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 chocolatethe 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 Just-the-Facts-Maamrecent 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

If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to take a look at Kenneth Gergen’s video on “Social Constructionist Ideas, Theory and Practice.” In it, Dr. GergenSocial Construction provides an overview of how social constructionists think and how such thinking can (and should) apply to real-world matters. Social constructionism is not one thing, not one theory or approach, but rather a “creative resource” that enables a new, expanded way of talking and thinking about concepts. Indeed, it might be said that a constructionist view is one where all so-called “realities” are conceptual in nature, a product of our own personal “baggage” (values) and the relationship we have with the object of our experience (e.g., a person, a product, an event).

In this way, a social constructionist orientation is devoid of the notions pertaining to “truth,” objectivity, and value neutrality; embracing instead the idea that “truth” is elusive while Read Full Text

As discussed elsewhere in this blog, there is a “new day” dawning for qualitative research; one that not only brings new life into its use but, along with it, an evolving enthusiasm for the idea The human conditionthat researchers of any ilk cannot truly grapple with human behavior and attitudes without an understanding of contexts, constructs, and the human condition. It is truly gratifying, for instance, to watch this enthusiasm grow in organizations such as the American Psychological Association where just this month a featured article in the American Psychologist is titled, “The Promises of Qualitative Inquiry” (Gergen, Josselson, & Freeman, 2015).

In 2014, Research Design Review published four articles pertaining to the ways survey research can be “made whole” with a nod to the use and/or sensitivities of qualitative research. This is because it is the role of qualitative research to unlock the human condition in our research by providing the context and meaning to constructs that define what is being measured. Without a direct or underlying qualitative research component, how is the survey researcher to understand – be comfortable in the knowledge of – his or her analysis and interpretation of the data?

These articles emphasize the challenges survey researchers face when they ask about vague yet highly-personal constructs – such as “the good life,” “happiness,” “satisfaction,” “preference,” or (even) the idea of “actively” incorporating “fruits” and “vegetables” in the diet – without the benefit of context or meaning from the respondent, or at least a concise definition by the researcher.

These four articles have been compiled into one document which can be downloaded here.

Gergen, K. J., Josselson, R., & Freeman, M. (2015). The promises of qualitative inquiry. American Psychologist, 70(1), 1-9.

Image captured from: http://www.designboom.com/history/friedrich2.html

Research Design Review was first published in November 2009 2014 qualitative research designand currently includes over 110 articles concerning quantitative and qualitative research design issues.  “Qualitative Research Design: Selected Articles from Research Design Review Published in 2014″ is a compilation of 13 articles that were published in 2014 devoted to qualitative research design. To some extent, all of these articles revolve around the idea that adopting quality standards in qualitative research design is critical to the credibility, analyzability, transparency, and usefulness of the outcomes; with the first article making the case that quality issues transcend the paradigm debates.

Because analysis is often deemed the most difficult part of a qualitative study, a number of the articles in this collection pertain to “finding meaning,” data verification, and inference, along with discussions on reflexivity as an important contributor to the analytical process. These articles also touch on newer channels and modes in qualitative research, such as social media and mobile, as well as the evolving stature of qualitative research in areas such as psychology and political science.

The following Table of Contents presents the titles of the 13 articles included in this paper:

1. The Transcendence of Quality Over Paradigms in Qualitative Research

2. Finding Meaning: 4 Reasons Why Qualitative Researchers Miss Meaning

3. Reflections from the Field: Questions to Stimulate Reflexivity Among Qualitative Researchers

4. Verification: Looking Beyond the Data in Qualitative Data Analysis

5. Resisting Stereotypes in Qualitative Research

6. The Elevation of Qualitative Research Design: The Dawning of a New Day

7. Turning Social Media Monitoring into Research: Don’t Be Afraid to Engage

8. If I Conduct a Large Qualitative Study with 100 Participants, is it Quantitative Research? Three Big Reasons Why the Answer is “No!”

9. Integrating Quality Features in Qualitative Mobile Research Design

10. Observational Research Nurtures a Growing Interest in Contexts

11. The Many Faces of Qualitative Research

12. Qualitative Content Analysis: The Challenge of Inference

13. Qualitative Research: Using Empathy to Reveal “More Real” & Less Biased Data

Survey research is pretty good at allowing people to describe “things” in such a way that the researcher winds up with a fairly accurate idea of the thing being described. The most straight-forward example is a survey question that asks, “Which of the following features came with Hotel experienceyour new Toyota Corolla?” followed by a list of possible features. However, survey research can also get at descriptions of more experiential phenomena with questions such as, “On a scale from ‘1’ to ‘5’, how does each of the following statements describe your experience in buying a new home?” In these cases, the use of survey methods to research a great number of people, and compile and report the data as efficiently as possible, make good use of closed-ended questions to gain an understanding of respondents’ accounts of the “things” of interest. This can also be said of beliefs. Pew’s recent survey pertaining to the Christmas story that asked, Read Full Text

The fourth edition of Michael Quinn Patton’s book Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods has just been published by Sage. It is a big book – over 800 pages – with updated and new content from earlier editions, including something he calls “ruminations”empathy which are highlighted sections in each chapter that present Patton’s commentary and reflections on issues that have “persistently engaged, sometimes annoyed” him throughout his long career in qualitative research. Patton has made some of these ruminations available online via his posts on the betterevaluation.org blog.

In his November 14th post, Patton shares his “Rumination #2: Confusing empathy with bias.” In it, he raises an important issue – having to do with the personal nature of qualitative research and how that impacts data collection – that, on some level, runs through the qualitative-quantitative debates waged by researchers who argue for one form of research over another. Such a debate might involve a survey researcher who, entrenched in statistical analysis, wonders, Read Full Text

Back in April 2013, a post in RDR talked about the “daunting job of conducting a content analysis that reveals how people think [the “stream of consciousness”] while at the same time Criminal-Case-Crime-Scene-Living-Room-Case-5answers the research question and takes the sponsoring client to the next step.” The article outlines the basic steps in a content analysis, including the analysis and interpretation phases of the process. Making interpretations from a content analysis are tricky things, esp., when conducting a “primary content analysis” when the content being analyzed is derived from non-research-related, pre-existing sources such as newspapers, blog posts, Hollywood films, YouTube videos, television broadcasts, and the like. The issue here is the “trap” content analysts can fall into by (a) thinking there are causal relationships in the data when there are not, and/or (b) trying to build a story in the shape of their interpretations when the story (based on the data) has little merit. In this way, an overabundance of subjectivity can creep into the qualitative content analysis method.

These traps, related to causality and storytelling, are fairly easy to fall into unless a systematic and conscientious approach is taken in the analysis and interpretation phases. In particular, Read Full Text

Researchers know that “good” survey questionnaire design begins with a preliminary qualitative research phase that serves to expose the nuances of the research touchtopic or category – such as the most pertinent issues and the relevant concerns or “issues within the issues” – along with the manner by which the target population talks about these issues – that is, the particular words, expressions, and terminology used by the target group. In this way, the survey researcher can hope to create user-friendly survey questions that speak to respondents rather than at respondents.

A preliminary qualitative phase is good and necessary, but employing the talents of a qualitative researcher during survey question development is an equally-important step. Qualitative researchers spend much of their lives listening to people talk about a host of attitudinal and behavioral issues, listening to the use of language, and using these conversations to interpret Read Full Text

Qualitative research is not any one thing. It is clearly not any one method but it is also not any one technique or process. Much of the diversity in how and in what manner qualitative research Many facesis utilized can be attributed to the researcher’s particular discipline or field of study. This is because each area of study brings with it its own set of priorities and concerns that mandate a particular qualitative approach. Importantly, this provides an opportunity for all qualitative researchers to extend their reach to learn from other researchers both within and outside their own disciplines. By broadening their boundaries and world view of what constitutes qualitative research, researchers can make better – more informed – choices in the development and implementation of their research designs.

Here are just a few examples of how the qualitative-research focus can vary across Read Full Text

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