Data quality matters. Regardless of the research method or approach, our ability to say anything meaningful about our research outcomes hinges on the integrity of the data. The greater care the researcher takes to ensure the basic ingredients of “good” research design, the more confident the researcher and importantly the user of the research will be in the recommendations drawn from the research and its ultimate usefulness.
This focus on data quality applies to all research. And although it is most often a topic of discussion among survey researchers, data quality considerations are increasingly (I hope!) a discussion among qualitative researchers as well. Indeed, the underlying validity of our qualitative data is an important consideration regardless of the researcher’s paradigm orientation or the qualitative method, including the more recent methodological options – that is, mobile and online qualitative research.
Mobile and online technology – in particular, tech solutions that combine observation with a multimethod/mode approach – offer qualitative researchers new ways to investigate a variety of situations that give them a closer understanding of participants’ lived experiences as never before possible. Three such situations are: Read Full Text
Every researcher working with human subjects strives to ensure the highest ethical standards. Regardless of whether the research is quantitative or qualitative in nature – or in the field of health, communications, education, psychology, marketing, anthropology, or sociology – researchers care about protecting the confidentiality, anonymity, and basic “rights” (such as privacy and freedom of thought) of the people who agree to be part of their studies. It is with this in mind that, in addition to gaining IRB approval (as required), researchers openly discuss the goals and intended use of their research with participants, as well as asking them to carefully read and agree to the appropriate consent forms. Online group discussions (focus groups) present a particularly delicate matter. Unlike any other overt form of research – unlike an online survey dominated by closed-end questions, or an online in-depth interview with one person at any moment in time – the online group discussion – with its amalgamation of many people (typically, strangers to each other) responding at length to many open-ended questions over the course of multiple (possibly, many) days – potentially raises important security and identity concerns among participants. Even with a signed consent form, online group participants may still have serious doubts about the containment of their input to the discussion and, hence, their willingness to contribute Read Full Text
The first of these (i.e., regarding the optimal number of interviews) talks about the “two key moments” when a researcher needs to consider how many interviews to complete – once at the initial design phase and the other while in the field. Consideration at the initial stage of research design centers on very practical matters like the nature of the research topic and the heterogeneity of the target population. However, weighing whether “enough” IDIs have been completed while in the field – in the throes of actually completing interviews – is a more delicate and difficult matter. While the idea of “saturation” or the point in time when responses no longer reveal ‘fresh insights’ is well accepted particularly among researchers dedicated to grounded theory, it is not “good enough” from a quality design perspective. Rather than saturation, this article advises the qualitative researcher to review the IDI completions in the field and answer eight questions concerning their quality. Questions such as, Did every IDI cover every question or issue important to the research? and Can the researcher identify the sources of variations and contradictions in the data?
The second most-popular article – concerning online qualitative research – focused on the distinction between actually gaining new ideas or insights from online qualitative versus simply capturing metrics. The article promotes the belief that offline techniques (such as projective techniques) have their place online and that “the increasingly-loud buzz of social media metrics” or tracking shouldn’t distract qualitative researchers from the business of gaining true, meaningful insights. The article concludes by saying, “All of this tracking has the potential to provide marketers with some idea of what some portion of their target audience is saying or doing at a particular moment in time – insight with a small ‘i’. But let’s not confuse that with the ever-present need to understand how people think – Insight with a big ‘I’.”
These and eight other articles specific to qualitative research design can be found here.