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Qualitative Research Issues

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Q 1: Discuss the key differences when considering what constitutes good data. On a more practical note, use the recommended texts to focus on the important factors that you will need to consider when designing an interview, a focus group, and an ethnographic study.

A 1: The definition of the ‘good data’ is both similar and different in the case of five qualitative methodology approaches identified by Creswell (2013). Proceeding from the selected strategy of purposeful sampling, various qualitative researchers would follow their own specific approaches to data sampling and classification.

For instance, in narrative research strategy, the main factor to be taken into account would be the trustworthiness of the respondent(s), his/her/their willingness to provide accurate perception of the life story under consideration (Nunkoosing 2005). The grounded theory-based and phenomenological research designs demand the construction of theory-based and criterion sampling, which would indicate the relevance of selected samples of participants for the research (Creswell 2013, p.128). The ethnographic research is predicated upon the (at least partial) immersion of the researcher in the social environment of his/her focus culture-sharing group, being additionally complicated by the issue of making rapport with the site’s gatekeeper(s), which might lead to further challenges in the course of data collection procedures (Creswell 2013, p.125). Finally, in a case study research strategy, the selection of the ‘good data’ pertaining to the case study’s underlying theme requires a consideration of several representative cases, which may enable the researcher to generalize on their relevance thereto (Creswell 2013, p.128). Given the importance of obtaining multiple and varied perspectives for a qualitative research’s validity, maximum variation and/or criterion sampling strategies appear to be applicable to most cases thereof, with the exception of a narrative and grounded theory-based research (Creswell 2013, p.127).

Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson (2012) outline some “general interview concerns” that a qualitative researcher is likely to face (2012, p.136). These include obtaining trust, which has a bearing on the validity of information received by the interviewer; social interaction issues, i.e. the impact of interaction between the interviewee and the interviewer on the construction of the meaning in the course of the interview; the use of appropriate language, which simplifies the communication between the two parties; the interview’s location, with the resulting impact upon the interviewee’s perception of his/her environment and power relations between him/her and the interviewer; and the recording interviews’ procedure, the exact methods and forms whereof should depend on the interviewee’s concern with his/her privacy and data confidentiality (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson 2012, pp.137-139). By addressing all these factors, an optimal degree of interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee is possible, resulting in the receipt of accurate and valid research data.

The construction of a focus group is predicated upon the selected research approach and the respective method of purposeful sampling. Accordingly, there are no uniform criteria to this end, but each qualitative research approach entails the relevant methodology of selecting an appropriate focus group (Creswell 2013). For instance, a narrative research strategy might focus on individuals considered to be either typical for the society they live in, or having a sizable impact on this society’s affairs. Alternatively, they might represent marginal cases that would delimit the boundaries of their culture’s social conventions (Creswell 2013, p.119). Similarly, a phenomenological or grounded theory-based research would focus on the individuals with the shared experience of either single phenomenon or a collaborative action/process. They would constitute such research’s focus group.

With regard to an ethnographic study, one should bear in mind that an ethnographical research approach demands securing of the gatekeeper’s willingness to provide access to the research site. Thus, the issues of reciprocity and possible disruptive consequences of the research should be addressed in communicating with a gatekeeper (Creswell 2013, p.125). In addition, the issue of the choice of role should be addressed (i.e. complete immersion versus ‘outsider’ observation), as this would impact on the future results to be obtained by a researcher (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson 2012, p.150).

Q 2: Based on the recommended texts, discuss what options are open to you for analysing qualitative data. What are the complexities of undertaking qualitative research? How can you demonstrate authenticity, rigour, depth, and transferability in a qualitative study? What ethical issues will you need to consider?

A 2: The qualitative data analysis is ultimately based on the respective research methodology, with both sampling criteria and purposes of the research at large. Given the anthropocentric character of most types of qualitative research, one should underscore the predominantly interactive nature of a qualitative data’s analysis. While observational and interview-based techniques would enable a researcher to elucidate the factual issues pertaining to his/her research, it is the creation and attribution of a meaning to the collected data that are of utmost importance to the research.

Following Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson (2012), one may make use of such mapping techniques as repertory grid technique and cognitive mapping. The use of photographs and other visual techniques to be presented to the research participants would enable the researcher to understand the former’s responses and preferences in the course of an interview and/or observation better, thus, contributing to a greater depth of the research (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson 2012, pp. 152-154). In addition, the action research technique may be applicable in the ground theory-based and ethnographical studies; although, this method may be controversial to some research stakeholders (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson 2012, pp. 155-157). Finally, the ethnographical research strategies make frequent use of quantitative data coding techniques and methods (i.e. surveys, census taking, etc.), making this approach’s data analysis techniques partially similar to those used in quantitative research designs (Creswell 2013).

The complexities inherent in undertaking a qualitative research are mainly tied to the issues of subjectivity and unstructured nature of most observational and interviewing techniques, as well as to the essential limitation of certain methodological designs (i.e. the grounded theory-based ones). The selection of appropriate purposeful sampling criteria, for instance, poses particular challenges to the researchers (Creswell 2013). However, the qualitative researcher may still demonstrate a high level of authenticity, rigour, transferability, and depth if he/she is willing and able to follow basic criteria of qualitative research in providing multiple perspectives, accurately reflecting the participants’ concerns and narratives and complying with the research’s ethical requirements.

With respect to the latter, a qualitative researcher should consider such aspects as informed consent procedures, possible deception activities on behalf of the interviewee, maintenance of confidentiality with regard to research stakeholders and participants, research participants’ benefits and reciprocity, and the problem of tackling socially deviant or unusual research participants’ information (Creswell 2013, p.141). While the exact ethical issues to be confronted may vary, it should be remembered that an ethically based research requires the maintenance of good faith between the researcher and research participants, as well as the compliance with the research design’s boundaries.

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