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Qualitative Research

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Approach of Qualitative Research
• Qualitative research – different assumptions/
approach than quantitative research
• Emphasis on seeing the world from the eyes
of the participants
• Strive to make sense of phenomena in terms
of the meanings people bring to them
• Holistic emphasis – studying the person,
group, culture in the natural setting

© 2007 Pearson Education


6-2
Canada
Why Qualitative Research?
• Qualitative research is often used when:

– The research is focused on aspects of


behavior and feelings that are not easily
reduced to numbers.

– Useful when the research is focused on an


area that not much is known about (an
“exploratory” study)

– There is a need to explain a topic in-depth 3


Qualitative vs. Quantitative
• Qualitative research is a reaction against positivism in
favor of relativism

• Positivism = objective reality exists and the scientific


method (deductive methods) can be used to know that
objective reality

• Relativism = subjectivism, constructivism, etc.. which


embrace the notion that reality is self-and culturally
determined

• Is truth relative or absolute?


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History of Qualitative Research

• Qualitative research approaches began to


gain recognition in the 1970s.

• The phrase 'qualitative research' was until


then marginalized as a discipline of
anthropology or sociology, and terms like
ethnography, fieldwork, participant
observation and the Chicago school
(sociology) were used instead.
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Fields Using Qualitative Research
During the 1970s and 1980s qualitative research began to be used in
other disciplines, and became a dominant - or at least significant -
type of research in the fields of
• women's studies,
• disability studies,
• education studies,
• social work studies,
• information studies,
• management studies,
• nursing services studies,
• human services studies,
• psychology, and others. 6
Characteristics of Qualitative Research
• Sampling is non-random; subjects are
recruited; studies cannot be easily
replicated; findings cannot be
generalized.
• The researcher – is the instrument of
data collection.
• Data is non-numerical –field notes,
audio tapes. video tapes, photographs,
documents/reports.
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Data Collection in
Qualitative Research
• Observation
• Participant Observation
• Key Informant Interviews
• Open-ended Interview
• Focus Group Discussions
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Qualitative Research Designs
 Narrative Research (aka: biography)

 Phenomenology

 Grounded theory

 Ethnography

 Case Study

 There are overlaps between these designs


Narrative Research
(AKA Biography)
• Researcher tells the story of one or two
individuals—especially what has been defined as
“turning point moments” that help to illustrate a
larger construct or phenomenon

• Analysis of data focuses on restorying, which is a


process of re-organizing the person’s narrative into
a framework that illustrates larger themes (i.e. life
transitions, resilience, struggles for social justice,
etc…)
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Phenomenology
– Describes the meaning of experiences
– The goal is to seek the central underlying
meaning, or the
– Universal essence of some experience
– and to describe the commonalities between
individuals in their experiences.
– The focus is on the description of the
experiences of people, rather than an
explanation or analysis of the experiences.
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Grounded Theory
– The goal of grounded theory research is to
generate a theory that relates to a particular
situation.
– Focus is on going beyond description to an
explanation of something—e.g. a theory for why
something is occurring.

– The theory is developed inductively—e.g. it


“emerges” from the data.
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Ethnographic Research
– A description or interpretation of a cultural or social
group or system.
– Focus is on describing and interpreting the shared
groups’ behavior, customs and ways of life.
– Overall intent is to understand how a culture works.
– Data sources often involve participant observation—
researcher is immersed in the day-to-day lives of the
people being studied and/or interviewed—this is
described as fieldwork.

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Case Study
– Exploration of a case (or multiple cases) over time. By
case, we are referring to a “bounded system”—which
is bounded by time and place.
– A case can be a program, an event, an activity, or an
individual(s).
– Emphasis is on in-depth understanding of the case, or a
comparison of several cases.
– Most commonly case studies are used to describe
clients within social service systems and circumstances
related to the client’s condition.
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Your research topic
• Consider your research topic
• Develop 1 or 2 overall qualitative research questions to
guide your study

NARRATIVE APPROACH
1) What type of participant would you seek if using a
narrative approach for this topic?
2) What aspects of their life narrative would you focus on in
your interviews?
3) Develop 3 to 5 possible questions for a narrative
interview
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Your research topic
• Ethnographic approach
• 1) What type of cultural or social group would
you see if using an ethnographic approach for
your research?
• 2) What aspects of the cultural or social group
would you want to observe (think about
cultural, social and group norms)
• 3) What type of observer would you want to be?
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Discussion
• Develop topics or research questions as many
as you can.
• Identify whether or not the topic or research
questions lead you to do a qualitative
research.