Using qualitative research to generalize

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Dr. Awais e Siraj Managing Director Genzee Solutions, A Strategy, Balanced Scorecard, Scenario Planning, Competency Based Human Resource Management Consulting Company

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Using qualitative research to generalize

  1. 1. Using  Qualitative  Research  to  Generalize   By   Dr.  Awais  e  Siraj,  Managing  Director/CEO  Genzee  Solutions,  Islamabad,  Pakistan      ABSTRACT:   Qualitative   studies   are   generally   about   what   people   actually   do   or   say   in   specific  time,   place   and   situation   for   relatively   smaller   samples.   They   are   not   about   numbers,   data,   and  large   or   representative   sample   of   the   population.   The   history   and   traditions   of   qualitative  research   are   now   distinct   in   nature   and   have   evolved   through   time   and   critics.   Likewise,   its  mechanics   of   collecting   empirical   evidence,   sampling   and   analysis   are   diverse   and   resilient.   It   is  not   the   beauty   of   the   outcome   but   the   beauty   of   the   research   process   that   make   qualitative  research   rigorous   and   robust.   After   describing   the   key   concepts   of   qualitative   research,   this  paper   takes   a   detailed   account   of   the   issue   of   generalizability   of   qualitative   research   findings  and   concludes   that   any   material   which   is   logical,   crafted   by   a   Bricoleur,   contextual,   richly  described  and  trustworthy  is  as  ‘generlizable’  as  any  other.    Introduction  Qualitative   research   is   a   complex   set   of   assumptions,   concepts   and   an   interconnected   family   of  terms.   (Denzin   and   Lincoln   2008)   The   results   and   conclusions   drawn   through   qualitative  research   have   proven   themselves   to   be   persuasive   and   full   of   insight.   Various   theoretical  frameworks  have  been  suggested  for  qualitative  research.  They  are  characteristically  different  in  their  theory,  technique  and  approach  yet  they  have  a  common  emphasis  on  recording  and  presenting   data   in   detail   and   depth.   All   qualitative   studies   are   also   linked   with   one   another  because   of   their   plentiful   narration   and   description   of   emotional,   cultural   and   social   life.  Qualitative   studies   are   generally   about   what   people   actually   do   or   say   in   specific   time,   place  and   situation.   Qualitative   studies   are   also   about   social   things   like   events,   cultures,   movements,  organizations   and   relationships   and   how   they   develop   in   temporal   and   social   context.   (Morill  and   Fine   1997)   Qualitative   researches   are   thus   connected   through   narratives   and   rich  descriptions  of  research  cases.      History  and  Traditions  of  Qualitative  Research:  Denzen   and   Lincoln   (2005b)   have   put   forward   a   summary   of   various   stages   through   which  qualitative   research   has   progressed   over   the   years.   The   first   stage   is   called   “the   traditional  period”   ranging   from   early   twentieth   century   to   the   Second   World   War.   This   stage,   heavily  instilled  with  ‘positivism’  refers  to  the  sections  of  life  which  were  considered  alienated  from  the  society.   The   post   Second   World   War   to   the   1970s   is   called   the   ‘the   modernist   phase’   during  which   the   inclination   still   remained   towards   positivism   but   a   serious   attempt   was   made  towards   establishing   the   rigor   in   qualitative   enquiries.   From   1970   to   1986,   the   period   of  ‘blurred   genre’   seriously   considered   incorporation   of   ontological   and   epistemological  challenges   into   qualitative   research.   From   mid   1980’s   onwards,   the   written   work   of   research  received   limited   scientific   authority   because   of   the   criticism   that   social   locations   are   heavily  
  2. 2. influencing   the   researchers.   This   period   was   names   as   ‘crises   of   representation’   as   the   field  work  of  researchers  was  considered  as  ‘just  one  way  of  representing  reality’.  However  ‘crises  of  representation’  led  to  ‘a  triple  crises’  of  ‘postmodern  period  of  experimental  ethnographic   writing’,   ‘post-­‐experimental   enquiry’   and   the   ‘methodologically   contested  present’.  The  period  of  Mid  1990s  or  ‘postmodern  period  of  experimental  writing’  pressurized  the  social  researchers  to  explore  a  variety  of  ways  of  representing  people.  From  1995  –  2000  the  AltaMira  press  encouraged  experimental  and  interdisciplinary  writing  attempting  to  break  ‘long-­‐standing   boundaries’.   During   2000   to   2004,   much   of   the   debate   focused   on   ‘research  quality   criteria’   marked   by   considerable   disagreements   on   how   qualitative   research   ‘should’   be  conducted  and  streamlining  of  its  future  course.    From   2005,   qualitative   research   is   marked   by   challenges   against   social   research   on   its   value  addition   towards   traditional   science.   For   future,   “Randomized   field   trials…….will   occupy   the  time   of   one   group   of   researchers   while   the   pursuit   of   a   socially   and   culturally   responsive,  communitarian,  justice  oriented  set  of  studies  will  consume  the  meaningful  working  moments  of   the   other.”(Lincoln   and   Denzin   2005:   1123)   These   moments   and   their   description   is   not  definite  because  what  has  been  predicted  for  future  is  already  happening.  Gubrium   and   Holstein   (1997)   put   forward   four   traditions   of   qualitative   research.   Naturalism;  seeking   interaction   and   descriptions   of   people   in   natural   setting   and   accepting   reality   as   reality  is.  Ethnomethodology;  with  a  natural  orientation,  ethnomethodology  seeks  to  understand  the  creation   of   social   order   through   interaction   and   talk.   Emotionalism:   seeks   deeper  understanding   and   realities   of   humans.   Postmodernism;   focuses   on   processes   that   form   the  building  blocks  of  social  reality.  What  is  Qualitative  Research?  Qualitative  research  can  be  regarded  as  a  research  strategy  that  puts  a  great  deal  of  stress  on  words   rather   than   numbers   in   the   collection   and   analysis   of   data.   (Bryman   2008)   Qualitative  research   primarily   puts   emphasis   on   an   ‘inductive’   approach   as   against   the   ‘inductive’  approach,   to   the   relationship   between   research   and   theory.   It   is   concerned   with   theory  generation   while   rejecting   the   norms   and   practices   of   positivism   and   of   natural   sciences  research.   Encapsulating   the   ways   in   which   social   world   is   interpreted   by   people,   qualitative  research  incorporates  social  reality  as  an  individual’s  property.    While   quantitative   research   is   sometimes   referred   to   as   ‘positivism’   and   ‘realism’,   qualitative  research   is   referred   to   ‘interpretivism’   and   ‘phenomenology’.   Interpetivists   argue   that   people  and   institutions   form   the   subject   matter   of   social   sciences   and   are   characteristically   different  from   the   subject   matters   of   natural   sciences.   They   have   feelings,   emotions   and   behavior   which  cannot   be   characterized   into   atoms,   molecules   and   electrons.   (Schutz   1962:   59)  “Phenomenology”   as   the   opposite   of   positivism   focuses   on   how   a   researcher   should   record  perceptions   of   what   individuals   perceive   of   the   world   around   them.   “The   phenomenologist  attempts   to   see   things   from   that   person’s   point   of   view”   (Bogdon   and   Taylor   1975:   13-­‐14,  emphasis  in  original)      
  3. 3. Qualitative   research   also   holds   on   the   ontological   position   of   ‘constructionism’   (or  ‘constructivism’)   as   against   the   position   ‘objectivism’   occupied   by   quantitative   research.  Constructivism  puts  social  actors  at  the  center  of  their  focus  as  they  are  considered  to  play  a  vital   role   in   all   social   phenomena.   Constructivists   believe   that   all   social   phenomena   are   in   a  perpetual   state   of   change.   Lately,   it   has   also   been   accepted   that   whatever   is   observed,  recorded  and  written  by  a  researcher  through  his  personal  observation  and  involvement  will  be  regarded  as  constructions.  Constructionism,  therefore  is  used  in  two  connotations:  relation  to  the  social  world  and  relation  to  the  nature  of  knowledge  of  the  social  world.  (Bryman  2008)    Bricoleur  and  Bricolage  and  Montage  “Jack   of   all   trades,   a   kind   of   professional   do-­‐it-­‐yourself”   is   the   term   used   by   Levi-­‐Strauss   to  describe  a  Bricoleur.  (Levi-­‐Strauss,  1966,  p.17)  Since  qualitative  researcher  can  be  described  as  a  naturalist,  social  critic,  performer,  filmmaker,  scientist  etc.  he  or  she  may  also  be  considered  as  a  Bricoleur  or  a  person  who  converts  images  into  a  mosaic.  He  may  also  be  considered  as  a  quilt  maker  or  because  he  uses  contingent  strategies,  empirical  materials  and  methods.  (Denzin  and  Lincoln  2008).  It  the  intellect  of  the  researcher  that  allows  him  to  put  pieces  of  whatever  material   is   at   hand   together   through   questions   that   are   asked   at   a   given   time   and   in   relation   to  research  context.  The  concept  of  ‘montage’  comes  in  when  the  quilt-­‐making  has  to  go  beyond  practical   considerations   and   pragmatism.   (Cook   1981,   Monaco   1981)   Montage   puts  disconnected  images  into  a  systematic  sequence  that  can  lead  to  some  creative  sense-­‐making  and   impact.   By   seamlessly   blending   images   into   one   another,   different   scenes   are   unfolded  simultaneously  and  not  sequentially  to  draw  interpretations.    Grounded  Theory  Grounded  theory  has  been  defined  as  ‘theory  was  derived  from  data,  systematically  gathered  and   analyzed   through   the   research   process.   In   this   method,   data   collection,   analysis   and  eventual  theory  stand  in  close  relationship  to  one  another’  (Strauss  and  Corbin  1988:  12).  The  first  characteristic  feature  of  grounded  theory  is  that  it  is  not  a  theory  per  se  but  an  approach  to  generate   theory   out   of   data.   The   second   characteristic   feature   is   that   it   is   recursive   or   self   –  repeating   meaning   thereby   that   collection   of   data   and   its   analysis   run   after   one   another   in   a  cyclic  fashion.    As  originators  of  the  concept  of  Grounded  Theory,  Glaser  and  Strauss  (1967)  suggested  that  the  process   of   research,   while   confirming   existing   theories,   should   not   make   the   researcher  oblivion  to  the  fact  that  new  theories  can  also  emerge  from  the  available  and  existing  data.  This  makes   research   and   inductive   process   rather   than   a   deductive   progression.   Glaser   also  proposed  that  findings  must  also  be  compared  constantly  with  the  emerging  theories  in  order  to  stay  abreast  with  research.  For  the  process  to  be  effective,  it  is  strongly  suggested  that  the  researcher   must   improve   his   ‘theoretical   sensitivity’   to   patterns,   categories,   concepts   and   their  interrelationship  so  as  not  to  miss  out  the  emerging  theories.    The   most   central   process   in   grounded   theory   is   coding.   The   process   of   coding   begins  immediately  after  the  collection  of  initial  data  and  broken  down  into  its  constituent  elements  with  conspicuous  names.  (Charmaz  2000:  515).    
  4. 4. Distinction  can  easily  be  made  in  three  types  of  coding:  (Strauss  and  Corbin  1990)    Open   Coding:   “The   process   of   breaking   down,   examining,   comparing,   conceptualizing   and  categorizing   data”(1990:   61)   This   coding   process   leads   to   concepts   which   can   later   be  categorized   into   groups   until   theoretical   saturation   level   is   reached   meaning   thereby   that   all  categories  that  could  possibly  be  identified  have  been  identified  and  it  is  now  time  to  move  to  Axial  Coding.    Axial  Coding:  Axial  coding  is  the  process  of  finding  causal  connections  and  interactions  among  different  categories.  It  is  the  stage  when  the  research  needs  to  make  use  of  deductive  as  well  as  inductive   analysis   to   establish   causal   relationships   and   finding   reasons   for   further   exploration  and  research  into  each  category.    Selective  Coding:  Selective  coding  encourages  the  researcher  to  identify  a  ‘core’  category  that  must  take  the  center  stage  and  ensure  that  all  other  categories  are  either  revolving  around  it  or  at  least  connected  to  it  in  some  way  so  as  to  make  a  story  line  which  is  coherent  and  making  some  sense.  Denzin   and   Lincoln   are   however   not   very   much   fascinated   by   the   ideas   and   concepts   of  grounded   theory   and   argue   that   “grounded   theory   does   not   refer   to   some   special   order   of  theorizing   per   se”.   Glaser   himself   was   later   of   the   view   that   fitting   data   into   an   inflexible  framework  will  result  in  creating  data’s  irrelevance  to  the  core  study  purpose.  Another  dilemma  came   to   surface   when   Glaser   stressed   that   open   coding   and   theoretical   sampling   will   lead   to  research   problem   in   contrast   to   the   argument   of   Strauss   and   Corbin   that   phenomenon   to   be  studied  is  the  research  question.  Grounded  theory  therefore  has  its  own  pluses  and  minuses  Methods  of  Collecting  and  Analyzing  Empirical  Materials  The   first   criticism   that   qualitative   researchers   face   from   the   believers   of   quantitative  researchers   is   that   qualitative   research   is   too   subjective   and   impressionistic.   However   this  debate  cannot  move  forward  unless  we  study  the  methods  of  qualitative  research.  Narrative   Inquiry   is   emerging   and   occupying   a   considerable   ground   in   qualitative   research.  Chase  defines  narrative  enquiry  as  an  “amalgam  of  interdisciplinary  lenses,  diverse  disciplinary  approaches   and   both   traditional   and   innovative   methods-­‐all   revolving   around   an   interest   in  biographical  particulars  as  narrated  by  the  one  who  lives  them”.  (Chase  2003)  Narrative  enquiry  has  evolved  through  the  first  half  of  2oth  century  from  the  life  history  method  primarily  used  by  sociologists  and  anthropologists  to  the  second  wave  feminists  who  used  personal  narratives  to  invigorate   it.   It   later   moved   on   contemporary   scholars   who   used   interviews   to   understand  individual   performance   and   its   stories.   Sociolinguists   in   between   feminists   and   contemporary  scholars  used  narratives  as  kind  of  dialogue.  Narratives  make  sense  of  the  world  because  they  describe  performances,  actions  and  ways  of  acting  in  socially  constrained  form.  Narrative  researchers  frequently  make  use  of  first  person  to  “emphasize   their   own   narrative   action”.   Chase   has   outlined   sociological,   anthropological,  autoethnographic,   psychological   and   performance   studies   as   discrete   approaches   to   narrative  
  5. 5. analysis.   Chase   has   also   emphasized   that   the   challenges   of   ‘interpretive   authority’   and   ‘hearing  the   story   that   is   being’   must   need   to   be   addressed   seriously.   Narrative   enquiries   can   also   be  used  to  make  progress  in  a  social  change  agenda.  Like  one  candle  lights  another,  Testimonios  (A  Testimonio  is  a  type  of  oral  history,  life  history  or  life  story;  it  is  an  explicitly  political  narrative  that  describes  and  resists  oppression.  Beverley,  2000;  Tierney,  2000)  can  unite  and  activate  a  group   of   people,   even   a   nation   to   rise   up   against   repression,   social   injustice   and   violence.  Stories   of   the   underprivileged   can   move   the   emotionally   insensitive   to   an   emotionally   sensitive  space.  The   second   form   of   enquiry   is   the   Art-­‐Based   Inquiry   is   largely   intertextual   in   nature.   Crossing  the   border   between   research   and   art,   an   art-­‐based   inquiry   used   the   methods,   practices   and  aesthetics  of  performance,  literary  and  visual  arts  not  excluding  drama,  theater,  dance,  video,  film,   collage   and   photography.   The   history   of   this   methodology   can   be   traced   in   postcolonial  postmodern   context.   The   best   use   of   this   inquiry   is   political   self-­‐expression   and   political  activism  that  can  be  ignited  through  the  use  of  street  theatre,  street  and  children  art  and  war-­‐time   photo   memories.   Art-­‐based   inquiry   can   also   facilitate   the   transformation   process   by  initially   exposing   the   sources   of   resistance   as   well   as   oppression.   The   action   approach   of   art-­‐based  work  is  so  powerful  that  it  can  potentially  change  the  mindset  of  people  through  their  bodies,   voices,   cameras   and   paintbrushes   whatever   they   decide   to   choose   and   use   a   tool   for  social  change  agenda.    The   history   of   interviewing   as   the   most   common   and   widely   accepted   form   of   inquiry   can   be  traced   back   to   ancient   Egyptians   and   their   population   census.   (Babbie   1992)   In   the   recent   eras,  it   gained   popularity   in   clinical   and   psychological   practices   and   was   used   initially   for   clinical  diagnosis   and   counseling.   With   a   strong   inclination   on   measurement,   it   became   a   popular  instrument   during   World   War   I   for   psychological   testing.   We   are   now   living   in   an   interview  society  where  we  believe  that  only  interviews  can  produce  meaningful  data  about  experiences  of  life  and  their  context.  I  a  culture  driven  heavily  by  the  influence  of  mass  media,  interview  is  now   a   customary   feature   rather   than   a   privilege.   Starting   from   its   basic   classification   of  structured,  semi  structures,  unstructured  and  open  –  ended,  it  is  now  sophisticated  enough  to  include   and   adapt   the   oral   history   interview,   on-­‐line   interviewing,   creative   interviewing,  focused   interviewing,   feminist   interviewing,   gendered   interviewing   and   multivoiced   or  postmodern   interviewing.   Interviewing   brings   together   the   researcher   and   the   researched  through   emotional   engagement,   openness   and   a   trusting   relationship   which   stands   in   stark  contrast   to   the   positivist   or   quantitative   school   of   thought   which   proposes   detachment  between  them.  (Oakley  1981)    The   fundamental   basis   of   all   research   methods   in   behavioral   and   social   sciences   is   observation.  (Adler  and  Adler  1994).  Observation  is  “the  mainstay  of  the  ethnographic  enterprise”  (Werner  and   Schoepfle,   1987)   Social   studies   that   are   primarily   geared   towards   interviewing   use  ‘observation’  in  combination  to  study  human  response  through  the  use  of  body  and  its  parts.  (Gestures,   eye   movements,   etc.)     Observation   can   be   in   a   natural   or   an   experimental   setting.  Angrosino  (2000)  argues  that  since  all  observations  involves  participation  of  the  researcher  in  the  world  which  is  being  studied,  the  concept  of  ‘detached  observation’  and  the  colonial  word  of  ‘subject’  stand  invalid.  This  leads  to  another  interesting  debate  of  ‘intrusion’  and  its  ethical  
  6. 6. repercussions   whereby   the   Institutional   Review   Boards   of   research   institutions   are   expected   to  play   their   role   in   outlining   boundaries   of   researcher   engagement   with   the   researched.  Observational  research  is  not  considered  as  an  analysis  of  culture  or  society.  Instead  it  focuses  on  changing  human  relationships  which  have  a  profound  impact  of  lives  of  people  and  society.  Photography,  World  Wide  Web,  motion  pictures,  interactive  CD’s,  CD  –  Roms  and  virtual  reality  are  now  being  increasingly  used  by  anthropologists  and  sociologists  to  find  links  between  visual  perception  and  human  existence.  Though  there  are  still  challenges  of  what  to  record,  when  to  record  and  how  to  record  couple  with  ethical  issues  of  identification  and  publication  of  images,  visual  sociology  is  still  an  accepted  form  of  research  in  traditional  ethnography  as  it  conjoins  the  stories  with  facts  to  establish  truth.  The  ever-­‐changing  environment  of  visual  forms  of  recording  data  through  fast  changes  in  technology  makes  the  process  yet  more  complicated.    Auto-­‐ethnography   can   be   used   to   make   the   personal   political   (Holman   2003).   “Auto-­‐ethnographies  breathe  life  into  life  ethnographies”.    It  is  a  balancing  act  and  works  to  bind  the  culture   and   self   together.   Auto-­‐ethnography   is   “research,   writing   and   method   that   connect   the  autobiographical   and   personal   to   the   cultural   and   social.   This   form   usually   features   concrete  action,   emotion,   embodiment,   self   consciousness,   and   introspection….and   claims   the  conventions   of   literary   writing”   (Ellis,   2004,   p.xix).   Or   Autoethnograpy   is   “a   self-­‐narrative   the  critiques   the   situatedness   of   self   with   others   in   social   contexts”   (Spry,   2001,   p.   710)   or  Autoethnography  is  “texts  that  democratize  the  representational  sphere  of  culture  by  locating  the   particular   experiences   of   individuals   in   a   tension   with   dominant   expression   of   discursive  powers”  (Neuman,  1996,  p.  189)  An   interesting   form   of   research   methodology   has   developed   over   the   years   which   used  computer   facilitated   images   of   social   structures   and   cultures.   While   in   the   ‘offline’   the   ‘body’   is  present.   In   a   computer   assisted   environment,   since   the   people   are   do   not   occupy   the   same  physical  space  and  the  non-­‐verbal  communication  is  almost  absent,  the  process  per  se  requires  a  more  deliberate  exchange  of  information.  The   Analytic   Perspectives   are   based   on   the   presumption   that   social   systems   and   their  interpretation  have  indigenous  modes  of  orderliness  and  qualitative  researchers  must  be  loyal  to   the   indigenousness   and   develop   analytic   strategies   around   it.   Collective   actions   must   take  priority   over   individual   actions   and   more   discipline   needs   to   be   brought   into   narrative,  discourse  and  semiotic  analysis.  The  Foucault’s  Methodologies  revolve  around  three  phases:  Archaeology,  genealogy  and  care  of  the  self.  Among  these  three,  genealogy  has  remained  the  focus  of  attention.  However  both  archaeology   and   genealogy   have   been   used   as   methods   of   qualitative   research.   In   order   to  understand   archaeology,   it   is   a   must   to   understand   “savior”   and   “connaissance”.     Formal  knowledge  is  savior  whereas  connaissance  refers  to  formal  bodies  of  knowledge.    Conversation   Analysis   and   Discourse   Analysis   form   the   two   main   traditions   of   social   science  used  for  the  analysis  of  transcripts.  An  analysis  of  what  is  ‘said’  and  an  analysis  of  the  process  through   which   it   was   said   conjointly   can   educate   the   researcher   more   than   either   of   the  process.  
  7. 7. Last   but   not   the   least   is   of   qualitative   methods   is   Focus   Groups.   Focus   groups   in   social   sciences  gained  popularity  as  early  as  World  War  II.  Focus  group  is  the  key  methodology  where  politics,  pedagogy  and  interpretive  inquiry  crosscut  and  cross  represents  one  another.  On  a  pragmatic  level,  focus  groups  generate  large  quantities  of  material  in  a  very  short  time  from  a  large  group  of   people.   Another   distinct   advantage   of   focus   group   is   that   the   data   collected   in   group   setting  is   more   robust   than   an   individual   setting   because   the   group   dynamics   pay   a   positive   role   in  generating  conflicting  material  which  is  more  useful  for  debate  and  argument  development.  The  discussion  above  has  given  a  very  brief  overview  of  the  methods  for  collection  and  analysis  of   qualitative   data.   It   is   the   job   of   the   researcher/Bricoleur   to   be   familiar   with   all   the   processes  in  order  to  justify  robustness  of  research  through  their  appropriate  use.  Sampling  in  Qualitative  Research  Various   sampling   methodologies   are   used   in   qualitative   research.   Some   may   be   used   in   both  qualitative   and   quantitative   research   like   probability   samples   but   qualitative   research   is  generally   characterized   by   “purposive   sampling”,   “theoretical   sampling”,   and   “not   just   people”.  (Bryman  2008)  In  purposive  sampling,  the  researcher  uses  more  of  a  non-­‐probability  sampling  method  rather  than  selecting  on  a  random  basis.  The  objective  of  purposive  sampling  is  to  identify  participants  and   research   subjects   that   have   close   association   with   the   research   topic   and   questions.  However   purposive   sampling   must   not   also   be   confused   with   convenience   sample   because   a  convenience   sample   is   related   to   the   proximity   and   approach   of   the   researcher   whereas  purposive   sample   allows   the   researcher   to   handpick   the   subjects   according   to   the   relevance,  association,  experience  and  knowledge  of  the  subject  under  study.  The  researcher  can  have  a  clear  cut  inclusion  and  exclusion  criteria.  The  closest  to  purposive  sampling  is  snowball  sampling  whereby  initially  the  researcher  may  not  have  the  desired  number  of  respondents  but  through  referrals   and   recommendation   of   the   initial   respondents,   the   researcher   can   reach   a   larger  group  through  snowball  effect.  “Theoretical   sampling   is   the   process   of   data   collection   for   generating   theory   whereby   the  analyst  jointly  collects,  codes  and  analyzes  his  data  and  decides  what  data  to  collect  next  and  where  to  find  them,  in  order  to  develop  his  theory  as  it  emerges.  The  process  of  data  collection  is   controlled   by   the   emerging   theory,   whether   substantive   or   formal”   (Glaser   and   Strauss   1967:  45)  This  definition  establishes  the  fact  that  theoretical  sampling  used  in  grounded  theory  is  an  ongoing  process  as  against  a  onetime  activity.    “Not   just   people”   may   refer   to   time,   context,   environment   and   cultures.   People   exhibit  different   behaviors   in   different   parts   of   the   day,   different   days   of   year   and   different   years   of  life.  Likewise,  environment  and  culture  also  play  a  role  in  ethnographic  studies.    Reliability  and  Validity  in  Qualitative  Research  In   quantitative   research,   the   quality   of   data   collected   is   measured   through   reliability   and  validity.   The   knee-­‐jerk   response   for   a   qualitative   researcher   to   this   is   that   it   is   ‘not   possible’.  
  8. 8. However   Mason   (1996:   21)   has   argued   that   reliability   and   validity   as   in   quantitative   research  are   measures   of   rigor,   quality   and   generalizability   of   research   and   are   achieved   through   certain  disciplinary   conventions,   principles   and   methodologies.   The   same   is   true   for   observations,  interviews   and   ethnographies.   All   we   need   to   do   is   to   establish   what   we   are   writing   as   a  qualitative  researcher  is  a  true  and  fair  representation  of  facts.  The  four  characteristic  terms  are  External   Reliability,   Internal   Reliability,   Internal   Validity   and   External   Validity.   While   Mason  (1996)   tried   to   establish   that   there   is   hardly   much   difference   between   the   meaning   of   these  terms   in   the   either   context   of   qualitative   and   quantitative   research,   Le   Compte   and   Goetz  (1982)  and  Kirk  and  Miller  (1986)  tried  to  defend  the  case  by  finding  a  different  meaning  for  the  same  terminology.  The  distinguishing  statement  came  from  Lincoln  and  Guba  (1985)  and  Guba  and   Lincoln   (1994)   whereby   they   proposed   a   different   terminology   altogether   for   qualitative  research  in  order  to  make  it  more  meaningful.  They  proposed  two  primary  criteria  of  trustworthiness  and  authenticity  for  qualitative  research.  Trustworthiness   encapsulates   Credibility,   a   substitute   for   internal   validity,   Transferability,   a  substitute   for   external   validity,   Dependability,   a   substitute   for   reliability   and   Confirmability   as   a  substitute   for   objectivity.   The   components   of   authenticity   include   fairness,   ontological  authenticity,   educative   authenticity,   catalytic   authenticity   and   tactical   authenticity.   A   detailed  discussion   on   all   these   terms   is   beyond   the   scope   of   this   paper.   However,   one   out   of   these,  generalizability  or  external  validity  is  the  main  topic  of  this  paper  and  will  be  discussed  in  detail.  Probability   sampling   may   be   used   in   qualitative   research   though   its   application   remains  somewhat  limited  to  interview  based  studies  instead  of  ethnographic  studies.  However,  there  are  no  clear  cut  guidelines  for  a  qualitative  researcher  as  to  how  and  when  probability  sampling  is  to  be  applied.  This  depends  on  the  research  strategy  per  se.  If  the  objective  is  to  generalize  the   findings   to   a   wider   population,   it   is   imperative   to   use   probability   sampling   instead   of  purposive  sampling.    To  What  Extent  it  is  Possible  to  Generalize  on  the  Basis  of  Qualitative  Research?    Two  types  of  generalizations  have  been  proposed  by  Mason  (2002):    Empirical  generalization  is  based  on  the  analysis  of  data  drawn  from  a  representative  sample  of  the  population.  Empirical  generalization  is  normally  possible  if  the  sample  is  a  true  subset  of  the  population.   This   is   more   common   in   quantitative   research   whereby   it   is   possible   to   do   a  probability   sample.   Within   probability   sample   are   simple   random   sample,   systematic   sample,  stratified   random   sample   and   cluster   sample.   If   a   census   is   conducted,   then   the   idea   of  generalization  stands  invalid  anyway  as  the  researcher  has  included  the  entire  population  and  does  not  need  to  generalize.  Unfortunately,  this  method  is  the  least  commonly  applied  method  in  qualitative  research.  Empirical  generalization  is  not  a  plausible  option  for  qualitative  research  also  because  it  is  impossible  to  bring  the  social  setting  of  a  study  to  a  standstill  and  keep  the  circumstances  similar  during  a  repetition.  (LeCompte  and  Geotz  1982).      Theoretical   generalization   is   the   more   commonly   accepted   norm   in   qualitative   research.   But  there  is  no  structured  formula  to  theoretical  generalization.  The  researcher  has  to  be  cautious  and   prepared   for   this   while   deciding   the   logical   framework   before   the   start   of   research   as   to  
  9. 9. what  extent  would  it  is  desirable  and  possible  to  generalize  on  the  basic  of  findings  and  this  has  to   be   incorporated   into   the   study   in   advance.   Theoretical   generalization   is   based   on   differing  logics  which  may  or  may  not  be  ‘theoretical’  in  nature.  A  cogent  theoretical  reasoning  and  not  statistical  data  is  the  decision  maker  for  generalization.  (Mitchell  1983:  207)  Despite   the   fact   the   any   research   sample   is   drawn   from   a   non   –   representative   population,   it   is  still   possible   to   argue   the   ability   and   strength   for   generalization.   Without   any   support   from   the  sampling  strategy  to  generalize,  a  ‘theoretical  generalization’  is  still  possible  if  strong  arguments  are  put  forward  to  support  that  the  characteristics  of  the  sample  are  quite  similar  to  the   wider  population  under  inquiry.  A  theoretical  generalization  may  also  be  about  a  process  in  a  specific  setting.  Consider  that  a  researcher  has  conducted  a  study  on  a  process  in  a  defined  and  specific  environment  and  came  with   certain   findings.   The   theoretic   argument   can   take   two   positions:   The   process   can   be  replicated  with  similar  results  provided  exactly  the  same  environmental  settings  are  replicated  or   if   the   environment   is   exactly   similar   to   the   on   described   in   the   study,   the   process   under  consideration  will  produce  similar  results.  Another   possibility   of   theoretical   generalization   is   to   support   political   and   social   change.   If   a  researcher  has  selected  a  case  of  a  philanthropist  with  the  objective  of  studying  philanthropic  solutions  in  a  purely  repressive  society,  the  case  can  be  made  a  basis  of  generalization  to  argue  that  “if  ten  percent  of  the  members  of  this  community  start  leading  a  life  like  Mr.  XYZ,  ninety  percent  of  the  problems  of  poverty  and  social  evils  will  be  solved”.  However  the  greater  goal  should   be   to   investigate   systems,   processes   and   issues   which   are   central   to   a   larger   body   of  explanation  and  knowledge.  Generalization   in   a   qualitative   study   also   depends   a   lot   on   the   thoroughness   and  meticulousness   of   the   study   process.   If   the   researcher   has   demonstrated   the   accuracy   of   the  research   process   and   the   validity   of   method   as   well   as   its   interpretation,   any   meaningful  generalization  would  be  valid  and  acceptable.  Though  any  researcher  is  free  to  choose  sampling  units   for   a   study,   a   prudent   explanation   and   documentation   of   the   process   and   its   strategic  intentions   will   add   credibility   to   the   research.   In   terms   of   qualitative   research,   credibility,   as  subset   of   trustworthiness   as   defined   by   Guba   and   Lincoln   (1994)   can   be   established   in   two  ways:   Firstly   by   making   sure   that   the   research   process   has   been   undertaken   meticulously   using  all   principles   of   good   practices   and   secondly,   by   securing   a   respondent   validation   meaning  thereby   that   the   research   findings   were   submitted   to   the   people   who   were   studied   and   a  confirmation  from  them  that  the  researcher  has  understood  and  recorded  their  point  of  view  in  the  same  fashion  as  they  wanted  it.  One  of  the  strategic  debates  that  hinders  generalization  is  the  issue  of  context.  The  strongest  support   for   generalization   will   become   convenient   if   the   researcher   can   take   into   account   a  range   of   contexts   and   compare   them   to   draw   cross-­‐contextual   generalities   from   the   process  itself.  This  way,  the  researcher  will  be  able  to  demonstrate  a  very  close  relationship  between  context  and  explanation  making  generalization  robust.  
  10. 10. Another   term   coined   by   Williams   (2000:   215)   is   moderatum   generalizations.   He   describes  moderatum  generalizations  as  the  “ones  in  which  aspects  of  the  focus  of  inquiry  can  be  seen  to  be   instances   of   a   broader   set   of   recognizable   features”.   He   also   argues   that   generalizations   put  forward   by   qualitative   researchers   are   a   rule   rather   than   an   exception.   A   researcher,   while  describing   findings   of   one   group   can   draw   comparisons   with   research   finding   for   comparable  groups   which   could   have   been   done   by   other   researchers.   Nevertheless,   moderatum  generalization  will  stay  different  and  cautious  in  comparison  to  statistical  generalizations  drawn  from  probability  samples.  It   would   very   relevant   to   briefly   mention   the   use   of   CAQDAS,   NUD*IST   and   NVivo   in   this  context.   All   of   them   are   supposedly   statistical   softwares   to   identify   the   key   concepts   and  analyze  the  qualitative  data  but  they  do  not  come  anyway  near  SPSS  in  terms  of  their  usage  and  universality.   The   reason   is   not   a   shortcoming   in   the   software   as   such   but   it   is   the   diverging  methodology  of  qualitative  and  qualitative  research  that  makes  them  vulnerable.  However  the  limits  of  generalizability  of  qualitative  data  can  be  defeated  through  an  intelligent  and  limited  use   of   these   softwares   by   showing   numbers,   aggregation   and   counting   in   a   useful   manner.  Moreover,  the  software  leads  to  a  ‘detachment’  of  researcher  from  the  findings  with  all  risks  of  missing   out   obvious   themes   due   to   engagement   in   the   overwhelming   nature   of   the   software  use.        Generalization  is  also  impacted  by  the  manner  in  which  a  data  is  organized.  One  way  to  support  analytic   logic   is   to   use   cross-­‐sectional   indexing   and   categorical   analysis.   Another   strategy   for  analytic  logic  is  contextual,  case  study  and  holistic  approach.  Researchers  have  used  either  or  both   strategies   with   mixed   responses.   Cross   sectional   analysis   focuses   on   specified   themes  instead  of  drawing  comparisons.  Contextual,  case  study  or  holistic  approach  helps  in  categorical  analysis.  Again  the  question  here  in  not  about  what  each  category  carries  with  it.  The  question  is  about  the  strategic  choice  that  a  researcher  makes.  Summary  and  Conclusion  Qualitative  Research  is  a  research  methodology  focusing  on  words  instead  of  numbers  in  data  collection   and   analysis.   Qualitative   researchers   are   inductivists,   interpretivists   and  constuctivists.   Qualitaitve   research   has   evolved   through   nine   moments   in   history   and   four  traditions   as   described   above.   The   methods   of   collecting   and   analyzing   materials   which   are  considered  empirical  in  terms  of  qualitative  inquiry  are  also  characteristically  different  from  one  another  as  well  as  from  those  of  quantitative  research  with  more  emphasis  on  seeing  the  world  through   the   eyes   of   the   respondent   rather   than   through   the   eyes   of   researcher.   All   methods   of  qualitative  research  put  the  researcher  in  close  proximity  to  the  researched,  sometimes  making  him   part   of   the   world   which   is   being   studied.   Likewise,   the   sampling   strategies   have   changed  from  probability  and  non-­‐probability  sample  in  quantitative  research  to  purposive  sampling  in  qualitative   research.   The   concept   of   ‘grounded’   theory   in   qualitative   research   makes   the  process  all  the  more  exigent.  The  challenges  of  validity  and  reliability  have  also  been  reduced  to  insignificance   by   introduction   of   a   different   terminology   like   trustworthiness   and   authenticity  with  some  subsets.  Computer  assisted  data  analysis  applications,  though  used  with  caution  add  
  11. 11. to   the   genuineness   and   legitimacy   of   the   process.   The   entire   description   is   to   establish   the  robustness  and  vigor  of  the  process.    Although  generalization  is  not  easy  to  establish  in  any  social  research  process,  it  has  achieved  a  level  or  acceptance  in  both  qualitative  and  quantitative  research.  In  quantitative  research,  it  is  established  through  statistical  tools  and  an  assessment  of  external  validity.  The  same  objective  is   achieved   in   qualitative   research   through   logic   and   ‘thick   description’   (Geertz   1973)   or   ‘rich  accounts   of   the   details   of   a   culture’   and   thus   establishing   transferability   through  trustworthiness.  Therefore,  a  strategy  which  is  logical,  crafted  by  a  bricoleur  contextual,  richly  described  and  trustworthy  is  as  ‘generlizable’  as  any  other  strategy.      References:   1. Adler,  P.  A.,  and  Adler,  P.  (1994),  Observational  Techniques.  In  N.  K.  Denzin  and  Y.  S.   Lincoln  (Eds.)  Handbook  of  Qualitative  Research  (pp.  377-­‐392).  Thousand  Oaks,  CA:  Sage   2. Angrosino,  M.  V.,  and  Perez,  K.  (2000)  Rethinking  Observation:  From  Method  to   Context.  In  N.  K.  Denzin  and  Y.  S.  Lincoln  (Eds.),  Handbook  of  Qualitative  Research  (2nd   Ed.,  pp.673-­‐702)  Thousand  Oaks,  CA:  Sage   3. Atkinson,  P.  A.,  &  Delamont,  S.  (2004).  Analysis  and  Postmodernism.  In  M.  Hardy  and  A.   Bryman  (Eds.).  Handbook  of  analysi  (pp.  667-­‐681).  London:  Sage   4. Babbie,  E.  (1992).  The  practice  of  social  research  (6th  ed.).  Belmont,  CA:  Wadsworth   5.  Bogdan,  R.,  and  Taylor,  S.  J.  (1975)  Introduction  to  Qualitative  Research  Methods:  A   Phenomenological  Approach  to  the  Social  Sciences  (New  York:  Wiley)   6. Bryman  A.,  (2008)  Social  Research  Methods,  Third  Edition,  Oxford  University  Press.   7. Charmaz,  K.  (2000),  Grounded  Theory:  Objectivist  and  Constructivist  Methods’,  in  N.  K.   Denzin  and  Y.  S.  Lincoln  (eds.),  Handbook  of  Qualitative  Research  (2nd  Edn,;  Thousand   Oaks,  Calif.:Sage)   8. Chase,  S.  E.  (1995b),  Taking  Narrative  Seriously:  Consequences  for  Method  and  Theory   in  Interview  Studies.  In  R.  Josselson  and  A.  Leiblich  (Eds.),  Interpreting  Experience:  The   Narrative  Study  of  Lives  (pp.1-­‐26).  Thousand  Oaks,  CA:  Sage   9. Chase,  S.  E.  (2003),  Learning  to  Listen:  Narrative  Principles  in  Qualitative  Research   Methods  Course.  In  R.  Josselson  and  A.  Leiblich  and  D.P.  McAdams(Eds.),  Up,  close  and   personal:  The  Teaching  and  Learning  of  Narrative  Research  (pp.  79-­‐99).  Washington  DC:   Americal  Psychological  Association.     10. Cook,  D.  A.,  (1981).  A  history  of  narrative  film.  New  York:  W.  W.  Norton   11. Denzin  Norman  K.,  Lincoln  Yvonna  S.,  Collecting  and  Interpreting  Qualitative  Materials,   3rd  Ed.  Sage  Publications  Inc.  2008.   12. Ellis,  C.  (2004).  The  ethnographic  I:  A  methodological  novel  about  teaching  and  doing   autoethnography.  Walnut  Creek,  CA:  AltaMira   13. Finley,  S.  (2000a).  “Dream  Child”:  The  role  of  poetic  dialogue  in  homeless  research.   Qualitaitve  Inquiry,  6,  432-­‐434.   14. Finley,  S.,  (2000b)  From  the  streets  to  the  classrooms:  Street  intellectuals  as  teacher   educators,  collaborations  in  revolutionary  pedagogy.  In  K.  Sloan  and  J.  T.  Sears  (Eds.),   Democratic  Curriculum  Theory  and  Practice;  retrieving  public  spaces  (pp.  98-­‐113).  Troy,   NY:  Educator’s  International  Press.  
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