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Philosophical Underpinning. Qualitative methods Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything than can be counted counts. Einstein. Alternative to Positivism. H uman experience is mediated historically, culturally , and linguistically (social constructivism)

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philosophical underpinning
Philosophical Underpinning

Qualitative methodsNot everything that counts can be counted, and not everything than can be counted counts. Einstein

alternative to positivism
Alternative to Positivism
  • Human experience is mediated historically, culturally, and linguistically (social constructivism)
  • • Our perception or experience is one version of reality
  • • There are knowledgeS, not knowledge
qualitative methodology guiding principles
Qualitative Methodology: Guiding principles
  • • Interest in meaning:
    • - How do people make sense of the world?
    • - How do people experience the world?
  • • Interest in participants’ meanings rather
  • than researchers’ meanings
  • • No interest in preconceived variables &
  • cause-effect relationships
  • • Aim is to insightfully describe or explain but
  • not to predict
criticism of the scientific method
Criticism of the Scientific Method
  • Does not allow for new theory development
  • Treating humans as automata
  • Experiments eliminate meaning
  • Reductionist
  • Ignores social context
  • Ecological validity
qualitative data
Qualitative data
  • Non-numerical data, mostly in the form of meanings:
  • what people say
  • pictorial e.g. graffiti, film, popular culture
  • content of songs, stories myths advertisement
  • uncategorized, unedited recordings of behaviour
criteria for achieving validity in qualitative research
Criteria for achieving validity in qualitative research
  • Trustworthiness and genuineness
  • Triangulation
  • Respondent validation
  • Peer agreement
  • Independent audit
practical issues in qualitative research
Practical issues in qualitative research
  • Can be very time consuming to conduct
  • Can take more of participants’ time compared to an experimental approach
observation naturalistic controlled and participant
Observation: Naturalistic, Controlled and Participant
  • Takes place in natural settings (e.g. hospital, schools)
  • Observer can be covert or overt
  • Observations can be systematic but not necessarily so
  • Researcher engages in variety of activities

– participation, documentation, interviewing and reflection

  • Balance between participation and observation
  • Notes rich in data are taken
  • Useful when phenomena cannot be replicated in lab
  • Ecological validity is high but can be not in controlled observation (e.g. Bobo Doll)
  • Compared to interviews participants far more truthful
  • Participants less effected by demand characteristics
  • Can study both humans and non-humans
  • Clear operational definitions improve validity and reliability
  • In event sampling, detailed information gathered about frequency, duration and sequence of behaviour
  • Questionable reliability and validity (subjective)
  • Time consuming and labor intensive
  • Difficult to control variables
  • Difficult to obtain high inter-observer reliability though training can help
  • So much complex behaviour means that every event may not be recorded
  • Cause and effect relationships are not established
  • Ethics of invasion of privacy and deception with participant observation
  • Replication difficult
  • Usually face-to-face but also telephone and internet and computer assisted
  • Most common method of data collection
  • Easier to arrange than other forms of qualitative

data collection

  • Balance between controlling interview and

leaving space for participant to take control

interviews forms
Interviews: Forms
  • Structured
    • Pre-determined questions and possible responses
  • Semi-structured
    • Mixture of pre-determined questions and more open questions
  • Unstructured
    • No questions just general topics
  • Conversational
    • No pre-determined questions
    • Maximum flexibility to follow topic as they develop
interview settings
Interview: Settings
  • Individual face-to-face
    • Most common form
    • Can enhance rapport but also demand socially acceptable responses
  • Small Group or Focus Group
    • Responses build upon each other “synergistic approach”
  • Email , Telephone Computer assisted
    • Access to remote populations
    • Can lessen the demand to provide socially accepted responses
recording interviews
Recording Interviews
  • Tape recording
  • Video recording
  • Note-taking
transcription of interviews
Transcription of Interviews
  • Traditional transcripts
    • Word only
    • Quick and easy
    • Subtle meanings may be lost
  • Post-Modern transcripts
    • Words plus all aspects of non-verbal communication e.g. tone, pauses, expression posture
    • Data rich but time consuming and inter-rater reliability an issue
interviews advantages
Interviews: Advantages
  • A range of techniques can be employed including open and closed questions
  • Data form structured interviews can be quantified to aid analysis
  • Rich think data
interviews disadvantages
Interviews: Disadvantages
  • Requires time & effort
  • As it is a self-report method it relies on the ability to describe own behavior/experiences
  • Remaining issues of reliability and validity
verbal protocol
Verbal Protocol
  • Verbal protocols – recordings of what people say when carrying out a task under instructions to verbalise all thoughts.
  • E.g. administering emergency care in a hospital
  • Used most in problem solving tasks to provide extra information about strategies etc
verbal protocol advantages
Verbal Protocol: Advantages
  • Useful for the participant to verbalize what it is they are doing
  • Provides a spot analysis of a particular more effectively than an interview
verbal protocol disadvantages
Verbal Protocol: Disadvantages
  • Participants may not include vital information
  • Participants need training and practice
  • Verbalizing my hinder the task being performed especially for those not adept at multi-tasking or who are natural communicators
content analysis
Content Analysis
  • Decide how categories will be derived (from

data, existing research, or theory)

  • Establish set of categories / codes from

textual data (questionnaires, interviews,

newspapers, books, advertisements)

  • Establish units of analysis (words, sentences,
  • themes)
  • Count the number of instances in the data
content analysis advantages
Content Analysis: Advantages
  • Unobtrusive therefore no demand characteristic
  • Easy to replicate as document permanent
  • Provides longitudinal data
  • Inter-rater Reliability high

– Precisely defined categories

–Well trained coders

content analysis disadvantages
Content Analysis: Disadvantages
  • Experimenter effects: Imposing conceptual framework on data:

– Data ‘forced’ into analytic categories

– Does not take account of

meanings/experiences as relevant for


– Variability and context dependence of meaning neglected

  • Documentation limited or not available
  • Cause and effect (chicken and egg question i.e. Do documents reflect social world or do documents cause the social world?
case studies
Case Studies
  • an intensive description and analysis of an individual or related group
  • Research method originated in clinical medicine and takes an idiographic approach
  • In-depth investigation of experiences to identify interactions and influences on psychological processes
  • May consist of a case history (background) interviews, observation and questionnaires and may take place over a long period of time
case studies advantages
Case Studies: Advantages
  • Rich source of in-depth data that other methods might overlook
  • Effective in studying atypical behaviour i.e. Genie
  • High ecological validity
case studies disadvantages
Case Studies: Disadvantages
  • Difficult to generalize
  • Time consuming
  • Can lose objectivity by getting to know the participant too well
  • Difficulty in establishing case and effect relationships
  • Difficult to replicate
famous case studies
Famous Case Studies
  • Phineas Gage
  • Anna O, The Rat Man and Little Hans
  • Three Faces of Eve
  • Genie
  • HM
  • Sperry’s Split Brain patients
  • Kitty Genovese
survey and questionnaires
Survey and Questionnaires
  • A written means of collecting data that does not require the presence of he researcher
  • A widely used form of data collection in the social sciences
  • Excellent for investigating beliefs and attitudes characteristic of a respondent, such as attitudes, preferences, interests, values, or personality.
survey and questionnaires likert scale
Survey and Questionnaires: Likert Scale
  • Opinion Surveys: e.g. Likert attitude scales
    • Strongly disagree
    • Disagree
    • Neither agree nor disagree
    • Agree
    • Strongly Agree
  • Highly replicable but biased to illicit socially acceptable answers
survey and questionnaires psychological tests
Survey and Questionnaires: Psychological Tests
  • Psychological tests: personality and IQ tests.

Items are standardized and tested to ensure reliability and validity

  • Highly replicable and easy to score
  • Standardized allowing comparisons between individuals
what specific methods can be used to establish the validity of a qualitative analysis
What specific methods can be used to establish the validity of a qualitative analysis?
  • Inter-rater reliability
  • Triangulation

- of sources (people, places, times)

- of investigators

- of methods

- of theoretical approaches

4. Participant feedback/respondent validation

5. ‘Paper trail’ + making raw data available + audit

  • Selecting participants from a target population
  • If the sample is representative, generalizations can be made
  • Ideal size difficult to determine
sampling types
Sampling: Types


  • Every potential participant has an equal chance of being selected

+ best chance of an unbiased representative sample

- the larger the target population the harder it is to obtain a random sample

sampling types37
Sampling: Types


  • Dividing the population into sub categories and ensuring that your sample has the same proportions of these strata

+ ensures that sample is representative

- time consuming

sampling types38
Sampling: Types


  • Selecting participants that are available at the time

+ quick and convenient

  • Unrepresentative sample as a bias may exist in group that is selected
  • a bias may be introduced by the researcher who is selecting participants