Lecture 1 Introduction to Qualitative Research

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INTRODUCTIONThe design of a research study begins with the selection of a topic and a paradigm. A paradigm is essentially a worldview, a whole framework of beliefs, values, and methods within which research takes place. It is this world view within which researchers work.

RESEARCH PARADIGMThe choice of either a qualitative or quantitative paradigm in social science research depends on the assumptions of : Philosophy Ontology Epistemology Methodology (Guba and Lincoln, 2005; Creswell, 1994; Morgan and Smircich, 1980; Burrel and Morgan, 1979).3

RESEARCH PHILOSOPHY1. guides the researcher to clarify a research design or strategy to be used in a study. This includes the type of evidence gathered and analysed, the way such evidence is interpreted in order to provide good answers to the basic research questions; enables the researcher to recognise the different methodologies and methods that are most suitable. It also helps a researcher to avoid inappropriate use and unnecessary work by identifying the limitations of particular approaches at an early stage; and helps the researcher to be creative and innovative in identifying, creating, and designing a method that were previously outside his or her past experience.



Easterby-Smith, et al. (1991, p. 21).4

ONTOLOGY Reflects beliefs about the nature of reality . what is the form and nature of social reality and what is there that can be known about it (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994) Is reality an objective phenomenon that holds truth? (reality to be investigated is objective and external to the individual, imposing itself on individual consciousness from without) OR Is reality virtually constructed through social, political, and gendered meanings? 5 (reality is the product of individual cognition)

EPISTEMOLOGYRefers to beliefs about the preferred relationship between the researcher and the researched. The epistemological debate is therefore divided between positivism and phenomenology.

Should we remain objective and removed from what we study? (explain and predict what happens in the social world by searching for regularities and causal relationships between its constituent elements)

OR Should we get immersed in it? (explain that the social world can only be understood from the point of view of the individuals directly involved in the activities which are to be studied)6

Refers to the techniques we use for collecting information about the world. The assumptions about how one attempts to investigate and obtain knowledge about the social world. The basic methodological question concerns whether the social world is a hard, real, objective reality, external to the individual, or a softer, personal reality, internal to the subjective experience of the individual. Should we manipulate and measure variables in order to test hypotheses? (base research on systematic protocol and techniques, using methods found in the natural sciences that focus on the process of hypothesis testing- nomothetic principles) OR Should we search for meaning in words and behaviours? (base research on the view, that one can only understand the social world by obtaining first hand knowledge of the subject under investigation-ideographic principles)7


RESEARCH PARADIGM The frames of reference that researchers use to shape observation and understanding. They include basic assumptions underpinning the research, key issues, models of quality research, and methods used.(Neuman, 2006, p. 81; Rubin and Babbie, 2001)

There are three main paradigms associated with social research: Positivist Paradigm Critical Paradigm Interpretivist Paradigm8

Positivism Neuman (2006, p. 82) defines positivist social research as:An organised method for combining deductive logic with precise empirical observations of individual behaviour in order to discover and confirm a set of probabilistic causal laws that can be used to predict general patterns of human behaviour. likely to remain formal or apart from the "subjects" who take part in their studies; social world exists externally, and that its properties should be measured through objective methods ; believe that research produces truthful information about an objective world; commonly employ structured methods such as experiments or surveys that produce quantitative data; might use structured interviews or observation to record qualitative data in a systematic fashion.9

CriticalNeuman (2006, p. 95) defines critical social research as: A critical process of inquiry that goes beyond surface illusions to uncover the real structures in the material world in order to help people change conditions and build a better world for themselves. The aim of research in this paradigm is not just to study society but also to play an active role in social change (Alston and Bowles, 1998). Critical social researchers believe that research is a political activity and argue that uncritical research is in danger of maintaining the status quo rather than helping to create a better world (Neuman, 2006). Critical researchers assume that social reality is historically constituted and that it is produced and reproduced by people. Although people can consciously act to change their social and economic circumstances, critical researchers recognise their ability to do so is constrained by various forms of social, cultural, and political domination (Neuman, 2006). 10

InterpretiveNeuman (2006, p. 88) defined interpretive social research as: The systematic analysis of socially meaningful action through the direct detailed observation of people in natural settings in order to arrive at understandings and interpretations of how people create and maintain their social worlds. assumes that reality exists in the thoughts and perceptions of each individual; thus, objectivity is impractical and researchers should try to understand the contextual realities and subjective meanings that shape peoples' interactions with their world. generally attempt to understand phenomena through the meanings that people assign to them believe in multiple realities rather than a single Truth. They will collaborate with participants in an attempt to understand lived experience from the point of view of the participants.11

Interpretive (cont) commonly use repeated or on-going interviews and field notes that produce qualitative data, though they might use supporting empirical measures or count the frequency of events to supplement their qualitative understandings. asking participants to verify the way that the researcher represents their stories. The participant, not the researcher, is viewed as the authority on the phenomenon under study. Interpretive research does not predefine dependent and independent variables, but focuses on the full complexity of human sense making as the situation emerges


Interpetive research: use of theory Initial guide to design and data collection Initial theoretical framework Sensibility to data Danger of not-seeing

Part of an iterative process of data collection and analysis Being open to field data Modify initial assumptions and theories

A final product of the research Concepts Conceptual framework13

Interpretive research: empirical work Access to other peoples interpretations Own role as researcher Outside observer not direct involvement Involved researcher (action, participant observation)

Evidence: interview as primary data source Styles of interview Reporting media

Reporting fieldwork Credibility: document your process of data collection Importance of details (research site, motivation for choices, number of people, data sources, ... and theory-data iterations)14

Types of generalizations from interpretive case study (Walsham) Development of concepts Generation of theory Drawing of specific implications Contribution of reach insight


Key Distinctions between Qualitative and Quantitative ResearchWords and numbers Qualitative research places emphasis on understanding through looking closely at people's words, actions and records. The traditional or quantitative approach to research looks past these words, actions and records to their mathematical significance. The traditional approach to research (quantifies) the results of these observations. In contrast qualitative research examines the patterns of meaning which emerge from the data and these are often presented in the participants' own words. The task of the qualitative researcher is to find patterns within those words (and actions) and to present those patterns for others to inspect while at the same time staying as close to the construction of the world as the participants originally experienced it. 2. Subjective versus objective views 3. Discovery versus proof The goal of qualitative research is to discover patterns which emerge after close observation, careful documentation, and thoughtful analysis of the research topic. What can be discovered by qualitative research are not sweeping generalizations but contextual findings. This process of discovery is basic to the philosophic underpinning of the qualitative approach.1.16

Quantitative Quantitative study is an inquiry into a social or human problem, based on testing a theory composed of variables, measured with numbers, and analyzed with statistical procedures, in order to determine whether the predictive generalizations of the theory hold true. Quantitative researchers use methods as a way to remain objective and removed. Under the quantitative framework, researchers place much emphasis on defining and adhering to a methodological protocol. Methodological rigor, after all, assures objectivity and reliability in the data.17