One of the 10 unique attributes of qualitative research is the “absence of truth.” This refers to the idea that the highly contextual and social constructionist nature of qualitative research renders data that is, not absolute “truth” but, useful knowledge that is the matter of the researcher’s own subjective interpretation. For all these reasons – contextuality, social constructionism, and subjectivity – qualitative researchers continually question their data, scrutinize outliers (negative cases), and implement other steps towards verification.
Qualitative researchers also conduct their research in such a way as to maximize the accuracy of the data. Accuracy should not be confused with “truth.” Accuracy in the data refers to gaining information that comes as close as possible to what the research participant is thinking or experiencing at any moment in time. This information may be the product of any number of contextual (situational) and co-constructed factors – i.e., the absence of “truth” – yet an accurate account of a participant’s attitude or experience on a given issue or topic at a particular moment.
It is accuracy that qualitative researchers strive for when they craft their research designs to mitigate bias and inconsistency. For example, focus group moderators are trained to give equal attention to their group participants – allowing everyone an opportunity to communicate their thoughts – rather than bias the data – i.e., leading to inaccurate information – by favoring more attention on some participants than on others. A trained moderator is also skilled at listening for inconsistencies or contradictions throughout a discussion in order to follow up on each participant’s comments, asking Read Full Text
Two articles published in Research Design Review in 2015 concerned an important goal of most researchers: to unravel the mysteries of attitudes and behavior. Both of these articles emphasize the idea that an essential ingredient to achieving this goal is allowing sufficient time in the research process to discover and explore contradictions in participants’ responses and find the personal meanings associated with the issues or constructs of interest.
The suggestion of adding time to research designs – e.g., longer survey questionnaires, lengthier in-depth interviews – flies in the face of the ever-increasing focus on “faster and cheaper” research through technology. A research design, however, that acknowledges the inconsistent and contradictory nature of human beings, and is intent on discovering personal meaning, will give the researcher the appropriate freedom to reach this all-important objective.
These articles are available for download in the document “Designing Research to Find Contradictions & Personal Meaning.”
Many conversations about research design revolve around the common goal of maximizing response. Whether it is a quantitative or qualitative study, researchers routinely make design decisions that they hope will mitigate refusals and better the odds of obtaining reliable and valid responses to research questions. Survey and qualitative – focus group, in-depth interview, ethnographic – researchers carefully consider such things as sampling, mode, screening, survey request/recruiting, and overall questionnaire/guide design along with question wording, all with the desire to derive useful outcomes based on a sound approach to maximizing the actual number of people responding to the research request as well as the integrity of the responses received to the research questions.
An important dimension in research design is time; that is, the length of time it will take the survey respondent or qualitative participant to complete his/her involvement with the research. In this regard, questionnaire length (and complexity) is an obvious area of attention in survey research, with researchers such as Jepson, et al. (2005), Deutskens, et al. (2004), and others demonstrating an indirect relationship between length (e.g., in pages or word count) and response rate – the longer the questionnaire length, the lower rate of response. Likewise, Read Full Text