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Research methods in clinical psychology: An introduction for students and practitioners Chris Barker, Nancy Pistrang, and Robert Elliott. CHAPTER 5 Foundations of qualitative methods. Features of qualitative research. Uses language as its raw material

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Research methods in clinical psychology: An introduction for students and practitioners Chris Barker, Nancy Pistrang, and Robert Elliott

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Research methods in clinical psychology:An introduction for students and practitionersChris Barker, Nancy Pistrang, and Robert Elliott

CHAPTER 5

Foundations of qualitative methods


Features of qualitative research

  • Uses language as its raw material

    • Sources of data: interviews, conversations, field notes, policy statements, newspaper articles

  • Aims to study people’s thoughts, feelings, or use of language in depth and detail

  • Emphasises description and understanding rather than explanation and prediction

  • Emphasises the meaning of experience/behaviour in context

  • Inductive


Quantitative - qualitative debate

  • technical

  • epistemological


Advantages of qualitative methods

  • Enable the individual to be studied in depth and detail

  • Can address complex issues or processes

  • Avoid the simplifications imposed by quantification

  • Data vivid and easy to grasp

  • Good for hypothesis generation and for exploratory research

  • Participant has more freedom

  • May find things that you weren’t looking for

  • Can integrate with clinical work


Disadvantages of qualitative methods

  • Less control

  • Longer to carry out

  • Data hard to analyse (data overload)

  • Reliability and validity harder to evaluate


Qualitative traditions

  • Phenomenology

  • Social constructionism


Phenomenology

(Husserl)

  • The study of people’s experiences, “life worlds” and underlying assumptions

  • Understanding is the true end of science

  • Multiple valid perspectives (“epistemological pluralism”)


Types of phenomenological research

  • Grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss)

  • Interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith)

  • Life history research (Denzin)

  • Participant observation (Taylor & Bogdan)

  • Protocol analysis (Ericsson & Simon)


Doing phenomenological research

  • The role of theory

  • Personal biases/expectations

  • “Bracketing”

    • setting one’s beliefs aside

  • Empathic stance


Social constructionism

  • Part of the post-modernist and post-structuralist movements

  • Non-realist

  • “Radical pluralism”

  • Often focuses on language in text or speech

    • indeterminacy of language and meaning

    • language as social action

    • doesn’t assume that language reflects cognition

  • Emphasises the reflexivity of psychological theory


Types of constructionist research

  • Critical approaches (Reason & Rowan)

  • Discourse analysis (Potter & Wetherell)

  • Radical feminist research (Belenky et al.)

  • Social representation (Moscovici)


Ways of evaluating qualitative research

1.Owning one’s perspective

2.Situating the sample

3.Grounding in examples

4.Providing credibility checks

5.Coherence

6.Accomplishing general v. specific research tasks

7.Resonating with readers

(Elliott, Fischer & Rennie, 1999)


Conclusions

  • When best to use qualitative or quantitative methods?

  • “Methodological pluralism”

  • Triangulation

    • best not to rely solely on one perspective, source or approach

  • Can combine qualitative and quantitative methods


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