Meaning

Words Versus Meanings

There is a significant hurdle that researchers face when considering the addition of qualitative methods to the-suntheir research designs.  This has to do with the analysis – making sense – of the qualitative data.  One could argue that there are certainly other hurdles that lie ahead, such as those related to a quality approach to data collection, but the greatest perceived obstacle seems to reside in how to efficiently analyze qualitative outcomes.  This means that researchers working in large organizations that hope to conduct many qualitative studies over the course of a year are looking for a relatively fast and inexpensive analysis solution compared to the traditionally more laborious thought-intensive efforts utilized by qualitative researchers.

Among these researchers, efficiency is defined in terms of speed and cost.  And for these reasons they gravitate to text analytic programs and models powered by underlying algorithms.  The core of modeling solutions – such as word2vec and topic modeling – rests on “training” text corpora to produce vectors or clusters of co-occurring words or topics.  There are any number of programs that support these types of analytics, including those that incorporate data visualization functions that enable the researcher to see how words or topics congregate (or not), producing images such as these Read Full Text

Contexts, Constructs, & the Human Condition: Grounding Quantitative with Qualitative Research

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 beginning in 2015 with 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

Feelings & Sensations: Where Survey Designs Fail Badly

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