Category Archives: Research approaches

Different methods of carrying out research. Different tools which help with the research process and how to structure.

Interview skills for Qualitative research

Hand holding a Microphone
Interview skills. Copyright Eclat.co.uk

The majority of research in social science is carried out via a Qualitative approach, where the key research method is either the collection of multiple interviews or focus groups. These interviews are the most essential aspect of your data collection, they help you to understand the phenomenon you are studying in depth. Thus, I am often surprised to see how often researchers go into this crucial data collection process blind. Blind, in that they do very little interview rehearsals, very little time is spent running over different scenarios that may occur in an interview and finally, probably, the most crucial they spend very little time developing their interview skills.

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What is phenomenology?

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“Experience by itself is not science” (Edmund Husserl)

Phenomenology, a word that strikes “fear” into the heart of every qualitative researcher. A lot of this fear is born out of a misunderstanding, a lack of knowledge and in many cases a lack of application. The direct link between phenomenology and experience however cannot be denied.

It is important at this stage to acknowledge that phenomenology is just one mechanism on the “long road” to completion, it may not be the best or the most appropriate viewpoint but as a qualitative researcher you may want to think about how it can be utilised to frame your view of the world.

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What is snowball sampling?

SnowmanThere are many many different ways to develop your sampling strategy. In the past I have spoken about some of these in detail, for example I mention and discuss from a holistic perspective  what is sampling, and why as a concept it is extremely important. In my time as an academic I have come across many proposals, articles, workshop papers and seminars which feel incomplete due to a inappropriate sampling strategy.

In a previous related blog post, I discuss a specific but popular approach of sampling know as purposive sampling, a methodological approach which develops sampling based on specific defined criteria. Judging by the numbers of views these two posts have accumulated it is clear that there is a demand for this type of discussion in a clear and concise manner. It is to this end that today I discuss another very popular method of sampling, known as snowball sampling.

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Using Mobile Devices for Research

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Mobile devices. Copyright bluecoat.com

One of the most daunting tasks for any budding researcher is the data collection process as part of your study. For many researchers this is a part of your work that will test you to the limit and take you far out of your comfort zone. However as with all things there are methods and mechanisms which you can use to make your process as easy, efficient and painless as possible. How I hear you ask? Why mobile devices off course!

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What is Purposive sampling?

Purposive sampling
Finding my sample

Finding the right people at the right time is crucial in collecting data that is usable, viable and valuable. In this post I want to discuss the importance of developing a clear sampling strategy, and why understanding and articulating the decisions you make at this early stage are essential for any research papers, book chapters, articles and dissertations you may wish to write in the future. This paper is a brief continuation of my previous article on what is sampling?

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What is sampling?

Sampling approaches
Finding your sample

This blog post attempts to answer one of the fundamental questions of any research project, and one that confuses many a researcher, what is sampling? Why is it important for this research study? First let us be clear the first step within the realm of any social enquiry includes making decisions, which allows for the design and selection of a research sample that matches the focus of this study.

If you are more interested in finding out how many people you should interview, then click here, otherwise continue reading.

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Using Template analysis

Fork in the Road
Which road to take?

Finding an analytical mechanism that can be employed to analyse Qualitative research is a road filled with laughter, tears, pain and in some cases misery. With so many differing approaches to choose from it can be a difficult decision to decide on what you feel is a suitable mechanism to help you analyse those interviews, documents and memos, which you have so meticulously collected over the lifetime of your research. Hence today I want to talk about what is a relatively new method of Qualitative Data Analysis called Template analysis (I say new but it is about 15 years old, so still a teenager!). I will discuss this as a viable alternative to IPA (Interpretative Phenomenological analysis).

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Types of interviews for data collection

Interview in Progress
Key to a good interview

In this blog post I want to take some time looking at the different types of interviews for collecting data. Every qualitative researcher will at one time or another need to conduct research where they need to interview their research participant(s).  In the view of the research (Burnard, Gill, Stewart, Treasure, & Chadwick, 2008; Gill, Stewart, Treasure, & Chadwick, 2008; Morse & Corbin, 2003) there are three fundamental types of research interviews, these are:

  • Structured,
  • Semi-structured
  • Unstructured

Each of these have a slight variation in their structure and more importantly conduct. Morse & Corbin (2003) discus this in more detail and note that the main difference between the three approaches is “The degree to which participants have control over the process and content of the interview”.

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Data management strategy

Data management in chaos
Binary code chaos

For the Qualitative researcher the implementation of data management is a necessary and essential task when attempting to analyse data as part of the research process. It is very much likely the case, that as the researcher, by this stage you have  amassed a large quantity of qualitative data which can include  interviews, focus groups or survey data. Before anything can be done with this data it needs validating, organising and preparing for analysis. Hence at this juncture there are two options firstly the researcher can develop a manual process of data management or the researcher can live a little on the edge and go hi-tech by employing an electronic process of data management.
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