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Qualitative research methods in information and library science. dr. Alenka Šauperl Department of Library and Information Science and Book Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. [email protected] QUANTITATIVE Hypothesis testing Variables

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qualitative research methods in information and library science

Qualitative research methods in information and library science

dr. Alenka Šauperl

Department of Library and Information Science and Book Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana

[email protected]

comparison of quantitative and qualitative methods
QUANTITATIVE

Hypothesis testing

Variables

Measuring instruments developed before the actual project starts

Numeric data, precise, exact measurement

Standardized procedures, repetitions

Analysis: statistical methods, charts and tables

Results: charts, tables, facts

Validity: statistical tests

QUALITATIVE

Discovery and understanding of events

Themes, motives, categories

Measuring instruments develop during the project, considering setting and researcher

Textual data, documents, observations, descriptive

Individualized procedures, repetitions are difficult and different

Analysis: seeking patterns, generalizations from available data

Results: stories, narratives, descriptions

Validity: triangulation, peer review

Comparison of quantitative and qualitative methods
qualitative methods
Qualitative methods
  • Researcher collects data in a real environment.
  • Researcher himself/herself is the key research tool.
  • Focus of research is a process or activity itself, not just results of that process or activity.
  • Data collected is most often verbal (non-numerical).
  • Verbal data analysis (rarely numerical).
  • Results are facts with limited usability and new research questions. Rarely verification of hypothesized relationships are confirmed.
why engage in qualitative research
Why engage in qualitative research?
  • Different research methods supplement each other.
  • Qualitative methods focus on social interactions and the individual in that social situation – just like libraries and information centres.
  • We should use all means to aid our efforts in attracting more users and fulfilling their information needs.
most frequently used methods
Most frequently used methods
  • Observation
    • The researcher observes events and behavior in natural setting
    • Diary – “self-observation”
  • Interview
    • Opinions and feelings of interviewed people
    • Formal and informal
    • Group discussion, focus group
  • Content analysis
    • Artefacts, documents – not people
    • Also part of every other qualitative research
observation
Observation
  • We are intrigued by a problem in a library
  • We observe
    • A certain space (reference desk)
    • An individual or a group of people (catalogers, OPAC users)
    • An activity (storytelling)
  • Observation has to be
    • Systematic and open
    • Nonobtrusive but not covert
observation an example
Observation: An example
  • Cobus, L., Dent, V.F. & Ondusek, A. 2005. How twenty-eight users helped redesign and academic library Web site: a usability study. Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 232-46.
    • Does the organization of the library Web site help users find the desired information?
    • Hunter College Library, City University of New York
    • Result: a user friendly Web site
research design
Research design
  • Quantitative part:
    • Exercises for participants: counting moves, measuring time
  • Qualitative part:
    • Observing participants during their work on exercises: what confuses them, how do they understand terms
quantitative part
Quantitative part
  • Example questions:
    • Find a book by [author name]
    • Find the loan period for books
  • Research assistants were trained to administer the questionnaire and manage the session
  • The sessions were audiotaped, the work on the computer was captured
  • Analysis of results prompted redesign of the Web site and redesign of research project
qualitative part
Qualitative part
  • Participants were asked to talk more freely about what features they found interesting, what terms were familiar/unfamiliar to them, what spots of the page were obviously links.
  • Recording of speach and computer moves
observation with unstructured interview 1 6
Observation with unstructured interview 1/6
  • Recording equipment
    • shy participants
  • Placing of the researcher
    • personality/attitude, dress, guidance
  • Interaction with the participant - observation
    • Ask the person sitting next to you to show you what do they carry in their purse or pockets.
observation with unstructured interview 2 6
Observation with unstructured interview 2/6
  • Interaction with the participant - observation
    • Ask the person sitting next to you to show you what do they carry in their purse or pockets.
    • How do you as the researcher feel?
    • How do you as the participant feel?
observation with unstructured interview 3 6
Observation with unstructured interview 3/6
  • Interaction with the participant - observation
    • Ask the person sitting next to you to show you what do they carry in their purse or pockets.
    • How do you as the researcher feel?
    • How do you as the participant feel?
    • What can you as the researcher do to make the participant feel comfortable and willing to give the information you need?
    • In what circumstances would you as a participant be willing to comply with the researcher honestly?
observation with unstructured interview 4 6
Observation with unstructured interview 4/6
  • Interaction with the participant - interview
    • Ask the person sitting next to you: What do you think of dr. Šauperl’s slides?
observation with unstructured interview 5 6
Observation with unstructured interview 5/6
  • Interaction with the participant
    • Ask the person sitting next to you: What do you think of dr. Šauperl’s slides?
    • How did you as a researcher ask the question?
    • What did you as a participant hear as a question?
observation with unstructured interview 6 6
Observation with unstructured interview 6/6
  • Interaction with the participant
    • Ask the person sitting next to you: What do you think of dr. Šauperl’s slides?
    • How did you as a researcher ask the question?
    • What did you as a participant hear as a question?
    • nonverbal clues, timing, place, social “pressure”
interview
Interview
  • Usually a series of interviews with individuals
  • Structured or unstructured
  • Usual questions: who, what, where, when, how, why
  • Only ask things that cannot be observed
  • New questions emerge during the interview
  • New issues emerge during and after the interview, therefore we sometimes need to return to the same interviewee
content analysis
Content analysis
  • Analysis of text
    • Archival documents describe the library’s development
    • Notes, that a researcher takes during an observation session report on events during that session
content analysis an example
Content analysis: an example
  • Wilson, T.D. 2004. Talking about the problem: a content analysis of pre-search interviews. Information Research, vol.10, no.1, paper 206. [Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/10-1/paper206.html]. [Accessed 2005-09-25].
    • How do researchers talk about their problems in the course of pre-search interviews and what are the difficulties they experience in carrying out their own searches?
    • Result: search results are better if the librarian (a professional intermediary searcher) helps the researchers with searching for relevant literature
content analysis1
Content analysis
  • Transcriptions of recorded observations
    • What to write and how
    • Illustration: Wilson, Appendix 2
  • Categorization
    • What constitutes a category
    • Development of categories
    • Illustration: Wilson, Fig. 2
  • Search for patterns
    • What is repetitive and what do we want to see repetitive
    • Illustration: Wilson, Fig. 3, Appendix 3
ethical considerations
Ethical considerations
  • Confidentiality
    • Misuse
    • Erroneous interpretation
  • Successfull researchers establish a very sincere personal relationship with their participants. Sometimes they even become friends. In any case this relationship is based on MUTUAL RESPECT AND TRUST.
informed consent
Informed consent
  • Participants and institutions need to agree to be studied
  • Formal documents:
    • Letter asking for access
    • Permission from the institution
    • Informed consent letter from individuals
  • Trust and confidentiality
combination of methods
Combination of methods
  • Rare use of one method only
    • Methods supplement each other
    • Triangulation (validation)
  • What is the best combination depends on the research question
    • Learn strengths and weaknesses of each method
reliability
Reliability

Can study be repeated with the same results?

  • Did participants tell the truth?
  • Does the event change with time?
  • Do we get the same results by gathering data with different methods? (triangulation)
validity
Validity

Do your results represent true picture of events/processes?

  • Is the event meaningful considering the observed patterns?
  • Do we get the same results by gathering data with different methods? (triangulation)
  • Is the emerging theory confirmed with new observations?
organization of the project
Organization of the project
  • Researcher’s role
  • Research plan
  • Preparing for the start
  • Pilot study
  • Changes to the original plan
  • Conducting “real” research
  • Analysis
  • Writing report
researcher s role
Researcher’s role
  • Researcher is the research instrument
  • Obtrusive or covert
  • Outsider or participant
  • “Computer with two processors”
    • Merging into the setting
    • Gathering data
research plan 1 3
Research plan 1/3
  • Selection of the topic:
    • Am I able to conduct such a research project?
    • May I gain access to people, organisations, documents?
    • Is the participant or institution neutral?
    • Does my research make sense at all?
  • Research question:
    • Describe the problem
    • Formulate the question
research plan 2 3
Research plan 2/3
  • Literature review
    • Extensive reading of published research and methodology
    • Selective reading (relevant studies)
    • Criteria for reading and evaluating published research
  • Learn from errors of other researchers, don’t make your own mistakes.
research plan 3 3
Research plan 3/3
  • Theoretical framework
    • Which theories are relevant for my research?
    • Verification of an existing theory
    • Symbolic interactionist grounded theory, postmodernist theory, hermeneutics
  • Selection of research/data gathering method
  • Many loops in the process
pilot study
Pilot study
  • Learning from mistakes
  • Testing
    • researcher
    • research plan
    • method
    • setting
  • Improving results:
    • re-formulate the research question
    • improve research plan
    • change or adjust the data gathering/analysis method
the real thing
The real thing!

Conducting research

  • How good am I as a research tool
  • Data storage or loss
  • Differences among participants
data storage
Data storage
  • Video and sound recording
  • Notes
    • Notes structure
types of notes
Types of notes
  • Field notes – taken during observation, interview
  • Reflexive notes, journal – taken after leaving the setting
getting ready for analysis
Getting ready for analysis
  • Transcription
    • Usually a computer file
    • Preparing audio and sound recordings for analysis
    • Textual form
data analysis
Data analysis
  • During data collection and after collection is completed
    • During data collection: preliminary analysis, coding
    • After data collection: detailed analysis
    • Several cycles of analysis
  • Content analysis
  • Processes:
    • Data reduction
      • Separating useful from nonuseful
    • Data display (charts, flowcharts, maps, etc.)
      • Making sense of huge quantity of data
    • Making and verifying findings
      • Going back to original data
a little help from a computer
A little help from … a computer
  • Software:
    • Nud*Ist
    • The Ethnograph
    • and others
  • Garbage in– Garbage out!
writing a report
Writing a report
  • Special characteristics of research also imply special characteristics of reports
    • Rich descriptions, narratives
    • Important elements:
      • Methodology: detailed description of research methods, with explanation of triangulation
      • Weaknesses and limitations of selected methods and research project as a whole:
        • Weaknesses of the methods
        • Researcher’s weaknesses
sources
Sources
  • Handouts on the Web:
    • Selected annotated bibliography of resources in English, available at the Jinonice library
    • A short list of sources not available at the Jinonice library
    • My published work
thank you
Thank you.

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