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CrossCultural Psychology Qualitative Research Approaches


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Title: CrossCultural Psychology Qualitative Research Approaches

Cross-Cultural Psychology Qualitative Research
  • James M. Nelson
  • Department of Psychology
  • Valparaiso University

Presentation Overview
  • Scientific epistemological cycle
  • Qualitative methodology General introduction
  • Culture and psychology
  • Models of inquiry cross-cultural and cultural
  • Quantitative approaches in culture research
  • Qualitative methodology Specific approaches and
    their application to culture research

Scientific Epistemological Cycle
Scientific epistemological cycle
  • Data
  • --gtinduction to
  • Theory and Model
  • --gtspecification to
  • Hypotheses
  • --gtdeductive testing with
  • Data

Scientific Cycle (cont.)
  • Important issues empiricism
  • Science is empirical so we ultimately base our
    conclusions about the world on data
  • All parts of the cycle are important, but the
    process of an inductive openness to the data in
    the creation of our theories is weak in
  • If theory is narrow, our hypotheses and findings
    will be similarly limited

Scientific Cycle (cont.)
  • Important issues quantification
  • Since Galileo, science has sought mathematical
    models to help understand the world, in part
    because these models best facilitate the goals of
    prediction and control
  • A mathematically based process of inquiry is
    naturally more open to quantitative methods of
  • However, some parts of the research process (e.g.
    induction from data) may require non-mathematical
    approaches for their full treatment
  • Mathematical models have other limitations, e.g.
    dont address issues of meaning, context

Qualitative Methodology
  • General Introduction

Qualitative methodology and the cycle
  • Definition
  • Primary principles
  • Data collection vs. analysis you can have
    different combinations of
  • qualitative or quantitative data
  • qualitative or quantitative analysis
  • although most methodologists focus on qualitative
    data analyzed qualitatively

Definition (Mason)
  • Grounded in an interpretive philosophical
    position that sees elements of study existing in
    a complex social world
  • Uses data generation methods that are sensitive
    to the social context and flexible, rather than
    rigidly standardized or structures, or entirely
    abstracted from real life contexts.
  • Uses analytic methods which are holistic,
    sensitive to context and detail quantification
    may be used but statistical analysis is not

Qualitative methods (cont.)
  • Primary principles
  • Humility there is an assumption the people you
    talk to know more about the topic than you do or
    have a unique knowledge set as valuable as your
  • Flexibility
  • Standardization is suspect, and cant really be
    achieved anyway
  • people interpret the same question in different
  • need to ask different people different questions
    to access their knowledge of a topic

Qualitative Methods (cont.)
  • Triangulation--combining methods
  • Reflexivity The person doing the interpreting
    (researcher or participant!) affects the
  • Listening and voice
  • Understanding is more important than prediction
    and control
  • Validity is more important that reliability
  • Sampling is selective rather than random use of

Qualitative methods (cont.)
  • Purposes This method especially useful where
  • You dont know much about an area and need to do
    inductive work and theory/model building
  • Context is important
  • Understanding is more important that prediction
    and control
  • Quantifiability is difficult
  • Data cant be obtained by other methods (e.g. in
    participant observation)

Qualitative methods (cont.)
  • Specific approaches
  • Grounded theory development of knowledge that
    is grounded in data
  • Ethnography cultural description interviewing
    and participant observation
  • Analysis of visual and material culture
  • Phenomenological analysis description and
    analysis of individual experience
  • Hermeneutic analysis interpretation of
    discourse and textual materials narrative
    analysis and life history

Qualitative methods (cont.)
  • Characteristics of specific approaches
  • Often more a philosophy or attitude rather than a
    specific technical methodology
  • While specific approaches have developed
    separately in terms of theory and application, in
    practice there is considerable overlap between
    the methods
  • Often have more problematic ethical issues in
    terms of the collection and use of data
    usefulness of the results to the people
    participating in the study is key

Qualitative Methods (cont.)
  • Since knowledge is contextual, a primary goal is
    to provide relevant information about the context
    of the phenomenon being studied
  • Most methods make use of individual or group
    interviews of various levels of structure and
  • Data recording and organization is a major task
    software is available to assist
  • relational databases
  • qualitative/anthropological software with
    multimedia capabilities (see

Qualitative Methods (cont.)
  • The process of writeup and making arguments from
    your data and analysis are more open, and thus
    involve greater choices
  • Since procedures and choices are more open, you
    must keep methodological records and be prepared
    to defend your choices
  • As in quantitative research, your questions
    should be clearly formulated, although
    clarification is a normal outcome of the research

Culture and Psychology
Culture and psychology Section Overview
  • Definitions cross cultural and cultural
    psychology models
  • Quantitative approaches Practical issues
  • Types of studies
  • Objects of study
  • Methodological problems
  • Interpretive problems
  • Quantitative approaches Theoretical critique

  • Culture is a matrix of behaviors, beliefs,
    practices and values that typifies a particular
    group of people
  • deals with a variety of things that influence all
    aspects of behavior
  • emphasis on group influence rather than
    individual variability
  • essential part of the meaning-formation process

Definitions (cont.)
  • Cross-Cultural Psychology is about the
    explanation of differences--and sometimes
    similarities--in the behavior of people belonging
    to different cultures using the scientific method
    as practiced in psychology
  • focus on the individual in group context
  • different methodology from sociology, anthropology

Definitions (cont.)
  • Cultural psychology
  • …the study of the way cultural traditions and
    social practices regulate, express, and transform
    the human psyche, resulting less in psychic unity
    for humankind than in ethnic divergences in mind,
    self, and emotion. (Shweder, 1991, p. 73)
  • Impossible to separate sociocultural environment
    and the individuals process of deriving meaning

Definitions (cont.)
  • Models are detailed statements of the
    relationship between variables that assist in the
    prediction of important phenomena
  • independent variables are factors that affect
    other variables
  • dependent variables are factors that are
    influenced by independent variables
  • models can specify direction of influence

Quantitative Approaches Types of Studies
  • Descriptive vs. inferential
  • Descriptive studies focus on describing phenomena
    in a specific sample of people, or describing
    differences between two or more specific samples
    of people
  • Inferential studies study specific samples of
    people in order to understand how phenomena
    operate in large groups of individuals

Types of Studies (cont.)
  • In cross-cultural research, descriptive studies
    are generally not too interesting because you
    find many differences. So what? What does it
    mean? You need inferential studies and models to
    answer these more important or challenging

Types of Studies (cont.)
  • Emic vs. etic
  • Cross-cultural models tend to have one of two
  • Emic models view behavior as culture-specific
    behavior must be understood in the context of a
    particular culture
  • Etic models view behavior as universal behavior
    must be understood in comparison to behavior in
    other cultures

Types of Studies (cont.)
  • Thus, three approaches (or combinations thereof)
    are possible
  • Subjective single-culture
  • Objective single-culture
  • Objective cross-cultural

Quantitative Approaches Objects of Study
  • Construct (hypothetical) a phenomenon that is
    important for the understanding of human
    behavior which cannot be directly observed.
  • Universe--set of conditions for observation or
    items of measurement, usually indicated by the
    hypothetical construct
  • Populations--larger groups of people that are the
    ultimate object of interest

Quantitative Approaches Scope of Study
  • Limited Cross-cultural research should be
    limited to verifying the validity of standard or
    indigenous psychological constructs
  • Broad Cross-cultural research should view
    culture itself as a relevant psychological
    construct and attempt to build models that use it
    as a variable

Quantitative Approaches Methodological Problems
  • Bias--when a study because of design, measurement
    or sampling problems, is destined to find
    differences when none occur (or to find no
    differences when differences actually exist).

Methodological Problems (cont.)
  • Types of bias
  • Stimulus--study does not collect a representative
    sample of behaviors from the universe, e.g. using
    a measure of intelligence that only uses timed
  • Methodological--the process of study and
    measurement has a differential effect between
    groups, e.g. interviewer-subject interaction
  • Universe--different groups have different
    behavioral universe, e.g. what may be adaptive
    life skills in two different cultures

Methodological Problems (cont.)
  • Effects of bias
  • Incorrect interpretations of results
  • Adverse effects upon individuals

Methodological Problems (cont.)
  • Problems with Universes
  • Design or measurement bias can be caused if the
    universe(s) in the study are not properly defined
  • appropriate behaviors that are related to the
    construct of interest must be selected

Methodological Problems (cont.)
  • Three types of universe problems
  • Group Equivalence Are they the same (identical
    vs. nonidentical universes)?
  • Sampling How are they sampled (representative
    vs. selected)?
  • Variables selection and measurement What will
    be measured attributes (internal, hypothetical
    constructs) vs repertoire (external)
  • Most common and difficult situation
    nonidentical universes sampled with selective
    measures of attributes

Methodological Problems (cont.)
  • Design and control problems
  • Definitions
  • Experimental design The conceptualization and
    layout of the experiment, its groups and
  • Experimental control Procedures in an
    experiment to exclude the effects of variables
    that are not being studied

Methodological Problems (cont.)
  • Types of design and control problems
  • Subject Exchangeability--equivalent subject
  • Treatments experimental vs. quasi-experimental
  • Confounds changing one independent variable
    actually changes more than on independent
    variable, either of which can have an effect on
    the dependent variable, e.g. culture and SES

Methodological Problems (cont.)
  • Measurement Equivalence
  • Definition An instrument that obtains equal
    values on a variable in two groups when the
    behavior being measured is equivalent are said to
    have measurement equivalence
  • Levels of measurement equivalence
  • functional behaviors have same purpose
  • conceptual behaviors have the same purpose and
    relationship to other variables, e.g. structural
    equivalence of instruments
  • metric values and magnitude are equivalent

Quantitative Approaches Interpretive Problems
  • Classical model
  • similar instruments used in each culture
  • assumes no bias
  • differences between groups mean construct
    differences in each culture
  • e.g. give identical tests in each culture,
    differences in test scores indicate differences
    between the cultures on the construct

Interpretive Problems (cont.)
  • Contemporary model
  • like the classical model, except try to verify if
    no bias
  • difficult, as it involves multiple "pilot"
  • more defensible than traditional model
  • but what happens if you find bias?--the method
    does not provide a way of dealing with situations
    with bias/universe problems

Interpretive Problems (cont.)
  • Emic model
  • use different instruments for each culture, see
    if they measure same thing
  • advantage measures a wider range of behaviors
    that are perhaps more appropriate for each
  • disadvantage harder to find bias, measurement
    equivalence uncertain

Interpretive Problems (cont.)
  • Adjusted model
  • similar instruments used for each culture
  • assume no bias in etic elements, bias in emic
  • advantage accounts for bias problems while
    reducing measurement equivalence problems
  • disadvantage doesn't detect or correct
    unexpected sources of bias

Interpretive Problems (cont.)
  • Other general problems
  • Ambient (other) differences must be excluded to
    support focal antecedent-focal consequent theory
  • There can be a priori causes of differences which
    must be excluded
  • Moderator-mediator effects

Quantitative Methods Theoretical Critique
  • Carl Ratner (1997). Cultural psychology and
    cultural methodology (see also Geertz)
  • General concerns
  • In studying psychological phenomenon, need to
    find a balance between objectivism and
  • Objectivism not enough cultural processes
    arent completely observable from social facts
  • Subjectivism not enough subjective accounts may
    not be aware of cultural factors
  • Cant just combine, need to objectively analyze
    subjective phenomena
  • Best done with qualitative methods

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • Problem of Methodological Positivism
  • History positivism came in when Feigel a member
    of the Vienna circle visited Bridgman, Boring and
    Borings students Skinner and S. S. Stevens in
    1930 also began in the 1920s.
  • Positivism is largely seen as discredited in 20th
    century philosophy of science debates, but
    persists in psychology

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • Bases of Methodological positivism
  • 1. Atomism the belief that psychological
    phenomena exist as separate, independent
    variables, and that variables consist of smaller,
    discrete elements.
  • phenomena are distinct from each other, have
    simple uniform charactera minimally cultural
    point of view
  • sub-variables/parts of the phenomena are thought
    to be invariant phenomenal structure is
    culturally invariant
  • assume independence of variables, which promotes
    fragmentation of variables and elements (values)

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • 2. Quantification psychological phenomena can
    be expressed as numbers that represent their
    strength or degree and that mathematical
    operations on these data reveal some
    psychological significance
  • quantification ignores the psychological
  • qualitatively distinct psychological phenomena
    are collapsed into homogeneous quantitative
  • problem of frequency counts are they the same
    quality or intensity?
  • statistical significance is equated with
    psychological importance

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • 3. Operationalism psychological phenomena can
    be defined as simple, overt behaviors
  • it is an ontological assumption that phenomena
    can be defined by a response measure
  • Operational definitions overlook the fact that
    the relationship between psychological activity
    and behavior is variable. Hitting does not
    always express aggression and aggression is not
    always expressed by hitting. p. 40
  • questionnaires suffer from same problem as
    behavioral measures

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • Nature of Psychological Phenomena Alternative
    ontological principles--psychological phenomena
  • complex configurations of multiple components
  • expressed through extended responses
  • primarily mental and have no fixed behavioral

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • Methodological principles Alternative
    epistemological principles following from
  • 1. Interpret behavior
  • Verstehen understanding the psychological
    activity expressed in behavior this must be
    reconstructed rather than perceived in
    expressions can be in relation to biography,
  • Person is not necessarily aware of everything
  • primary principle of hermeneutics the
    psychological significance of any behavioral
    expression can only be discerned by relating that
    response to other responses (hermeneutic
    circle) principle also used by Vygotsky

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • 2. Interpret verbal statements
  • comparing statements and behavior triangulation
  • use phenomenological methods of text analysis
  • 3. Identify situations in which phenomena do and
    do not occur
  • 4. Ascertain quality of phenomena through
    relationships with other phenomena
  • 5. Employ all qualitative research principles in
    concert (triangulation)
  • 6. Subordinate positivistic to qualitative

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • Cultural character of psychology
  • People collectively construct concepts that
    objectify their understanding of things (objects,
    animals, and humans). These cultural concepts
    enable people to communicate about things.
    Cultural concepts also organize the manner in
    which people perceive, imagine, think about,
    remember, and feel about things. In other words,
    collectively constructed concepts compose
    culture, and cultural symbols organize
    psychological phenomena. p. 93

Theoretical Critique (cont.)
  • culture also praxis psychological phenomena
    dependent on these practical social activities
  • dialectical, reciprocal relationship between
    activity and psychology
  • e.g. strategies determine activity, activity
    determines strategies
  • Psychological phenomena are the subjective
    processes of practical cultural activity, and
    cultural activity is the practical, objectified
    side of psychology phenomena that compose
    organized social life. (italics his) p. 114

Qualitative Methods
  • Specific Approaches

Qualitative research in cross-cultural models
  • Specific approaches
  • Grounded theory
  • Ethnography interviewing and participant
  • Analysis of visual and material culture
  • Phenomenological analysis
  • Hermeneutic analysis Narrative analysis and life

Qualitative Methods
  • Grounded Theory

Grounded Theory Introduction
  • Strauss, A. Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of
    qualitative research Techniques and procedures
    for developing grounded theory, 2nd ed.
    Thousand Oaks, CA Sage.
  • Definitions (p. 3)
  • Methodology A way of thinking about and
    studying social reality.
  • Methods A set of procedures and techniques for
    gathering and analyzing data.
  • Coding The analytic processes through which
    data are fractured, conceptualized, and
    integrated to form theory.

Introduction (cont.)
  • Glaseremphases (Strauss Corbin, pp. 9-10)
  • You find out what is really going on in the
  • Theory, grounded in data, is fundamental to
    disciplines and is a basis for social action
  • Phenomena and human action are complex and
  • Persons are actors who take an active role in
    responding to problematic situations
  • Persons act on the basis of meaning which is
    defined and redefined through interaction
  • Importance of the unfolding nature of events
  • Awareness of the interrelationships among
    conditions (structure), action (process), and

Introduction (cont.)
  • Grounded theory primarily uses qualitative
    research …any type of research that produces
    findings not arrived at by statistical procedures
    or other means of quantification … some of the
    data may be quantified … but the bulk of the
    analysis is interpretative.
  • As a qualitative research technique, grounded
    theory uses nonmathematical process of
    interpretation, carried out for the purpose of
    discovering concepts and relationships in raw
    data and then organizing these into a theoretical
    explanatory scheme. (p,. 11)

Grounded Theory Basic ideas
  • Definitions
  • Description the use of words to convey a
    mental image … the account related form the
    perspective of the person doing the depicting.
    (p. 15).
  • Conceptual ordering Organizing (and sometimes
    rating) of data according to a selective and
    specified set of properties and their dimensions
  • Theory A set of well-developed concepts related
    through statements of relationship, which
    together constitute an integrated framework that
    can be used to understand and predict behavior.
    (p 15).

Basic Ideas (cont.)
  • Begin with data, not theory theory comes from
    data and offers explanation theories not
    grounded in data are suspect
  • Since the purpose of grounded research is to
    develop theory, research questions should provide
    flexibility so phenomenon can be studied in
  • Analysis a continuous process of conversation
    between researchers and data
  • In conceptual ordering, description (e.g.
    ethnographic) is used to elucidate categories,
    steps and processes, types of actors or actions

Basic ideas (cont.)
  • Research design, methods and concepts must be
    allowed to emerge during the research process as
    a result of developing theory and analysis.
  • Focus of research should attend to respondents
    concerns as well as those of the investigator.
  • Need to take into account the interviewees
    interpretations in any analysis or theoretical

Grounded Theory Beginnings
  • Definitions
  • Research problem The general or substantive
    area of focus for the research.
  • Research question The specific query to be
    addressed by this research that sets the
    parameters of the project and suggests the
    methods to be used for data gathering and
  • Objectivity The ability to achieve … distance
    from the research materials and to represent them
    fairly the ability to listen to the words of
    respondents and to give them a voice independent
    of that of the researcher.
  • Sensitivity The ability to respond to the
    subtle nuances of, and cues to, meanings in
    data. (p. 35).

Beginnings (cont.)
  • Need to maintain a balance between objectivity
    and sensitivity.
  • Technical and nontechnical literature can be
  • Microanalysis The detailed line-by-line
    analysis necessary at the beginning of a study to
    generate initial categories (with their
    properties and dimensions) and to suggest
    relationships among categories a combination of
    open and axial coding. (p. 57).

Beginnings (cont.)
  • Researchers experience can be used to sensitize
    them to properties and dimensions in the data,
    but it is not data itself it helps researchers
    to be aware of their own assumptions.
  • Basic operations in the initial data collection
    process asking questions, making comparisons.
  • Theoretical sampling Sampling on the basis of
    emerging concepts, with the aim being to explore
    the dimensional range or varied conditions along
    which the properties of concepts may vary.

Grounded Theory Techniques
  • Types of questions
  • Sensitizing look for what data might be
    indicating (issues? actions? actors? meanings?
  • Theoretical help researcher see process, make
    connections among concepts
  • Structural provide direction for sampling and
    evolving theorywhat next look for lack of
    logical consistency, vagueness, gaps
  • Guiding questions used in interviews

Techniques (cont.)
  • Comparative techniques
  • flip-flop look at opposite problem
  • systematic comparison how does phenomena emerge
    in different conditions?
  • waving the red flag beware terms like never,

Grounded Theory Coding
  • Coding The process of identifying concepts,
    their properties and dimensions through data
  • Coding is a continuous process that is both prior
    to and part of analysis
  • Ultimate purpose of coding help explain and gain
    understanding of issues explored in the research

Coding (cont.)
  • Definitions
  • Phenomena Central ideas in data represented as
    concepts … repeated patterns of happenings,
    events, or actions/interactions that represent
    what people do or say, alone or together, in
    response to the problems and situations in which
    they find themselves.
  • Conditions … sets of events or happenings that
    create the situations, issues, and problems
    pertaining to a phenomenon and, to a certain
    extent, explain why and how person or groups
    respond in certain ways. (p. 130)

Coding (cont.)
  • Concepts The building blocks of the theory.
  • Categories Concepts that stand for phenomena.
  • Properties Characteristics of a category, the
    delineation of which defines and gives it
  • Dimensions The range along which general
    properties of a category vary, giving
    specification to a category and variation to the
  • Subcategories Concepts that pertain to a
    category, giving it further clarification and

Coding (cont.)
  • Can use standardized (e.g. Outline of Cultural
    Materials codes) or custom coding schemes
  • Grounded theory schemes
  • open coding generation of categories
  • axial coding categories developed, linked with
  • selective coding integrates and refines
  • Coding and organizing schemes can be assisted by
    organizing software, e.g. database and
    qualitative/anthropological analysis programs

Grounded Theory Category Coding
  • First step in theory building is
    conceptualization, which leads to classifying and
  • Basis of category scheme lies in analysis of the
    range of potential meanings in respondents words
  • Concepts derived from these meanings can then be
    grouped into categories which stand for
  • Once a category is identified, it can be
    developed by looking for further information to
    elucidate specific properties and dimensions

Grounded Theory Axial Coding
  • Definitions
  • Axial coding The process of relating
    categories to their subcategories, termed axial
    because coding occurs around the axis of a
    category, linking categories at the level of
    properties and dimensions.
  • Paradigm An analytic tool devised to help
    analysts integrate structure with process.
  • Structure The conditional context in which a
    category (phenomenon) is situated. (p. 123)
  • Process Sequences of action/interaction
    pertaining to a phenomenon as they evolve

Axial Coding (cont.)
  • Purposes
  • Axial coding relates categories at a dimensional
  • Properties and dimensions of categories are
    derived and used to relate categories and
  • …rather than standing for the phenomenon itself,
    subcategories answer questions about the
    phenomenon such as when, where, why, who, how and
    with what consequences, thus giving the concept
    greater explanatory power. (p. 125).
  • Subcategory information about who, when, where,
    why, how and with what consequences helps relate
    structure with process (structure why process

Axial Coding (cont.)
  • Tasks in axial coding
  • 1. Laying out properties of a category and their
  • 2. Identifying conditions, action, consequences
    associated with a phenomenon
  • 3. Relating a category to its subcategories
  • 4. Looking for clues in data that indicated
    category relationships

Grounded Theory Selective Coding
  • Selective coding procedures
  • decide on a central (core) category that
    represents the main theme of the research
  • write a storyline about what seems to be going
    on here
  • draw a diagram if necessary to help explain the
    category and its importance
  • collect additional information necessary to
    further explicate or test your idea

Grounded Theory Refining Theory
  • Review for internal consistency
  • Refine categories fill in poorly defined ones,
    trim excess ones
  • Validate
  • Stop collecting data at point of theoretical
    saturation the point in category development
    at which no new properties, dimensions, or
    relationships emerge during analysis (p. 143).
  • Outliers will exist and can be ignored, but need
    to explain some variability

Grounded Theory Conditional Analysis
  • Definitions
  • Process Sequences of evolving
    action/interaction, change in which can be traced
    to changes in structural conditions. (p. 163).
  • Conditional/consequential matrix An analytic
    device to stimulate analysts thinking about the
    relationships between macro and micro
    conditions/consequences both to each other and to
    process (p. 181)

Conditional Analysis (cont.)
  • Conditions become part of situational context
  • Relations are rarely linear or direct, with
    multiple, diverse patterns of connections
  • Look for repetition in finding conditional
  • Conditions and consequences usually exist in
    clusters and can associate or covary in many
    different ways, both to each other and to the
    related actions/interactions. (p. 186)
  • Actions can be by groups or larger units
  • Use diagram with global areas on outside,
    individual on inside, intermediate units between

Grounded theory Sampling
  • Theoretical sampling Data gathering driven by
    concepts derived from the evolving theory and
    based on the concept of making comparisons,
    whose purpose is to … maximize opportunities to
    discover variations among concepts and to densify
    categories in terms of their properties and
    dimensions. (p. 201).
  • Sampling must evolve during the process
  • Based on categories identified through repetition
    or those that produce variations

Sampling (cont.)
  • Sampling procedures vary according to type of
    coding being done open, axial or selective
  • Sampling during open coding about discovery
  • Relational/variational sampling looking for
    things that demonstrate variation or range, or
    relationship between concepts
  • Selective sampling choose cases to minimize or
    maximize differences according to the needs of
    the study

Grounded Theory Analysis
  • Group meetings for analysis critical when a team
    analyzing the data
  • Types of documentation
  • Memos (written) and diagrams (visual) are records
    of the analytic process
  • Notes can be code (products of coding),
    theoretical (about sampling, other issues),
    operational (procedural directions and to dos)
  • All documentation should be somewhat formal, with
    date, heading, quotes, cross-references etc.
  • Can draw a diagram illustrating memo sequence

Qualitative Methods
  • Ethnographic Approaches

Ethnographic Methods
  • Atkinson, P., Coffey, A., Delamont, S., Lofland,
    J. Lofland. L. (2001). Handbook of
    Ethnography. London Sage.
  • Research method developed for investigating
    culture thus
  • Its ultimate aim is the collection of
    information about a group
  • It is primarily inductive in philosophy
  • Traditionally, ethnography results in an
    ethnology, that is a description of a culture
    through text and perhaps visual means

Ethnographic Methods Issues
  • Separation of description and analysis
  • Involvement of locals in analysis and
  • Use of visual materials (photographs, video) as
    data collecting method, final product

Ethnographic Methods Primary techniques
  • Involves
  • Fieldwork traveling to and living in or in
    proximity to the culture of study emphasis on
    direct observation
  • Analysis off-site break for perspective
  • Specific techniques
  • Ethnographic interviewing of informants selected
    for their knowledge of culture and ability to
    talk about it
  • Linguistic analysis
  • Participant observation
  • Analysis of material culture

Primary Techniques (cont)
  • Participant observation
  • First developed into a serious technique by
    Malinowski (1884-1942), British anthropologist
  • Done in degrees between total participation and
    total observation--most of the time somewhere in
  • Often involves a 2-3 year process
  • Rationale (Bernard)
  • Opens up data that would not otherwise be
  • Reduces reaction of people to being studied--you
    blend in
  • Helps ask sensible questions--get feedback
  • Gives intuitive understanding

Primary Techniques (cont.)
  • Participant observation skills
  • Language
  • Explicit awareness of things that are normally
    taken for granted objectivity and neutrality
  • Easier to do if you are in an unfamiliar
  • Memory, organization, note taking
  • Naiveté
  • Rapport building

Primary Techniques (cont.)
  • Written records
  • Field notes verbatim records and summaries of
    conversations, observational notes
  • Field journal personal reactions, hypotheses,
    decisions about changes in methodology or
    direction of inquiry

Qualitative Methods
  • Phenomenological Analysis

Phenomenological Analysis Processes
  • Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research
    methods. Thousand Oaks, CA Sage.
  • Epoche An unbiased, open stance on the part of
    the investigator that allows for description
  • Phenomenological reduction fresh perception of
    the source of the meaning and existence of the
    experienced world (phenomena).
  • Imaginative variation Looking at the issue from
    different perspectives to isolate core elements
    of the experience.

Processes (cont.)
  • Method of data collection informal interviews,
    open-ended questions, topical-guided questions
  • Interviews often begin with asking for
    descriptions of specific incidents
  • Additional questions can be asked to get more
  • What parts of the experience or people involved
    stand out for you?
  • How did the experience affect or change you?
  • What feelings stood out? Thoughts?
  • What bodily changes or states were you aware of?

Processes (cont.)
  • Aspects of reduction
  • Bracketing the topic or question other things
    are set aside so the phenomenon can be focused
  • Horizontalization equal value of statements
  • Delimited Horizons or Meanings Horizons that
    stand out as invariant qualities of the
    experience boundaries of conscious experience,
    the grounding or condition of the phenomenon
    that gives it a distinctive character the
    textural meanings and invariant constituents of
    the phenomenon

Processes (cont.)
  • Invariant qualities/themes nonrepetitive,
    nonoverlapping constituents clustered into themes
  • Individual textual descriptions An descriptive
    integration of the invariant textual constituents
    and themes of each research participant
  • Composite Textual Description An integration of
    all of the individual textual descriptions into a
    group or universal textual description

Processes (cont.)
  • Imaginative Variation
  • Vary possible meanings
  • Vary perspectives From different vantage points
    like opposite meanings and various roles
  • Free fantasy variations Consider freely the
    possible structural qualities or dynamics that
    evoke the textural qualities

Processes (cont.)
  • Construct list of structural qualities
  • Develop structural themes Cluster the
    structural qualities into themes
  • Employ universal structures as themes Time,
    space, relationship to self or others, bodily
    concerns, causal or intentional structures
  • Devise individual structural description
    Integrate structural qualities and themes for
    each person into an individual structural
  • Composite structural description Integrate the
    individual descriptions
  • Synthesize composite textural and structural

Qualitative Methods
  • Hermeneutic Approaches

Hermeneutic Approaches
  • These approaches are based on a long
    philosophical interpretive tradition.
  • While Schleiermacher was very influential in the
    development of hermeneutics throughout the 19th
    and early 20th century, more recent thought is
    dependent on the work of Gadamer and Ricoeur.
  • Ricoeur is especially interesting because of his
    work on the meaning of religious texts
  • Hermeneutic techniques are the best developed of
    the qualitative methods to help understand and
    interpret narrative

Hermeneutic Approaches (cont.)
  • Hermeneutic methodology has not been popular in
    psychology, but interest is currently on the
  • Packer Addison (1989) edited an important
    collection of essays on hermeneutic methods in
  • In the area of psychology of religion, Belzen and
    colleagues (Belzen, 1997) recently published a
    collection of essays arguing for the increased
    use of hermeneutics in the psychology or
  • Hermeneutic analysis of narrative has become
    especially influential in the fields of
    psychotherapy, family therapy and psychoanalysis.

Hermeneutic Methods (cont.)
  • Relevance to culture research
  • Can be used to explore narrative development of
    cultural identity in the individual (Howard,
  • Narrative is seen as an essential component of
    how individuals ascribe meaning to their lives
    through stories rich in polysemy and reference to
    personal experience, agency and temporality this
    perspective fits well within a cultural framework

Hermeneutic Methods (cont.)
  • Emphases
  • According to Gadamer (1989), the most crucial
    aspect of hermeneutics is openness on the part of
    the listener to hear what the text, speech or
    piece of art has to say to them given their
    particular set of prejudices. Initially, this
    means openness to new ideas.
  • An inseparable interrelationship (circle) between
    speaker/writer, hearer/reader and meaning is
  • Different writers emphasize different
    applications of hermeneutics

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Ricoeur and the Self (Oneself as Another, 1992).
  • Ricoeur has a dialogical view of the self as
    formed between Sameness and Other
  • Ricoeur analyzes Sameness from two aspects, that
    of idem (sameness) and ipse (selfhood).
    Idem comes through language and our physical
    continuity as a body. Permanence in time through
    ipse forms from character and keeping ones
    word. Loss of identity can be tied to the loss
    of support of sameness.
  • In defining Otherness, Ricoeur tries to strike a
    middle ground between gnoseological (Husserl) and
    ethical (Levinas) dimensions. Our picture of
    these form an important unifying part of the life
    narrative. The social other is thus critical to
    the formation of self.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Ricoeur and Narrative
  • Narrative expresses and helps construct identity
    and the self. Narrative identity makes the two
    ends of the chain link up with one another the
    permanence in time of character and that of
    self-constancy (p. 166).
  • Ricoeur defines character as the set of
    distinctive marks which permit the
    re-identification of a human individual as being
    the same (p. 119). Character is selfhood as
    sameness, made stable through the acquisition of
    habits, identifications and dispositions through
    a dialectic of innovation and sedimentation (p.
    122). The narrative explicates action, but this
    action is performed in a social context, leading
    us into an entanglement of stories.
  • The ordering of the narrative is circularly
    determined by the teleological intentionality of
    the actor.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Narrative involves a dialectical interaction
    between plot and character.
  • The plot describes a sequence of actions
    involving characters responding to changing
    situations which bring out concealed aspects of
    both the character and situation and call for new
  • Explanations of the events are interlaced into
    the narrative. The events aim toward a
    conclusion that provides a teleological guide to
    movement in the story.
  • Thus the story or plot has two dimensions
  • a chronological or episodic dimension that
    involves arranging events in a particular order
    can be analyzed structurally
  • and a non-chronological or configural dimension
    that is a construction of the meaning of the whole

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Although narrative helps constitute the person,
    narrative has its limits.
  • In suffering, we may be led to the incapacity to
    tell a story, the refusal to recount, the
    insistence of the untellable (1992, p. 320).
  • Or alternately our narrative can be tellable but
    only as a tragic narrative that articulates an
    insoluble conflict.
  • Autobiography as narrative has limits that
    written (especially fictional) narrative does
  • Written narrative can be more speculative
  • The teleological character of autobiography is
    different as death cannot really be the telos.
    This narrative is a story of activities and
    practices, each having a mimetic quality.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • These parts form a whole and the hermeneutical
    comprehension of the text is found in the
    circular exchange between whole and part.
  • The joining of the two processes of action and
    characterization constitute the emplotment of the
    story. The emplotment of action leads to a
    dialectic in the character between concordance
    and disrupting events, which bring out the sense
    of contingency, that things could have happened
  • Another point of contact is role, which the
    narrative uses to ascribe action to the agent
    (p. 144). This passage between action and
    character is what constitutes a narrative
    conception of personal identity.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Ricoeur and Hermeneutics.
  • A general statement of Ricoeurs theory of
    hermeneutics can be found in his work
    Interpretation Theory (1976), with significant
    expansions in Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences
  • Ricoeur defines hermeneutics as the theory of
    the operations of understanding in their relation
    to the interpretation of texts (1981, p 43).

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Written text and oral discourse are significantly
    different, with implications for interpretation
  • In writing, one deals with a product which now
    has an autonomy of its own, independent of the
    original speaker.
  • The problem of texts is that due to the nature of
    language they are polysemous and require
    interpretation based in part on the context in
    which the text appears and who speaks. This
    immerses one in a circle of textcontextauthor--i
    nterpreter, none of which can be understood apart
    from the other.
  • In this situation hermeneutic interpretation
    occurs when one is carried beyond the internal
    organization of the text (its sense) to its
    reference, the sort of world opened up by it
    (1981, p. 93), perhaps a different understanding
    of the structure of appearance. In this way we
    understand something of the meaning of an event
    or series of events.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Discourse has as qualities
  • (1) temporality,
  • (2) self-referentiality,
  • (3) external referentiality and
  • (4) the presence of an interlocutor
  • text is characterized by
  • (1) fixation of meaning,
  • (2) dissociation from intentionality
  • (3) loss of ostensive reference reference now
    points to a world that appears before the text
    rather than a situation
  • (4) universal range of addressees

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Interpretation
  • The interpretive process occurs in a series of
    dialectical relationships that move the reader
    from understanding to explanation, and then from
    explanation to comprehension (Ricoeur, 1976).
  • Understanding is an impression of the meaning of
    a text as a whole directed toward the internal
    unity of discourse (1976, p. 74) and is typical
    of an end product in the human sciences
  • Explanation is more directed to the structure of
    the text and operates using a process of
    empirical validation using probability and
    falsification as is common in natural science

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Steps in process
  • In initial understanding one guesses at the
    meaning, and then seeks to verify this guess in
    the details and structure of the text.
  • Interpretation cannot proceed on the basis of
    structure alone because presupposition of a
    certain kind of whole is implied in recognition
    of the parts (1976, p. 77) and a structural
    explanation of a text tells us how the text works
    but not what it means, just as figuring out how a
    machine works doesnt tell us what it does
    (Polanyi, 1962, p. 330).
  • On the other hand, the reference to structure and
    verification keeps the hermeneutic circle from
    becoming a vicious circle. A dialectical
    relationship between an understanding of the
    whole and explanation of the parts thus leads us
    toward comprehension, the ultimate aim of the
    interpretive process.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • This means that the semiotic sense of the text
    leads to a reference that opens up the
    possibility of new ways of looking at the world.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Critique
  • One should not automatically accept everything
    said at face value there is a need for critique.
  • Overcoming falsity or hiddenness involves a
    dialectic between appropriation and distanciation
  • Ricoeur typically focuses on Marxism and
    psychoanalysis as potential systems of critique.
  • However, there are limits to critique, e.g. with
    founding events of communities. The event and
    its meaning are rehearsed through ideology that
    appears in maxims and slogans, is mostly hidden
    it operates behind our backs … we think from it
    rather than about it (1981, p 227). We can
    begin such a critique but never complete it.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and Spirituality.
  • Ricoeurs theory is applicable to questions of
    spirituality and culture because of his work on
    the hermeneutics of religious language (e.g.
    Figuring the Sacred, 1995).
  • The plurality of genre (hymn, narrative etc.) is
    very important, as each genre exercises a
    generative function over discourse. Genres can
    act in opposition to each other and create
    meaning out of the resulting tensions. The
    various genre can also act to conceal or reveal.
  • Not everything can be encapsulated in a
    particular genre such as narrative for instance,
    in the Bible the wisdom literature often breaks
    out things that dont make sense in terms of the
    ongoing narrative.

Hermeneutics Ricoeur (cont.)
  • The result is an explication of a sort of
    being-in-the-world unfolded in front of the text
    (p. 43) as in the general hermeneutical process.
    At times this involves an awareness of the
    presence of a limit-expressions that open up
    experiences of culmination and suffering.
    Hermeneutics can link religious experience and
    theology by helping interpret these experiences.
  • Self-narratives have similar features, although
    since our birth and death are not perceivable to
    us the beginning and ending of the narrative
    remain open.
  • Analysis of narrative is thus best done using
    literary techniques such as actant-function
    semiotics, or analysis of polyphony where
    multiple voices are detected speaking at
    individual and universal levels.

Hermeneutics Practical Issues
  • Practical implications of hermeneutic theory.
  • Interpretation is not independent of the beliefs
    and values of the interpreter, but though
    openness one can take away new ideas and ways of
    looking at the world, helping develop new
    theoretical models

Practical Issues (cont.)
  • The life narratives themselves will likely not be
  • Multiple narratives with their own beginning and
    ending points are likely