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

The fourth edition of Michael Quinn Patton’s book Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods has just been published by Sage. It 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 blog.

In his November 14th 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

Designing Research to Understand How People Think: The Bridge that Connects Quantitative & Qualitative Research

In 2013, Research Design Review posted five articles that directly speak to common design considerations in quantitative and qualitative research that address theStone bridge basic goal of understanding how people think.  These common concerns, and the articles where they are discussed, include: using effective content analysis procedures to reveal underlying subjective connections for each respondent/participant (“Content Analysis & Navigating the Stream of Consciousness”); the importance of design approaches that target people’s stories (“‘Tell Me What Happened’ & Other Stories”); research designs that incorporate good listening techniques with appropriate, well-constructed questions (“Listening: A Lesson from New Coke”); utilizing qualitative research to examine the thinking that helps explain quantitative data (“Looking Under the Hood: What Survey Researchers Can Learn from Deceptive Product Reviews”); and the role of Daniel Kahneman’s System 1 (intuitive) and System 2 (cognitive) thinking framework in considering behavior in the marketplace (“Fast & Slow Thinking in Research Design”).

These five articles have been compiled into one pdf document that can be accessed here.  Anyone who has read this blog since its inception in 2009 knows that a recurring theme revolves around research design issues that impact how well (or not) researchers gain an understanding of how people think.  There is no reason to believe that the tradition won’t continue in 2014.

“Tell Me What Happened” & Other Stories

Storytelling is the ultimate goal of all research.  In the end, researchers of all kinds are in the business of understanding how people think, and what better way than to hear their stories.  Storytelling may sound like something only qualitative researchers first finally next after then lastshould care about but survey researchers, knowingly or not, are equally concerned about the stories people have to tell.  The brouhaha over Gallup’s failure to correctly predict the winner of the 2012 presidential election is a case in point.  One of the fundamental weaknesses that contributed to the Gallup polls favoring a Romney win is how Gallup went about determining likely voters, including respondents’ past voting behavior and how much attention they were paying to the election.  Like all pollsters, Gallup simply used the responses to these and other questions to calculate which respondents were most likely to vote in the national election.  One of the problems that Gallup ran into, however, is that “many” of the Obama voters claimed not to be paying much attention to the election which, of course, disqualified them as likely voters.  In essence, Gallup simply wanted to know each Read Full Text