Strength of Qualitative Research • The strength of qualitative research is its ability to provide complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given research issue. It provides information about the “human” side of an issue – that is, the often contradictory behaviors, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships of individuals. • I have compiled and overviewed twenty two qualitative research methods to help students, practitioners and academics with their research projects.
1. Typology • Typology – is the classification of observations in terms of their attributes on two or more variables • Typologies of research topics in a specific area are necessary because they enable the organization of knowledge. They are very useful to understand the relationships between the research topics, leading to the analysis of the main topics, their time evolution, etc. They have has been used many times by other researchers to analyze trends, compare research outputs, etc. Reference: Smith G., Krogstad J.L. (1988) “A taxonomy of content and citations in Auditing: A journal of Practice and Theory”; Auditing : A journal of Practice and Theory, vol.8 n°1, Fall p. 108-117.
2. Grounded Theory • Grounded theory (GT) - is a systematic methodology in the social sciences involving the generation of theory from data • Grounded theory is a research method, which operates almost in a reverse fashion from traditional research and at first sight may appear to be in contradiction to the scientific method. Rather than beginning with a hypothesis, the first step is data collection, through a variety of methods. From the data collected, the key points are marked with a series of codes, which are extracted from the text. The codes are grouped into similar concepts in order to make them more workable. From these concepts, categories are formed, which are the basis for the creation of a theory, or a reverse engineered hypothesis . This contradicts the traditional model of research, where the researcher chooses a theoretical framework, and only then applies this model to the phenomenon to be studied. Reference: Patricia Yancey Martin & Barry A. Turner, "Grounded Theory and Organizational Research," The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, vol. 22, no. 2 (1986), 141.
3. Analytic Induction • Analytic Induction - refers to a systematic examination of similarities between various social phenomena in order to develop concepts or ideas. Social scientists doing social research use analytic induction to search for those similarities in broad categories and then develop subcategories. For example, social scientist may examine the category of marijuana users and then develop subcategories for uses marijuana for pleasure and uses marijuana for health reasons. If no relevant similarities can be identified, then either the data needs to be reevaluated and the definition of similarities changed, or the category is too wide and heterogeneous and should be narrowed down. Reference: Charles C. Ragin, Constructing Social Research: The Unity and Diversity of Method, Pine Forge Press, 1994,
5. Quasi-Statistics • Quasi-Statistics - simple counts of things to make statements such as “some,” “usually,” and “most” more precise. • For example, to perform an educational experiment, a class might be arbitrarily divided by alphabetical selection or by seating arrangement. The division is often convenient and, especially in an educational situation, causes as little disruption as possible. Reference: Problems of Inference and Proof in Participant Observation Howard S. Becker America Sociological Review Vol. 23, No. 6 (Dec., 1958), pp. 652-660 (article consists of 9 pages)
6. Narrative Event Analysis • Narrative event analysis - involves stories and the systematic investigation of chains of events and / or actions that lead to a conclusion. • Narrative event analysis enabled a focus on the interaction of events over time and enabled the researcher to move beyond simple correlation between variables. Its enables consideration of the important explanations that can emerge from considering timing, order and interaction of events. • Narrative event analysis presented is guided by the work of Franzosi (2003) who developed a distinct approach to the analysis of what he terms “narrative data”. His ambition, however, was to convert qualitative data text into a numerical scale by adopting a coding framework that, in his most celebrated applications, allows counts of coded events from over 15,000 narrative texts that enabled him to develop di-graphs or maps. References: Abell, P. (1987). The Syntax of Social Life: Theory and Method of Comparative Narratives Oxford. Franzosi, R. (1998). "Narrative analysis, or why (and how) sociologists should be interested in narrative." Annual Review of Sociology 24: 517-54.
7. Domain Analysis • Domain Analysis - helps in Knowledge Management to discover patterns that exist in the cultural behaviour, cultural artifacts and cultural knowledge in the group from whom the data was gathered. • A domain analysis allows the ethnographer to move from merely observing a social situation to discovering the cultural scene, two closely related but dramatically different concepts. It is the first type of ethnographic analysis, the others being taxonomic analysis, componential analysis and thematic analysis. Knowledge domains discover the specific nature of the relationships existing between cultural concepts, individual interpretations and particular terminologies in order to determine actual cultural activities, objects and knowledge. Reference: "Participant Observation and The Ethnographic Interview", James P. Spradley, Wadsworth Thomson Learning (1979)
8. Taxonomic Analysis • Taxonomic Analysis - is a search for the way that cultural domains are organized. It usually involves drawing a graphical interpretation of the ways in which the individual participants’ moves, form groups and patterns that structure the conversation. • In taxonomic analysis an analysis is conducted of the roles of one individual as they necessarily relate to other roles of the same individual (i.e., a father is by definition someone who has already been a son, and someone who may yet become a grandfather, or an uncle, or a father-in-law, etc.). Taxonomic analysis of role identities requires a different perspective than componential analysis which defines a role by asking how a person with that role is different from another person. • A taxonomic analysis is useful in understanding knowledge creation and utilization, and the knowledge needs of the organization and its members. References "Participant Observation and The Ethnographic Interview:", James P. Spradley, WadsworthThomson Learning (1979) "Taxonomic Analysis", James P. Spradley, Harcourt Brace (1980)
9. Thematic Analysis • Thematic analysis - was used as a method to identify, analyse and report patterns (themes) within data. It minimally organises and describes data in rich detail. • The benefit of thematic analysis is that it is not a linear process of simply moving from one phase to the next. Instead, it is more a recursive process, where movement back and forth is needed, throughout the six phases below. It is also a process that develops over time. Reference: Braun, V. and V. Clarke (2006). "Using thematic analysis in psychology." Qualitative Research in Psychology 3: 77-81.
10. Metaphorical Analysis • Metaphorical Analysis - is conceptualized in cognitive linguistics—as a qualitative method for psychological research for several reasons. Metaphors are culturally and socially defined, yet they also represent a basic cognitive strategy of analogical problem solving. Metaphors are context-sensitive, yet at the same time they are abstract models of reality much in the same way as mental models and schemata in cognitive psychology. The multifaceted properties of metaphors allow for the study of micro-interactions between cognition and culture in open and qualitative research designs. They also enable the bridging of the gap between quantitative-experimental and qualitative approaches in psychology. Because metaphors are of high plausibility in everyday experience, metaphors are a valuable tool for interventions in applied fields of research such as organizational and work psychology. Reference: Karen S Moser, Metaphor Analysis in Psychology—Method, Theory, and Fields of Application Forum for Qualitative Research Volume 1, No. 2, Art. 21 – June 2000
11. Hermeneutical Analysis • Hermeneutical Analysis – is the study of meaning or of meaningful things and actions such as those found in literature and culture. Hermeneutics is associated with qualitative social research in general, and with phenomenology in particular. Reference: S. Lowe, A. Carr, M. Thomas, L. Mathys, The fourth hermeneutic in marketing theory, Marketing Theory June 2005 vol. 5 no. 2 185-203
12. Discourse Analysis • Discourse Analysis - a study of the way versions or the world, society, events and psyche are produced in the use of language and discourse. The Foucauldian version is concerned with the construction of subjects within various forms of knowledge/power. Semiotics, deconstruction and narrative analysis are forms of discourse analysis. Reference: Discourse and Text: Linguistic and Intertextual Analysis within Discourse Analysis, N Fairclough Discourse & Society (1992) Volume: 3, Issue: 2, Publisher: Sage Publications, Pages: 193-217
13. Semiotics • Semiotics - is the science of signs and symbols, such as body language • Helps in determine how the meanings of signs and symbols is constructed. Assume meaning is not inherent in those, meaning comes from relationships with other things. Sometimes presented with a postmodernist emphasis. • Example: meaning of brands Reference: Narrative, Content, and Semiotic Analysis, P K Manning, B Cullum-Swan,Handbook of Qualitative Research (1994)Issue: 9, Publisher: Sage, Pages: 463-478
14. Content Analysis • Content Analysis - examine documents, text, or speech to see what themes emerge. What do people talk about the most? See how themes relate to each other. Find latent emphases, political view of newspaper writer, which is implicit or look at surface level - overt emphasis. • Theory driven - theory determines what you look for. Rules are specified for data Reference: Berelson, B., 1952. Content Analysis in Communication Research. The Free Press, Glencoe, Illinois
15. Analytic Induction • Analytic induction - is a way of building explanations in qualitative analysis by constructing and testing a set of causal links between events, actions etc. in one case and the iterative extension of this to further cases. Reference: Jack Katz (2001) "Analytic Induction," in Smelser and Baltes, (eds) International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences.
16. Action Research • Action research - is a methodology that combines action and research together. During a study the researcher is repeating the process of performing an action, reflecting on what has happened and using this information to plan their next action. This process of action research has a refining effect on action and the researcher gains understanding of what is going on (Dick, 1992, Greenwood 2002) Reference: Dick B (1992) So you want to do an action research thesis? University of Queensland. Greenwood, D. (2002). Action research: Unfulfilled promises and unmet challenges. Concepts and Transformation, 7(2), 117–139.
17. Biography • Biography - an approach to research which elicits and analyses a person’s biography or life history - an extended, written account or narrative of a persons life. Such a biography usually has a structure and is expressed in key themes often with an epiphany or turning point. Typically, the epiphany is the point in the person’s life when they think things changed and they became a different person – the person they are now. The narrative is usually chronological. Can be contrasted with a life history which is usually given at an interview. However, this distinction is not always maintained and the terms now tend to be used interchangeably. Reference: Interpretive Biography (Qualitative Research Methods) Author: Norman K. Denzin, Sage Publications, Inc Pages: 96 Published: 1989
18. Case Study • Case Study – a research method (or design) focusing on the study of a single case. Usually it is not designed to compare one individual or group to another. Though it is possible to conduct a series of case studies, each study would not be designed specifically to enable comparison with others. Reference: The Case Study Method in Social Inquiry Robert E. Stake Educational Researcher Vol. 7, No. 2 (Feb., 1978), pp. 5-8 . Yin, R. (1984) Case study research. Beverly Hills, C A : Sage Publications
19. Constructivism • Constructivism - looks at the systems people create to interpret the world around them and their experiences. It can also be referred to as social constructionism. The epistemological view that the phenomena of the social and cultural world and their meanings are not objective but are created in human social interaction, that is, they are socially constructed. The approach often, though not exclusively, draws on idealist philosophy. Some writers distinguish Social Constructivism as a more radical version of social constructionism, but often the terms are used interchangeably. Reference: Constructivism. Theory, Perspectives, and Practice, Fosnot, Catherrine,Teachers , 1996 College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027.
20. Phenomenography • Phenomenography - the subject investigates the differing ways in which people experience, perceive, apprehend, understand, and conceptualise various phenomena, and this has been seen as critical for the development of learners understanding of the central phenomena, concepts and principles, and hence for their mastery of the domain. • Phenomenography is a qualitative research method, the history of which goes back only to the mid to late 1970s. It should not be confused with phenomenolgy. Phenomenology is the study of what people perceive in the world; phenomenography is the study of the way people conceive of the world. A good reference, to get started, is an article by Marton: Reference: Marton, F. (1981) Phenomenography - describing conceptions of the world around us. Instructional Science, 10, 177-200.
21. Ethnography • Ethnography - is a broad multi-qualitative method involving (participant observation, interviewing, discourse analyses of natural language, and personal documents) approach that studies people in their "...naturally occurring settings or fields by means of methods which capture their social meanings and ordinary activities, involving the researcher participating directly in the setting..." (Brewer, 2000:10). Reference: Intergroup relations. The handbook of social psychology, Brewer, Marilynn B.; Brown, Rupert J. The handbook of social psychology, 1998, Vols. 1 and 2 (4th ed.).(pp. 554-594) New York.
22. Mood Mapping • Mood mapping - involves plotting how you feel against your energy levels, to determine your current mood. • Application: Twitter studies of emotions Reference: Mood Mapping: Plot Your Way to Emotional Health and Happiness Miller - 2009 - Pan Macmillan
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