Meaning

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.

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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

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

The fourth edition of Michael Quinn Patton’s book Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods 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 14, 2014 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