June 28, 2015
In-depth interviewers and focus group moderators typically work from an outline of relevant topics and questions that guides them through the interview or discussion. The guide is intended to be just that, a guide, and not a strict, prescriptive document. With the guide, the ultimate goal is to enable the interviewer or moderator to efficiently incorporate all of the issues that are important to achieving the research objectives. Maintaining clarity throughout the interview or discussion on the related issues is actually a more essential purpose of the guide than the actual questions or follow-up probes it may contain.
The most typical and effective approach in constructing an interview or discussion guide is to begin broadly and progressively narrow the topic area to the subject matter of greatest importance to the research objectives, i.e., a “funnel” approach. The funnel consists Read Full Text
June 15, 2015
The impact of bias (in various forms) on research outcomes is well-documented. In Research Design Review alone, there are many articles related to this issue; bias in the world of both quantitative – such as “Ask Someone a Question, You’ll Get an Answer” and “Accounting for Social Desirability Bias in Online Research” – as well as purely qualitative – “Selection Bias & Mobile Qualitative Research” and “Visual Cues & Bias in Qualitative Research” – research. One of the more significant sources of bias in qualitative research is the researcher, i.e., the in-depth interviewer, focus group moderator, or observer in ethnography. This bias is specifically addressed in the RDR article “Interviewer Bias & Reflexivity in Qualitative Research,” which highlights the importance of the reflexive journal to help address “the bias that most assuredly permeates the socially-dependent nature of qualitative research.”
An interviewer may bias research outcomes in any number of ways. For instance, he or she may allow personal beliefs or expectations to skew how questions are asked and/or Read Full Text
There are certain types of qualitative research studies that employ more than one qualitative research method to explore a particular topic or phenomenon, i.e., the researcher uses multiple methods. These studies generally fall into the category of case study or narrative research, which are both designated by the label of “case-centered research.” The attributes that differentiate these forms of research from other qualitative approaches were discussed in an earlier Research Design Review post (“Multi-method & Case-centered Research: When the Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts”). These differentiating attributes are largely associated with the use of multiple methods to gain a complete understanding of complex Read Full Text
April 22, 2015
The analysis of qualitative research data is no small thing. Because the very nature of qualitative research is complicated by the complexities inherent in being human, attempting to qualitatively measure and then make sense of behavior and attitudes is daunting. In fact, it is this overwhelming aspect of qualitative research that may lead researchers – who live in the real world of time and budget constraints – to succumb to a less-than-rigorous analytical process.
And yet, Analyzability* is a critical component in qualitative research design.
All of the data collection in the world – all the group discussions, IDIs, observations, storytelling, or in-the-moment research – amounts to a meaningless exercise unless and until a methodical processing and verification of the data is conducted. Without the thoughtful work required to achieve a quality research product, qualitative data simply sits as an inert compilation of discrete elements lacking import.
Finding the connections in the qualitative data that make sense of the phenomenon, concept, or construct under investigation may, for some, be difficult and worthy of shortcuts; but proper analysis is the only thing that separates an honest, professional qualitative study from a random amalgamation of conversations or online snapshots.
In April of last year, this blog discussed one facet of Analyzability, i.e., verification. Verification, however, only comes after the researcher has conducted the all-important processing phase that converts qualitative data – that amalgamation of discrete elements – into meaningful connections that give rise to interpretations and implications, and the ultimate usefulness, of the research.
A quality approach to qualitative research design necessitates a well-thought-out plan for finding connections and making sense of the data. Here are six recommended steps in that process*:
• Select the unit of analysis – a subject matter, an activity, a complete narrative or interview.
• Develop unique codes – an iterative process utilizing a codebook that pays particular attention to context to derive explicit, closely-defined code designations.
• Code – a dynamic process that incorporates pretesting of codes, inter-coder checks, and coder retraining as necessary.
• Identify categories – a group of codes that share an underlying construct.
• Identify themes or patterns – by looking at the coding overall and the identified categories to reveal the essence of the outcomes. This is made easier by way of visual displays via various programs such as PowerPoint and CAQDAS**.
• Draw interpretations and implications – from scrutinizing the coded and categorized data as well as ancillary materials such as reflexive journals, coders’ coding forms (with their comments), and other supporting documents.
* Analyzability is one of four components of the Total Quality Framework. This framework and the six general steps in qualitative research analysis are discussed fully in Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller, M. R. & Lavrakas, P. J., 2015).
Image captured from: http://www.breakthroughresults.co.uk/interim-management.php/
Every researcher working with human subjects strives to ensure the highest ethical standards. Regardless of whether the research is quantitative or qualitative in nature – or in the field of health, communications, education, psychology, marketing, anthropology, or sociology – researchers care about protecting the confidentiality, anonymity, and basic “rights” (such as privacy and freedom of thought) of the people who agree to be part of their studies. It is with this in mind that, in addition to gaining IRB approval (as required), researchers openly discuss the goals and intended use of their research with participants, as well as asking them to carefully read and agree to the appropriate consent forms. Online group discussions (focus groups) present a particularly delicate matter. Unlike any other overt form of research – unlike an online survey dominated by closed-end questions, or an online in-depth interview with one person at any moment in time – the online group discussion – with its amalgamation of many people (typically, strangers to each other) responding at length to many open-ended questions over the course of multiple (possibly, many) days – potentially raises important security and identity concerns among participants. Even with a signed consent form, online group participants may still have serious doubts about the containment of their input to the discussion and, hence, their willingness to contribute Read Full Text
Transparency plays a pivotal role in the final product of any research study. It is by revealing the study’s intricacies and details in the final document that the ultimate consumers of the research gain the understanding they need to (a) fully comprehend the people, phenomena, and context under investigation; (b) assign value to the interpretations and recommendations; and/or (c) transfer some aspect of the study to other contexts. Transparency, and its importance to the research process, has been discussed often in this blog, with articles in November 2009 and December 2012 devoted to the topic.
At the core of transparency is the notion of “thick description.” The use of the term here goes beyond its traditional meaning of
“describing and interpreting observed social action (or behavior) within its particular context…[along with] the thoughts and feelings of participants as well as the often complex web of relationships among them. Thick meaning of findings leads readers to a sense of verisimilitude, wherein they can cognitively and emotively ‘place’ themselves within the research context” (Ponterotto, 2006, p. 543).
to also include detailed information pertaining to data collection and analysis. Ethnography, for example, is greatly enriched (“thickened”) by the reporting of specifics in 25 areas related to the: Read Full Text
In all sorts of research it is common to ask not only about behavior – When did you first begin smoking cigarettes? How often do you take a multivitamin? Where did you go on your most recent vacation? – but also the “why” and/or “what” questions – What prompted you to start smoking? Why do you take a multivitamin? Why did you pick that particular spot for your most recent vacation? It is usual for the researcher to want to know more than just what happened. The researcher’s goal is typically to go beyond behavior, with a keen interest in getting to the thinking that can be linked with the behavior. It is this “probing” that enables the researcher to make associations and otherwise interpret – give meaning to – the data.
This is, after all, what keeps marketing researchers up at night. It is difficult to remember a time when marketing researchers were not obsessed with the reasons people buy certain products/services and not others. Whether rational or irrational, conscious or Read Full Text