character of the individuals under study.[9] Bertrand Russell suggested that there can be no orderly arrangement of observations such that a hypothesis will jump out of those ordered observations; some provisional hypothesis usually guides the collection of observations.[47]

In psychology[edit]

Community psychology[edit]

Autobiographical narrative research has been conducted in the field of community psychology.[4] A selection of autobiographical narratives of community psychologists can be found in "Six Community Psychologists Tell Their Stories: History, Contexts and Narratives" (Kelly & Song, 2004), including the well known Julian Rappaport.[48]

Health psychology[edit]

In the field of health psychology, qualitative methods have become increasingly employed in research on understanding health and illness and how health and illness are socially constructed in everyday life.[49][50] Since then, a broad range of qualitative methods have been adopted by health psychologists, including discourse analysis, thematic analysis, narrative analysis, and interpretative phenomenological analysis. In 2015, the journal Health Psychology published a special issue on qualitative research.[51]

Occupational health psychology[edit]

Although research in the field of occupational health psychology (OHP) has predominantly been quantitatively oriented, some OHP researchers[52][53] have employed qualitative methods. Qualitative research efforts, if directed properly, can provide advantages for quantitatively oriented OHP researchers. These advantages include help with (1) theory and hypothesis development, (2) item creation for surveys and interviews, (3) the discovery of stressors and coping strategies not previously identified, (4) interpreting difficult-to-interpret quantitative findings, (5) understanding why some stress-reduction interventions fail and others succeed, and (6) providing rich descriptions of the lived lives of people at work.[44][54] Some OHP investigators have united qualitative and quantitative methods within a single study (e.g., Elfering et al., [2005][55]); these investigators have used qualitative methods to assess job stressors that are difficult to ascertain using standard measures and well validated standardized instruments to assess coping behaviors and dependent variables such as mood.[44]

Social media psychology[edit]

Since the advent of social media in the early 2000s, formerly private accounts of personal experiences have become widely shared with the public by millions of people around the world. Disclosures are often made completely openly, which has contributed to social media's key role in movements like the #metoo movement.[56]

This has presented a unprecedented opportunity for qualitative and mixed methods researchers: mental health issues can now be investigated qualitatively much more widely, at a lower cost, and with no intervention by the researchers.[57] To take advantage of this data, researchers need to have the appropriate toolkit for extracting and analyzing this kind of data.[58]

Journals[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Adler, P. A. & Adler, P. (1987). : context and meaning in social inquiry / edited by Richard Jessor, Anne Colby, and Richard A. Shweder] OCLC 46597302
  • Baškarada, S. (2014) "Qualitative Case Study Guidelines", in The Qualitative Report, 19(40): 1-25. Available from [1]
  • Boas, Franz (1943). "Recent anthropology". Science. 98 (2546): 311–314, 334–337. Bibcode:1943Sci....98..334B. doi:10.1126/science.98.2546.334. PMID 17794461.
  • Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2000). Handbook of qualitative research ( 2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2011). The SAGE Handbook of qualitative research ( 4th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
  • DeWalt, K. M. & DeWalt, B. R. (2002). Participant observation. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  • Fischer, C.T. (Ed.) (2005). Qualitative research methods for psychologists: Introduction through empirical studies. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-088470-4.
  • Franklin, M. I. (2012), "Understanding Research: Coping with the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide". London/New York. Routledge
  • Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Gubrium, J. F. and J. A. Holstein. (2000). "The New Language of Qualitative Method." New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Gubrium, J. F. and J. A. Holstein (2009). "Analyzing Narrative Reality." Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Gubrium, J. F. and J. A. Holstein, eds. (2000). "Institutional Selves: Troubled Identities in a Postmodern World." New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hammersley, M. (2008) Questioning Qualitative Inquiry, London, Sage.
  • Hammersley, M. (2013) What is qualitative research?, London, Bloomsbury.
  • Holliday, A. R. (2007). Doing and Writing Qualitative Research, 2nd Edition. London: Sage Publications
  • Holstein, J. A. and J. F. Gubrium, eds. (2012). "Varieties of Narrative Analysis." Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Kaminski, Marek M. (2004). Games Prisoners Play. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11721-7.
  • Mahoney, J; Goertz, G (2006). "A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative Research". Political Analysis. 14 (3): 227–249. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.135.3256. doi:10.1093/pan/mpj017.
  • Malinowski, B. (1922/1961). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York: E. P. Dutton.
  • Miles, M. B. & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Pamela Maykut, Richard Morehouse. 1994 Beginning Qualitative Research. Falmer Press.
  • Pernecky, T. (2016). Epistemology and Metaphysics for Qualitative Research. London, UK: Sage Publications.
  • Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods ( 3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Pawluch D. & Shaffir W. & Miall C. (2005). Doing Ethnography: Studying Everyday Life. Toronto, ON Canada: Canadian Scholars' Press.
  • Racino, J. (1999). Policy, Program Evaluation and Research in Disability: Community Support for All." New York, NY: Haworth Press (now Routledge imprint, Francis and Taylor, 2015).
  • Ragin, C. C. (1994). Constructing Social Research: The Unity and Diversity of Method, Pine Forge Press, ISBN 0-8039-9021-9
  • Riessman, Catherine K. (1993). "Narrative Analysis." Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Rosenthal, Gabriele (2018). Interpretive Social Research. An Introduction. Göttingen, Germany: Universitätsverlag Göttingen.
  • Savin-Baden, M. and Major, C. (2013). "Qualitative research: The essential guide to theory and practice." London, Rutledge.
  • Silverman, David, (ed), (2011), "Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory, Method and Practice". Third Edition. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, Sage Publications
  • Stebbins, Robert A. (2001) Exploratory Research in the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Taylor, Steven J., Bogdan, Robert, Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods, Wiley, 1998, ISBN 0-471-16868-8
  • Van Maanen, J. (1988) Tales of the field: on writing ethnography, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Wolcott, H. F. (1995). The art of fieldwork. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  • Wolcott, H. F. (1999). Ethnography: A way of seeing. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  • Ziman, John (2000). Real Science: what it is, and what it means. Cambridge, Uk: Cambridge University Press.

External links[edit]

Videos[edit]