Tag Archives: research method

Outcome-Based Research: Directing Research Towards the Desired Goal

Have you ever heard of or read about outcome-based research (OBR)? Does it sound familiar?

The truth is, outcome-based research is a word play from outcome-based education (OBE), a popular theory that emphasizes the outcomes or goals of an educational system, that is, the focus is not on content but to the object of the training – the student. Also, OBE does not follow the rigid dictates of some sort of methodology to educate the student. It focuses on the outcome, or goal as the ultimate measure of the effectiveness of a curriculum. OBR works the same way.

The Principle of Outcome-Based Research

The idea of OBR just occurred in my mind as I read through or heard about outcome-based education. Why not adopt the same principle in doing research? Make it goal-oriented just like OBE.

As research director of the university, I embarked on the idea by holding a three-day research planning workshop two weeks ago. And I used e-tools in putting the OBR approach to work. The e-tools I used consisted of a free version of Vensim®, a systems analysis tool and XMind, a mindmapping software.

I believe that research performance in the university will be boosted further by the innovative approach of outcome-based research. The focus is on the goal of research founded on the research agenda of the university.

Vensim was used to identify which specific issues need to be addressed by research programs, projects, or activities. The tool was used to help unravel which variable or variables of the whole chain of interconnected events or resource states really matter. It also helped the researcher discern if he or she has the relevant expertise to do research along an issue or problem identified in the systems analysis.

When the specific issue or problem has already been identified, the participants of the workshop came up with their desired research goal to help address the issue or problem. The desired goal became the head of the fishbone diagram created using XMind.

Outcome-based research starts at the goal, then works back to identify the steps required to achieve the pre-set goal. I provide below an example of the OBR approach:

pollution mitigation
Outcome-based research approach to mitigate pollution using low-cost technologies.

Outcome-based Research is Goal-oriented

You would notice that by stating clearly the goal of research, everything falls in place. Research now is not simply just research for the sake of research but an exercise which can help resolve an issue or problem. The steps required in carrying out the research venture are also identified such that all efforts converge towards a desired goal. It is a step-by-step process.

Outcome-based research, therefore, is a new approach that brings the value of research towards a higher level. It is responsive to the needs of society. It does not stop at publications as the outcome of research but a much higher goal that can make life better for everyone. Research is not just for the sake of personal gain but for the sake of humanity.

©2015 August 2 P. A. Regoniel

Method and Methodology: The Difference

This article explains the difference between method and methodology. These two terms are often interchanged although they mean different things. Read on to distinguish one from the other. Examples are provided to clarify the issue.

In writing the third chapter of the thesis or the methodology section, beginning researchers often confuse method with the methodology. Ironically, some of those students who have finished their undergraduate thesis still could not discern the difference between the two words. Some just say that they mean the same thing. Is this pronouncement correct?

Difference Between Method and Methodology

Looking carefully at the two words, notice that the method is a root word of methodology. Common sense prescribes that the method is just a part of the methodology. Logic dictates that the method gets defined first. What then is a method?

The “method” described in this discussion refers particularly to “research methods.” Research methods are the tools, processes, or ways by which researchers obtain data.

How are data obtained then?

method of projection
Time series analysis?

In social science research, the data gathered for analysis by researchers are obtained using interview, focus group discussion, participant observation, survey, among others. In the natural sciences, data may be obtained using various techniques. For example, an ecologist might want to mark and recapture animals for population studies. A taxonomist might wish to count the scales of fish to distinguish one species from another (morphometrics). A geologist might want to measure the size of soil particles. Or a botanist might want to identify and count all trees in a quadrat. All of these activities refer to methods.

On the other hand, methodology still refers to method but with an extra “ology” at the end of the word. Ology means a discipline of study or branch of knowledge. Therefore, methodology as a combination of ology and method is essentially a study of methods.

Now, methodology suggests that there is a need to study research methods. In writing a thesis or research, it is important to consider what methods are appropriate.

How then shall you know which method to use in your particular study? The answer is simple. You just have to get back to the very reason you embarked on the study.

Where should you look for it?

Of course, the ultimate guide in your research journey is the very reason you are conducting that study. What for is the study? What are its objectives?

These questions are easily answered by simply going back to your first chapter or introduction and reading what you have written in your problem statements or objectives. The first question will be replied to by the first method you will use to satisfy its information requirements. The first method may also answer the next question, or there may be a need for you to devise or find another method.

For example, here are problem statements and the corresponding methods to be used:

Statement of the Problem
Method
1. What is the profile of the respondents in terms of age, gender, and educational attainment?1. Questionnaire
2. What is the level of awareness of the community on coastal ordinances?2. Focus group discussion
3. What infrastructures are indicators of the community’s adaptation to soil erosion?3. Photo-documentation, video footages
4. What is the distribution range of the monkey population?4. Remote sensing
5. Is there a significant difference between blood pressure before and after exercise?5. Blood pressure readings using a sphygmomanometer

Having listed the methods in the above table, you should justify why you used such methods and the guiding principles for using those methods. Describe in detail how the methods will be used to answer the questions you have posed in your study. A suitable method can be replicated or repeated in a similar way. This means that you will have to:

1. define your assumptions,
2. state where you will conduct your study and why you chose that site,
3. determine the specific members of the population and decide how many of them will be involved,
4. specify what statistical tests will have to be applied,
5. describe what procedure or procedures you will take to gather the data, and
6. identify the materials to be used, among others.

The whole thing pertains to your methodology.

If you have written the methodology in such a manner that the reader understands the why and how of your chosen methods, then you have succeeded in writing the third chapter. The rest of the paper should reflect the application of the research methodology.

References

Cram, F. (2013). Method or methodology, what’s the difference? Retrieved 11 February 2015 from http://whanauoraresearch.co.nz/news/method-or-methodology-whats-the-difference/

Gabriel, D. (2011). Methods and methodology. Retrieved 11 February 2015 from http://deborahgabriel.com/2011/05/13/methods-and-methodology/

©2015 February 15 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (February 15, 2015). Method and Methodology: The Difference. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2015/02/15/method-methodology-difference/

Qualitative Interviewing: 4 Reminders about Question Construction

The goal of the interview is to collect whole answers from the interviewee. Question formulation and delivery are critical in this process.

Interviewees respond not only to the kind of question that is context dependent but also to the way the question is asked. The wording, ordering, and kind of language used affect the context (e.g. perception of the interviewee) of the question. Even your tone, enunciation, gestures, and facial expressions as interviewer affect the direction of the interviewee’s answers.

A question could be closed-ended or open. A closed-ended question could be answered by a yes or no, or a list of choices is provided where the interviewee may choose his/her answer. Otherwise the question is open-ended when answers depend on the participant’s own categories and opinions.

It is said that closed-ended questions are hard to construct but easy to use in data gathering while open-ended is the opposite. Actually, both types are hard to formulate since both need rapport and both are prone to errors when not properly prepared.

So when preparing your questionnaire, there are important things to consider in question construction and delivery.

4 Reminders About Question Construction

1. Start with the easiest question.

An interview schedule (whether for structured or semi-structured setting) should always start with the easiest, most comfortable question to establish rapport for a one-shot setting or maintain the rapport for a multilevel setting. Depending on the culture, the interviewer should be cognizant on what subtopic or question would the interviewee consider as the easiest and most comfortable. Usually, questions about basic personal information seem the least threatening and thus, the most uncomplicated.

2. There is proper ordering of questions.

The ordering of the questions affects the entire interview process. Whether you choose the deductive (from general to specific) or the inductive (specific to broad) arrangement, questions are always in a network. That is, the subsequent question should be linked to the one it follows. This is to help the interviewee in organizing the information that she/he is going to share.

Unless inevitably necessary, questions should not be isolated from one another. When you ask questions randomly, as if they are just popping out of nowhere, you will definitely confuse the interviewee.

3. Remember that questions are connected.

Since questions are linked together, a preceding question may significantly affect the interviewee’s answer to the subsequent question. Bradburn, Sudman, and Wansink (2004) cited a study that illustrates how the ordering of questions about advertising affects the women’s answers. Women’s attitudes (answers) when asked about their opinions toward advertising were more positive when questions about dress advertising preceded the general questions about advertising than when it was the other way around.

Given this tendency, you may opt to carefully arrange the questions in such a way that the unnecessary effect of the preceding question will be minimized and will not be carried over to the next. That is why, a pilot interview is always recommended to evaluate your prepared schedule.

lots of questions

4. Learn how to probe.

However efficiently formulated your questions are, always expect that the interviewee’s answers may not always be complete. Reasons could be that the questions are not clear, the interviewee is reluctant to answer or there is problem with the retrieval of the information needed. If this is the case, probe.

If questions are misunderstood or unclear, just rephrase the question and immediately ask again or you may just ask again later. The interviewee may hesitate due to uncertainty of what more information is needed.

If this is the case, ask for more by paraphrasing his answers followed by prompts e.g. “What else?”, “Why?”, “What do you mean?, “In what way?, or “How?”

Prompts also are important to aid recall when interviewee has difficulty in remembering. You may give examples to serve as retrieval cues or to clarify the needed information (Dawson, 2007).

References

Bradburn, N.M., Sudman, S., & Wansink, B. (2004). Asking questions: The definitive guide to questionnaire designs – for market research, political polls, and social and health questionnaires. CA: Josey-Bass: A Wiley Imprint.

Dawson, C. (2007). A practical guide to qualitative research: A user friendly manual in mastering research techniques and projects. Oxford: How To Content.

©2015 February 10 J. G. Pizarro

Qualitative Interviewing: 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Question Formulation

There are common mistakes that are often committed by an interviewer who is new in the field. Even the seasoned ones sometimes inadvertently overlook these errors. To avoid these mistakes, a carefully prepared and tested set of questions is the key.

One classic example given by Bradburn, Sudman, and Wansink (2004) to illustrate the criticality of proper construction of questions is the difference between the two questions namely, “Is it a sin to smoke while praying?”, and “Is it a sin to pray while smoking?”. The inquiry brought about by an argument between two priests is to find whether it is a sin to pray and smoke at the same time.

When both asked each other’s superior, the first question (of the first priest) got a ‘yes’ answer while the latter (question of the second priest) got a ‘no’. The difference in the answers is not due to conflicting opinions but due to the disparity in the context.

In the first question, there is the assumption that the individual is already praying when he/she opted to smoke along with praying. While the second implies the opposite, that is, the individual is already smoking when he opted to pray (maybe to ask for strength to resist the vice). This reminds us that a slight change in the wording of a question changes its meaning and context.

The following are six reminders on the common mistakes to be avoided when preparing and asking questions for interview.

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Question Formulation

1. Avoid underestimation, overestimation, and over-assumption.

Underestimation. Use simple words but not too simple. Do not underestimate your interviewee’s capacity to understand. Doing so might offend her. Unless necessary, slang language should be minimized not because it is informal but because some slang words cannot be easily understood. Jargons too should be simplified.

Overestimation. You should not overestimate as well. Do not ask questions beyond the interviewee’s ability to comprehend and also do not over-assume that the interviewee is knowledgeable as this situation is prone to social desirability bias. This bias refers to the interviewee’s motivation to appear “good” like being smart or morally good in front of the interviewer. Thus, even if he does not totally understand the question, or has no knowledge regarding the topic of the question, he might attempt to answer it to appear knowledgeable.

Over-assumption. One example of over-assumption is when you assume that an interviewee who has a driver’s license automatically has experience in driving an SUV. Without the preceding question “Do you happen to have driven an SUV?” the question “How does it feel driving an SUV?” is an over-assumption.

2. Avoid double-barreled questions.

Do not confuse the interviewee by asking double-barreled questions. This may result to vague answers since the interviewee gets confused to the question that contains two (or more) concepts (or objects) that are put together needing two (or more) different opinions but asks only one answer. There are actually two (or more) questions compounded together.

For example, “Are your teachers morally good and kind?” and “Do you support homosexuality and gender equality, or do you support heterosexuality and freedom of religion?”

In the first question, being morally good is different from being kind. The two concepts should be separated to formulate two questions asking for two different answers. The second question contains four different concepts that should ask four different opinions.

3. Avoid leading questions.

Social desirability bias may also be at work if leading questions are delivered. These are questions that influence the direction of the interviewee’s answers either to correspond with what the interviewee thinks as socially desirable answer or as the answer expected of her by the interviewer (Seidman, 2006). These could be in the form of predisposing questions, leading probes, or loaded questions.

Predisposing Questions. There are questions that predispose the interviewee to provide a socially desirable answer. The question “Do you jog?” for example, may seem neutral and not leading at first. But to some interviewees, this may become predisposing since jogging is considered as fashionable and good. The interviewee is prone to provide an answer that appears good. Researchers suggest the use of the word “happen” in “Do you happen to jog?” since it neutralizes the question implying that it is not expectant of a positive answer from the interviewee (Bradburn et al., 2004).

The question “What is the opinion of an honor student like you on cheating?” will likely elicit a socially desirable answer since including the phrase “honor student like you” is leading the interviewee to desire to be seen as good. The question should start with “What do you think is the general opinion of students on cheating?” which could then be followed by “How about your opinion?”.

Leading Probes. Asking leading probes is like subtly shoving the answers into the interviewee’s mouths. For example, the probe question “Are you saying that you are already in love with him?” when you want to clarify what she means by the statement “Well, I think I miss him now”, is leading because it creates an idea that may not be originally present in the interviewee’s mind. The probe should be open-ended like “Why?”, “How?” or “What do you mean by that?”

Loaded questions. These are worded in such a way that they will get answers expected or desired by the interviewer. These questions contain loaded words which could be emotional like “apathetic” and “problematic” or political like “trickery” and “defraud.”

The question “Do you think your teachers are too burdened and apathetic to help you in your academic concerns?” is loaded in such a way that it will likely elicit a biased answer. The use of the loaded words implies that the writer of the question have biases against teachers. It should be rephrased into “Do you think your teachers help you in your academic concerns?”

In his early surveys on workers, Karl Marx asked the question “Does your employer or his representative resort to trickery in order to defraud you of your part of your earnings?” (Bradburn et al., 2004). He was clearly an advocate of the working class given his loaded question leading the interviewees to provide a biased opinion against the capitalist employers. The question should be asked “Does your employer treat you fairly when it comes to your earnings?” to get the real answers of the interviewees.

References

Bradburn, N.M., Sudman, S., & Wansink, B. (2004). Asking questions: The definitive guide to questionnaire designs – for market research, political polls, and social and health questionnaires. CA: Josey-Bass: A Wiley Imprint.

Seidman, I. (2006). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in Education and Social sciences (3rd ed.) New York: Teachers College Press.

© 2015 February 8 J. G. Pizarro

Quantitative Methods: Meaning and Characteristics

What are quantitative methods of research? What is its definition, when are these methods used and what are its characteristics?

This article defines quantitative methods and lists seven characteristics that discriminate these research methods from qualitative research approaches.

The methods used by researchers may either be quantitative or qualitative. The decision to select the method largely depends on the researcher’s judgment as well as the nature of the research topic. Some research topics are better studied using quantitative methods while others are more appropriately explored using qualitative methods.

Recently, many researchers use both methods, thereby the era of using mixed methods in research arose as a more desirable and encompassing approach in understanding phenomena. Qualitative methods may be used to explore a phenomenon and identify factors for a quantitative study. Or, a quantitative study may identify research areas that require the application of qualitative methods to provide an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon at hand or when the use of quantitative methods is insufficient to answer questions that relate to human behavior such as feelings, values, and beliefs.

J. Pizarro has already described qualitative research in this site, so this article focuses on quantitative methods, its meaning and characteristics.

What are quantitative methods?

Quantitative methods are those research methods that use numbers as its basis for making generalizations about a phenomenon. These numbers originate from objective scales of measurement of the units of analysis called variables. Four types of measurement scale exist namely nominal, ordinal, ratio, and interval (see 4 Statistical Scales of Measurement).

The data that will serve as the basis for explaining a phenomenon, therefore, can be gathered through surveys. Such surveys use instruments that require numerical inputs or direct measurements of parameters that characterize the subject of investigation (e.g. pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, turbidity, and conductivity to measure water quality). These numbers will then be analyzed using the appropriate statistical application software to unravel significant relationships or differences between variables. The output serves as the basis for making the conclusions and generalizations of the study.

7 Characteristics of Quantitative Methods

Seven characteristics discriminate qualitative methods of research from qualitative ones.

  1. Data gathering instruments contain items that solicit measurable characteristics of the population (e.g. age, the number of children, educational status, economic status).
  2. Standardized, pre-tested instruments guide data collection thus ensuring the accuracy, reliability and validity of data.
  3. For more reliable data analysis, a normal population distribution curve is preferred over a non-normal distribution. This requires a large population, the numbers of which depend on how the characteristics of the population vary. This requires adherence to the principle of random sampling to avoid researcher’s bias in interpreting the results that defeat the purpose of research.
  4. The data obtained using quantitative methods are organized using tables, graphs, or figures that consolidate large numbers of data to show trends, relationships, or differences among variables. This fosters understanding to the readers or clients of the research investigation.
  5. Researchers can repeat the quantitative method to verify or confirm the findings in another setting. This reinforces the validity of groundbreaking discoveries or findings thus eliminating the possibility of spurious or erroneous conclusions.
  6. Quantitative models or formula derived from data analysis can predict outcomes. If-then scenarios can be constructed using complex mathematical computations with the aid of computers.
  7. Advanced digital or electronic instruments are used to measure or gather data from the field.

Reference

University of Southern California (2015). Quantitative methods. Retrieved on 3 January, 2015 from http://goo.gl/GMiwt

© 2015 January 3 P. A. Regoniel

How to Conduct Qualitative Interviewing

Interviewing is the most common method that is being used in qualitative research especially in phenomenological studies and other approaches that use principles of phenomenology. Its strength lies in its facility that allows active participation of the data source (interviewee) and firsthand data collection which if properly done would increase the research credibility.

The following is the general procedure of conducting an interview.

Preparation

Depending on the type of interview setting, the researcher should prepare either a questionnaire set or guide questions that correspond to the research problem. This is called an interview schedule which may include a structured or semi-structured script designed to maximize time and minimize unnecessary elements that may enter the interview process.

Along with the interview schedule is the protocol that contains the reminders regarding the codes of ethics of research particularly in using interview, e.g., the do’s and don’ts. It is imperative that the researcher is aware of the ethical considerations of research. As long as a human being is involved in research, an informed consent that contains the topic, objectives, and uses of the data, the confidentiality as well as the rights and privileges of both the interviewee and interviewer should be prepared (see Dawson, 2007).

Choice of recorders depends on the setting. A structured interview may just need a questionnaire set wherein the interviewer may just tick on the boxes for every close-ended question. Or for open ended-questions, the interviewer may write the answers directly on the provided space on the questionnaires. Note-taking is useful as back-up for audio and visual recording and also if the interviewee refuses the other forms of records. The researcher should provide a recording format for notes which may include spaces for verbatim answers, behavioural observations, context elements, and voice details if these other details are needed.

The most common method being used in interview is audio recording. The researcher may also opt to use this if other details e.g. voice, intonation, enunciation for later analysis, aside from the verbatim answers are deemed necessary. If the interviewee allows it, audio recording may also be used as back-up or for convenience and time-maximization. Audio and visual recording like pictures and videos are effective in semi-structured and unstructured interview settings.

Whatever method the researcher decides to use, it is important that a back-up is provided in cases of unexpected setbacks from the first records.

Rapport Building

Interviewer-interviewee relationship should start with the invitation for participation. This could be done formally thru letters or in person verbally. This is the stage wherein the researcher introduces the study, objectives, importance of the interviewee’s participation, and interview details e.g. protocols and agreements, informed consent.

Be reminded that the first things in this stage are to gain the trust and establish the willingness of the participant to enter the interview setting. Otherwise, the interview will not be able to push through or the data that will be collected will be thin. The participant’s answers will be too limited due to some reservations brought about by half-hearted involvement. The goal of rapport building is to be able to extract full honest answers.

Agreement on the time and location of the interview should be done in this stage also. Consider the participant’s suggestions foremost. The researcher should avoid insisting his/her own time for convenience.

Interview Setting

The researcher should execute the designed setting on the agreed time and location. The design could be one-shot or multi-tiered depending upon the scope and depth of interview. One-shot is ideal for initial exploration, baseline studies or researches that require very limited data collection time. Multi-tiered is necessary for in-depth inquiries like case studies and some phenomenological researches. Dolbeare and Schuman (Schuman, 1982) designed a useful three interview series for phenomenological approach that is effective in enriching and strengthening the participant’s subjective meanings of a particular experience (see Seidman, 2006).

Be reminded that the interview is a dialogue with a particular focus on the defined topic. That is, there should be an exchange of words – the interviewer providing the guide by asking questions and delivering follow-ups and prompts; the interviewee as answering the questions and responding to the prompts and follow-ups. If the design is unstructured, the interviewer may also provide answers if necessary. The guide and prompts are needed to lead the process in its proper track.

Asking questions in this stage is critical. The interviewer should be trained to learn some skills especially in formulating and delivering questions. A question asked in the wrong way will not be able to extract full honest answers. Leading, loaded and double-barrel questions are some examples of these mistakes in question formulation.

Acknowledgment/Closure

This stage definitely ends the interviewer-interviewee relationship. Some researchers take this part for granted thinking that the relationship only starts once they begin asking questions and ends with the last questions and saying thank you. This is not the case however. The relationship should end properly by providing closure like sending a thank you letter and/or giving a token of appreciation. This is an implication that the established relationship ends permanently.

References

Dawson, C. (2007). A practical guide to qualitative research: A user-friendly manual in mastering research techniques and projects. Oxford: How To Content.

Schuman, D. (1982). Policy analysis, education, and everyday life. Lexington, MA:Heath.

Seidman, I. (2006). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in Education and Social sciences (3rd ed.) New York: Teachers College Press.

©2014 December 22 J G Pizarro

Qualitative Methods: How to Collect Data

You may not realize it but you have already been doing simple research almost every day. If you want to know the price of a particular canned good, for example, you may decide to go to the store to get your answer or simply ask someone you think has the answer. This activity per se is an example of simple undocumented everyday research.

The research that is being taught in school, however, is a more complex methodological documented process of inquiry. Since the focus of this inquiry is far more complicated than your everyday exploration, there is a need for an appropriate and strategized set of tools in collecting the answers (called as data) for the questions that you pose (Dawson, 2007). The process is documented as a contribution to the extant set of knowledge as confirmation, negation or addition.

The following are the methods or sets of tools that you could use in qualitative research.

Interview

This is a common method wherein the researcher/interviewer arranges a meeting with the interviewee/participant for a dialogue about a topic that is the subject of the inquiry. In here, personal and social interactions occur wherein the interviewee serves as the source of data (Jupp, 2006). This could be done one-on-one or by group and could be face-to-face, by phone or computer mediated. This is analogical to asking someone (say one-on-one) about the price of canned sardines.

interviewing
A woman conducting an interview (Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung@Flicker.com).

 

Observation

As opposed to documents, the researcher gathers the data firsthand. He/She does the recording process personally using notes and/or audio/video. There are two ways of conducting observation, i.e., naturalistic and participant. If the researcher wants to retain the natural setting of the data source field so as to minimize the researcher influence, she or he may conduct a naturalistic observation without disturbing the participants in the field. In everyday research, if the individual wants to know how to fish, she may just observe others do it; otherwise she may join them and experience the activity herself. Participating in the setting is known as participant observation. Being a researcher-participant would further enrich the data as the researcher himself has additional point of comparison for analysis as long as he retains reflexivity. Reflexivity is a careful monitoring of the researcher’s biases, assumptions, and own perceptions regarding the experience.

Documents

While observation and interview involve social and personal interaction, and firsthand data collection, these are not available in documents. Documents as extant records of information; e.g., text, voice, sound and images are rich source of second-hand data which are still useful especially as supporting information for triangulation as such. Triangulation is a combination of data from at least two different sources to strengthen the findings. They could be journal entries, pictures, videos, audios, archives and other written (soft or hard) records like affidavits and legal papers.

Facebook statuses or comments on its walls are documents which could be used as data. Analogically, if you want to know the lyrics of a particular song, you may just surf on the net and read on the site.

Survey/Questionnaire

This method does not require personal interaction and/or dialogue as the participant called as respondent may just fill out a set of items or answer a series of questions written on a paper or posted on the internet. This could be self-administered or guided by the prompts of the researcher. It is just like giving someone a piece of paper asking for her name and contact number.

References

Dawson, C. (2007). A practical guide to qualitative research: A user friendly manual in mastering research techniques and projects. Oxford: How To Content

Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage dictionary of Social Science research methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

©2014 December 3 J G Pizarro

Qualitative Research: Definition and Principles

What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research? This article defines qualitative research, its focus of inquiry,  principles, and seven qualitative research approaches.

Research is a process of inquiry. It starts with a question whose answer could be acquired through a chosen approach and designed methods perceived as suitable. There are two approaches for inquiry, i. e., quantitative and qualitative which could also be mixed together if deemed appropriate.

What is qualitative
research?

Quantitative research uses numerical data for analysis while qualitative research uses non-numerical data and those other information which are not amenable to quantitative measurement, for description and interpretation (Jupp, 2006). In simple terms, when numbers are used to answer the question, then it’s quantitative otherwise it is qualitative; e. g., images, statements, and stories.

What is its focus of inquiry?

Qualitative approach is often small-scale and/or micro-level (Jupp, 2006) as it focuses on the ‘thick’ description of a particular phenomenon, culture, social reality, discourse, theory, and experience (Flick et al., 2000). These things could not be substantially inquired about with just the use of numbers. If a researcher wants to describe the life ways of a particular group for example, the data that will be needed involve images, narratives, conversations, text and other documents.

The three world views

The principles of qualitative approach could be summarized into three views, i. e., interpretivism, constructivism, and inductivism (Jupp, 2006).

1. Constructivism recognizes that meanings of things are not objectively discovered; rather they are subjectively created and imposed by people in given contexts. If the context changes so is the construct. For example, meanings created by a Filipino mother for motherhood will be different from the definitions provided by an American mother.

playing at the beach
Mother and child playing at the beach (Photo by: Sagie@Flicker.com)

2. Interpretivism emphasizes that the definitions of both are equally important for analysis and that there is no exact standard definition that requires one universal objective interpretation that is apparent in the tradition of positivism (a view of quantitative approach).

3. In inductivism, the new set of knowledge, meanings or theories are emergent through the process of induction. The approach does not require the testing of a particular extant theory or set of knowledge; rather it aims to produce new ones.

The seven approaches

There are about seven qualitative approaches being utilized across the different areas of Sciences, Humanities and Education.

1. Ethnography is usually useful in cultural studies as it aims to explore, describe and understand an intact cultural group.

2. Case study is particularly being utilized in clinical and health settings. Its goal is to collate and analyze all relevant information about a particular case under investigation such as an HIV patient or an individual with schizophrenia.

3. Grounded Theory focuses on emerging a theory about a particular reality so it undergoes a rigorous process of reflexivity, cross-analysis and emergence.

4. Phenomenology puts into the surface the participants’ subjective meanings of a phenomenon as experienced by him/her.

5. Autoethnography is an approach wherein the researcher himself/herself is the researched. This is usual in queer theory, sexuality studies, research areas, and emotionally loaded experiences.

6. Meta-analysis and discourse analysis are common in philosophical researches. These involve putting together theories or discourses for cross-analysis, confirmation, debates, and/or theory generation.

7. Narrative research is for the exploration and description of events and personal accounts which are chronologically connected, thus historical. This is interconnected with larger events beyond the individual.

References

Flick, U., Kardoff, E.V., & Steinke, I. (Eds). (2000). A companion to qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage dictionary of Social Science research
methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

©2014 November 16 Jemimah Pizarro

Qualitative Research: Three Ethnographic Research Techniques

What is ethnographic research? How is this research approach conducted?

This article explains the meaning of ethnographic research and discusses three ethnographic research techniques namely mapping the block, private language, and body language. A detailed example is given for each of the techniques. 

What is Ethnographic Research?

Ethnographic research is a qualitative research approach where the researcher captures a particular phenomenon by describing or explaining it without the use of statistics. It involves a systematic collection, description, and analysis of data to explain the subject or develop a theory of a “cultural behavior.”

Further, ethnographic research is an in-depth study of a people’s culture,  or of a nation. It may also refer to studies of culture prevailing in different professional fields like education, business, communication, tourism, and language.

The following are three ethnographic research techniques that are easy to follow. These are mapping the block, private language, and body language.

Three Research Techniques Used in Ethnographic Research

1. Mapping the Block

One of the research tools for ethnographic study is called mapping of the block. This approach uses  a vivid documentation of observations made in a place or a street in which a phenomenon that you want to investigate is located.

For example, if you want to study the culture of an indigenous group of people called the “Molbog” living in the remote island of Balabac in Palawan, you have to get as much detail about their village or houses. Or, if you want to study a group of students in the classroom, you have to tell exactly where the classroom is located and how it looks like. A one-time visit is not enough to map a block so you must make repeat observations. I did it once and it took me two weeks to map a block of my study area.

2. Private Language

Another way of gathering data is by capturing the private language used by a participant. Private language may pertain to a single word, an expression or a sentence. (next page please)

For example, a participant may use a common word or a totally strange word where you can’t find its meaning, even if you consult a dictionary of their language or use context clues to know its meaning. That’s because it’s only the participant who knows about it.  You have to make sure, however, that this “private language” is important to your study.

3. Body Language

A third technique of ethnographic research uses keen observation of a participant’s  body language. Once you see something peculiar as to the way he/she moves or rolls his/her eyes, bear that in mind so that you can put that observation into writing once you get the chance. But then again, you must make sure that his/her body language is relevant to your study.

Here are detailed examples for the three ethnographic research techniques:

Detailed Examples of Ethnographic Research

Example 1: Mapping the Block

The Block of XYZ Language Academy

From my dormitory in Molo, Iloilo City, I often pass by M.H. Del Pilar Street with nothing so interesting. Old buildings and newly erected buildings can be seen everywhere with different structures and architectures uniquely designed according to the services and purposes of the establishments. It’s a long queue of banks, hotels, restaurants and offices.

buildings cartoon

But one day, while searching for a language school to conduct an action research, a newly found friend told me to try XYZ. I was not familiar with that school and I didn’t even know its location. So, armed with a letter of request , I rode a jeepney towards XYZ.

XYZ is renting a space in the John B. Lacson Maritime University, the first maritime university in Asia. It is located beside La Fiesta Hotel, just before the newly constructed flyover.

The façade of the John B. Lacson Maritime University building is painted off peach while the pillars are Gothic, like the one I saw in La Salle, Taft; and in the Supreme Court in Manila. The pillars are circular with distinct columns to support the building. The upper part of each pillar has concave spiral designs in both sides which are exquisitely made.

From the ground floor, after walking about four meters ahead, I saw a stairway at the right side. Each stairway has ten small steps.

While making my first step upstairs, I saw that the wall was originally painted off white, but now became gray or dirty white. Once I reached the 10th step, I arrived at a platform, where I saw another stairway with the same number of steps as the first one. That platform, which has space enough for only a few people to pass by, has a well-decorated wall with yellow plastic flowers. On top of the flowers are the crystal cubes. There are 5 cubes in a column, and 15 cubes in a row; a total of 75 cubes. The same is true in the third floor. The only difference is that the color of the flowers at that level is orange.

Once I reached the third floor, I turned right, and then walked a little further. At my right side, there’s a signage of XYZ, at the corner of an aisle. I passed through the aisle and took a passage towards the Korean managers’ office.

The entrance door of the office is made of glass with no tint at all. I can see a divider from outside. To go inside, I must push the glass door.

Using Mixed Methods in Research

Using either quantitative or qualitative methods of research is insufficient in addressing many research questions. This article explains the merits of combining both methods.

Most of us are all too familiar with the terms quantitative and qualitative research methods. The quantitative research method, as the term connotes, focuses on the analysis of a discrete set of ideas. Discrete, in this sense, means distinct ideas that can be subjected to the four statistical scales of variable measurement namely nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. The quantitative approach is commonly used in the hard sciences such as the biological and the physical sciences, where the subjects being studied can be amassed in great quantities. This research method, however, could not be used more effectively in situations that require an in-depth understanding of the subject being scrutinized, particularly humans, who are regarded as complex beings whose behavior cannot be simply explained by numbers or simple quantification. It is viewed that the quantitative method provides a superficial answer to the issues at hand. The qualitative method, thus, comes into play.

scientist

Purpose and Scope of the Study

The above explanation boils down to the realization that what really matters in the performance of research is for you as a researcher to be very clear about your purpose in doing research. What are your objectives in your investigation? What, really, is the purpose of your study?

The purpose or objectives of research define the direction of literature review, research design and data collection. You cannot afford to study all aspects of a phenomenon. It makes sense to limit your scope on those items that you can adequately answer with the resources you have at hand.

Two major questions arise that will help you shape your objectives:

  1. Are you competent enough to pursue the topic, and
  2. Do you have the time, money, and willingness to work towards the completion of your research?

Why Mixed Methods?

In every phenomenon, the 5Ws and 1H of reporting symbolizing the What, Why, When, Who, Where and How of a phenomenon, provides a complete picture for a thorough understanding of a point of interest. Applying the quantitative method answers the What, When, Where, and How Many of data in the form of numbers. It does not answer the Why‘s and How‘s of the phenomenon. Hence, the qualitative method comes in. Combining these two methods give rise to the recently getting popular research approach termed as Mixed Methods, which captures both the breadth and depth of information. Mixed Methods is more encompassing; a more comprehensive answer to research questions is arrived at.

Quantitative and qualitative research methods complement each other. thus, the use of Mixed Methods is a recommended approach especially when dealing with human behavior.

© 2013 December 17 P. A. Regoniel