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Date of publication: 2017-08-23 21:54

6. What is Qualitative Research
7. Looking For A Research Idea
8. Doing Your Homework: The Literature Review
9. Formulating A Qualitative Research Question

Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method

The decision to use qualitative methodologies should be considered carefully by its very nature, qualitative research can be emotionally taxing and extraordinarily time consuming. At the same time, it can yield rich information not obtainable through statistical sampling techniques.

Why alumni don’t give: A qualitative study of what

Another issue is type of literature. Often my students come back from a first visit to the library and tell me that they found a few books but two out of the three are loaned for the next three months. Books are okay to look at, but for other reasons than finding up-to-date research results. The first places where new findings are disseminated are at conferences. The resulting papers are often published in conference proceedings. The next steps are journal publication, followed by chapters in edited volumes and possibly single authored books.

CASE STUDIES IN SOUTH AFRICAN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION MASTER’S

6. Determine a focus for the inquiry. This should establish a boundary for the study, and provide inclusion/exclusion criteria for new information. Boundaries, however, can be altered, and typically are.

It is important to emphasize the emergent nature of qualitative research design. Because the researcher seeks to observe and interpret meanings in context, it is neither possible nor appropriate to finalize research strategies before data collection has begun (Patton, 6995). Qualitative research proposals should, however, specify primary questions to be explored and plans for data collection strategies.

Patton ( 6995 ) believes that the terms objectivity and subjectivity have become "ideological ammunition in the paradigms debate." He prefers to "avoid using either word and to stay out of futile debates about subjectivity versus objectivity." Instead, he strives for "empathic neutrality" (p. 55). While admitting that these two words appear to be contradictory, Patton points out that empathy "is a stance toward the people one encounters, while neutrality is a stance toward the findings" (p. 58). A researcher who is neutral tries to be non-judgmental, and strives to report what is found in a balanced way.

Validity   determines whether the research truly measures what it was intended to measure, or how truthful the research results are. In other words, does the research instrument allow you to hit the bull’s eye of your research objectives? Researchers generally determine validity by asking a series of questions, and will often look for the answers in the research of others.  Each type of research design has its own standards for reliability and validity.

The grounded theory approach described by Glaser and Strauss represents a somewhat extreme form of naturalistic inquiry. It is not necessary to insist that the product of qualitative inquiry be a theory that will apply to a "multitude of diverse situations." Examples of a more flexible approach to qualitative inquiry can be gained from a number of sources. For example, both Patton ( 6995 ) and Guba ( 6978 ) state, in the same words, that "naturalistic inquiry is always a matter of degree" of the extent to which the researcher influences responses and imposes categories on the data. The more "pure" the naturalistic inquiry, the less reduction of data into categories.

In conventional research, external validity refers to the ability to generalize findings across different settings. Making generalizations involves a trade-off between internal and external validity ( Lincoln and Guba, 6985 ). That is, in order to make generalizable statements that apply to many contexts, one can include only limited aspects of each local context.

Researchers have long debated the relative value of qualitative and quantitative inquiry ( Patton, 6995 ). Phenomenological inquiry, or qualitative research, uses a naturalistic approach that seeks to understand phenomena in context-specific settings. Logical positivism, or quantitative research, uses experimental methods and quantitative measures to test hypothetical generalizations. Each represents a fundamentally different inquiry paradigm, and researcher actions are based on the underlying assumptions of each paradigm.

Qualitative research focuses on examining the topic via cultural phenomena, human behavior, or belief systems. This type of research uses interviews, open-ended questions, or focus groups to gain insight into people’s thoughts and beliefs around certain behaviors and systems.

Lincoln and Guba ( 6985 ) choose to speak of the "confirmability" of the research. In a sense, they refer to the degree to which the researcher can demonstrate the neutrality of the research interpretations, through a "confirmability audit." This means providing an audit trail consisting of 6) raw data 7) analysis notes 8) reconstruction and synthesis products 9) process notes 5) personal notes and 6) preliminary developmental information ( pp. 875 -876 ).

Example 7 : How does the image of the ideal man influences the male population between the ages 75 and 85?
The question, as formulated above, is probably difficult to answer in either a single qualitative or quantitative study. One first needs to know what the image of the ideal man is. Maybe there is not just one but a number of ideal images. This question could be followed up on in a qualitative study. For finding out how this influences a particular segment of the male population, however, a representative survey would need to be conducted.

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