Supporting Observational Research

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 217-219) which is a qualitative methods text covering in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, ethnography, qualitative content analysis, case study, and narrative research.

An important element in the Total Quality Framework Analyzability component is Verification, i.e., taking steps to establish some level of support for the data gathered in order to move the researcher closer to achieving high quality outcomes. The verificationSupporting qualitative data tools at the ethnographer’s disposal go beyond those identified for the in-depth interview (IDI) and group discussion methods in that they include the technique of expanded observation. For example, Lincoln and Guba (1985) stated that it is “more likely that credible findings and interpretations” will come from ethnographic data with “prolonged engagement” in the field and “persistent observation” (p. 301). The former refers to spending adequate time at an observation site to experience the breadth of stimuli and activities relevant to the research, and the purpose of the latter (i.e., persistent observation) is “to identify those characteristics and elements in the situation that are most relevant to the problem or issue” (p. 304)—that is, to provide a depth of understanding of the “salient factors.” Both prolonged engagement and persistent observation speak to the idea of expanding observation in terms of time as well as diligence in exploring variables as they emerge in the observation. Although expanding observations in this way may be unrealistic due to the realities of deadlines and research funding, it is an important verification approach unique to ethnography. When practicable, it is recommended that researchers maximize the time allotted for observation and train observers to look for the unexpected or examine more closely seemingly minor occurrences or variables that may ultimately support (or contradict) the observer’s dominant understanding.

The ultimate usefulness of expanded observation is not unlike deviant or negative case analysis (see earlier link). In both instances, the goal is to identify and investigate observational events (or particular variables in these events) that defy explanation or otherwise contradict the general patterns or themes that appear to be emerging from the data. For example, a researcher conducting in-home nonparticipant observations of young mothers Read Full Text

Analyzable Qualitative Research: The Total Quality Framework Analyzability Component

A March 2017 article in Research Design Review discussed the Credibility component of the Total Quality Framework (TQF). As stated in the March article, the TQF “offers qualitative researchers a way to think about the quality of their research designs across qualitative methods and irrespective of any particular paradigm or theoretical orientation” and revolves around the four phases of the qualitative research process – data collection, analysis, reporting, and doing something of value with the outcomes (i.e., usefulness). The Credibility piece of the TQF has to do with data collection. The main elements of Credibility are Scope and Data Gathering – i.e., how well the study is inclusive of the population of interest (Scope) and how well the data collected accurately represent the constructs the study set out to investigate (Data Gathering).

The present article briefly describes the second TQF component – Analyzability. Analyzability is concerned with the “completeness and accuracy of the analysis and interpretations” of the qualitative data derived in data collection and consists of two key parts – Processing and Verification. Processing involves the careful consideration of: Read Full Text