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Qualitative Research Methods A4.2QM3

Qualitative Research Methods A4.2QM3

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Qualitative Research Methods A4.2QM3

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  1. Qualitative Research MethodsA4.2QM3 Carolyn Deighan

  2. Introduction Lecture Aims: • To introduce students to main features of qualitative research. • To highlight aims of qualitative study. • To provide examples of qualitative research in the applied setting of health. • To indicate why qualitative research may be seen as necessary and valid. • To describe main approaches within qualitative research in relation to main epistemological approaches within science and social science.

  3. What is qualitative research? • The division between quantitative and qualitative research may be a false one. • Unhelpful to characterise qualitative research as completely separate from quantitative research. • Qualitative research tends to use language data (written or oral) and quantitative numerical data but this is not always the case. • Many qualitative studies use simple frequency counts whereas language data can also be used in quantitative studies.

  4. May be more useful to characterise qualitative research by the aims of the study • Qualitative studies more concerned with the ‘what’ ‘how’ or ‘why’ rather than the ‘how many’ or ‘how much’

  5. Title of paper: Cancer patients’ information needs and help-seeking behaviour (Leydon et al 2000) Methods of data collection: In depth interview Aims: To explore why cancer patients do not want to seek information about their condition other than that supplied by physicians. Title of paper: Doctor in the house (Hardens 1999) Methods of data collection: Household interview. Aims: To examine the internet as a source of knowledge in relation to the broader debates about deprofessionalisation and consumerism. Examples of qualitative research in applied psychology setting of health

  6. Title of paper: Parents’. perspectives on the MMR vaccine. Methods of data collection: Focus group interviews. Aim: To investigate what influences parents’ decisions on whether to accept or refuse the MMR. Title of paper: Renegotiating identity:cancer narratives (Mathieson & Stam 1995). Methods of data collection Semi structured interviews. Aim: To explore how individuals negotiate the psychosocial changes and events in the illness trajectory. Other examples

  7. Qualitative Research • Although used in psychology qualitative methods started elsewhere in social sciences – sociology and anthropology. • ‘Using qualitative or quantitative research does not make a particular kind of psychologist nor does a particular kind of psychologist necessarily use qualitative or quantitative methods’ (Silverman 2001). • Qualitative once regarded as the lesser option in research methods in psychology. • Steady increase in recognition, now considered compulsory study by the British Psychological Society.

  8. Why qualitative research? • Rapid social change. • New contexts. ‘So new that traditional deductive methods of deriving research questions and hypotheses from theoretical models and testing them against empirical evidence are failing in the differentiation of objects’. (Flick 2002:2)

  9. Why qualitative research? • ‘Social science results are rarely perceived in everyday life because in order to fulfil methodological standards their investigation and findings often remain too far removed from everyday questions and problems’ (Flick 2002:3) • Also the ideals of objectivity in scientific research in psychology and social sciences may never be achieved.

  10. Validity of Qualitative Research • Qualitative researchers may claim a creative way of approaching research the research process, where the object of study may suggest the methods used. • However qualitative researchers would also deny that such work cannot be rigorous or systematic. • The time consuming aspect of in depth research using rich data may preclude the use of large representative samples. • Findings may not therefore be generalisable but are often transferable. • Qualitative research therefore uses non-probability sampling.

  11. Increasing Validity in Qualitative Research • Inter-rater reliability – to check that categories given to parts of the text are consistent across coders. • Inter-rater reliability used by realist qualitative researchers to assess objectivity. • Non-realist qualitative researchers would use multiple coders to explore alternative interpretations rather than to claim objectivity.

  12. Validity in qualitative research • Important to show a clear development in the coding and interpretative process, • Link with raw data, coding and the researchers thought processes at all stages of the research. • Coding tables and memos used . • Paying attention to ‘deviant cases’ • Triangulation

  13. Validity • On going debate in social sciences and the sciences about what there is to be known (Ontology) and how we obtain knowledge (Epistemology). • Need to clarify our epistemological position in order to argue for the validity and reliability of our research. • This is not as hard as it sounds!

  14. Epistemological Approaches • Positivism • Empiricism • Social Constructionist

  15. Positivism • Assumes there is a direct relationship with the world (objects, events, phenomena) and our perception or understanding of it. • World exists & is independent of the circumstances of viewing it. • To take the epistemological position of positivism would imply a position that is impartial, unbiased and with no influence of the researcher so emphasis on value free enquiry. • Idealistic viewpoint?

  16. Empiricism • Assumes that our knowledge of the world is derived from our experience of it notably observation and systematic collection of data. • Theory follows observation, an inductive approach. • Criticism of empiricism- just because something has been observed doesn’t necessary mean that it is part of a general rule (Popper) • Theories need to be tested.

  17. Scientific Method • Deduction and falsification. • Theories tested by deriving theories from them and then testing by experiment or observation. • Process of elimination. • Method has been criticised for being elitist, by focusing on existing theories communities of scientists and researchers testing their own theories.

  18. Social Constructionism • Highlights that human experience including perception shaped by culture, history and language. • No such thing as objective truth or reality. • Rather there are truths socially constructed through language. • No such thing as an ‘attitude’, ‘personality trait’ all these concepts are socially constructed and change according to context.

  19. Epistemology & Methodology • Methodology = general approach to studying research topics • Method= a specific research technique • Epistemology more influential on methodology (the general approach) rather than on the methods used • Researchers with different epistemological positions use qualitative research methods.

  20. Differences within qualitative research • The status of the text depends on our epistemological position. • An empiricist epistemological position may use grounded theory or content analysis to identify categories and themes. The text or what people say is accepted as a reflection of the interviewee’s mental processes. • By contrast a social constructionist epistemological position would not impose categories. Rather the focus of study is how the participants themselves use different repertoires to construct meaning.

  21. Shared interests within qualitative research • Qualitative researchers generally do not work with pre defined variables. • Object of qualitative research is to describe rather than predict. • Study people in naturalistic setting, in their own context.

  22. Qualitative research design • Traditionally loose, precise aims of the study may not be known particularly if topic has been little researched. • Decisions may change such as data collection methods, who will be included in the sample, time taken for field work. • However most studies need a research protocol. • Funders of research need to need to know whether studies are feasible and likely to produce useful findings.

  23. Research protocol • A map of the proposed study • What you want to know • How will you find out & why • Practical considerations • Ethical considerations • Timescale • May not have a formal hypothesis but research question should not be vague.

  24. Criteria to consider • Appropriateness of method to the research question • Object of study should be suitable for qualitative analysis. • Epistemological integrity- consistent approach between epistemology, ontology and methods. • Sampling – need to provide some rationale for choosing some participants and not others

  25. More to consider! • Why choose one data collection technique over another? Why interview rather than diary study • Sources of raw data. • Auditability of analysis procedures • We will go over all these criteria over the course of the module when discussing data collection techniques and write up

  26. Summary • Qualitative research aims to answer questions like ‘what’ ‘how’ or ‘why’ rather than ‘how much’ or ‘how many’. • Generally does not work with predefined variables. • Research is often exploratory. • Validity within qualitative research can be improved in a number of ways including inter-rater reliability, clarity in the charting of the research process, and triangulation. • Although those from a positivist or strictly scientific approach may question validity of qualitative research, the validity these approaches have also been criticised. • Qualitative researchers may be have different epistemological positions such as empiricist or social constructionist, yet both analyse textual information. • The former may take the emerging themes at face value (realist), whereas the latter (non-realist) will pay closer attention to how these themes have emerged. • Although research designs may be flexible, there is still a need for a coherent plan or protocol.