One of the most meaningful concepts in qualitative research is that of “Othering”; that is, the concept of “us” versus “them” that presents itself (knowingly or not) in the researcher-participant interaction. Othering is an important idea across all qualitative methods but it is in the in-depth interview (IDI) – where the intensity of the interviewer-interviewee relationship is pivotal to the quality of outcomes – where the notion of Othering takes on particular relevance. As discussed elsewhere in Research Design Review, the interviewer-interviewee relationship in IDI research fosters an “asymmetrical power” environment, one in which the researcher (the interviewer) is in a position to make certain assumptions – and possibly misperceptions – about the interviewee that ultimately play a role in the final interpretations and reporting of the data. It is this potentially uneven power relationship that is central to the reflexive journal (which is discussed repeatedly in this blog).
A focus group moderator’s guide will often include group exercises or facilitation techniques as alternative approaches to direct questioning. While many of these alternative tactics are not unique to the group discussion method, and are also used in in-depth interview research, they have become a popular device in focus groups, esp., in the marketing research field. These alternative approaches can be broadly categorized as either enabling or projective techniques, the difference being whether the moderator’s intent is to simply modify a direct question to make it easier for group participants to express their opinions (enablingtechniques) or delve into participants’ less conscious, less rational, less socially-acceptable feelings by way of indirect exercises (projectivetechniques). Examples of enabling techniques are: sentence completion – e.g., “When I think of my favorite foods, I think of _____.” or “The best thing about the new city transit system is _____.”; word association – e.g., asking prospective college students, “What is the first word you think of when Read Full Text
The idea of conducting qualitative research interviews by way of asynchronous email messaging seems almost quaint by online research standards. The non-stop evolution of online platforms, that are increasingly loaded with snazzy features that equip the researcher with many of the advantages to face-to-face interviews (e.g., presenting storyboards or new product ideas, and interactivity between interviewer and interviewee), has driven the Web-based solution way beyond the email method and constitutes an important mode option in qualitative research.
The email interview, however, has been taken up by qualitative researchers in various disciplines – most notably, social work, health sciences, and education – with great success. For example, Judith McCoyd and Toba Kerson report on a study that was ‘serendipitously’ conducted primarily by way of email (although face-to-face and telephone were other mode possibilities). These researchers found that not only did participants in the study – women who had terminated pregnancy after diagnosis of a fetal anomaly – prefer the email mode (they actually requested to be interviewed via email) but they were prone to give the researchers long, emotional yet thoughtful responses to interview questions. McCoyd and Kerson state that email responses were typically 3-8 pages longer than what they obtained from similar face-to-face interviews and 6-12 pages longer than a comparable telephone interview. The sensitivity of the subject matter and the sense of privacy afforded by the communication channel contributed to an outpouring of rich details relevant to the research objectives. Cheryl Tatano Beck in nursing, as well as Kaye Stacey and Jill Vincent who researched professors of mathematics, and others have reported similar results.
Research professionals in sociology, medicine, and education who are utilizing the email approach clearly offer lessons of import to all qualitative researchers. While many Read Full Text