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Qualitative Research Methods Training Course


1. To familiarize the participants with the principles ... 2. To discuss a mix of qualitative methods and their ... Epistemology or the study of how ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Qualitative Research Methods Training Course

Qualitative Research Methods Training Course
  • Kampot Province, Cambodia
  • 10-16 November 2003

Research Question
  • Who are the health providers in the village and
    what care do they provide?

Training objectives
  •  1. To familiarize the participants with the
    principles and practice of qualitative research
    methods in public health
  • 2. To discuss a mix of qualitative methods and
    their application in public health research and
  • 3. To practice using qualitative research methods
    in an applied context

Qualitative Research Methods
  • Social mapping
  • In-depth interviews
  • Observation
  • Free-lists and ratings

Meaning of Methods
  • Epistemology or the study of how we do things
  • At a general level, it is about strategic
    choices, for example, whether we do participant
    observation fieldwork, document analysis or an
  • 3. At the specific level, it is about what
    sample you select, whether you do face to face
    interviews or use a telephone or use an
    interpreter or learn the language and do the
    interviews yourself

Rationalism is the idea that human beings
achieve knowledge because of their power of
reason. That is, there are a priori of truths,
and if we prepare our minds adequately those
truths will be evident to us. Versus
Empiricism, who consider that the only knowledge
that human beings acquire is from sensory
experience. They consider that we are born with
brains like empty boxes and that boxes are filled
with the experiences throughout our life. We come
to understand what is true from what we are
exposed to.
Scientific method
  • Science is an objective, logical, and
    systematic method of analysis of phenomena,
    devised to permit the accumulation of reliable
    knowledge (Lastrucci, 19636).

Objective the idea of truly objective inquiry
has long been understood to be a delusion.
Scientists do hold, however, that striving for
objectivity is useful. In practice this means
constantly trying to improve measurement (to
make it more precise and accurate) and submitting
our findings to peer review (Bernard 1995).
Method Each scientific discipline has developed
a set of techniques for gathering and handling
data, but there is, in general, a single
scientific method. The METHOD is based on 3
assumptions (a) reality is out there to be
discovered (b) direct observation is the way to
observe it (c) material explanations for
observable phenomenon are always sufficient, and
that metaphysical explanations are never needed.

Reliable something that is true in Phnom
Penh, for example, is equally true in Kampot
Social Science
  • Asks questions and seeks to explore the answers
  • Social science uses various methods to answer the
  • Most anthropological work is qualitative. In
    applied anthropology there is a growing interest
    in mixing qualitative and quantitative research
    to answer the research question/s
  • Important not to mix quantification and science.
    Keep them separate.
  • Quantification is important in anthropology, as
    it is in any science. But all sciences are not
    quantified and all quantification is not science

  • Some social scientists do not use quantitative
    methods, for example, sociologists.
  • Ethnography does not mean qualitative. As a noun
    it means a description of a culture. As a verb it
    is doing ethnography, and it means collection
    of data that describes a culture.

  • The rest of the training program will be about
    methods that will let you build an ethnographic
    record. Some of these methods involve fieldwork.
    Some methods involved in building an ethnographic
    record include, watching, listening. Some methods
    result in words and OTHERS result in numbers.

Characteristics of Qualitative and Quantitative
  • Qualitative research
  • Inductive
  • Holistic
  • Subjective/insider centered
  • Process orientated
  • Actors world view
  • Relative lack of control
  • Goal to understand actors view
  • Discovery orientated
  • Explanatory
  • Quantitative research
  • Deductive
  • Particularistic
  • Objective / Outsider centered
  • Outcome orientated
  • Natural science
  • Attempt to control variables
  • Goal to find facts causes
  • Verification orientated
  • Confirmatory

Quantitative Research
  • Use numbers and statistics, examples,
    experiments, correlation studies using surveys
    standardized observational protocols,
    simulations, supportive materials from case
    studies (example, test scores).
  • General sequence of research
  • Observe events / present questionnaire / ask
    questions with fixed answers
  • Tabulate
  • Summarize data
  • Analyze
  • Draw conclusions

Culture is the shared traditions, beliefs and
life-ways of a group of people
Qualitative Research
  • Use descriptions and categories (words).
    Examples open-ended interviews, naturalistic
    observation (common in anthropology) document
    analysis, case-studies, life histories, mapping,
    pile sorts and ratings, descriptive and
    self-reflective supplements to experiments and
    correlation studies.

General sequence of qualitative research
  • 1. Observe events / ask questions with open ended
    answers 2. Record/log what is said (or not said)
    and done (or not done) 3. Interpret (personal
    reactions, write emergent speculations or
    hypotheses, monitor methods) 4.  Return to
    observe, or ask more questions of
    people 5.  recurring cycles of 2-4
    iteration 6.  Formal theorizing emerges out of
    speculations and hypotheses 7. Draw conclusions

Three key methods
  • 1.Detailed open-ended interviews (not highly
    structured or limited responses)
  • Direct observation
  • 3. Written documents (work with words and visual
    data, not numbers)

Strengths of qualitative research
  •  Depth and detail (versus standardized
  • Openness can generate new theories and
    recognize phenomena ignored by most or all
    previous researchers and literature
  • Helps people see the world view of those studied-
    their categories, rather than imposing
    categories simulates their experience of the
  • Attempts to avoid pre-judgment (this is
    questionable in reality).Present people on their
    terms, without being judgmental, try to respect
    them from their perspective so the reader can see
    their views (always difficult)

Weaknesses of qualitative research
  • Fewer people studied (usually)
  • Less easily generalized because of few people /
    locations in studies
  • Difficult to aggregate data and make systematic
  • Dependent on researchers personal attributes and
  • Participation in the research can always change
    the social situation (although, not participating
    can also change the social situation as well)

Ten themes of qualitative research
  • Naturalistic not manipulating the situation,
    watch naturally occurring events, not controlling
  • Inductive categories emerge from observing,
    creation and exploration centered, theories
    emerge from data. Often induce hypothesis, test
    it, then look for other possible explanation or
    additional hypothesis.
  • Holistic look at total, what unifies
    phenomenon, it is a complex system, see overall
    perspective. Often research and academics study
    smaller and smaller parts and overlook the big
    picture. Need to try and get a larger picture,
    including the specific and unique context. But
    can look at specific variables too.

Characteristics of Qualitative Research
  • Personal contact share the experience, not
    trying to be the objective outsider. Must know
    people to understand them, and gain insight by
    reflecting and being empathetic with them. If try
    to be objective probably wont understand their
    views (but might understand things about them).
  • Dynamic constant shifting with the changing
    phenomenon and context what method fits now and
    also, use trial and error. Dont stick with the
    one method when you know that it is not working.
    Stop. Realize that things may unfold differently
    than you expected, go with the flow. Respond
  • Unique case selection not as concerned about
    generalizability (actually generalization is a
    cooperative venture of researcher and reader
    researcher describes context fully and reader
    decides if new context is similar in crucial

Characteristics of Qualitative Research cont
  • Thick description lots of detail, lots of
  • Context sensitivity - emphasize many aspects of
    social, historical and physical context.
  • Empathetic trying to take a view of the other
    person and be non-judgmental. Not subjective in
    terms of my biases, not objective in terms of no
    bias, but taking on their perspective to the
    degree possible. How does reality appear to those
    being studied. Yet, also reporting own feelings
    and experiences as part of the data. Try to omit
    judgments, but freely admit own feelings. Do not
    try and hide them. Admitting them adds to the
    validity of the data.

  • Characteristics of Qualitative Research cont
  • Flexible design - You dont always specify it
    completely before research variables and
    hypotheses and sampling and methods are at least
    partly emergent need to unfold. Need to be able
    to tolerate contradictions. Trial and error with
    categories too need to reformulate categories
    many times. Go from parts to whole and then back
    again. Cycle back and forth. Then reconstruct,
    pull data apart again, make better
    reconstructions, etc. Use multiple methods or as
    many as feasible, as long as you get a better
    picture of what is happening and how it is
    understood even use quantitative methods.

Researcher Roles
  • The traditional role for a qualitative
    researcher is to be nonexistent. This is ideal
    but not always possible and practical. The ideal
    is that participant act exactly as they would if
    you were not present.
  • Problem tends to ignore differences made in the
    environment by the researcher.
  • Qualitative research states that the researcher
    should document these differences.
  • It is difficult to obtain the participants views
    without interacting

Researcher Roles cont
  • The presence of the researcher could cause other
    reactions, eg suspicion, affected behavior,
    demonstrations for the researchers behalf. But
    time and familiarity tend to blur these
    responses. In time the researcher becomes part of
    the environment. But not initially.
  • Researcher is an instrument in qualitative
    research. To gather data. People reading the
    research need to know about the instrument. So,
    you need to describe relevant aspects of the
    yourself, your biases and assumptions,
    expectations, relevant history. Keep track in
    your field notes personal reactions, insights
    into the self and past. In a separate journal
    write your personal notes.

  • Emic an insider, become full participant in
    activity, helps minimize distinction/difference
    between researcher and participants
  • Etic an outside view, A fly on the wall. Lots
    of variation in between, can vary role within a
    study starts as outside and move to membership.
    Or change to outsider role at end to verify
    hypothesis generated as participant.

  • Initial entry into the field of study
  • Control access
  • Problems with / for gatekeepers
  • Position of gatekeeper in the research
  • Gatekeepers perception of the researchers, eg.
  • Expectations of gatekeepers on researchers, eg,
    outcomes such as reports, relationships, money
  • Compromises
  • Gatekeepers and problems for the research and

Access to research subjects
  • Access to subjects is often challenging for the
  • Trust and respect is very important
  • Difficulties when participants are not very
  • Role of key informant in research process
  • Positives and Negatives of involving key
    informant, eg, not always representative view of
    others, vested interest in research subject,
    access to resources, political position, looking
    for a friend, have problems with others in the
    community, most educated person, others?

Access to research subjects cont
  • Stay around the study site early in the research
    process. This is sometimes called the mapping
    phase, ie, map the area, social context of
    environment, kinship relations, services or
    networks. Physical mapping is an excellent way to
    meet and greet and learn about the physical
    environment. Doing a video often helps.
  • If physical environment is very familiar, try to
    look for the other aspects of the environment,
    eg, other health providers

Sample and Selection
  • Study a subsection of a population
  • Look at selection in a probabilistic manner try
    to get a representative sample of the group under
  • Not generalizable for the whole population, but
    generalizable for the population under study.
  • Choosing a population to study is dynamic and
    ongoing. The choice of who to study next are
    products of what is being found, not the initial

  • Suggestions for accessing subjects
  • 1. Maximum variation of participants, example,
    women who attend health services and women who do
    not, different age groups, social and economic
    backgrounds, and so on.
  • 2. Snowball approach and networking each person
    studied is chosen by the previous participant -
    this will show linkages between participants.
    This is sometimes the only way to find and obtain
    a sample of certain population groups, eg, women
    who have been trafficked for prostitution.
  • 3. Extreme cases studying one or more people
    at some extreme. This needs to be included in the
    sample with the average and the opposite.
    This may or may not be possible, but you have to
    seek these people out. There may only be one or
    two people, but you have to include them.

  • 4. Typical case - decide what characterizes
    typical and go and look for them.
  • 5. Unique case very rare combination of things
    usually found by accident.
  • 6. Ideal case perfect situation. if it wont
    work here, it wont work anywhere.

  • It is very important to be able to say how and
    why you sampled in a given manner. So, keep
    detailed field notes on the decisions you made
    about sampling and why you made them. Go into
    detail in the field notes, give examples and the
    reasons for the choices you made.

Informed consent
  • Definition of informed consent consists of the
    elements- information, comprehension, and choice.
  • Country specific laws provide conditions for
    informed consent.
  • Local standards and protocols when conducting
    research with human subjects
  • Oral or written consent
  • Anonymous
  • Difficulties obtaining informed consent in
    special populations, for example, children and
  • Costs and benefits of obtaining informed consent

Ethical behavior in research
  • Courtesy
  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Honesty

  • TRIANGULATION involves using a combination of
    methods, researchers, data sources and theories
    in a research project.
  • Outcomes Different results will be obtained by
    using different researchers and different data
  • Methods are not neutral tools that will produce
    the same results regardless of the method.
    Triangulation addresses this problem.

Recording field work data
  • Two types of note-taking
  • Field-notes
  • Interview transcriptions

  • Ideal situation is to write field-notes by hand,
    and at the study site
  • Field-notes can be written in point form at the
    study site and expanded later
  • Field-notes can be typed into the computer later.
  • Many people do not put field-notes into the
    computer, they work from their journal.

Recording Observations in the field
  • Write about actual events
  • Avoid inferences and generalizations
  • Write down detail
  • Describe the obvious
  • Take photographs if you can
  • Describe actions without evaluating
  • Push yourself to get details
  • Write your opinion in separate section
  • When NOTHING is happening record physical
    environment in detail

Practical field-note taking
  • Use large margins on the page. This gives space
    for comments, additional information, evolving
    questions or theories
  • Feel free to draw pictures, diagrams and symbols
  • Write clearly
  • Feel comfortable where you write field-notes

  • You need reliable data FACTS to be able to
  • Qualitative research relies upon carefully
    documented data so that conclusions can be formed

Interview transcriptions
  • Include open-ended questions in the transcription
    (most formed before the interview)
  • Include a large margin on the page for comments,
    quotes, etc.
  • Write clearly
  • Word for word transcription is best
  • Talk and write slowly, if possible
  • If information is not clear, ask the person to
    repeat the information before writing it down
  • Do not summarize information
  • Record your opinion and thoughts (separately)

  • Data about the environment, people, events,
    activities that are under study
  • Traditions and life-ways of people
  • Special locations or events
  • Confirm what has been said or not said
  • Find more key informants
  • Check accuracy of information gained in
    interviews and social mapping
  • Provide information previously unknown
  • Develop relationship with participants
  • Provide additional data

Key points when making observations
  • Begin with informal conversation
  • Then introduce the project
  • Obtain consent to take notes
  • Explain the purpose of note taking and getting
    more detailed data
  • Identify key informant or additional key
  • Take in-depth field notes of observations

Free-list and rating
  • Simple, yet powerful research method
  • Generally used to study a cultural domain
  • Everyone knows the same free-list, example,
    diseases, plants, occupations, health workers
  • Easy to develop analyse
  • Enjoyable
  • Compliments other research methods, especially
    social mapping and interviews

Key points when making free-list
  • Ask informants to list all the people who provide
    care when they are sick (plus, those that come
    into the village and those outside)
  • Ideal to have (15) or more free-lists from the
    same study site (good sample for analysis)
  • Analyse free-lists by
  • Order and frequency of recall
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Occupation / practitioner
  • Location

Using free-lists
  • Opening technique to obtain information to use in
  • Probe local terminology
  • Explore special terminology
  • Explore cultural and social domains
  • Inform programs

Rating free-lists
  • Produce ordinal data
  • Easy to administer
  • Combined with interviews they are powerful data
  • Used in a variety of research settings
  • Useful when exploring many subjects, eg, foods,
    diseases, health seeking practices, and so on

Key points when making a free-lists and rating
the list
  • Ask participants to make a list of the subject
    under study,eg, childhood illnesses
  • The order is up to the participant
  • DO NOT probe
  • Let the the informant make their own list and the
    natural order will occur
  • Obtain at least 15 free-lists, good for analysis
  • Analyse the free-lists by rating them, for
    example, in order of priority 1,2,3,4,5.

Group Presentations Guidelines
  • Introduction (includes literature review)
  • Background to the research
  • Research Question
  • Research Objectives

  • Ø      Methods used and why
  • Ø     Study site
  • Ø      Study population
  • Ø      Research process
  • Ø      Consent
  • Ø      Confidentiality
  • Ø      Ethical issues
  • Ø      Constraints / problems
  • Ø      Researcher role/s
  • Ø      Unexpected outcomes
  • Ø      Method of analyzing data

  • Ø      Who
  • Ø      Why
  • Ø      When
  • Ø      Where
  • Ø      How
  • Ø      What
  • Ø      What for
  • Seven Steps of Planning

Group Presentations
  • (2) Persons / group
  • 15 minutes each presentation

Data Analysis Phases
  • Code Various Units
  • Develop Categories (Subcategories,
    Superordinate categories)
  • Give Examples of Categories
  • Linkages Between Categories

Coding Data
  • Can have multiple codes for a unit of data
  • Work towards developing many and varying codes
  • Theory preexisting or emergent theories
    influences coding
  • May need to code the same data several times
  • Computers help, but not essential

Develop Categories (main sub categories)
  • Requires tat you develop definitions for each
  • Categories and definitions need to be revised
    several times during analysis
  • Keep track of revision of categories and reasons
    why you revise categories and definitions in
    notes. For example, data indicates that previous
    definitions were not sufficient.

Making Linkages between Categories
  • Need to be specified manually or on computer
  • Document the kinds of linkages developed
  • Consider these kinds of linkages
  • Time
  • Space
  • Causation
  • Social/Interpersonal
  • Many others are possible

Coding Continual dynamic
  • Look at the document, such as interviews
  • Read document (data) many times
  • Look for indicators of categories in events and
    behavior-name them and code them on the document
  • Compare codes (often many times) to find
    consistencies and differences
  • Consistencies between codes (similar or pointing
    to a basic idea) reveals categories.

Coding Continual Dynamic cont
  • Manually, you can cut apart copies of field
    notes/interviews. Now people use computers.
  • Write memo on the comparisons of emerging
  • Eventually you reach category saturation when no
    new codes related to the research project are
  • Eventually certain categories become more of a
    central focus axial and core categories
  • Then you write about (report) the data in each
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