In this lecture, we are going to introduce interviewing techniques (although you will have a lecture later on which will expand on these and give you room to practice). We are then going to look at focus group interviewing and interviewing within multi-method approaches. From this we will move on to explore narrative interviewing and memory work and we will finish by looking at alternative methods of data gathering (video, photo, and textual analysis). The aim of this lecture is to give you a tool box of methodologies that you can choose from to apply in your own research. Whether you are undertaking quantitative or qualitative research you should be aware of a wide variety of data collection methods – educational research today has moved beyond surveys and interviews as the only valid methods of data collection
The key idea in this lecture is that qualitative methodologies come with a variety of approaches to data collection. As researchers, we need to be aware of what purposes each approaches is suited to as well as the limitations that come with each approach.
We’ll start with the basics by first quickly introducing interviewing and then moving on into focus groups
In any form of research with human subjects there are three key types of interviewing that you can select from. Each type of questioning is suited to a particular paradigm and methodological approach and should be considered within the constraints surrounding a project – such as time, funding, and researcher experience. The first is generally referred to as structured interviewing. In structured interviewing the interviewer uses closed-ended questioning to elicit direct data. Structured interviewing is well suited to a quantitative or mixed paradigm approach. It is also suited to researchers who lack interviewing experience and to projects that have large funding and time constraints. Telephone interviewing is a good example of a research method which would enable quick data to be collected. Structured interviewing does allow for quantifiable data to be collected but it is important to also include a few semi-structured questions to enable the interviewee to feel as if the are contributing something to the data The second form of interviewing is suited to mixed design and qualitative research approaches. Although the data collected from mixed design research can be collated and counted it is important to remember the richness of respondent answers and also use quotes to illustrate your data (in mixed design) or to stem an analysis from (as you would in constructivist and cultural paradigms of qualitative research. Hence, how you approach your analysis of a semi-structured interview is very much directed by the paradigm your are employing. Semi-structured interviewing involve open ended questions that focus on a particular research topic. At times, the researcher may use structured questions to branch off into semi-structured question. Often a competent interviewer in a semi-structured scenario will draw upon the prompting methods of unstructured interviewing to develop a richness to the data they collect – however they have to be careful that they are prompting and not leading the questioning Finally, unstructured interviewing involves the researcher in having a limited interview schedule that may open with an open question but then uses prompts and questioning on the spot to develop questions. This form of interviewing is mainly suited to qualitative methodologies in the constructivist and cultural paradigms. Whatever approach you take, you have to be aware of your own experience. If you have not had any experience interviewing it is probably not wise to start with unstructured interviewing. This is even the case if you feel you are a socially minded person – as research interviewing involves an acknowledgement of the end product of data collection and the need to ensure you either have an authentic data set or an internally valid data set. This means you need to know how to question within a research context rather than how to lead a discussion It is important to have a grasp of the basics of interviewing before looking at the how to of focus groups – as the questioning and co-ordination of focus groups involves having a clear understanding of the types of interviewing in research and the types of questions each method draws upon. In short, focus groups are research interviewing at a group level and tend to draw upon semi-structured interviewing techniques with the prompting of unstructured interviewing.
There are four basic considerations of focus groups that you need to take into account when attempting to construct a robust methodology The first is that the choice to use focus groups needs to consider the purpose of focus groups. Focus groups are a way to gather more information about a particular topic or issue. They provide a social context to the issues and topics being researched. Focus groups are not a way to gather quantifiable information – this is the role of surveys and structured interviewing; instead, focus groups are a way to get insight into how particular interested groups think about a topic or issue. Focus groups provide depth and, to what Clifford Geertz would consider as, think description of a phenomenon – a description that not only shows how people think about a topic, but a description that highlights the contradictions and gaps in the way people reason about issues and topics. Secondary, we need to consider that a robust piece of research will not use focus groups as the only method of data gathering. Focus groups are good in that they allow for some insight and elaboration on a particular topic or issue from a collective or group perspective. However, focus groups cannot accurately provide the perspectives of individuals, and, if not facilitated well, may be biased to a particular point of view or, in a worse case scenario, hijacked by a strong willed and opinioned individual. To take advantage of the strengths of focus group but also acknowledge the limitations, a robust methodology employing focus groups as a data gathering method will often use focus groups alongside other data-gathering strategies such as interviewing, observation, and surveying When this occurs, focus groups can allow for a form of triangulation – that is they can be used to confirm the findings of other data gathering methods. They can also be used to triangulate the opinions and perspectives of different interest groups (such as teachers, pupils, and parents). In a robust piece of qualitative research, triangulation of data is an important aspect we need to employ to ensure that the findings represent an authentic picture of the topic or issue researched. Focus groups are just one tool we can draw upon for this. Finally, focus groups require a particular type of questioning – a type of questioning that stimulates discussion and allows for a point of view to be expressed, a type of questioning that allows for social interaction – rather than personal responses, and a type of questioning that enables more than just one liner answers – one that leads to discussion which a facilitator can prompt. Focus group questions tend to be semi-structured with open-ended prompting. This also means that the facilitator needs to know how to draw out answers, prompt but not lead the discussion, engage more than one person, and allow the ‘quiet’ ones to feel safe in the expression of ideas.
There are two ways in which focus groups can be incorporated within a research design. Focus groups can be used as a supplementary component to other date gathering techniques or as a way of scoping the field in itself to direct future research. As a supplement to other data gathering techniques – such as surveying, interviewing, or textual analysis. The focus group discussion tends to occur after some, or all, data has been gathered and initially analysed. The focus group is then used to build upon and expand themes found in the initial stage of the research process. In effect, the initial data gathering allows you to scope the field of inquiry, focus groups then allow for key ideas to be explored in depth. If you are using focus groups as a form of data gathering, it is important to realise that there is a need to first scope the field for answers. Often, before the research we might have some really good questions that could be asked in a focus group context, but it is important to realise that the interests we have need to reflect the interests of the groups we are researching – to this end, we need to scope the field first before we ask questions – we need to have some idea over what the interested parties are saying.
However, focus groups can occur early on in the research – that is before other methods are employed. When we do this, we are often using the focus group as a form of scoping the field itself in order to develop robust research instruments that are actually going to capture the field and not have lots of unanswerable or unrelated questions which just elicit an pause and move on response by the participant
So when to focus groups fit in … Well we have already established that focus groups are more beneficial within a multi-method approach – they provide more depth to a phenomenon being researched and enable more discussion on pertinent themes However, focus groups are also suited to particular methodologies. Most typically we can find focus groups in evaluation research, mixed design research, and case study research. In all these forms of research, focus groups tend to be applied after initial data gathering to expand upon findings in the first phase of research. In evaluation research, focus groups tend to supplement survey research and may even compose a case study component to the research. In mixed design research focus groups provide some qualitative data to quantitative analysis. In case study research, focus groups may follow document analysis, site observations, site interviews, and/or site surveys.
There are a number of ways focus groups can be captured – each has strengths and limitations. Pen and paper can be useful but keeping up with responses can be problematic and keeping turned into responses – to allow prompting can be difficult Many companies employing focus groups in customer research, use two researchers – one does the questioning and prompting whilst the other records the answers. However, two researchers can effect the confidence of individuals to respond – particularly when participants don’t know interviewers or are a vulnerable population (such as children) where adult researchers can appear quite threatening Many researchers use recording devices to record interviews. Although these are very effective in the process of recording interviews – remember to put time aside to transcript interviews. An average typist will find that it takes about 2hours for every 1/2hour recorded. Unfortunately, the most reliable recording device for those of us who find interviewing quite a apprehensive task. However, mini discs and solid state recorders (such as mp3 recorders) can also be very useful for this – just be aware that with mini discs and solid state recorders, pressing the wrong button can wipe entire files. All audio recorders allow the researcher to concentrate on the interview process itself rather than recording responses. Try to place the recording device in a place that does not intrude on the discussion as people do tend to self censor information if they know they are being recorded and can constantly watch the recorder. It is important and ethical to tell people you are recording interviews (and to get consent for recording) but it is also important to make sure people feel comfortable in the process. With audio and visual recording, it is important that you have a good supply of tapes/discs etc and that you check all equipment just before starting interviewing. If you are using batteries always put new batteries in at the beginning of a focus group – never trust batteries – it is better to spend a bit more money on batteries than potentially losing data due to the recorder stopping. Finally, a key problem with audio recording is the transcription of data – often, particularly with child, it is hard to determine when a new speaker starts – it can also be hard to determine when a particular speaker dominates a discussion. Some researchers do visual recording of focus groups so that they can capture who is speaking and the dynamics of a focus group – although this is great – it can be very intimidating for participants and does take longer to transcript as it is not as simple as playing a tape back through a transcribing machine or through a transcribing programme – tools that allow you to slow the dialogue down. I have personally found that a mixture of pen and paper and audio recording to be the best techniques. I get the group to speak their names at the beginning of the session so that the tape or solid state player records the voice of the participant to enable identification of their voice. I use the pen and paper to note down prompts, key points, and key speakers.
We have already talked a bit about the types of questions you need to ask in a focus group and the role of the questioner or focus group facilitator Dynamic and successful focus groups have the following aspects – The questions are provocative and guide the discussion (so tend to be semi-structured). However, it is important that the very first questions engage everyone and allow participants to feel comfortable. The perfect focus group would have a researcher that the participants know and feel comfortable with (ie a researcher that they have already meet and talked with as individuals). This researcher is not necessarily an insider to the group (this has it’s own problems) but is someone that participants have met and talked to. However, the reality is, in most pg student research, that the researcher is not known by the participants – for these people the first few minutes of the focus group can make it or break it. It is important to show to the participants that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and to start with questions that are not intrusive, not to controversial or provocative, and are answerable. These questions should suggest to the participant that there is no right or wrong answer – they should invite a response. Secondary it is important to remember that the researcher in the focus group is a facilitator and guide who is genuinely interested in the views of others. The researcher does not control discussion or lead participants to a pre-determined conclusion but, instead, uses a interview schedule with questions that invite responses and guides the discussion with prompting and further questioning. The researcher should be able to read the group in order to determine when enough time has been spent on a question, when discussion has been dominated by a certain individuals or interests, when the group is tiring, and when individuals are feeling uncomfortable with discussion. In all these scenarios the researchers needs to gently move the discussion on by paraphrasing and moving to the next question in the schedule.
Finally in guiding the discussion, the researcher as facilitator needs to consider the following: A perfect focus group is a group where everyone is participating – but there are groups where discussion is dominated by a particular individual or groups that no discussion at all happens (these issues are particularly apparent in educational research). There are certain strategies that researchers can draw upon … In the case of the dominant speaker – Remember that effective focus groups in data gathering are most robust if there are four to six people in a group – this usually involves inviting around 10 people and expecting that there will be some no-shows The researcher can invite discussion from other members – this may not always work particularly with teenagers who tend to respond – yeah I agree The researcher can take a point from the dominant speaker and ask for examples The researcher can change the pronoun language in their questioning of the individual – instead of using ‘you’ use ‘people’, ‘you all’ etc – to indicate that questioning is of the group not individual In extreme cases, the researcher might gently invite discussion of contradictions raised in the discussion with the dominant speaker e.g. ‘that’s really interesting, can people think of examples of when that doesn’t happen’ – often those who feel excluded from the dominant speaker’s point of view feel as if they can contribute In the case of the silent group Often you can tell a silent group before you actually conduct the focus group – these groups tend to have apprehensive body language and seem anxious (particularly about getting the right answer), in these groups you need to spend a lot of time building rapport – get individuals to share a bit about themselves, talk a bit about your own experiences (without leading discussion), and, allow some discussion about interests. Other strategies are .. Look carefully at interview schedule – ask the simple questions first and ask for examples (this might require restructuring) Remember that effective focus groups in data gathering are most robust if there are several focus groups with the same individuals – that is you should not be doing one-off focus groups and expecting them to be successful. Using this strategy you can limit the discussion time in the first session to some general getting to know each other question and simple to answer questions (ie have a shorter focus group) in this way you can gradually build rapport with a group. In both cases it is about the types of questioning and prompting you do and it is about the small things like knowing people’s names and trying to establish a good rapport with participants in the first focus group. If you don’t spend time on names and relationships, you shouldn’t expect successful focus groups all the time
Finally analysing the data from focus group discussions. There are two ways in which focus group data can be analysed first, for reasons of triangulation the data can be analysed alongside the other data gathered. This means looking at the focus groups to see how the themes found in other data occur through the focus group data. Focus group data should add more depth (either in the form of clarity or confusion) to the larger data set Second, focus group data should be analysed in itself to find apparent themes and patterns – these can then be looked at across the larger data set Whatever way you choose to analyse your data it is important that the story drawn from the data is authentic or internally valid. It needs to make sense in itself and be clearly evident in the data gathered. This means that the researcher is not looking for pre-determined ideas (their own opinions) but the stories of different interested groups. Finally, focus group data analysis is qualitative in practice. It is not about quantifying the data but instead looking for themes and inslights into what people are feeling about a particular topic or issue.
The second form of data collection we will look at is narrative interviewing and memory work.
Narrative interviewing is basically interviewing for a story. It is a form of unstructured interviewing that allows the researcher to construct a story or biography of an individual, institution or group. In generally starts off with an open ended question such as ‘tell me about …’ and then the researcher uses prompting to help that participant give depth and thought to their story. The researcher might look for themes within the story in analysis but tends to report the story intact. For example, in a typical qualitative study it is not unheard of to use quotes of one or two sentences. In a piece of narrative research the reporting will use larger quotes that represent a whole section of the interview or an indepth illustration of a particular topic. In narrative interviewing, the researcher may collect and use other sources of data from a person’s life – such as diaries and photographs. There are two ways a researcher might use these – first to supplement data in the analysis and reporting and second, to prompt the participant in the interview process. Narrative interviewing in used across qualitative paradigms – particularly in standpoint studies in constructivism, feminist research and ethnic research. However, narrative interviewing may also be used in cultural research to critique ideas and to examine subject positions. It is also not unheard of to see audio copies of the interview lodged in the New Zealand archives.
The analysis of narratives look at the macro aspects of the interview – either the whole story or significant and complete sections of the story. It is not about picking apart an individual’s life but about gaining insight into the life of an individual, institution, or group but about getting an understanding of an individual, institution, or group. Jones in an Australian textbook on research methods argues that the analysis of any narrative interview achieves a coherence and authenticity in itself – a narrative analysis should give a sense to the order of events in a person’s life, rather than a mish mash of unrelated events; a narrative analysis should be able to give the reader a sense of insight into the person telling the story – a reader looking at the analysis should finish feeling like they have met the person interviewed and they can sense the voice of the individual. This is one of the main reasons that narrative analysis tends to use chucks of quotes rather than the traditional two-liner quote. Finally, the analyst should be able to convey to the reader a sense of causality – what actually led to what and what caused what. To sum it up, narrative analysis should attempt to give a valid, authentic, and coherent picture of a person’s, institution’s or group’s life. It is a complete story in itself
Another form of data gathering which brings narrative interviewing and focus groups together is called ‘memory work’. Memory work is a technique developed by Frigga Haug which involves unstructured interviewing and group participation to look at the role memories have in the construction of a self, generation, or group of people sharing an experience. Memory work is a collective activity undertaken by a group. In which individuals explore how their memories construct themselves and then look for similarities, dissimilarities, contradictions, and gaps between their own memories and the memories of other participants in the group. This involves the group in contextualising memories and analysing the social processes occurring in memories – that is looking at the ways in which experience helps to construct a sense of self. It is a collective process and in this way it can help to develop a social biography or story of a generation or group of individuals. It enables to look at the ways in which shared experiences lead to particular constructions of self. As a methodology memory work has been used in a post-standpoint theory, or in a project that combines cultural studies with constructivist, feminist and ethic research
The process of memory work involves three stages as well as analysis. Because of the content of discussion (and the need for discussion to be honest and indepth) memory work tends to occur within a group of individuals who know each other and have some shared experiences of the topic under investigation. In the first phase of research, the group meets and discusses triggers which lead to particular memories about a topic. For example, a group might be looking at experiences of secondary schools in the 1980s – triggers they might come up with are ‘teachers’, ‘tomorrow’s schools’, ‘bullying’, ‘school cert’, and so on. They then select a trigger In the next phase, each individual writes a rich and descriptive memory in the third person about a particular trigger. By doing this, we tend to be reduce the need to justify our actions and we it allows the analysis and pulling apart of the memory easier in the group stage In the third phase of memory work, memories are shared with groups and patterns, themes, gaps, cliches, and contradictions across the corpus of memories are discussed. This is very much reflective of the type of textual analysis evident in cultural studies which looks at the how the subject of language, or speaker, is constructed through words. In some cases this analysis will be done by a single researcher – but in most cases the group tend to share the role of analysis and research Finally, group looks at the corpus of memories as a whole – again looking for reoccurring themes, contradictions, and gaps. They look at these how these memories were informed by the cultural context in which the individuals are a part and what cultural ideas and meanings they draw upon. The group might also look at how knowledge and ideas inform their memories After this the group may decide to rewrite their memories with these ideas in mind – it allows the group to engage in thinking about themselves in different ways and works as a form of consciousness raising
Data collection is not just about the collection of voices and words – as a researcher you can draw upon a range of resources. Video and photo is one of the most powerful tools you can use. Now researchers don’t just use video and photo to record a research context, but they also have participant’s use video and photo to record their world through their eyes. Researchers have now realised that the old adage is true – a picture can tell a thousand words
Using sketches, photos, and videos have always been a part of ethnographic research. But traditionally, they were techniques employed by a researcher to develop a picture of the world of which they were researching. Recording the field through pictures traditionally really only showed the world through the eyes of the researcher – not the researched – it represented a etic way of capturing the research context. However, it is also possible to use visual resources as a research tool. In a way that gathers an emic view of the world of the participant. In ethnography and educational research visual tools have been used by participants to give the researcher some indication of the meaningful aspects of their own lives. In New Zealand, two such projects that illustrate this are ‘Through our Eyes’ (a project I will talk about a bit further on) and ‘Youth Connectedness’ a multi-method project that involves young people in telling digital stories of their lives using visual and information communication technologies. Youth Connectedness illustrates how visual data can be incorporated with other technologies. A current research ‘craze’ is to get participants to use the visual data they have personally gathered to tell a story of their lives in a digital format. This is a powerful way of getting participants engaged in the research and engaging the participants in multi-modal literacies. However, the researcher also has the potential to analyse the raw data in fresh ways and to present it outside a written format – that is researchers can employ techniques like digital storytelling to analyse and tell a story from the data.
There are a number of points one needs to consider when analysing visual data – The first is that if participants are not given direction in their gathering of visual images of their lives then any analysis may be difficult because of the density and volume of data that can be collected over a period of time. It is a good idea to have key themes or questions for the participant to focus on. For example, in ‘Through our Lives’ participants were encouraged to gather data about school, home, place, and mana. They were also given opportunities to freestyle their photos – take general photos of their life. In ‘Youth Connectedness’, young people were given questions about their lives and the connections they have formed as starting points for digital stories. In analysis, it is important to sink or bury yourself in the data – to look at the data as a corpus of work and to engage individually with each piece of data. It is also important to talk to participant’s about the data gathered so that you get a sense of understanding of what the meaning is behind the data gathered. Sometimes, a real challenge is to first analyse the data, reframe the data or sort the data in a narrative fashion (you might do this in a digital story), then triangulate the story with the interviews of participants or with presentation and discussion with participants. In other words, catalytic validity is essential – that is you need to make sure you tell an authentic story that is representative of emic world of the individual. Photos and videos compiled by participant’s are imbrued with emotion and feeling and it is important that the participant feels comfortable with the way you have analysed the story.
Through our Eyes was a digital photo project involving young rangatahi around New Zealand. In this project young people were given cameras and instruction and then proceeded to tell stories about their lives. The photos were then discussed with researchers and collated and analysed (in a normal fashion) by the key researcher in the project (Joanna Kidman). After this a second tier to the analysis occurred where the photos were given to another researcher to collate and analyse as visual images and then to be place in a digital story. This was then triangulated with interviews and data gatherers and the first analysis. Finally it was presented to the young people. Perhaps one of the most powerful thing about this project was how the final story authentically reflected subtle meanings behind the photos as expressed by young people and how, by emersion in the data, the analyst was able to get a sense of the data before reading interviews and discussion with other data gatherers. Through our Eyes showed how the presentation of analysis can move beyond written reports and spoken words to a raw presentation of images and meanings.
Finally, I want to talk about one method of data collection that moves outside of interacting with people to interacting with texts. Although, in education, we tend to emphasize the importance of interaction with people. Although there is a need for human interaction in research, there are some questions that are better answered through an analysis of texts or which can be supplemented with a textual analysis. The key thing to remember when using textual data is that you have to analyse that data – a textual analysis is not a review of the literature but an indepth look at themes and patterns as they occur throughout textual data Through Our Eyes
Textual analysis is used across most research paradigms – but it is used differently in each. In postivist paradigms textual analysis is used to gather analysable statistics. This can occur in two ways – actual statistics from research reports might be analysed and compared or themes and patterns across a coupus of reports might be quantified. In feminist and ethnic research, textual analysis enables the researcher to perform a historical analysis of documents. In this form of analysis, the researcher has key questions which are then answered by looking across a corpus of documents. For example, a researcher might want to look at how the teaching profession has been feminised in pedagogical texts over the last 100 years. Finally, textual analysis might also be used to provide a ‘history of the present’. In this form of analysis the researcher looks at the cultural contexts of documents – what types of values, attitudes, knowledges etc are imbued in the document. This form of analysis tends to be theory and discipline driven. Many researchers may draw upon the work of Michel Foucault, or use established methodologies from researchers such as Fairclough, Potter and Wetherall, and Howarth A important thing to remember is that in qualitative paradigms the word ‘text’ might be used to refer to a number of modes of publication – including written texts, aural recordings, visual recordings, and photos. The general rule is ‘texts are produced artefacts’
An example of a cultural studies textual analysis is my own PhD research. In my PhD, I looked at how young people and crime were constructed within institutional texts in 2002, a year in which there was a national election and a ‘so-called’ national youth crime wave. In doing this I gathered published texts from the media, government and academic institutions. My analysis involved looking at what commonsense and expertise ideas were drawn upon, how theses ideas were related to ‘truths’ or knowledges of adolescence, and what the implications of these applications were for young people. A key part of this analysis was looking at the things that were said and the things that were implied in written, visual, video, and aural texts.
This is an example of one of the texts I analysed. Have a look at this text – how are young people constructed – what is being said and implied – angels and devils What sorts of knowledge are they drawing upon – traditional philosophies of childhood What are the implications – moral panic, a fear of children, and increased reasoning to control children
Finally we will look at where these methods fit – All these methods are tools that can be drawn upon in robust methodologies that includes several forms of data gathering. They allow for a research project to have a feeling of completeness about it They also allow for the triangulation of data – a comparison of the different forms of data gathered to see whether the story in one data set is reflected in others This means it builds the internal validity in the research story. In a new ‘catch phrase’ for qualitative research, it enables the research to be an authentic representation of the phenomenon researched.
These methods can fit within a large scale project (as a supplement to the data gathered) and in a small scale qualitative piece of research. They can also be part of a theoretical project which seeks to build upon theory or reflect upon the development of theory
Looking ThroughLooking Through
Different Lens:Different Lens:
An exploration into alternativeAn exploration into alternative
qualitative methodsqualitative methods
Dr. Fiona M. Beals
Explore focus group interviewing contexts
Look at interviewing within multi-method
Introduce narrative interviewing and memory
Using other methods – Video and photo
Look at methods that avoid social interaction –
Qualitative research opens the door to many
methods of analysis which can be helpful
but also come with limitations
The Basics of Interviewing
Reflective of questions, paradigm, research
constraints, and methodological approach
You need to consider your own experience
Interviewing a Group: Focus
Works at providing further information
and context to a researched phenomenon
Tends to not stand as a single
methodological approach but sits
alongside other data-gathering strategies
A form of triangulation
Requires a particular type of questioning
and facilitation skills
Focus Groups: Fitting them in
Sitting within a multi-method approach
– Providing more depth
– Enabling future discussion
Typical research designs include
– Evaluation research
– Mixed design research
– Case study research
Recording Focus Groups
Each has its own dilemmas
Asking the Questions
– Importance of ice-breaking
• Open questions that create a communicative atmosphere
• Rapport building
– Semi-structured and provocative
The role of the researcher
– Facilitator and guide
– Guides discussion by using directive questioning and
Guiding the Discussion
Group discussion has particular dilemmas
– Dominant speakers
– Silent groups
Effectively using prompts
The little things
Analysing the Discussion
Two forms of analysis
– Alongside other data
– Within itself
Either way the story has
to make sense in itself
Using qualitative designs
of coding and theme
A form of unstructured interviewing
Constructing a biography of an
May look for themes within a story but ensures
that within the research reporting the story is told
May involve other sources of data from the
person’s life (diaries, photographs, etc)
Used in historical research, feminist, and ethnic
Focus on the whole story – or significant
‘wholes’ of the story
Aim to give (Jones, 2006):
– A sense to the order of events in a person’s life
– A sense of the person telling the story – their
life, their voice, their perspective
– A sense of causality – this led to this …; this is
associated with this …
A form of unstructured ‘focus group’
interviewing developed by Frigga Haug
Looks at the role memories have in the
construction of a self, a generation, or group of
people sharing some similarity
Constructs a social biography of the experiences
Used in a mixed cultural-
– historical, feminist, and ethnic research
Memory Work: Process/Analysis
– Individuals discuss some of the triggers that lead to
– Individuals write memories in the third person
– In group, individuals share memories and discuss the
components of memories, clichés, contradictions, and
gaps (what not is being said) (analysis stage 1:
– In group, individuals look for themes shared across
the memories and the cultural meanings of these
themes (analysis stage 2: cross-sectional)
Videos and Photos
A traditional part of ethnographic research
– Pure data gathering by the researcher for the
Also possible to use as a research tool
– Participants use these technologies to gather
‘data’ about their own life, particular contexts
in their lives etc
– Can be incorporated into other technologies
such as ICT and DST
Analysing Videos and Photos
Can be difficult if people are just randomly
taking photos/making videos
Important to give participants general themes and
then subgroup photos into these themes to look
for the messages conveyed
Sink/bury yourself into the data
Can also be triangulated with other data – but can
be most helpful if this is done after – so that
internal validity is assured
Catalytic validity is essential
Used across the paradigms differently
– To gather analysable statistics
– To provide a historical analysis
• Feminist and ethnic research
– To provide a history of the present – a
deconstruction of knowledge
• Cultural studies
Example: My PhD
Textual analysis from a position of cultural
Looked at how youth were constructed and
Also looked at hidden or implied messages
in the texts analysed
Peach-skinned Bailey Junior Kurariki killed at 12, Kararaina
Makere Te Rauna at 14.
Their faces are too young to be giveaways for the violence
that festered and flared and struck out.
They look disturbingly like the kids next door, like kids who
skateboard and learn their maths and play on computers.
Are our children worse than they used to be? Is this the
onset of a wave of hideous child crime, payback for some
creeping national deficiency? Who will be the next person
going happily about their business to be belted over the head
and murdered for nothing? Kurariki and Te Rauna were not
alone. Other kids were there at the kill.
Are we becoming a society rotten at birth where doors need
to be locked not just against ingrained criminals but children
of trick-or-treat age? (Dekker, 2002, p.F1)
Fitting in the methods
Multiple methods or multiple sites of
analysis provide for a strong and reflective
Involving more than just interviews means
that a story can be triangulated
This builds the internal validity of a story –
ensuring that the story makes sense in
Fitting in the methods
Can be part of a large scale project
– Evaluation/mixed method analysis
Can be part of a small scale project
– Case study
– Traditional Ethnography
Can be part of a theoretical project
– Either theory building or reflexive
Anderson, G. (1998). Fundamentals of educational research (2 ed.). London: Falmer
Berg, B. L. (2004). Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences (5 ed.).
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Burton, D. (2000). The use of case studies in social science research. In D. Burton
(Ed.), Research training for social sciences (pp. 215-225). London: Sage Publications.
Collier Jr, J., & Collier, M. (1986). Visual Anthropology: Photography as a research
method (Revised and Expanded ed.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among
Five Traditions. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
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