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Qualitative Research Methods- N14136

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS.......................................................................................................................................1

INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................................................2

BROWN ET AL (2005): NARRATIVE, IDENTITY AND CHANGE: A CASE STUDY OF LASKARINA

HOLIDAY...............................................................................................................................................................3

Semi-structured Interview: Best Method for The research’s Question? ............................3


Captures and limitations of the Three Coherent Identity Narratives..................................4
Potential Ethical Dilemmas in the Research......................................................................5
The Use of Secondary Data in the Research: Advantages and Disadvantages..................8

KAMENOU, N. (2008): RECONSIDERING WORK-LIFE BALANCES DEBATES: CHALLENGING

LIMITED UNDERSTANDINGS OF THE ‘LIFE’ COMPONENT IN THE CONTEXT OF ETHNIC

MINORITY WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES.........................................................................................................10

Recruitment in Qualitative Research...............................................................................10


Formal Access versus Independent Groups.....................................................................11
Sampling Procedure for Dissertation...............................................................................12
Impact of the Author’s Identity and Background on the Research...................................13

CONCLUSION.....................................................................................................................................................15

BIBLIOGRAPHY................................................................................................................................................16

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INTRODUCTION

Qualitative research currently plays an important role in both theoretical and practical science.

Qualitative study aims to interpret and provide a further understanding of the complex reality as seen

through the people’s behaviors, belief, perceptions, opinions, emotion and relationships of individual.

Additionally, qualitative research is a powerful tool in studying intangible issues such as ethnicity,

gender roles and cultures which are impossible to be explored by using quantitative methods.

Despite how qualitative research is practical in reality, several issues are remaining controversial, such

as ethical problems, research bias, strengths and weaknesses of research methods etc. Hence, by

critically evaluating the two papers, respectively Brown et al (2005) and Kamenou (2008), we strive to

discuss and simultaneously provide better insights and potential solutions on those debates.

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BROWN ET AL (2005): NARRATIVE, IDENTITY AND CHANGE: A CASE STUDY OF

LASKARINA HOLIDAY1.

Semi-structured Interview: Best Method for The research’s Question?

Although the semi-structured interviews used in the study were able to answer the research question, it

is not the best method for this study due to many weaknesses. The limitations, in some respects, could

affect the “facts of the story” and hence may be unable to truly reflect the organization. Firstly, as we

noticed, Ian and Kate Murdoch, as owners, could have many influences on the employees’ perceptions

and understandings about the company. Brown et al (2005) believed that “their efforts to influence the

stories that their staff told about the company constituted a far from systematic, but nevertheless

pervasive and consistent, attempt to promote versions of the organization that emphasized its utilitarian,

normative and hedonic aspects”. In other words, the owners, while delivered the company’s culture,

have simultaneously been distressing and altering employees’ awareness of the organization.

Secondly, the three narratives constructed from the semi-structured interviews only reflect the majority.

In the point of fact, there were actually other dissonant voices which, according to the authors, “have not

been heard”. Yet again, the elimination could have negative impact on capturing a true understanding of

the entity. Those inconsiderable factors could somewhat contribute in precisely and sufficiently

answering research’s issue. Besides, other disadvantages such as time-consuming in collecting and

analyzing the data, risks of involving in “disturbing interviewer effects” as known as observers’ bias

also diminish the effectiveness of the semi-structured interview technique.

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The study of Brown et al (2005) intended to give further understanding of organizational identity by conducting an analysis
of shared identity narratives at Laskarina Holidays – an UK-based specialist travel company. 39 semi-structured interviews
were conducted with employees from different positions and locations. The study results in three coherent identity narratives
of organization namely utilitarian, normative and hedonic.

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Briefly, we cannot deny numerous advantages of using interview in management research. Voice,

intonation, body language of the participants during the interviews can provide lots of extra valuable

information which could enrich research results. However, other research methods namely focus group,

direct observation and survey in particular circumstances could provide better insights of the research

problem. In studying Laskarina Holidays, focus groups and surveys could be alternatively used. The

results would be similar but not exactly the same with individually interview due to change in the

research context. However, if the participants are unbiased and consistent in responding to research

questions, the result should be identical regardless of the research methods used.

Captures and limitations of the Three Coherent Identity Narratives

The research resulted in three key coherent characteristics including utilitarian (economic-focused),

normative (morality-focused), and hedonic (pleasured-focused). To some extent, the three narratives

successfully describe Laskarina Holiday as an organization which people could at least think of and

expect for. Firstly, economic-focused or profit is considered as a main concern of the company. Brown

et al (2005) stated that the company was initially operated to pursue nothing but profits. Hence as an

economic entity, the company has to face issues such as expenses, revenue, competitors etc. to ensure

the continuation of the business.

Secondly, when corporate social responsibility (CSR) has currently become a central topic, morality-

focused is obviously not out of the picture. Laskarina described itself as an entity which is accountable

for the stakeholders’ interest including employees, customers, native community and society. The

company’s actions in environment protecting (call for animal care, beach cleaning, flower planting..),

ethical business to customers, community contribution (effort to repair the churchyard, investing in fire

engine and music school), could satisfy essential requirements of a “good organization”. Besides,

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pleasured-focused was lastly brought into the picture of Laskarina. It is described as “ a pleasure an

excellent environment of where people are really proud and passional” ( Brown et al , 2005).

Despite of how precisely the three narratives depict about the Laskarina as an organization, they

unfortunately capture the majority opinions. There were actually other “dissonant voices” which, as said

by the authors, “have not been heard”. Again, the elimination of those minority views could cause the

failure in reflecting a prescise and sufficient understanding of organization entity. In the case of

Laskarina, realized dissonant voices include negative comments such as inefficient communication,

dictatorship, dealing with lower class clients, long working hours, lack of privacy and having doubt in

company’s CSR. In our opinions, in other to reflect a full picture and provide judicious understanding

about the company, the authors should equitably and unbiasedly reflect all respondent’s perception, both

positive and negative, in the research. Succeed in doing so will contribute a broader view of organization

identity.

Potential Ethical Dilemmas in the Research

In the recent year, ethical dilemmas in interview research methods have been a controversial debate. To

find the solution for the moral problem, Bell, E. and Bryman, A. (2007) introduced 10 principles of

ethical practice (tables 1). Note that although these principles are conducted based on the medical

sciences prospect, they still give us a general view of ethical standards in conducting interview in

qualitative research.

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1 Ensuring that no harm comes to participants

2 Respecting the dignity to research participants


3 Ensuring a fully informed consent of research participants
4 Protecting the privacy of research subjects
5 Ensuring the confidentiality of research data
6 Protecting the anonymity of individuals or organizations
7 Avoiding deception about the nature or aims of the research
8 Declaration of affiliations, funding sources, and conflicts of interest
9 Honesty and transparency in communicating about the research
1 Avoidance of any misleading, or false reporting of research findings

0
Table 1: Key Principles in Research Ethics

(Adapted from Bell, E. and Bryman, A. (2007) )

According to Easterby-Smith, Thorpe, & R.Jackson, (2008), the first seven principles are related to the

interest of the participants or informants; the last three focus on ensuring precision, and reduce bias in

study results. They also revealed the most likely ethical dilemma in research methods including well-

informed about the purpose of research, the potential risks incurred and benefit accrued, control and use

of obtained data, and ethical codes. Their discussions are essentially consistent with Kvale (1996)

findings which embody three moral dilemmas in management research including informed consent,

confidentiality, and consequences. Informed consent is basically to inform research participants about

the purpose and design of the study. Confidentiality implies that sensitive data relevant to participants

should not be disclosed. Lastly, consequences, as known as “the ethical principle of beneficence”

(Kvale, 1996) mentions about the possible minimum level of the risk of harm to a study subject. Ideas of

the dilemmas which were discussed by Kvale (1996) is summarized in table 2.

Ethical Guidance Pros Cons


Informed Consent - Well-informed consent - Elimation from fully informed
results in voluntary, honesty can provide interviewees’

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and confortableness of the natural view on the topic and to


research subjects in responding prevent them from specific
to study questions question.

- Inducing participant focus on - Full disclosure may be hard to


the questions, preventing them obtain when changes in purpose
from unnessessary talks and and design occur due to new
misleading information which knowledge and insight gained. It
are time and cost wasting. especially happens in conducting
semi-structured interview which
is unrestricted and permiting
new questions to be brought up
during the interview.
Confidentiality - Private data and identifying - Disclosing of subject’s
figures of subjects should information is neccesary in
carefully be protected for supporting basic principles of
subject’s safety and interest. scientific research, such as
The information should be intersubjective control and the
only revealed with subjects’ possibility of reproducing the
permission. findings by other scientists.
Consequences - The consequences including - Informed of consequences,
possible harm as well as especially risk, could lead to
expected benefits need to be deceptive information or discreet
addressed to participants. comments.
Table 2: Ethical Dilemmas

(Adapted from Kvale ,1996)

In Laskarina Holiday study, the ethical dilemmas are unavoidable. Firstly, the researcher has

responsibility to well inform the participants as mentioned above. Succeed in doing so, the participant

could feel free to make an unbiased opinions and conceptions without fear of negative consequences.

However, this could result in counter effect as in the subject denies to participate the study or reflect

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inaccurate information due to potential risk. Secondly, the information obtained from interviews,

particularly negative comments, could be seen and harmly used by irrelevant person and to some extent

could cause unexpected consequences to research subjects such as defamed speaking, distrust and

disunity among the company’s members.

The Use of Secondary Data in the Research: Advantages and Disadvantages

In addition of using primary data conducted from formal semi-structured interviews and observations,

researchers also utilized secondary data such as photographs, internet websites, internal reports,

marketing brochures and newspaper reports to enrich their study. It is undeniable that including this kind

of information could effectively provides additional ideas about the company such as company’s sizes,

business scope, services, facilities, exterior comments or judgments, etc. Therefore, by combining both

primary knowledge from the study and these secondary data, we are able to sufficiently reflect the

understandings about the Laskarina as an organization.

Besides, using secondary data has a numerous advantages. Firstly, the secondary data is economical.

Conducting secondary data requires fewer efforts, time-consuming and costs as it usually does not need

skillful person or specialist to collect, the process of conducting the data is quite short and less data

collection issues. Hence, using secondary resources creates more time for researcher to focus on depth

research analysis. Secondary data especially conducted by formal organizations such as Government and

statistic companies is even more reliable, accurate and professional than researcher’s data.

However, we also need to notice of potential disadvantage in utilizing secondary information. The

secondary data may be unavailable, insufficient, inappropriate or out of date and hence may not support

to the research, especially when the topic is a latest idea. Additionally, using resources such as

photographs, brochures and internet pages which were created by the company for marketing purpose

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could lead to biased evaluations. It is because the companies always intend to create outstanding images

(even untrue) of the company to attract the customers. Thus, the problems call for researchers’ critical

judgments of to what extent the information could be reliable and useful for their researches.

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KAMENOU, N. (2008): RECONSIDERING WORK-LIFE BALANCES DEBATES:

CHALLENGING LIMITED UNDERSTANDINGS OF THE ‘LIFE’ COMPONENT IN THE

CONTEXT OF ETHNIC MINORITY WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES.2

Recruitment in Qualitative Research

To answer the research question, as in exploring the experiences and perceptions of ethnic women, the

researcher contacted to around 20 organizations which are seen as “leaders in diversity”. However, only

two organizations finally agreed to participate in the research, while one canceled at last minute

claiming “restructuring was in progress” and others gave no responses. The excuse seems reasonable but

there might have many possible issues. Firstly, because the research topic is sensitive as it is relevant to

company’s policy and viewpoint about ethnicity, culture, religion and class. By allowing the researchers

inspect those topics, the companies could put itself into the peril such as getting involved in sensitive

issues such as racial and religious discrimination once the study is published. For example, the paper

disclosed John’s opinions (black Caribbean, Application Manager, Heath Trust, age 34): ‘he did not

dress in more traditional clothes because he is afraid that his colleagues might be threatened or have

issues’ (Kamenou, 2008). Although he did not directly mention about the discrimination, others could

take it seriously and may result in unexpected consequences to the company such as legal problem and

scandals.

Due to those potential complications, most of the organizations usually deny participating in research

study and hence require more researchers’ attention in applying recruitment strategies and persuading

the organization’s acceptance. Firstly, researchers need to fully inform organizations or individuals

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Study of Kamenou (2008) discussed on the work-life balance in the context of ethnic minority women’s experiences. The
study conducted semi-structured and in-depth interviews with diversified participants including ethnic minority and white.
The author found that both white and ethnic minority women face problems in balancing their work-life. The reason is that
the minority females additionally have to deal with cultural, community or religious requirements.

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about essential information about study’s purposes and procedures, interview format and design, terms

of confidentiality, potential risks and benefits, sensitive issues involved and interviewer’s profile. By

having a better understanding of the study, the research subjects may have more confidence on

researchers and therefore allow them to access the organizations. Furthermore, in some cases, a

reference letter from a prestigious party may be strongly recommended in pursuing participants’

acceptations.

Formal Access versus Independent Groups

According to Kamenou (2008), in addition of formal accesses of 20 organizations, an ‘independent

groups’ conducted from personal working are also participated in the study. The author claimed that the

involvement of subjects from different sectors, qualifications and occupations could enrich the data

because each groups could give diversified response to research topic. Particularly, participants from a

organization could not unbiasedly and completely provide answers the interview questions due to certain

restrictions of the company in disclosing information to outsiders. The constraints lessen their

willingness and interest in discussing the research topics. Even when they are well-informed about the

study regarding to confidentiality, it is hard for them to reflect a true view of sensitive issues such as

ethnic and the company’s policies. In other words, the participants, while responding to the interview

question, are in the horns of a dilemma. They need to answer the research questions which satisfy the

limitations of the company, while they still want to reflect the true and fair view of the issues.

Conversely, data obtained from independent group could capture more in sensitive issues since they do

not formally bear any restrictions from their any party. This allows them to honestly reflect their

opinions and perceptions and hence could positively contribute in the study. However, studying

individuals who were identified through personal networking has an implicit problem because being in

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the same networking, they may share same perspective and views, especially about the research topic.

As the results, the data collected from this group could not reflect whole situations and hence unable to

sufficiently answer the research questions.

Sampling Procedure for Dissertation

In conducting qualitative research, investigating all population is usually costly and time-consuming due

to a huge number of participants investigated. Therefore, sampling with strengths of lower expenses,

quicker data conducting, and ability to explain and represent knowledge about the entire population is

usually used. However, deciding on which sampling procedure should be appropriately applied is quite

complicated and hence plays as the most important stage of the research procedure. The right choice of

the sampling method may result in more narrative and generalized results and hence give a better

understanding and perspectives on research phenomenon (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). According to

Merriam (1988, p.60), sampling procedure basically concerns with making a series of selections of how

many participants should be included in the study, how to select these subjects, and about the contexts in

which the selection will happen.

In my opinion, the network sampling procedure is the most useful in collecting primary data for a

qualitative research compared to other methods such as typical, unique, maximum variation,

convenience, etc. In particular, the network sampling is procedure involves requesting participants to

identify other participants which are described by Patton (1990) as “who know people who know people

who know what cases are information-rich, that is, good examples for study, good interview subjects”.

The main advantage of the method is to allow the researcher quickly find and include more relevant

participants who are interested and have relevant knowledge, talents and characteristics related to the

research questions. Besides, this method in addition helps researcher to approach part of populations that

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are not easy to contact. The reason is that by being introduced by one person to others, researcher will

appear more reliably and hence can easily access the subjects. Including more valuable information

results in a richer data collected, also the efficiency and preciseness of the study. This process is also

seen as a cheap, simple and easy to apply compared to other sampling technique. The researchers only

require a little planning and few labor force to perform the procedure.

Despite of those advantages, the networking sampling process also carries a number of weaknesses. In

implementing the procedure, researchers specially have less control over the sampling and basically

depend on investigated subjects. If the studied participants do not have a broad networking, sampling

procedure would fail in enrich the data. Secondly, collected research data may be biased because it is

possible that the participants in the same networking share the same perceptions and hence the obtained

results only reflect a small part of the entire population. This may result in a failure in fulfill the aim of

the study in generalizing and explaining phenomenon of the whole population.

Impact of the Author’s Identity and Background on the Research

Dr Nicolina Kamenou is a Senior Lecturer in International Human Resource Management and Diversity

Management in the School of Management and Languages, Herior-Watt University, Edinburgh. Her

research’s interest is in diversity management related to race, ethnicity, culture and gender issues in

organizations. Her current studies concentrates on discussing cross-cultural management and human

resource management policies and practices in non-western regions, work-life balance and human rights.

However, the identity and background of the author surprisingly have some effects on the study’s result

by involving in what is called observers’ bias. Observers’ bias is referred as a situation where the

researchers know the objectives or the hypotheses and allow their knowledge to affect observations in a

study. Bogdan & Biklen (1992) also argued that it is possible for the understanding and attitudes of the

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researcher to bias the data, especially when the data must be firstly processed by researchers’ mind

before it is appeared on the papers. Based on their own understanding about the issue, they will only see

or hear things in which they are interested or unintentionally adjust what they observe from the

participants. Therefore, the potential risk is the possibility of misunderstanding or misrepresenting the

real perceptions and opinion of participants about the study’s topic.

In the study of Kamenou, the hypothesis argues that it appears more problems for the ethnic minority

women in balancing their work and personal life due to additional cultural, community and religious

expectations. By knowing the study’s hypothesis, the author may believe that participants’ responses

support the hypothesis even if it is not really true. Besides, there are many cases where the participants

assumed that the author understand or have the same perceptions with them by using the term ‘you

know’ or ‘you understand’ (p.s105). This situation is similar to the ‘fill in the blanks exercises’, where

the author would use their own knowledge to fill up what they think the participants meant but again it is

not really correct. Over again, this could deform the participant opinions which are critical to the

research. However, in order to overcome the risk brought from observer bias, theoretical study suggests

many methods such as blind experiments, tape records, and multi-observer to check and minimize the

bias (Mcshane, 2010).

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CONCLUSION

Critically analyzing and discussing the two papers respectively conducted by Brown et al (2005) and

Kamenou (2008) explores a number of potential issues related to performing a qualitative research

namely ethical dilemma, advantages and disadvantages in using secondary data, sampling method, and

research methods. The issues call for more attentions of researchers in planning, conducting and

analyzing the study’s data and results. More researches and studies should be carried out to help the

researchers in solving the outstanding issues.

Words count: 3024 (excluding table, footnotes and references)

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Balph, David F. and Romesburg, H. Charles (1986). The Possible Impact of Observer Bias on Some

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Bell, E. and Bryman, A. (2007). The Ethics of Management Research: An Exploratory Content

Analaysis. British Journal of Management , 18 (1), 63-77.

Bogden, Robert C. and Biklen, Sari K (1982). Qualitative Research for Education: An Introduction to

Theory and Methods. Allym & Bacon.

Brown, Adrew D., Humphreys, Michael and Gurney, Paul M., (2005). Narrative, Identity and Change:

A Case Study of Laskarina Holidays. Journal of Organizational Change Management , 18 (4), 312-326.

Kamenou, N. (2008). Reconsidering Work-life Blance Debates: Challenging Limited Understandings of

the 'Life' component in the context of Ethinic Minority Women's experiences. Bristish Journal of

Management , 19, s99-s109.

Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing. London: Sage.

Mcshane, J. J. (2010, February 23). Blind and Open Experiments and Observer Bias. Retrieved

November 1, 2010, from http://www.thetruthaboutforensicscience.com

Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education. Jossey-Bass.

Patton, M. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation Methods (2nd ed ed.). London: Sage.

Strauss, A.& Corbin, J.;. (1990). Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and

Techniques. Sage.

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