Does Attitude Matter?

Maybe attitude doesn’t matter.  Maybe how people feel about any given topic or how they think through a decision about whether to act one way or another are irrelevant to Soupresearch design.  Maybe all that really matters is behavior.  Maybe behavior is more important than attitudes because users of the research care only about what someone does, not what someone is feeling or thinking in conjunction with the behavior.  If true, the implications narrow the focus for research design and suggest, for example, that

  • the “success” of social programs, such as those to feed the poor, can simply be measured by meals served, or
  • the effectiveness of youth health initiatives can be defined solely by the incidence of risk behavior, or
  • consumer preferences can be determined exclusively by their online shopping activities, or
  • employee satisfaction can be fully evaluated by the number of missed or “sick” days, or
  • an assessment of a person’s belief system can be obtained by just looking at how often they attend a place of worship.

Maybe – with the growing ability to track where people are when and correlate their digital activities with something of interest – behavior-oriented research designs are the wave of the future.  Lex Olivier and Mario van Hamersveld think so.  They take this position within the context of Read Full Text

Reporting Ethnography: Storytelling & the Roles Participants Play

In Chapter 10 of Sam Ladner’s book Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector, the author discusses a best practice approach to reporting ethnographic research for a corporate audience.  She states Shakespean actorthat “private-sector ethnographic reports are successful if they are dramatic and consistent with the organization’s truth regime” (p.165).  To this end, Ladner recommends text reports with “clickable hyperlinks” throughout and supplemental material, such as a PowerPoint presentation, that acts as the “marketing campaign” or “movie trailer” for the text document.

As another “delightful element” to the ethnography report, Ladner suggests the use of personas or archetypes, each representing a depiction of participants that share a particular characteristic.  This is “a useful way to summarize the voluminous amount of qualitative data” (p. 167); however, Ladner cautions that personas “are often done badly” and points to Steve Portigal’s article on the subject matter, “Persona Non Grata.”  In it, Portigal advocates for maintaining the “realness” of research participants rather than manufacturing a “falsehood” (by way of personas) that distances the users of the research from the people they want to know most about.  Portigal encourages researchers to engage with the “messiness of actual human beings,” emphasizing that “people are too wonderfully complicated to be reduced to plastic toys [that is, personas].”

Reporting observational research for corporate users can be a challenge.  On the one hand, the researcher is obligated to dig into the messiness of analysis and convey an honest accounting of what the researcher saw and heard.  On the other hand, the final reporting is meaningless if no one pays attention to it, thereby preventing the research from having the desired effect of bringing new energy and a new way of thinking to the organization.  Ladner and Portigal agree that powerful storytelling grounded in reality is the best approach, but how do we create a compelling drama while maintaining the integrity of our data?  A combination of formats, as Ladner suggests, is one tactic.  And the use of personas may be another.  An open and ongoing discussion among researchers about personas – if and how the roles we assign the actors in our final story are (or can be) created while staying true to the study participants – seems like a worthwhile effort.


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Ethical Considerations in Case-Centered Qualitative Research

Case-centered qualitative research is discussed elsewhere in this blog (in particulaanonymityr, see “Multi-method & Case-centered Research: When the Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts”).  It is generally defined as multiple-method research that focuses on complex social units or entities (or “cases”) in their entirety, while maintaining the cohesiveness of the entity throughout the research process rather than reducing the outcomes to categorical data.  Two examples of case-centered research are: case studies – e.g., an examination of a city social program – and narrative research – e.g., a study of chronic illness among sufferers.

Ethical considerations are important in every research method involving human subjects but they take on added significance in case-centered research where researchers often work closely with research participants over a period of time and frequently in the face-to-face mode (where researcher-participant relationships play an important role in the research outcomes).  Both case study and narrative research gather a great deal of highly Read Full Text