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Qualitative Research

Inductive Method

Quantitative vs. Qualitative
Qualitative vs. Quantitative
Qualitative Quantitative
Textual data Numerical data
Explore phenomena Confirm hypotheses
Flexible, Rigid, structured
unstructured Quantify variation,
Describe variation, predict
relationships, and relationships, and
individual and describe
group experiences characteristics
Qualitative Quantitative

General Aim To understand (what, To predict and control

how, & why)
Treatment of Defines very general Isolates and defines
Data concepts and variables and tests
searches for patterns hypotheses on data
Wide lens (inductive) Narrow lens (deductive)
Applied & theoretical Measure and evaluate
Toolbox Participant-Observation Surveys
(fieldwork) Questionnaires
In-depth Interviews Randomized controlled
Focus Groups trials
Document Analysis Systematic reviews/meta-
Focus Rich thick description Prediction
Naturalistic enquiry Outcomes
Similarities & contrasts Generalizability
Process & context Controlled & experimental

Qualitative research
Allows the researcher to understand a
problem or phenomenon from the
perspectives of the people it
Reveals a complete picture of a
certain research issue.
Seeks to provide a rich understanding
of a certain research issue.
What is Qualitative Research?
A holistic approach to questions--a
recognition that human realities
are complex. Broad questions.
The focus is on human experience
The research strategies used
generally feature sustained
contact with people in settings
where those people normally
spend their time. Contexts of
Human Behavior.
Qualitative Research
There is typically a high level of
researcher involvement with subjects;
strategies of participant observation
and in-depth, unstructured interviews
are often used.
The data produced provide a
description, usually narrative, of
people living through events in
Cited from Boyd, pp. 67-68 in Munhall, 2001

Characteristics of Qualitative
Data collected with
Starts with general semi-structured and
question or problem unstructured
No pre-defined instruments
hypothesis Presents results
Uses a purposeful Utilizes researchers
sample, not a awareness of own
random one orientations, biases,
experiences that might
Uses a relatively affect data collection
small sample and interpretation

Now we will write a good
qualitative purpose
What it includes:
Single sentence
The purpose of this study . . .
Central phenomenon
Qualitative words (e.g. explore,
understand, discover)
Research site

Office of Qualitative &

Mixed Methods Research,
Understanding the central
Quantitative Qualitative research

Independent Dependent
Variable influences Variable

Central Phenomenon

Office of Qualitative &

Mixed Methods Research,
Lets stay away from
quantitative language that
might mislead readers
What is not included in this statement:
Not a comparison
Not relating variables
Not proving hypotheses
Not measuring variables

Office of Qualitative &

Mixed Methods Research,
Here is a script for a good
qualitative purpose
The purpose of this qualitative study
(replace later with type of qualitative
tradition) will be to ______(understand,
describe, develop, discover) the
________(central focus) for
_______(participants: person, process,
groups) at ______________(site)."

Office of Qualitative &

Mixed Methods Research,
Writing good qualitative research

Questions narrow the purpose

Two types:
Central question
The most general question you could
Sub questions
Sub-divides central question into
more specific topics questions
Limited number
Office of Qualitative &
Mixed Methods Research,
Use good qualitative wording for
these questions
Begin with words such as how,
Tell the reader what you are attempting
to discover, generate, explore,
identify, or describe
Ask what happened? to describe
Ask What was the meaning to people
of what happened? to understand
Ask What happened over time? to
explore a process

Office of Qualitative &

Mixed Methods Research,
Avoid words such as:


Office of Qualitative &

Mixed Methods Research,
Scripts to help design
qualitative central questions
and sub-questions:
Central Question Script: (usually write only
What does it mean to ______________ (central
How would _________ (participants) describe
__________ (central phenomenon)?"
Sub-Question Script:
(What) ______________ (aspect) does ______
(participant) engage in as a
_____________(central phenomenon)?

Office of Qualitative &

Mixed Methods Research,
Types of Qualitative Data



Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 19

Types of Qualitative Data
1. Interviews
Open-ended questions and probes
yield in-depth responses about
peoples experiences, opinions,
perceptions, feelings and

Data consist of verbatim

quotations with sufficient context
to be interpretable.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 20

Open and closed questions
(from Oppenheim, 1992)
Strength Limitation
OPEN Freedom & spontaneity of Time-consuming
Opportunity to probe Coding more problematic
Useful for testing More effort from respondents
hypothesis about ideas or
CLOSED Requires little time Loss of spontaneous
No extended writing Bias in answer categories
Low costs Sometimes too crude
Easy to process May irritate respondents
Make group comparisons
Useful for testing specific
hypothesis 21
Types of Qualitative Data cont.
2. Observations
Fieldwork descriptions of activities,
behaviors, actions, conversations,
interpersonal interactions,
organizational or community processes,
or any other aspect of observable human

Data consist of field notes: rich detailed

descriptions, including the context
within which the observations were

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 22

Types of Qualitative Data
3. Documents
Written materials and other documents,
programs records; memoranda and
correspondence; official publications and
reports; personal diaries, letters, artistic
works, photographs, and memorabilia;
and written responses to open-ended

Data consists of excerpts from documents

captured in a way that records and
preserves context.

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Qualitative Traditions of Inquiry
1. Biography--Life history, oral
2. Phenomenology--The lived
3. Grounded theory
4. Ethnography
5. Case Study

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 24

Biographical Study

The study of an individual and her

or his experiences as told to the
researcher or found in documents
and archival material.

Life history--The study of an

individuals life and how it reflects
cultural themes of the society.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 25

Biographical Study cont.
Oral history--The researcher gathers
personal recollections of events,
their causes, and their effects from
and individual or several

The researcher needs to collect

extensive information about the
subject of the biography

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 26

Biographical Study cont.

The writer, using an interpretive

approach, needs to be able to bring
himself or herself into the narrative
and acknowledge his or her

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 27

Describes the meaning of the lived
experience about a concept or a
phenomenon for several

It has roots in the philosophical

perspectives of Husserl, Heidegger,
Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, etc.
--Max Van Manen, Munhall (Nursing)

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 28


Moustakas, 1994, p. 13: to

determine what an experience
means for the persons who have
had the experience and are able
to provide a comprehensive
description of it. From the
individual descriptions, general or
universal meanings are derived,
in other words, the essences of
structures of the experience.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 29

Grounded Theory

Based on Symbolic
Interactionism which posits
that humans act and interact
on the basis of symbols,
which have meaning and
value for the actors.

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Grounded Theory cont.
The intent of grounded
theory is to generate or
discover a theory that
relates to a particular
situation. If little is known
about a topic, grounded
theory is especially useful
Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 31
Grounded Theory cont.

Usually have a question, dont do

a literature review in the

Usually do 20-30 interviews

(maybe more than one time for
each person)

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 32

Grounded Theory cont.

Data collection and analysis occur

simultaneously, until saturation
is reached.

Data reviewed and coded for

categories and themes.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 33

Grounded Theory cont.
Data analysis generates a visual picture,
a narrative statement or a series of
hypotheses with a central phenomenon,
causal conditions, context and

The researcher needs to set aside

theoretical ideas or notions so that
analytical or substantive theories can
emerge from the data.

Systematic approach

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 34

A description and interpretation of a
cultural or social group or system.
The researcher examines the groups
observable and learned patterns of
behavior, customs, and ways of life.

Involves prolonged observation of

the group, typically through
participant observation.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 35


Field Work
Key Informants
Thick description
Emic (insider group perspective) and
Etic (researchers interpretation of
social life).
Context important, need holistic view.
Need grounding in anthropology.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 36

Ethnography cont.

Need extensive time to collect data

Many ethnographies may be written

in a narrative or story telling
approach which may be difficult for
the audience accustomed to usual
social science writing.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 37

Ethnography cont.

May incorporate
quantitative data and
archival documents.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 38

Case Study

A case study is an exploration of a

bounded system or a case (or
multiple cases) over time through
detailed, in-depth data collection
involving multiple sources of
information rich in context.

The context of the case involves

situating the case within its setting.
which may be physical, social,
historical and/or economic.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 39

Case Study cont.

Data collection strategies include

direct observation, interviews,
documents, archival records,
participant observation, physical
artifacts and audiovisual materials.

Analysis of themes, or issues and

an interpretation of the case by the

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 40

Feminist Research
Uses feminist theory as the philosophical
underpinning of the approach.
Assumes most formal knowledge is generated by
Assumes that patriarchy and the use of power is
harmful to women.
Some feminists also recognize social class and
race as socially generated constructs that are
used to oppress others.

Qualitative Research--Simpson 41
Spring 2006
Feminist Research is often classified in the
qualitative research family because:
It is used to generate new knowledge.
Its purpose is to create social change.
It argues against the top-down, hierarchal
relationships associated with male-dominated
knowledge by minimizing the social distance
between researcher and subject. Respondents often
participate in the research process.
It focuses on the position in society of research
subjects and the researcher.
The perspectives or standpoint of the subject and
researcher are central in data collection and

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 42

The term standpoint refers
The perspectives or lived experiences of the
researcher and his or her subjects.
These perspectives vary based on the
location of individuals in the social structure.
Are their perspectives different from those
with privileged positions in society. Is this
standpoint associated with oppression based
on social class, ethnicity/race, gender, sexual
orientation etc. or some combination of these

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 43

Designing a Qualitative Study

Problem Statement or Statement of

Need for the Study
No hypothesis; Research questions
which you want to answer instead.
Opinions differ about the extent of
literature needed before a study
Need to identify the gaps in
knowledge about the topic.
Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 44
Qualitative Study Design cont.
Research questions that are too
Does Buddhism account for the
patience that seems to dominate
the Thai world view?

How do leaders make their


Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 45

Qualitative Study Design cont.
Research questions better
by quicker means:

What television programs do

Brazilians watch most?

Where can you buy postage stamps in


Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 46

Qualitative Study Design cont.

Examples of Qualitative Questions

What do people in this setting have to know in
order to do what they are doing?

What is the story that can be told from these


What are the underlying themes and contexts

that account for the experience?

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 47

Qualitative Sampling

No probability sampling

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 48

Sampling Strategies cont.
Decisions about sampling and
sampling strategies depend on
the unit of analysis which has
been determined.
individual people
program, group organization or
genders, ethnic groups, older and

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 49

Fieldwork Observations

Learn to pay attention, see what

there is to see, and hear what there
is to hear.
Practice writing descriptively
Acquiring discipline in recording field
Knowing how to separate detail from
trivia to achieve the former without
being overwhelmed by the latter.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 50

Fieldwork Observations cont.

Use rigorous methods to validate

and triangulate observations.
Reporting strengths and
limitations of ones own
perspective, which requires both
self-knowledge and self-
Participant observer or onlooker
or both

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 51

Qualitative Interviewing
1. Informal conversational interview

2. Interview guide approach

3. Standardized open-ended

4. Closed, fixed-response interview

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 52

Qualitative Interviewing cont.
Sequencing questions
Use words that make sense to
the people being interviewed.
Ask truly open-ended questions
Avoid questions which can be
answered with a yes or no.
One idea per question.
Be careful with Why questions.

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 53

Determining a Sample
Even if it were possible, it is not
necessary to collect data from
everyone in a community.
In qualitative research, the researcher
needs to define and select a sample.
The studys research objectives and the
characteristics of the study
population determine which and how
many people to select.
Sampling Methods
Three of the most common sampling
methods are:
Purposive sampling
Quota sampling
Snowball sampling
Purposive Sampling
Purposive sampling groups participants
according to pre-selected criteria relevant
to a particular research question.
ex. Motorbike drivers in HCMC
ex. Vietnamese businessmen in the USA
Sample sizes depend on:
Resources and time available
The studys objectives
If the researcher needs a specific number
of participants, quota sampling is better.
Quota Sampling
Quota sampling begins with two decisions:
What characteristics?
How many people?
Characteristics are selected in order to find
participants who have experience with or
knowledge of the research topic.
The researcher goes into the community
and selects the predetermined number of
people demonstrating the pre-selected
Snowball Sampling
Snowball sampling is a form of
purposive sampling.
Participants refer the researcher to
other potential participants.
Snowball sampling is often used to
find and recruit hidden populations
groups not easily accessible to
Qualitative Data Analysis
When does analysis begin?
During data collection.
Thick description is the foundation
for qualitative analysis and
Organize the data. Read all the
data and get a sense of the whole.
Coding for recurring themes and

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 60

Qualitative Data Analysis
Coding data
Finding Patterns
Labeling Themes
Developing Category Systems
Looking for emergent patterns in
the data

Spring 2006 Qualitative Research--Simpson 61

Essential Terms
Data analysis
An attempt by the researcher to summarize
collected data.
Data Interpretation
Attempt to find meaning

How do these differ by research

Data Analysis in Qualitative Research

Interpreting the meaning of

Interrelating themes/description

Themes Description
accuracy of
the Coding the data
Reading through all the data

Organizing and preparing data for analysis

63 raw data
Then we engage in the coding
process that involves several steps:
Divide text Label Reduce Collapse
Initially read
into segments segments of Overlap and codes into
through data
of information information redundancy themes
with codes of codes

Many Many Codes

Pages Segments 30-40 reduced
codes Reduce Codes to
of Text of Text to 20 5-7 Themes

Office of Qualitative & Mixed Methods Research, 64

University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Levels of Coding
(For qualitative data)

Break down, compare, and categorize data
Make connections between categories
after open coding
Select the core category, relate it to other
categories and confirm and explain those

Strauss, A. and J. Corbin. Basics of qualitative research:

Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park,
CA: Sage, 1990.
Computer Assisted/Aided
Qualitative Data AnalysiS
An indispensable tool for storage
retrieval and manipulation of the text
(Kelle, 1995).
Allows the researcher to sort the data
into easily accessible categories to
enable quick retrieval of data
Comparison of segments
Refinement and development of codes
Examples include NVivo, Atlas,
Ethnograph, and Hypersoft
What does CAQDAS actually
Aids mechanical data management
techniques such as:
Cutting and pasting into codes
Creating subcategories
Notes in the margin

Methods of Evaluating Qualitative
Developing standards of quality
Lincoln and Gubas classic work shed
light on how to assess truth in a
qualitative report
Offered four alternate tests of quality
that reflect the assumptions of the
qualitative paradigm:
Lincoln and Gubas
naturalistic criteria
Aspect Scientific Term Naturalistic Term
Truth value Internal validity Credibility
Applicability External validity or Transferability
Consistency Reliability Dependability
Neutrality Objectivity Confirmability

Source: Adapted from Guba and Lincoln (1981) and Lincoln

and Guba (1985).

Alternate Tests of Quality
Credibility refers to accuracy
Description must be plausible and
recognized by participants

Enhanced by:
Prolonged time in the field repeatedly
observing and interacting with participants
Using different data sources, methods,
data type
Conducting member checks
Involving other investigators in the study

Alternate Tests of Quality
Dependability refers to the stability and
trackability of the changes in data over time
and conditions

Want to determine the extent to which

another researcher with similar training and
rapport with participants would make the
same observations
This is determined by an audit trail
Involves auditing research process, documenting all the
raw data generated, and assessing method of data

Alternate Tests of Quality
Transferability refers to the
generalizability of the study findings to
other settings, populations, and

Report must provide sufficient detail so

that readers can assess this
Lack of transferability is viewed as a
weakness of qualitative methods
Alternate Tests of Quality
Confirmability refers to the objectivity
of the data

Would another researcher agree about

the meanings emerging from the data?
An audit trail is used in which the
researcher explains how personal
biases may have come into play

Qualitative research
One of the opportunities --- and
challenges -- posed by qualitative
approaches is to regard our fellow
human beings as people instead of
subjects, and to regard ourselves as
humans who conduct our research
among rather than on them.
Wolcott, H.F. (1990). Writing up qualitative research. Qualitative
Research Methods Series, Vol. 20. Newberry Park: Sage.

Criteria for Evaluating
Qualitative Research
Is the research significant? Is there new or
unique information that is added to the work
of others?
Are the methods appropriate for the question?
Are informants appropriate to inform study
Was data collection systematic? Adequate?
Is reference made to accepted procedures for
Was a systematic inductive approach used?

Criteria for Evaluating
Qualitative Research
Is there adequate discussion of how the
themes, concepts and categories were
derived from the data?
Are the researchers conceptualizations
true to the data? Are findings presented
within a context? Is the reader able to
understand the essence of the experience
from the report of findings?
Is the credibility of the findings addressed?
Do the conclusions reflect study findings?

Advantages and Limitations of
Qualitative research
Focus on the whole of the human experience and
the meanings ascribed to them by participants
They provide the researcher with deep insights that
would not be possible using quantitative methods
The major strength of qualitative work is the
validity of the data it produces
Participants true reality is likely to be reflected
Major limitation is its perceived lack of objectivity
and generalizability
Researchers become the research tools and may
lack objectivity

References for Qualitative Research
Berg, B.L. (2008) Qualitative Research for the Social
Sciences. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
David, M. and Sutton, C. (2004) Social Research the
Basics. London: Sage, Ch 4.
Flick, U. (2009) An Introduction to Qualitative
Research. London: Sage.
Krueger, R.A. (1988) Focus groups: A practical guide for applied
research. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, Inc.
Mason, J. (2002) Qualitative Researching. London:
Merriam, S.B. (2009) Qualitative Research: A Guide to
Design and Implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-
Silverman, D. (2009) Doing Qualitative Research. 78
Bernard, H.R. (2000). Social Research
Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative
approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Creswell, J.W. (1998). Qualitative Inquiry and
Research Design: Choosing Among Five
Traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Munhall, P.L. (2001). Nursing Research: A
Qualitative Perspective, 3rd Edition.
Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett
Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative Research &
Evaluation Methods, 3rd Edition. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage

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