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Qualitative Research
Prosper.net
4th February 2016
TERI University
Dr. Smriti Das (smriti.das@teriuniversity.ac.in)
Climate change: how do we know?
• Some facts from http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
Evidence…
Evidence…
• Sea level rise
– Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the
last century. The rate in the ...
Evidence…
• Warming oceans
– The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the
top 700 meters (about 2,300 fe...
Evidence…
• Glacial retreat
– Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the
world — including in the Alps, Himalaya...
Responding to climate change
• Climate change is one of the most complex issues facing us today.
• It involves many dimens...
Responding to climate change…
• Because we are already committed to some level of
climate change, responding to climate ch...
Does that help address the issue?
• Natural scientists cannot deal with climate change without
understanding of the societ...
The data has many underlying layers…
• There are inequalities in terms of impact on societies and its
vulnerability depend...
Contributions of qualitative research
• A potential discipline which helps to ask many such
relevant questions is anthropo...
Anthropological research in climate
• Ethnographic insights through fieldwork- research over
extended time periods in sing...
Anthropology…
• Historical perspective- environmental anthropology
• Reveal diversity of adaptive mechanisms in societies
...
Anthropology…
• Historical discussion on impact of climate change on
vulnerable community and need for adaptation has also...
Foundations of research
• Research traditions
– Based upon philosophical underpinnings
• Ontology- study of being (Crotty,...
Foundations…
• Epistemology- is concerned with the forms of knowledge
(Cohen et al., 2007: 7). Epistemological assumptions...
Foundations…
• Methodology- is the plan of action concerning why, what,
from where, when and how data is collected and
ana...
Foundations…
• Interpretive methodology aims at understanding the
phenomenon from an individual’s perspective, investigati...
Foundations…
• Critical Paradigm/critical social research
– The ontological position is that of historical realism that
re...
Foundations…
Positivism Interpretivism
1) Knowledge is based on the phenomena that
are directly observable
2) The social w...
Research rigour
• Positivist tradition: research is deemed good if results are due
to independent variable (internal valid...
Getting started
• Research problem: Intellectual stimulus calling for
response in the form of scientific inquiry
– that th...
Some examples from energy studies
• Most often the research studies on energy issues, household
energy etc. have tended to...
Examples…
• Questions that would tend to draw interpretive inquiry
would be: “why are we not energy efficient, when clearl...
Examples…
• Survey has been the most prevalent method for studies in
household energy consumption
• Ethnographic approache...
Examples…
• Benefits of interviews and focus groups: finely grained
detailed information
• Ideal for exploring how social ...
Choosing research design
• Research problem and questions determine what is the
focus of the study
• Depending upon the fo...
research design…
• Where the focus is on describing/interpreting a cultural
or social group, ethnographic study is useful;...
research design…
• Developing research hypotheses/propositions, concepts,
operationalization of concepts
• Hypotheses are ...
Methods of data collection
• In-depth interviews
• Participant observations
• Focus group discussions
• Sampling: theoreti...
Qualitative data analysis
• Qualitative research can be:
– Exploratory- theory generating, exploratory research
(typically...
Data analysis- grounded theory
• Data gathering and theoretical sampling
– Use of range of methods including field observa...
Data analysis-coding
• Coding-
– managing segments of data with a label that
simultaneously categorizes, summarizes and ac...
Analysis…
• Part of the war experience can be explained by the ways
in which psychological survival strategies become part...
Analysis…
• Example: Line by line coding (Thornberg et al, 2013)-
experience of 17 year old who is bullied in school. Init...
Analysis…
• Focused coding: in the process of initial coding, the
researcher discovers the most significant initial codes
...
Analysis…
• Memo writing and sorting: According to Glaser (1978:
83), these are ‘theorizing write ups of ideas about codes...
Analysis…
• When to stop collecting and analyzing data?
– When study reaches theoretical saturation
– Gathering fresh data...
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Qualitative Research, Smriti Das, TERI University

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This lecture is part of the 2016 ProSPER.Net Young Researchers’ School on sustainable energy for transforming lives: availability, accessibility, affordability

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Qualitative Research, Smriti Das, TERI University

  1. 1. Qualitative Research Prosper.net 4th February 2016 TERI University Dr. Smriti Das (smriti.das@teriuniversity.ac.in)
  2. 2. Climate change: how do we know? • Some facts from http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
  3. 3. Evidence…
  4. 4. Evidence… • Sea level rise – Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century • Global temperature rise – All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. – Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. – Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase
  5. 5. Evidence… • Warming oceans – The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969 • Shrinking ice sheets – The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. – Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, – while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005
  6. 6. Evidence… • Glacial retreat – Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa • Many other evidence like: – Extreme events – Ocean acidification – Decreased snow cover
  7. 7. Responding to climate change • Climate change is one of the most complex issues facing us today. • It involves many dimensions – science, economics, society, politics and moral and ethical questions – and is a global problem, felt on local scales, that will be around for decades and centuries to come. • Carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that has driven recent global warming, lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and the planet (especially the oceans) takes a while to respond to warming. • So even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases today, global warming and climate change will continue to affect future generations. In this way, humanity is “committed” to some level of climate change.
  8. 8. Responding to climate change… • Because we are already committed to some level of climate change, responding to climate change involves a two-pronged approach: – Reducing emissions of and stabilizing the levels of heat- trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (“mitigation”); – Adapting to the climate change already in the pipeline (“adaptation”).
  9. 9. Does that help address the issue? • Natural scientists cannot deal with climate change without understanding of the societies which are being talked about, the societies that are affected, and the societies where such policies will be implemented. • The perspective needs to open to: analysis in terms of human systems that generate green house gases, the ways in which different groups perceive and understand climate change, its varying impacts on people around the world and diverse societal mechanisms that drive adaptation and mitigation.
  10. 10. The data has many underlying layers… • There are inequalities in terms of impact on societies and its vulnerability depending on a number of factors apart from climate regimes and natural variations • That the impact on human systems is mediated by social structures that entail differences in perceptions, inequalities, power relationships- there are excluded and marginalized groups • That there is a history of societies! • Telling a Complete Story with Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research - Dr. John W.mp4
  11. 11. Contributions of qualitative research • A potential discipline which helps to ask many such relevant questions is anthropology: – Draws attention to cultural values and political relations (in-depth fieldwork) – Historical context underpinning the debates – Holistic view of human and natural systems (societal dynamics)
  12. 12. Anthropological research in climate • Ethnographic insights through fieldwork- research over extended time periods in single or multiple communities- gives an insight into how communities observe changes in weather, climate and landscapes and how they respond to these changes. • Contextualized understanding can help inform adaptation policy • They have also drawn in various other actors into the study • Such studies have also looked at social dynamics of scientific production
  13. 13. Anthropology… • Historical perspective- environmental anthropology • Reveal diversity of adaptive mechanisms in societies • In works such as “Weather, climate and culture” (Strauss and Orlove) it has been illustrated how communities interpret meteorological phenomena through folklore and art and respond to these phenomena through agricultural and health practices • Anthropologists have covered a wide gamut of issues ranging from biodiversity conservation to disaster response.
  14. 14. Anthropology… • Historical discussion on impact of climate change on vulnerable community and need for adaptation has also been instrumental in situating the argument along lines of uneven pace of development (attn: discourse on historic responsibilities) • The scales of work of scientists and anthropologists maybe different but the analytical and methodological tool is important to understand the opportunities and risks
  15. 15. Foundations of research • Research traditions – Based upon philosophical underpinnings • Ontology- study of being (Crotty, 1998: 10); ontological assumptions are concerned with what constitutes reality. – For example, the ontological position of interpretivism is relativism, which says that reality is subjective, individually constructed based on senses/experiences. – Ontological position of positivism is realism-objects have an existence independent of the knower.
  16. 16. Foundations… • Epistemology- is concerned with the forms of knowledge (Cohen et al., 2007: 7). Epistemological assumptions are concerned with how knowledge can be created, acquired and communicated. – For example, the interpretive epistemology is subjectivism, which says that the world does not exist independently of our knowledge. Meanings and associations are constructed by human beings. – Positivistic epistemology is that of objectivism- so the researcher and the researched are independent entities.
  17. 17. Foundations… • Methodology- is the plan of action concerning why, what, from where, when and how data is collected and analyzed. – Positivistic methodology seeks to explain relationships. Positivists attempt to identify causes which influence outcomes (Creswell; 2009: 7). – Deductive approach is taken. Correlation and experimentation is used. Verifiable evidence is sought using empirical testing, random samples, controlled variables and control groups.
  18. 18. Foundations… • Interpretive methodology aims at understanding the phenomenon from an individual’s perspective, investigating interaction among individuals as well as historical as well as cultural contexts which people inhabit (Creswell, 2009: 8) • Methodology includes ethnography, case studies etc. • Methods include participant observation, in-depth interviews, focus groups.
  19. 19. Foundations… • Critical Paradigm/critical social research – The ontological position is that of historical realism that reminds us that reality is shaped by social, political, cultural, economic, ethnic and gender values. – Epistemology- subjectivism; thus knowledge is socially constructed and influenced by power relations from within society – Directed at interrogating values and assumptions, exposing hegemony and injustice, challenging conventional social structures and engaging in social action (Crotty, 1998: 157) – Methodologies include critical discourse analysis, critical ethnography, action research…
  20. 20. Foundations… Positivism Interpretivism 1) Knowledge is based on the phenomena that are directly observable 2) The social world should be researched using the principles of natural science 3) There is stress on reliability and generalizability 4) Explanation is achieved through formulation of causal laws (nomothetic approach) 5) There is use of hypothetico-deductive method 6) Methods imply researcher/respondent detachment- objectivity 7) Analysis is based on statistical testing of hypothesis (and therefore the theory) (Adapted from Henn et al. 2006: 17) 1) Knowledge is based on interpretations and meanings that are not directly observable 2) The social world should be studied in its natural state (using participant observation and in-depth interviews) 3) There is stress on validity 4) Explanation is achieved through description of social meanings/reasons (idiographic approach) 5) Use of analytic-inductive method; theory generated from data 6) Methods imply insider approach- joint construction of subjective data 7) Analysis based on narrative descriptions and observations of action
  21. 21. Research rigour • Positivist tradition: research is deemed good if results are due to independent variable (internal validity), can be generalized/transferred to other population or situations (external validity) and different researchers can record the same data in the same way and arrive at the same conclusions (replicable and reliable) (Scotland, 2012) • Interpretive tradition: research is deemed good if it provides rich evidence and offers credible and justifiable accounts (internal validity), can be made use of by someone in another situation (external validity/transferability) and process and findings can be replicated (reliability/dependability) (Richie and Lewis, 2003: 263-286; Cohen et al., 2007: 133-149)
  22. 22. Getting started • Research problem: Intellectual stimulus calling for response in the form of scientific inquiry – that there is something which is not fully understood and there is a possibility of empirical analysis/investigation. Thus the situation becomes and object of inquiry. – Research problem always has to be well defined and leading to the objective. • Research problem should be expressible as a question – You have to consider: • What is doubtful, uncertain or difficult in the matter to be investigated • What has caused this doubt/uncertainty? – lack of existing knowledge/theory – contradictions in the existing knowledge/theory – unproven relationship among variables
  23. 23. Some examples from energy studies • Most often the research studies on energy issues, household energy etc. have tended to be positivistic inquiries. • The most commonly asked question is: “how can we be more efficient?” (Crosbie, 2006) • Disciplinary inquiries (for example from economics and psychology) were unable to yield answers to failure of economically efficient options. Also, attitudinal variables such as “values” as a basis for all environmental behaviour seemed too limited in explanation. • The problem which arose with positivistic studies was that the individual or household ‘units’ were considered detached from their socio-cultural context.
  24. 24. Examples… • Questions that would tend to draw interpretive inquiry would be: “why are we not energy efficient, when clearly it is technically possible for us to do so?” (Crosbie, 2006) • Critical social inquiry would tend to ask: – “Why is a particular community/region devoid of any energy intervention while the neighbouring community/region has access to regular and quality energy supply?” Or, – “What are the opportunities and barriers faced by members of particular social group-sub-group as far as energy use practices are concerned?” – A gendered analysis of household energy consumption is not commonly thought of as a research area.
  25. 25. Examples… • Survey has been the most prevalent method for studies in household energy consumption • Ethnographic approaches involving in-depth interviews and focus groups have been less common. • In depth qualitative interviews and focus groups have neatly illustrated that energy consuming behaviours, including development and diffusion of energy efficient technologies, are a cultural rather than a purely economic/technical phenomena. • It has also been highlighted that the adoption of energy efficient technologies do not always result in reducing energy consumption. • Cross cultural research has also demonstrated that energy consuming practices are strongly rooted in traditions, and some are more amenable to change than others.
  26. 26. Examples… • Benefits of interviews and focus groups: finely grained detailed information • Ideal for exploring how social and cultural contexts shape patterns of household energy consumption. • Data can be supported by observation. • But is an expensive process, time consuming, may not lend to statistical analysis.
  27. 27. Choosing research design • Research problem and questions determine what is the focus of the study • Depending upon the focus, research design is chosen to pursue the inquiry • If the focus is on developing theory, grounded theory approach is adopted; interviews are conducted to ‘saturate’ categories and detail a theory. Coding is an important part of data analysis.
  28. 28. research design… • Where the focus is on describing/interpreting a cultural or social group, ethnographic study is useful; interviews and observations are used. Description, analysis and interpretation are the means of analysis. • Where it is intended to develop an in depth analysis of single or multiple cases, multiple sources of data are used. Descriptions, themes, assertions define analysis.
  29. 29. research design… • Developing research hypotheses/propositions, concepts, operationalization of concepts • Hypotheses are tentative answers to the research problem, expressed in the form of relationship between the dependent and the independent variable. They have to be tested empirically. • Concepts are abstract summary of particular phenomenon (for e.g., efficiency; poverty, energy poverty) • Operationalization: develop indicators; observable phenomena
  30. 30. Methods of data collection • In-depth interviews • Participant observations • Focus group discussions • Sampling: theoretical sampling (in pure qualitative design such as grounded theory) – It is a process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes, and analyzes his data and decides what to collect next and where to find them (Glaser and Strauss, 1967: 45)
  31. 31. Qualitative data analysis • Qualitative research can be: – Exploratory- theory generating, exploratory research (typically grounded theory) – Theory driven- explanatory research • Grounded Theory – assumption of lack of data or theory to explain some phenomenon; these would be constructed by researchers as a result of interaction with participants and emerging analyses (Charmaz, 2006, 2009; Thornberg and Charmaz, 2012)
  32. 32. Data analysis- grounded theory • Data gathering and theoretical sampling – Use of range of methods including field observations, qualitative interviews, focus groups, questionnaires and diaries. – Analysis of data evokes insights and data collection methods can be changed. – Analysis of data gives insights, hunches till they start forming theoretical categories
  33. 33. Data analysis-coding • Coding- – managing segments of data with a label that simultaneously categorizes, summarizes and accounts for each piece of data (Charmaz, 2006: 43) • Initial coding/Open coding: – The researcher reads and analyses the data word by word, line by line and paragraph by paragraph, or incident by incident. Every code that is generated has to fit the data. – For example: Corbin and Strauss (2008), while interviewing Vietnam war victim, came up with concepts like: “war experience”, psychological survival strategies” and “blocking”.
  34. 34. Analysis… • Part of the war experience can be explained by the ways in which psychological survival strategies become part of the everyday life for the combatants, and of these psychological survival strategies, blocking out of events is one example which explains how survival is achieved • This linking of higher and lower level concepts complete the picture.
  35. 35. Analysis… • Example: Line by line coding (Thornberg et al, 2013)- experience of 17 year old who is bullied in school. Initial coding gave codes such as “becoming insecure”, “self doubting”, “wrongness with self”, “becoming silent”, “avoiding attention”… • This coding process helps to saturate the emerged codes and minimize missing important codes and significant details in data (Glaser, 1978) • Use of constant comparative method, comparing data with data, data with code, code with code to find similarities and differences (Glaser and Strauss, 1967)
  36. 36. Analysis… • Focused coding: in the process of initial coding, the researcher discovers the most significant initial codes that make most analytical sense. Focused codes are then used to sift through large data. • In Thornberg’s example, focused codes such as “self inhibiting” “self doubting” “developing self worthlessness”. Through constant comparing of codes, “self doubting” and “self inhibiting” emerged as the elaborated focused code.
  37. 37. Analysis… • Memo writing and sorting: According to Glaser (1978: 83), these are ‘theorizing write ups of ideas about codes and their relationships as they strike the analyst while coding’. • Making sense of the data- Putting down codes, categories, thoughts, reflections and ideas on paper to stimulate further theorizing.
  38. 38. Analysis… • When to stop collecting and analyzing data? – When study reaches theoretical saturation – Gathering fresh data no longer sparks new theoretical insights or new properties, categories, or concepts.

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