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Qualitative Social Research Methods


Risk in the field. Reflexive approaches to research. Lying the ... Positivism. Valid knowledge can only be produced on the basis of direct observation ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Qualitative Social Research Methods

Qualitative Social Research Methods
  • Using Interviews in Research.
  • Leah Wild.

  • Field Research and Interviewing
  • Ethical Considerations.
  • Risk in the field
  • Reflexive approaches to research
  • Lying the groundwork for interviews.
  • What Kind of Interviews?
  • Practical Matters.
  • Preparing for interviews
  • Conducting the interview
  • After the interview.
  • The use of focus groups, group interviews,
    Participant Observation and documentary resources.

Why conduct field research?
  • Understand meanings
  • Describe and understand experience
  • Describe and understand ideas, beliefs, values.
  • Identify themes and patterns
  • Policy implications?
  • Informing best practice
  • Action research.

Distinguishing between method and methodology
  • Methodology - or how we can go about the task of
    producing reliable and valid knowledge.
  • Methods - or how we actually physically collect
    data to test our theories.This involves the basic
    nuts-and-bolts of data collection
    (questionnaires, interviews, experiments,
    participant observation and so forth).
  • The flow of causation in social research is
    methodology? procedural rules? methods?knowledge

Methodological traditions
  • Positivism
  • Valid knowledge can only be produced on the basis
    of direct observation
  • Looking for causes, effects and laws
  • Objectivity and value freedom
  • Interpretivism
  • social world produced on a daily basis by people
    going about their lives
  • people actively create their world
  • Relativism
  • Realism
  • social structures have some form of independent
  • Social structures real only in their effects -
    not permanent and unchanging
  • all knowledge about the world is ideological.

What is Ethnography?
  • The study of people in naturally occurring
    settings or fields by methods of data
    collection which capture their social meanings
    and ordinary activities, involving the researcher
    participating directly in the setting, if not
    also the activities, in order to collect data in
    a systematic manner but without meaning being
    imposed on them externally (Brewer 2003)

The ethnographic self.
  • How has your own presence impacted on your
    choice of methodology and research methods?
  • How has your own presence impacted the
    collection of data and the interpretation of
  • why have you chosen this research topic?
  • Why have you chosen to collect the data in this
  • Why have you interpreted the data in the way you
  • Have you privileged a certain set of meanings
    over another?
  • Are there any emotional dynamics that have been
    brought into play in the process of your
  • Understand and value the subjective nature of
    ethnographic interpretation.
  • Being reflexive

The use of Interviews.
  • Reflexive analysis
  • Know When to Leave the Field
  • Identify Major Interpretive Themes
  • Be honest about subjective nature of data
  • Be Honest About Observations
  • Observation vs. Interpretation
  • Base Interpretations on Multiple Observations

Participant observation
  • Subjective sociology
  • overt
  • covert?
  • Balancing roles of researcher and participant

Ethical considerations
  • The safety of researcher and respondent.
  • Anonymity and confidentiality
  • Informed consent
  • Participant observation and ethics.
  • The uses of your research.
  • Researching sensitive topics.
  • Vulnerability and power
  • The constraints of ethical considerations.

Risk in the Field
  • Considering your own safety.
  • The safety of respondents.
  • Clothing and appearance.
  • Interviewing alone.
  • How to deal with aggression or hostility during
    the interview.
  • What to do when things go wrong.

Reflexive Approaches to Research
  • Considering other peoples values/ cultural
  • How do my own values/ history/ cultural practices
    impact on my interpretations?
  • Giving meaning to social interaction.
  • Critically evaluating your own motivations.
  • Asking the why, how and what questions.
  • Challenging your own ideas and assumptions.
  • Research as a learning experience
  • Objectivity, neutrality and bias.

Laying the Groundwork for Interviews and Methods
  • Why am I using interviews?
  • What can interview data contribute to existing
  • What has already been done?
  • What resources can I utilise?
  • Using fieldwork diaries.
  • Involving your respondents.
  • Pilot interviews.

What Kind of Interviews?
  • Structured interviews.
  • Semi structured interviews.
  • Unstructured interviews.
  • The use of vignettes.
  • Group interviews.
  • Thinking about the interview setting.

Preparing for Interviews
  • Creating a topic guide
  • Use objectives and literature review to help
    design it
  • A memory aid
  • Objective of study
  • General and specific areas of research
  • But
  • Cannot interview from topic guide alone
  • Need to be flexible in terms of order and content

Practical Matters.
  • Equipment checklist. Tape recorder, tapes, spare
  • Writing material.
  • Names and addresses.
  • Consent forms.
  • Asking permissions.

Conducting the interview
  • Starting the interview
  • Physical conditions, clothing!
  • Seating arrangements
  • Initial introduction, confidentiality
  • Tape recording
  • The topic guide
  • Closing the interview
  • End on a positive note
  • Thank and affirm confidentiality
  • Remind how information will be used

Conducting the Interview 2.
  • The silent probe
  • The go on, Im listening probe
  • Journalists probes When? Who? Where?
  • The immediate elaboration probe
  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • The retrospective probe
  • Can I take you back to something you said

After the Interview
  • Check material
  • Transcription
  • Write up ASAP.
  • Things to include in writing up
  • -body language/ atmosphere/ tone and context.
  • Recording personal experiences.
  • Have I forgotten anything?
  • Letters of thanks.

Using Other Methods.
  • Participant observation.
  • Focus groups.
  • Video interviews.
  • Using documentary resources.

Final Words.
  • What if you dont get the information you wanted?
  • The changing direction of research.
  • The best laid plans…!
  • Rescuing your research when things go wrong.
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