Rapport & Reflection: The Pivotal Role of Note Taking in In-depth Interview Research

Note taking is fundamental to the in-depth interviewing process and an essential interviewer skill. And yet note taking – e.g., why note taking is important, how to take notes, and how to use notes from a completed interview – does not get much attention. Note taking is important – actually, critical – to the in-depth interview method because it is about much more than jotting down a participant’s comments and responses to the interviewer’s questions.

In fact, an effective note taker is a more effective interviewer. This is because

  • Taking notes during an interview helps to focus the interviewer’s attention on the participant’s point of view and lived experience relevant to the research question.
  • Taking notes helps the interviewer internalize what is being said by the participant which in turn helps the interviewer identify seemingly contradictory statements and follow up on new, insightful topic areas that may not appear on the interview guide.
  • The interviewer’s heightened focused attention and internalization helps to build rapport and enhances the participant-researcher relationship.
  • The interviewer can add sidebar notations while taking notes that add context to what is being discussed or remind the interviewer to follow up on a particular comment.
  • Taking notes allows the interviewer to identify and flag important quotes made by the participant in the moment when the contextual import of participant’s statements can be fully appreciated and noted.

An effective note taker is also better equipped to conduct meaningful analyses of the data, leading to useful outcomes. This is because Read Full Text

Re-considering the Question of “Why” in Qualitative Research

It is easy to fall into the trap of relying on the “why” question when conducting qualitative research. After all, the use of qualitative research is often supported with the claim that qualitative methods enable the researcher to reach beyond quantitative numerical data to grasp the meaning and motivations – that is, the why – associated with particular attitudes and behavior. And it is in this spirit that researchers frequently find themselves with interview and discussion guides full of “why” questions – Why do you say you are happy? Why do you prefer one political candidate over another? Why do you diet? Why do you believe in God? Why do you use a tablet rather than a laptop computer?

Yet “why” is rarely the question worth asking. In fact, asking “why” questions can actually have a negative effect on data collection (i.e., Credibility) and contribute bias to qualitative data. This happens for many reasons, here are just four:

The “why” question potentially

Evokes rationality. By asking the “why” question, researchers are in essence asking participants to justify their attitudes and behavior. In contemplating a justification, it is not unusual for participants to seek Read Full Text

Making Connections: Practical Applications of the Total Quality Framework in Mixed Methods Research

The Total Quality Framework (TQF) (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015) offers researchers a way to think about qualitative research design from the vantage point of core principles. It is an approach that helps qualitative researchers develop critical thinking skills by giving explicit attention to the quality of the conceptualization and implementation of their qualitative studies. The TQF is composed of four components, each pertaining to a phase of the research process – data collection (Credibility), analysis (Analyzability), reporting (Transparency), and the ability to do something of value with the outcomes (Usefulness).

Qualitative research is most often conducted as a standalone study but frequently conducted in conjunction with quantitative methods. A mixed methods research (MMR) design involves collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, then integrating or connecting the two datasets to draw interpretations derived from the combined strengths of both sets of data (Creswell, 2015). The integration of, or making the connection between, the qualitative and quantitative components is fundamental to MMR and distinguishes it from a multi-method approach that simply utilizes different methods.  In contrast, a mixed methods design incorporates any number of qualitative and quantitative methods (and modes) with the specific intention of blending the data in some fashion. Mixed methods research is the subject of an earlier article in Research Design Review.

So, how do we apply the TQF to a MMR design? It is not good enough to simply think of the qualitative component Read Full Text