Focusing on a Research Design Reality: Questions Lead to Answers

Questions Lead to AnswersAt the core of research design development — in quantitative and qualitative methods — is the reality that individuals who have agreed to participate in our research studies generally answer the questions we ask. This fundamental reality places a heavy burden on the researcher developing a quality research design. Survey research that relies on closed-end questionnaire items is vulnerable to unreliable data due to question design that confuses respondents or fosters interpretations outside the true intention of the question asked. All of which leaves the researcher with weak data and consequently flawed analysis and erroneous final results. The need for more involved research designs that effectively investigate complex subject matter is discussed throughout Research Design Review, including in “Life Is Meaningful, Or Is It?: The Road To Meaning In Survey Data” and “Feelings & Sensations: Where Survey Designs Fail Badly.”

Ask a willing research respondent/participant a question and you are likely to get an answer. It may not be the question the researcher intended, it may confuse the responding individual, but the Read Full Text

Is It Good Research? Quality Design in Qualitative Research: Quality Approaches That Embrace Diversity & Inclusion

Is It Good Research?Research Design Review currently consists of nearly 300 articles, has more than 950 subscribers and well over one million views. Although all of the articles in RDR pertain to some aspect of a quality approach to research design, five articles that appeared in 2022 highlight the relevance of quality approaches in qualitative methods to fostering diversity, inclusiveness, and giving participants a “fair voice.” These approaches are fundamental to achieving useful outcomes.

“Is It Good Research? Quality Design in Qualitative Research: Quality Approaches That Embrace Diversity & Inclusion” is a compilation of these five articles. These articles are a reminder that rigorous research strategies pertaining to sampling, data collection, and analysis transcend the paradigm, positivist-non-positivist debates. And in fact, prioritize inclusion and fairness while exploring the complexity of human realities.

As stated in the introduction to this document, many other compilations of RDR articles are available. In addition to those mentioned, year-end collections of RDR articles are typically available, with the first of these posted in January 2012, “Questions & Answers: Selected Articles from Research Design Review.”

 

Qualitative Content Analysis: Defined

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 231-232).

The qualitative approach to content analysis traces its roots to the mid-20th Qualitative content analysis: Definedcentury when qualitative researchers began to modify the approaches that had been used by quantitative content analysis researchers. The purpose was to enrich what qualitative researchers believed was an overly sterile approach that focused preponderantly on manifest (surface) content and largely missed the richer latent content, consequently missing much of the meaning underlying the text or other form of content being studied. The “content” in qualitative content analysis often originates from other qualitative methods (e.g., transcripts from in-depth interviews, group discussions, and ethnographic field notes). With this point in mind, qualitative content analysis researchers devised and advocated for a methodical process similar to quantitative content analysis but with a greater emphasis on subjective interpretations of the meaning in qualitative content so as to identify relevant themes and patterns (Zhang & Wildemuth, 2009; Hsieh & Shannon, 2005).

There is no shortage of definitions associated with the content analysis method. In fact, there appear to be no two definitions that are identical. Two researchers, Berg and Lune (2017), draw on several sources to define content analysis as “a careful, detailed, systematic examination and interpretation of a particular body of material in an effort to identify patterns, themes, biases, and meanings” (p. 182). Similarly, Krippendorff (2019) states that “content analysis is a research technique for making replicable and valid inferences from text (or other meaningful matter) to the contexts of their use” (p. 24). Information researchers Zhang and Wildemuth (2009) take the latent aspect one step further in their discussion of qualitative content analysis with the assertion that the aim is “to understand social reality in a subjective but scientific manner” (p. 308).

Regardless of the definition, there are six essential components to the content analysis method in qualitative research. Qualitative content analysis:

  1. Encompasses all relevant qualitative data sources, including text, images, video, audio, graphics, and symbols.
  2. Is systematic, process-driven method.
  3. Draws meaningful interpretations or inferences from the data based on both manifest and latent content.
  4. Is contextual, that is, relies on the context within which the information is extracted to give meaning to the data.
  5. Reduces a unit of qualitative data to a manageable level while maintaining the critical content.
  6. Identifies patterns and themes in the data that support or refute existing hypotheses or reveal new hypotheses.

Looking at these elements of the content analysis method, Roller and Lavrakas (2015) derive the definition of qualitative content analysis as, the systematic reduction or “condensation” (Graneheim & Lundman, 2004) of content, analyzed with special attention to the context in which it was created, to identify themes and extract meaningful interpretations of the data. Qualitative content analysis can be used as a secondary or primary method.

Graneheim, U. H., & Lundman, B. (2004). Qualitative Content Analysis in Nursing Research: Concepts, Procedures and Measures to Achieve Trustworthiness. Nurse Education Today, 24(2), 105–112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2003.10.001

Hsieh, H.-F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three Approaches to Qualitative Content Analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277–1288. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732305276687

Krippendorff, K. (2019). Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Lune, H., & Berg, B. L. (2017). Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. Pearson.

Roller, M. R., & Lavrakas, P. J. (2015). Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach. New York: Guilford Press.

Zhang, Y., & Wildemuth, B. M. (2009). Qualitative Analysis of Content. In B. M. Wildemuth (Ed.), Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library Science (pp. 308-319). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.