reflexivity

Facilitating Reflexivity in Observational Research: The Observation Guide & Grid

Observational research is “successful” to the extent that it satisfies the research objectives by capturing relevant events and participants along with the constructs of interest.  Fortunately, there are two tools – the observation guide and the observation grid – that serve to keep the observer on track towards these objectives and generally facilitate the ethnographic data gathering process.

Not unlike the outlines interviewers and moderators use to help steer the course of their in-depth interviews and group discussions, the observation guide serves two important purposes: 1) It reminds the observer of the key points of observation as well as the topics of interest associated with each, and 2) It acts as the impetus for a reflexive exercise in which the observer can reflect on his/her own relationship and contribution to the observed at any moment in time (e.g., how the observer was affected by the observations).  An observation guide is an important tool regardless of the observer’s role.  For each of the five observer roles* – nonparticipant (off-site or on-site) and participant (passive, participant-observer, or complete) observation – the observation guide helps to maintain the observer’s focus while also giving the observer leeway to reflect on the particular context associated with each site.

As an adjunct to the observation guide, it is recomObservation gridmended that ethnographic researchers also utilize an observation grid.  The grid is similar to the guide in that it helps remind the observer of the events and issues of most import; however, unlike the guide, the observation grid is a spreadsheet or log of sorts that enables the observer to actually record (and record his/her own reflections of) observable events in relationship to the constructs of interest.  The grid might show, for instance, the relevant constructs or research issues as column headings and the specific foci of observation as rows.  In an observational study of train travel, for example, the three key research issues related to activity at the train station might be: waiting for departures, delays in departures, and boarding; and the key areas of observation would pertain to behavior, conversations heard, and contextual information such as the weather and the general mood.  Like the guide, the observation grid not only ensures that the principal issues and components are captured but also encourages the observer to reflect on each aspect of his/her observations and identify the particular ways the observer is influencing (or is being influenced by) the recorded observations.

*Roller & Lavrakas, 2015. Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach. New York: Guilford Press.

Lessons in Best Practices from Qualitative Research with Distinct Cultures

Janette Brocklesby recently wrote an article in QRCA Views magazine concerning the conduct of qualitative research with the Māori population of New Zealand. Specifically, she addresses the issue of whether “non- Māori researchers have the cultural competency, expertise and skills to undertake research with Māori.” Brocklesby korumakes the case in the affirmative, emphasizing that non- Māori qualitative researchers are “well equipped to undertake research with Māori and to convey the Māori perspective.”

In making her case, Brocklesby discusses many of the best practices mentioned repeatedly in Research Design Review. As for all qualitative research, a researcher studying Māori groups must place a high importance on:

Reflexivity – Continually questioning and contemplating the researcher’s role or impact on research outcomes is a critical step towards quality results. In March 2014, an article in RDR talked about using a reflexive journal to think about the assumptions, values, and beliefs Read Full Text

Qualitative Research Design: Selected Articles from 2014

Research Design Review was first published in November 2009 2014 qualitative research designand currently includes over 110 articles concerning quantitative and qualitative research design issues.  “Qualitative Research Design: Selected Articles from Research Design Review Published in 2014″ is a compilation of 13 articles that were published in 2014 devoted to qualitative research design. To some extent, all of these articles revolve around the idea that adopting quality standards in qualitative research design is critical to the credibility, analyzability, transparency, and usefulness of the outcomes; with the first article making the case that quality issues transcend the paradigm debates.

Because analysis is often deemed the most difficult part of a qualitative study, a number of the articles in this collection pertain to “finding meaning,” data verification, and inference, along with discussions on reflexivity as an important contributor to the analytical process. These articles also touch on newer channels and modes in qualitative research, such as social media and mobile, as well as the evolving stature of qualitative research in areas such as psychology and political science.

The following Table of Contents presents the titles of the 13 articles included in this paper:

1. The Transcendence of Quality Over Paradigms in Qualitative Research

2. Finding Meaning: 4 Reasons Why Qualitative Researchers Miss Meaning

3. Reflections from the Field: Questions to Stimulate Reflexivity Among Qualitative Researchers

4. Verification: Looking Beyond the Data in Qualitative Data Analysis

5. Resisting Stereotypes in Qualitative Research

6. The Elevation of Qualitative Research Design: The Dawning of a New Day

7. Turning Social Media Monitoring into Research: Don’t Be Afraid to Engage

8. If I Conduct a Large Qualitative Study with 100 Participants, is it Quantitative Research? Three Big Reasons Why the Answer is “No!”

9. Integrating Quality Features in Qualitative Mobile Research Design

10. Observational Research Nurtures a Growing Interest in Contexts

11. The Many Faces of Qualitative Research

12. Qualitative Content Analysis: The Challenge of Inference

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