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Legal Studies
LS 221
Owen Gallupe

Chapter 8 – Nature of Qualitative Research Basic Points  Qualitative research is concerned primarily with words and images rather than numbers.  It is usually inductive. o The process starts with field research, then concepts and theories are developed.  It tends to be interpretivist. o Concerned with finding out what an action or event means to the people involved.  Often constructionist o Social life is not seen as fixed, but as an outcome of interactions and negotiations.  Takes a naturalist perspective o When doing research, the social world should be left as undisturbed as possible. Kinds of Qualitative Research  Ethnography/participant observation o Immersed in the social setting o Observe and listen to people to gain appreciation for culture  Qualitative interviewing o In-depth, semi-structured or unstructured o Qualitative researchers conducting ethnographic or participant observation  Focus groups o Interview several people together, usually semi- structured  Discourse and conversation analysis o Analyse the language  Qualitative analysis of texts and documents Steps in Qualitative Research 1. Establish a general research question – What social issue are you studying? o e.g., Is the street environment predatory for people living there? 2. Select a relevant site and subjects – Where is the research being conducted and who are the research subjects? o e.g., People living on the streets or in homeless shelters. 3. Collect the data – Determine which methods to use. It may be best to use multiple methods. Fieldwork notes based on ethnographic observation and detailed notes of interviews o e.g., Ethnographic observations and interviews 4. Interpret the data – Determine the meanings that the research subjects attribute to the social environment. o e.g., In spite of the high crime rate, there is a great deal of social cohesion among small groups that look out for each other. o Text has to be transcribed, pull out themes and quotes that illustrate the themes. High rate of crime and social cohesion 5. Conceptual and theoretical work – Evaluate the data related to your research question from step 1 o e.g., In the absence of protective groups, the streets could be a very predatory environment for people who are entrenched there. But group cohesion tends to protect individuals from the actions of others  a) Tighter specification of the research question and  b) Collection of further data – Here the interpreting and theorizing process is intermixed with data collection. This is an iterative process. Data may confirm or contradict the interpretation which may lead again to more data collection. o e.g., More interviews with research subjects, perhaps some new or some revisited 6. Writing up and findings/conclusions – The researcher must prove the credibility of the research and why the research matters. o e.g., Provide insight into how social relationships can mitigate the effect of a high conflict environment by minimising the extent to which individuals are victimized. o Convince the reader that your work is credible and significant of the interpretations Theory and Concepts  Qualitative research often involves grounded theory: the use of data to develop theories. o This may involve an iterative process: going back and forth from data to theory, revising the theory in the process.  Qualitative research is also often used to test theories. o You can use an existing theory and test it. If there is a social phenomenon you are interested in and there‘s a theory already, you can study it. o This can be through an iterative process, or occasionally through theory testing in the conventional sense. Reliability and Validity  External reliability o Degree to which a study can be replicated  Can you reproduce the study – not easily done. o Difficult to achieve in qualitative research because it is impossible to freeze the social setting and circumstances of an initial study to replicate them o Ethnographer adopts same role as prior researcher  Internal reliability o Do different observers see the same things?  Will other observers see the same results in the same environment?  Internal validity o Generally very high because we are actually measuring the interpretation of their social world. Directly asses whether or not what you are observing matches with the theoretical concepts. o Is there a good match between what is observed and the resulting theoretical ideas? o You generally don‘t have to guess at the meaning of actions. o Strength of qualitative methods (ethnography)  External validity o Does what you find in one context have any relevance for other contexts? o Can the findings be generalized across social settings? o Difficult to achieve in qualitative research because of small sample sizes  Alternative Criteria for Evaluation o Trustworthiness  Credibility (internal validity)– different people interpret the social world in different ways  Do the people studied agree with the interpretation of their thoughts and actions offered by the researcher?  Conducted through respondent (member) validation by running it by the people you actually study. Conduct study, run the analysis by the people who were studies to see if they agree  Each participant is provided with an account of what he/she said to the researcher or others and a description of the behaviors observed  Goal is to make sure researcher‘s findings are in line with those of the people on whom the researcher was conducted  The people studied may become defensive and try to censor the research and give you false information  The people studied may not give genuine feedback on what the researcher produced, but may instead try to please the researcher.  The people studied may not have the expertise to provide meaningful comments.  Transferability, external validity, generalizability.  Can the findings be applied to other contexts or people not studied?  Thick‘ description helps to determine whether transferability is possible. Providing a lot of detail about the social world, interpretations which helps to determine whether or not the study is transferable and generalizable.  Provides enough information to suffice as a database for comparison to subsequent research findings.  Dependability similar to reliability  If it‘s dependable, its trustable and you can rework it in other contexts because it is reliable.  Were proper procedures followed?  Can the study‘s theoretical inferences can be justified? Make proper interpretations of the data?  ‗Auditing‘ is sometimes done wherein peers review the research and procedures to see if the study is dependable. Other researchers look over your raw data and conclusions you have derived to assess if what you have done is the right approach and if your conclusions are suitable.  May be time consuming and expensive because of the amount of data gathered in a qualitative research project  Confirmability  Was the researcher objective and unbiased? Was the research and the conclusions drawn from the research overly influenced by the bias or the agenda of the research?  We don‘t expect bias-free or objectivity to be present but there are extremes. Supremacy group is extremely biased.  Auditing‘ can be used to examine this.  Lincoln and Guba (1985) and Guba and Lincoln (1994) o The usefulness of these alternatives is dubious – do they really represent anything different than traditional reliability and validity criteria? o Nonetheless…. Main Goals of Qualitative Research  Empathy o Seeing through the eyes of the people studied  In-depth description and emphasis on context o Behavior that may seem odd or irrational may become more understandable if the context is described. If we are outside the person‘s social group we may just not understand o Naturalism is an approach that helps the researcher gain an understanding of the social context. Keeping the social world as undisturbed by the research as possible will result in genuine and natural responses which will give the best information in this context. o Behavioral observation in its own environment.  Emphasis on process o What order things happen and why. Showing how events and patterns unfold over time. o Look at correlations and how one thing is related to another and in qualitative, we can ask ―what led to this‖ or ―what can this lead to‖ o A long time spent in the field allows the researcher to understand individual and social change and its context o This can also be done with semi-structured interviewing, unstructured interviewing and life history approach.  Flexibility and Limited structure o Questions tend to be quite general.  Especially early in the research. You can generate a theory and refine your approach as you move along so it is quite flexible. o There is usually little or no theory driving the research. o The topics explored in the research may change as the study progresses Critiques of Qualitative Research  It can be too impressionistic and subjective. o Are we only picking out things that are not really representative? We are just finding something, not necessarily finding the reality. What you pick out is your impressions and someone could find something completely different.  Bias can result from personal relationships that develop during the research. o You may develop affection for research subjects and would not want to describe them in a bad light when writing down your research as it may lead to biased dynamics  It may be unclear as to how a particular topic or theme became the focus of the research. o Unclear why you took a certain route. With qualitative process being flexible, you can take it in different direction  Difficult to replicate o Subjects react differently to different researchers and this may influence what a particular researcher is able to find out – reactive effects. o Therefore, different researchers may find different things. o What is the likelihood that someone else is going to experience the exact thing you‘re going through?  Problems of generalization o However, generalization may not be the goal of the research. o In-depth description and understanding of meaning may be what the researcher is aiming for.  Lack of transparency o It may be difficult to determine how the research was conducted, why certain people were chosen for in-depth interviews, etc. Contrasts between Quantitative and Qualitative Research  Numbers vs. words  Point of view of researcher vs. points of view of participants (qualitative)  Research distant (Separate from process) vs. researcher close (more interaction)  Theory and concepts tested in research vs. theory and concepts developed from data – general stereotype, not always true.  Structured vs. Unstructured  Generalizable knowledge vs. contextual understanding  Hard reliable data s. rich, deep data  Macro vs. Micro  Behavior vs. Meaning  Artificial settings vs. Natural settings. Chapter 10 – Interviewing in Qualitative Research Difference between Structured and Qualitative Research Interviews  Quantitative research – highly structured to maximize reliability and validity in measuring key concepts  Greater interest in interviewee‘s perspectives and concerns in qualitative whereas the interview is driven by research agenda in quantitative  Qualitative interviewing – going off in a tangent is encouraged and interviewer varies the order and wording and asks unplanned questions  Qualitative interviewing is flexible  Researcher wants rich, detailed answers in qualitative interviewing and it is not uncommon for the interviewee to be interviewed more than once. Unstructured and Semi-structured interviewing  Unstructured interview – researcher uses a memory aid – small set of self prompts to investigate certain topics. Similar to a conversation  Semi-structured interview – researcher has a list of questions or fairly specific topics to be covered but interviewee has some leeway to decide how to reply. All questions are asked and similar wording is used for each interviewee  Process in semi- and unstructured interview is to bring out the interviewee themselves and see how they make sense of issues and events  Growing tendency to refer to these interviews collectively as in-depth interviews or qualitative interviews. The choice of one type rather than other is affected by many factors: o Researchers who feel that using an interview guide hinders genuineness of members stick to completely unstructured o If researcher is beginning investigation with a clear rather than general focus, they use semi-structured o If more than one person is to carry out fieldwork, semi- structured is preferable. o Multiple case study research needs some structure to ensure cross-case comparability Preparing an Interview Guide  Interview guide is sorter and less detailed than structured interview schedule  Brief list of memory prompts, and more elaborate list of issues to be addressed or questions to be asked in semi- structured interviewing  Actual questioning is flexible, allowing interviewers to pursue leads offered by research participants  Researchers ask ―just what about this thing is puzzling me‖ while preparing for qualitative interviews  Puzzlement may be stimulated by recording random thought in different contexts, discussions with colleagues, friends and relatives, reading the existing literature  Interview guide should o Establish order so questions flow well but allow for changes o Include questions or topics that address research questions o Use language that is comprehensible and familiar to those studied o Not ask a leading question – questions that imply a correct or socially acceptable answer o Include prompts to remind researcher to record basic information about the participant and more specific information that is relevant to the research questions  Practical details before interview begins o Familiar with the research setting which is everyday surroundings of interviewee o Reliable tape recorder to transcribe interviews o Make sure that the interview takes place in a quiet setting o Prepare for the interview by cultivating traits of quality interviewer  After interview, make notes of: o How the interview went o Where the interview took place o Any other feelings about the interview o Setting Kinds of questions  Introducing questions  Follow up questions – elaborate on an answer  Probing questions  Specifying questions  Direct questions  Indirect questions – ask interviewee for their view first  Structuring questions  Silence – pause gives interviewee to reflect and amplify an answer  Interpreting questions  Interviewer must listen and be attentive to what the interviewee is or is not saying and be responsible to what the interviewee is doing  Questions about past and factual matters and first  Questions about feelings and questions of process and summing up are next o Initial open ended questions o Intermediate questions – most questions are intermediate o Ending questions  Interviews include different kinds of topics o Values o Beliefs o Behavior o Formal and informal roles o Relationships o Places and locales o Emotions o stories  Vary the type of questions asked. Vague or general questions are best avoided  Vignette questions are used to ground interviewees‘ ideas and behavior in particular situations. o Present interviewees with realistic scenarios o Context is important because scenarios is valuable with sensitive topics and to elicit a range of responses Recording and Transcription  In qualitative research, the interview is audio-recorded and then transcribed when possible.  Qualitative researchers are frequently interested in what people say and how they say it  Recording allows for scrutiny by other researchers who can evaluate the original analysis or conduct secondary analysis to counter accusations  Data can be reused in ways other than those intended by original research – analyzed using theoretical ideas or analytic strategies.  Use of a recorder can upset people who are self-conscious or alarmed at the prospect that words will be preserved in that way in which case interviewer will take notes  Who should transcribe? Interviewer or someone else?  Vast amounts of text produced must be read. Even though transcription has the advantage of keeping the interviewee‘s words intact, it does so by piling up the text to be analyzed  Transcription may seem unproblematic to convert spoken word into text but they need to be trained  Qualitative research – wide variation in time that different interviews take. 45 minutes – 4 hours  Flexibility in the interview o Flexible interviewer is able to vary the order of questions and clear up inconsistencies o Flexibility is important when audio recording equipment breaks down o Interviewee will resume talking about the topic of interest as soon as recorder is turned off – not feasible to turn it off and on so keep it going as much as possible. Focus groups: an introduction  Focus group researchers work within qualitative research tradition and try to provide an unstructured setting where the person who runs the focus group, called the moderator or facilitator guides the session  Focus groups allow the researcher to develop an understanding of why people feel the way they do  Participants proble one another‘s reasons and this is more informative and revealing than question followed by answer  Participants argue and challenge one another‘s views producing realistic accounts of what people think  Study how individuals make sense of a phenomenon and construct meanings of it. o Symbolic interactionism – meanings and understandings are not derived by individuals in isolation o Focus groups reflect processes through which meaning is constructed in everyday life – naturalistic Conducting focus groups  How many groups are needed? – good variation in number of groups required for a study  Single group is unlikely to be sufficient since responses may not be typical of other groups  Determine number of groups needed – is range of views likely to be affected by socio-demographic factors such as age, gender, social class. Good to have different demographic groups = large groups Size of groups and selecting participants  6-10 members  small groups if participants are likely to have a lot to say – emotional topic or complex/controversial topic  larger group when you want to hear numerous brief suggestions  wide range of people are required but participants may be put into separate groups based on age, gender, education – look for variation in how different groups discuss matters at hand  some researchers exclude people who know each other and others prefer natural groups  recruiting people from natural groups is not always feasible because of the difficulty of getting everyone in the group to participate. o They also may share similar assumptions that they feel no need to explain or justify. Asking questions and level of Moderator Involvement  Open ended style  Middle-of-the-road-approach  Small number of general questions to guide a focus group session.  If discussion goes off topic, it is necessary to refocus the participants‘ attention but the moderator must be careful because digressions can reveal significant information.  Intervention and non-intervention carry risks – style of questioning and moderating depends on nature of the research topic.  Recording and Transcription o More important with focus groups o More complicated and time consuming o Voices may be hard to distinguish making it difficult to determine who is speaking o High quality recording device is necessary Group Interaction in Focus Group Sessions  Focus group data is most commonly presented as if it were one-to-one interview data with interactions between group participants rarely reported  Complementary interaction allows collective interpretations and understandings to develop with each participant building on the preceding remark o Consensus around the question and why  Argumentative interaction is also revealing. Moderators identify differences of opinion and explore with participants the factors that lie behind them. Disagreement can give participants a chance to revise opinions or think about why they hold them  Drawing attention to patterns of interaction allows researchers to determine how group participants view the issues at hand. Limitations of focus groups  Researcher has less control over the proceedings that in individual interviews – what is not clear is the degree to which we can surrender control  Unwieldy amount of data is sometimes produced and group recordings include inaudible comments from participants sitting too far from the microphone  Data may be difficult to analyze, and developing an analysis strategy incorporating themes of discussion and interaction is not easy  Focus groups are difficult to arrange – hard to get people to agree to participate and show up  Group effects may be a problem – dealing with participants who are too quiet to speak up or hog the stage Online Interviews and Focus groups  Qualitative interviews and focus groups online – very common  Online focus groups were more popular than online personal interviews  Online Qualitative Interviews o Questions were asked and answered in real time rather than email o Interview guide was used and are a challenge for interviewer and interviewee because neither party can pick up on visual/auditory cues o ―real‖ meant genuine and authentic but for the interviewees, it had more to do with distinguishing experiences that occur offline from those online (not real)  Online Focus Groups o 6-8 people. o Larger groups make it difficult for some people to participate o Moderators are advised to send out a welcome message introducing the research and laying out ground rules o Evidence that participants respond positively if researchers reveal something about themselves o Online focus groups – participants respond immediately to whatever has been said whether by moderator/participant o Contributions can be responded to as soon as hey appear on the screen o Unlikely to replace face-to-face counterparts but are likely to be used for certain kinds of research topics or samples  Feminism and interviewing in qualitative research o Unstructured and semi-structured interviewing are prominent o Feminine researchers advocate a framework for conducting interviews that establishes  Rapport between interviewer and interviewee  Reciprocity on the part of the interviewer  Perspective of woman being interviewed  Non-hierarchial relationship o Dilemma arises when feminist researchers have to decide what to do if their understandings and interpretations are not shared by the research participants  Focus Group as a Feminist Method o Less artificial than other methods because of group interactions o Tendency to recruit participants from naturally occurring groups reinforces realistic quality of research since people can discuss matters in situations that are normal to them o Gathering people to discuss a certain topic is not inherent naturalistic because interaction is unusual o Feminist researchers have expressed preference for methods that study individual within a social context o Feminist researchers are suspicious of methods that exploit participants and put researchers in a position of power over the respondent Qualitative interviewing versus ethnography  Advantages of Ethnography compared to Qualitative Interviewing o Ethnographers would gain insight into social reality because of their prolonged immersion in social settings. They participate in same kinds of activities they are studying o Ethnographers understand the culture, good grasp of language and important to be familiar with its argot. o Interviews rely on interviewee accounts but ethnographers are immersed in the situation o Certain activities that people don‘t talk about – ethnographers uncover information about workplace resistance practices and groups that support deviant ideologies o Extensive contact with a social setting allows ethnographers to map the context of people‘s behaviors o Ethnographers are more naturalistic because researcher confronts members of a social setting in their natural environments  Advantages of Qualitative Interviewing compared to Ethnography o Many issues are not open to observation so asking is the best way to get information o In-depth reconstruction of past events and future behavior is not possible only through observation. o Reactive effects are not straightforward. Presence of ethnographer may lead people to behave unnaturally and observer may disturb the situation under study. o Costly and researcher is likely to take up more of participants‘ time than interviews alone o Interviews can sometimes be long and re-interviewing is not uncommon o Ethnography can be intrusive in terms of time if conducted in organization settings as it disrupts work day o Interviewing can be longitudinal and easier than ethnography o Interviewing allows access to wider variety of people and situations o Qualitative research begins with a specific focus. Suited for dealing with specific issues Chapter 9 – Ethnography and Participant Observation Ethnography  Synonymous with participant observation – researcher is immersed in a group of people for an extended period of time to observe, listen and ask questions  More inclusive term where as participant observation is just the observation section of ethnography.  With both the researcher is immersed in a particular social environment for a long period of time  Behavior is observed in an unstructured way. o Often uses in-depth, unstructured discussions and interviews with the people being studied Access  Most important and difficult step is gaining access to social setting  How to gain access is based : o Whether setting is open (public) or closed (private) o Closed settings – organizations like firms, schools, cults, social movements. Private or restricted settings. o Open settings – libraries, parks, sidewalks where anyone can access. Physical access is easy but may be difficult to talk to people Access to Closed Settings  Use friends, contacts and colleagues  Get someone in the organization to vouch for you, a sponsor o Even if acquired, you may need the approval of gatekeepers  Offer something in return – copy of the finished study  Do not let the organization determine the results.  Ways to ease access o Provide a clear explanation of your aims and methods o Be willing to negotiate the terms of access o Be open about how much time research participants would have to spend – be conscious about over studying bounds. Overt versus Covert Ethnography  Ease the access problem by assuming a covert role – not to disclose you are a researcher  Open versus closed setting – distinction is not hard and fast. o Process of gaining access in open setting can take on a formal quality o Closed organizations and social movements create contexts that have a public character such as meetings arranged for prospective recruits  Overt versus covert – distinction can vary from context to context even within the same research project o Ethnographers usually seek access through overt route but many come into contact may be unaware of researcher‘s status o Retrospective ethnography – using observations that were gathered before the decision was made to conduct a study  Overt – the people being studied know they are being observed by a researcher – preferred method o Ethically sound o But research subjects may not appreciate being examined and may act differently in front of the researcher – Hawthorne Effect.  Covert – the people being studied do not know they are being observed by a researcher o Subjects may act more naturally but ethical issues with deception. No informed consent.  Advantages of covert: o Easier access – no specific permission to gain entry into social setting o Less reactivity because participants do not know they are being observed  Disadvantages of covert: o Difficult and sometimes impossible to take notes without revealing that you are a researcher o Problem of not being able to use other methods – steering conversations in a direction can increase risk of detection o Worries about detection can lead to anxiety o Deception of participants and failure to obtain consent Access to Open Settings  Ethnographers have their paths smoothed by sponsors and gatekeepers  Hanging around is a common access strategy  May need to get sponsors and gatekeepers on side because social environment may not be as open though the space may be open  Hanging around may help Ongoing Access  People will be suspicious seeing the researcher as top management.  Group members will worry that what they say or do may get back to colleagues or bosses - establish credibility by using discretion  If people being studied have concerns or suspicions about researcher, they may sabotage the research, engage in deception, provide misinformation  Three ways to smooth the path for ongoing access to closed settings o Play up your credentials – past work, experience, knowledge o Don‘t give people a reason to dislike you – be non0udgmental when hearing about informal activities o Play a role – construct a front using demeanor and dress  Research in public settings o Make sure you have a plan for allaying people‘s suspicions o Be prepared for tests of competence or credibility o Be prepared for changes in circumstances Key Informants  They know the area really well and are cooperative/knowledgeable.  Ethnographers rely on informants especially those who develop an understanding of the research and identify situations  Provide support that helps with stress of fieldwork but undue reliance on them can lead researchers to see social reality though their eyes only rather from perspectives of others.  Some researchers prefer unsolicited information because of its spontaneity and naturalism.  Solicited accounts can be obtained by interviewing or causal questioning during conversations o If ethnographer needs specific information on an issue that is not for direct observation, solicited accounts are to be dealt with later.  Drawbacks: o Researcher may ignore other group members. o Key informant‘s view may not be representative of the group as a whole. Roles for Ethnographers  Participant observer can be a o Complete participant – fully functioning member of social setting whose true identity is unknown to members. Ethnographer is engaged in regular interactions with people and participates in daily lives but assumes researcher‘s role  researchers adopts a secret role in the group  Method gets the closest to participants and their activities but there is a risk of over-identification or developing a strong dislike of the participants - skew o Participant as observer – members of social setting are aware that the ethnographer studied them  Researcher adopts role in the group  Risk of reactivity -participants altering behaviour because they know they are being researched o Observer as Participant –researcher is mainly an interviewer and observer and participates only marginally in group‘s activities.  Risk of reactivity  Risks incorrect interpretation of activity o Complete observer – no interaction with people observed. Less risk of reactivity  Researcher does not engage the participants at all  No risk of reactivity  Researcher has limited information for understanding actions of participants Active or Passive  Ethnographers feel they have no choice but to get involved because a failure to participate may suggest lack of commitment. Standing back could lead to loss of credibility o Situation arises when activities are illegal or dangerous  Sometimes an active role is necessary in order to maintain credibility in the minds of the people studied.  However, an active role may be physically dangerous (e.g., gang research), and may also have ethical implications (e.g., engaging in criminal behavior. Field Notes  Write down notes as soon as possible after seeing, hearing  Write full field notes at the end of the day including location details, people involved, what prompted the exchange of event  Use tape recorder for notes  Noes must be vivid, clear, complete  It may be necessary to take small amounts of time away from the group to write down observations  When there is a clearly focused research question, ethnographers should be oriented to it. Important to maintain fairly open mind so that flexibility is not impaired  Equipment needed for observation is mainly paper/pen. Speaking into tape recorder can rekindle fears about participating  Photography is an additional source of data but may not be an option in some settings  Type of field notes o Mental notes – remember and write later o Jotted notes – brief notes to jog memory when writing detailed notes later o Full field notes – main data source, full notes should be
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