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Qualitative Design Chart, Essay Example

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Introduction to qualitative research

In qualitative approach to research, a researcher endeavours to explain the social phenomena occurring within the chosen field of interest (Bryman and Burgess, 1993). In other words, the purpose of qualitative research is to gain insights into the world surrounding our lives and why and how social phenomena take place in it. According to (Kreuger, 1994), the following are the aspects which are aimed to study through qualitative research:

  • The typical behaviours of people and ‘why’ such behaviours are in the way they are
  • The “how” inquiry into opinions and attitudes of people
  • How do the social phenomena influence the behavioural attributes of people
  • Studies on culture and its related developments and the “why” and “how” inquiries into such developments
  • How social groups vary

As seen above, qualitative research is more concerned with the “why” and “how” inquiries related to social phenomena (Creswell, 1994). Also, qualitative research seeks to find answers to “in what” ways the social phenomena occur and is interested in subjective interpretations that are backed by rationale and empirical evidence. Unlike quantitative studies, qualitative research is not interested in the numbers, quantities and statistics and also does not have an objective reference for making observations. Moreover, qualitative research in interested in the social settings that influence the occurrence and patterns of occurrence of the observed phenomena (Padgett, 2004). There are various research designs incorporating qualitative research, for this assignment four main qualitative research designs are considered and elaborated below:

Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a type of qualitative research and not be considered the general significance of qualitative research. In simple words, phenomenology is defined as “the study of phenomena”, (Cooper and Schindler, 2006). Phenomenology is the research that is concerned with the description of the world surrounding us and how it affects us (Patton, 1990). The concerned phenomena can be anything in the social paraphernalia, for example people, their experiences, opinions, events, concepts as well as situations. The phenomena surrounding people may not always be understood as it is encountered in everyday life, and people may not be aware of the impact the phenomena have. Hence, phenomenology aims at enlightening on that lack of understanding by trying to explain the impact of social phenomena on our everyday interactions (Cooper and Schindler, 2006). Therefore, phenomenology aims at explaining the impact of social phenomenon to understand in-depth the cause and effect relationships. As for instance, there are people known as care-givers whom most of us know, applying phenomenology approach to care-giving would actually elevate our understanding of the concept of “caring”, its significance and what it takes to be a care-giver. If back pain has been studied through correlation studies, the results might come up with stating people who are likely to suffer from back pain and on what causes back pain stating physiological factors responsible. On the other hand, when phenomenology is applied to studying “back pain”, the outcomes of such research would be more interested in the impact back pain has on the sufferer, physical, psychological and existential impacts. Phenomenology does not end there; it would further to study the impact of back pain on the social behavior and relationships of the sufferer. Hence, the gap that exists in peoples’ understanding of social phenomena forms the basis for phenomenology.

Ethnography

Researchers believe that ethnography has been derived from anthropology (Cooper and Schindler, 2006). Literally, ethnography signifies, “portrait of people”, (Goetz and Le Compte, 1984). In other words ethnography implies the methodology used for studying the culture of people and their intrinsic values adopted as a result of their cultural background. Ethnography investigates on the cultural parameter and takes into consideration other related parameters to close to it such as the geography to which belong to (countries and particular regions), religion, and other shared experiences (Goetz and Le Compte, 1984). As for instance, women from the Asian regions may not be comfortable with cervical screening in which an ethnographic study of the behaviour contributes to what best can be done by the healthcare professionals in order that such contradictions do not occur and also helps in bringing about the awareness amongst the studied people at the same time. In ethnographic research, the researcher has to do a lot of fieldwork wherein there is repeated collection of data through formal and informal interviews and keen observations on the responses. The research involves repeated collection of data through interviews and often requires more time duration (Patton, 1990). It is very much important for the ethnographer to initially understand the social and cultural norms of the selected group for investigation before proceeding to study their cultural attributes.

Grounded theory

Grounded theory is very much similar to phenomenology but goes rather beyond the scope of phenomenology in terms of its application and other subtle differences. Grounded theory aims at developing new theory through investigating on a phenomenon via collection of data and analyzing it in-depth (Strauss and Corbin, 1994).

Grounded theory explores to bring out new theories and new knowledge and hence its scope is broader than phenomenology in the sense that it portrays new approach to already existing problems (Strauss and Corbin, 1994). In grounded theory, there are various data collection methods and most commonly interviews and analysis of secondary data (literature review). Other popular data collection tool in grounded theory is documentary analysis. One important characteristic that distinguishes grounded theory from other qualitative research methods is that it uses the technique of simultaneous data collection and analysis which in other words is known as comparative analysis technique (Cooper and Schindler, 2006). In other words, the data collected influences further proceedings of research, i.e. the immediate analysis of the data prompts for change in the semi-designed interview schedule that was already designed. Hence, such comparative analysis gives way for emergence of new knowledge and new theories from the emergence of new themes and ideas much different from previous research and literature.

Case study

Case study is an approach within which a particular “case”, for instance, an organization is chosen for investigation which explores on the existence of the ideas studied in the literature (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2009). Unlike other qualitative approaches studied above, case study approach is used in both qualitative and quantitative researches. Within a qualitative scenario, case study is an effective technique as it focuses the research on segmented research problem or the case being studied. Moreover, an in-depth analysis can be done on the chosen case as there is a more focused approach. Case studies are popular in application more within business and management studies. An organization, an institution or even a person is chosen as a case study entity or unit to be investigated. Also, some researches consider more than a case study choosing multiple cases. Most commonly, semi-structured interviews and survey questionnaires are used for data collection using the case study approach (Kumar, 2005). Case study investigates or illustrates on the chosen case using the already studied previous research or the proposed hypotheses to test their practical implication and validity (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2009).

However, there is criticism that case study as a qualitative research approach lacks generalization. Nevertheless, case study are excellent research instruments as they help in in-depth analysis of the selected case and also saves time for the researcher. The segmented approach in the case study helps in in-depth analysis. Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2009) recommend qualitative thematic analysis for case study approaches. Thematic analysis allows simple process of discovering latent themes in research through repeated reading of the gathered research data. Thus, case study offers rich and contextual results helpful for the improvement of the chosen case. Also, as case study gives time saving advantage case study is considered most appropriate and suitable strategy for this study.

Summary

The importance of qualitative research as representative of the research concerning social phenomena has been underlined through the presented discussion on qualitative study in general and the elaboration of the four basic qualitative research designs, phenomenology, ethnography, grounded theory and case study and case study has been deemed the most appropriate and suitable research design for the considered research.

Figure 1: Qualitative research design chart

Qualitative research design chart

References

Bryman A., & Burgess, R. (1993). Analysing Qualitative Data. London, Routledge.

Creswell, J. W. (1994). Research designs: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Cooper, D. R. & Schindler, P. S. (2006). Business research methods (7th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Goetz, J. P. & LeCompte, M. D. (1984). Ethnology and qualitative design in educational research. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath.

Kreuger RA (1994) Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research (2nd Edition). London, Sage.

Kumar, R., (2005). Research Methodology A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications.

Padgett, D. (2004). The qualitative research experience. Belmont, CA: Sage Publications.

Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.) Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research Methods for Business students. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited, UK.

Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory: An overview. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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