Qualitative Methods • Field Research • Participant observation • Intensive interview • Focus groups • Qualitative analysis • Content Analysis • Historical and Comparative Research
Features of Qualitative Research • Exploratory purpose • Focus on natural behavior • Emphasis on subjective experience • Examination of context, environment • Inductive methods • Idiographic explanation • Awareness of researcher’s role
Participant Observation Degrees of participation: Complete observer (less researcher effect) Participant observer (limited participation) Complete participant (may conceal identity)
Advantages 1. Deeper insight, under-standing. 2. Better access to group and members. 3. May get to know group members better. Disadvantages 1. May affect group behavior or processes. 2. May prevent asking questions, taking notes. 3. May lead to loss of objectivity. 4. May be unethical if identity is concealed. Should I participate?
Gaining Entry and Building Relationships • May use key individual or informant. • May require a plausible explanation. • Don’t be aggressive, insensitive • Maintain some distance • Expect conflicts; don’t take sides
Paradigms in Field Research • Naturalism – social life as it “really is”- may include ethnography (description) • Ethnomethodology – reality as socially constructed – focus on process of construction – how people create meaning • Grounded theory – attempt to derive theory from analysis of observations • Participatory action research – research guides subjects in solving a problem
Sampling in field research Non-probability methods; not mathematical; may overlap • Theoretical sample – what comparisons or groups are suggested by my theory? • Purposive (judgmental) sample – deliberately sample different positions, points of view • Snowball sample – ask each member to introduce you to someone else • Quota sample – predetermined number of people with certain characteristics. • Deviant cases – outsiders’ point of view • Experience sample – randomly ask people what they are doing or thinking (may use pager).
Taking Notes • Electronic or pencil and paper • Prepare forms in advance • May be surreptitious • Notes should include: Setting or context Methodology Observations: “Facts” Interpretations: separate from facts • Transcribe ASAP
Possible Ethical Problems in Field Observation • Voluntary participation • Informed consent • Confidentiality • No harm to participants
Intensive (Unstructured) Interview • No standardized questions – open-ended • “Directed conversation;” can flow freely • R’s answer in own words • Exact words must be recorded • Interviewer can use probes freely • May be combined with observation.
Stages in interviewing (Kvale) • 1. Thematize (define purpose, goals) • 2. Design (lay out process and questions) • 3. Interview • 4. Transcribe (to written text) • 5. Analyze (figure out what it means) • 6. Verify (check reliability and validity) • 7. Report
Focus Groups • Groups formed by researcher. • Not a representative sample. • Usually 7 or more people. • Discussion of specific topic or problem. • Used in marketing, politics, businesses, organizations. • Flexible, fast, face validity, relatively low cost • Difficult to assemble and moderate, difficult to analyze data, less control by researcher.
Analysis of qualitative data • Documentation – Transcribing notes into text form • Organizing: • Conceptualization: understanding meanings • Coding and categorizing: find themes, patterns, types;
Analysis of qualitative data • What to look for: • Themes • Patterns • Types • Categories • Generalization may lead to theory (“grounded theory”) • History of processes, development over time “Empirical Generalization”
Analysis of qualitative data • Examine relationships and display data • Tables, diagrams, flowcharts • Authenticate evidence • Credibility, corroboration • Be reflexive • Must be aware of own role, own interpretation
Software for qualitative analysis • Reads text files (field notes) • Researcher selects text – codes into categories • Program uses codes to • Pull out cases in a category • Count cases in a category • Review text segments • Sort and classify
Deeper understanding Rich description, detail Inexpensive Flexible Limited generalizability Subjectivity Strengths and Weaknesses of Field Research Strengths Weaknesses
Unobtrusive Research • Researcher does not interact with subjects • No researcher effect
Content analysis • Analysis of recorded communication Who says what? To whom? How? Why? With what effect?
Units of Analysis in CA • The source: Who says it? Candidates, companies, advertisers, networks, newspapers, etc. • The statement: What is said? Articles, speeches, commercials, editorials, images, etc.
Example: Content analysis of political ads • Comparing sources: McCain vs. Obama – themes, intended audience, similarities & differences • Comparing statements: TV ads – images, words, topics, changes over time. May not distinguish b/t candidates. Focus is on characteristics of political ads.
Coding in Content Analysis • Manifest content: exact words used (e.g. terrorism, security, taxes, businesses, jobs, families, wrong, truth, hope, strong, opponent’s name) • Latent content: underlying tone or image, overall impression; more subjective • candidate as strong/weak • positive/neutral/critical/nasty • emotional/logical appeal
Sampling in Content Analysis • Any conventional method can be used • Examples of sampling units: • Publications • Programs • Articles • Editorials • Ads • Time periods • Geographic areas
Strengths Economical: cheap and fast Reliable: can be checked, corrected Unobtrusive: no researcher effect Historical focus: can cover long periods of time efficiently Weaknesses Limited to what is recorded Validity: MAY be subjective, nonscientific Strengths and Weaknesses of Content Analysis
Historical and Comparative Research • Historical - events and processes over a period of time (past or present) • Comparative - different groups, areas, or societies at the same time • These can overlap – e.g., a historical comparative study • These can be qualitative or quantitative or both
Both use existing “secondary” data • statistics • documents • news accounts • narratives, stories • oral histories • letters and diaries • organizational records • artifacts
Issues in using secondary data Validity • Different operational definitions • Meaning of words may change • Sources may not be scientific • Gaps in information, missing data • Case studies, not representative • Focus on individuals, events, not on social structures
Issues in using secondary data Reliability • Sources’ accuracy may be questionable • Subjectivity, selective perception
Types of Historical Studies 1. Historical events - explain unique event or series of events. Causes, contributing factors. Develop general theory. Focus on social structure, not people or details. 2. Historical process - longitudinal. Relation of time to events. Duration, pace of change, cycles or trends, cultural meaning of time.
Comparative Studies • Usually cross sectional • Compare same variable in different societies. • Comparability of data is major issue • Missing data may also be a problem