Tag Archives: Research Methods

My posts on how to manage the research process. What are the pitfalls? What is best practice? And how can you as a researcher get the best out of this process.

What is phenomenology?

“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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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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Memoing and Data collection

Note taking
Taking notes when conducting interviews

The collection of data is often a complex affair which really tests the mettle of any budding researcher. There are various mechanisms which help the researcher in collecting data in a comprehensive and logical manner. One of the most popular methods of data collection within a qualitative environment is the Interview. However many qualitative researchers would argue that this is not enough, to much data gets lost!

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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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How to … Nvivo Data Classifications

Filing Cabiner
Use Nvivo to organise data

As discussed in one of my previous blog posts, Nvivo is a very powerful Data Management tool which is ideal for managing large data sets. However for the Novice the power of Nvivo can be overwhelming and confusing and for the early career researcher it can be off putting and intimidating. Hence in order to demystify Nvivo, my aim is for the next few blog posts to create a series of Vlog’s (Video Blog).

Hence my first Vlog is about Nvivo and Classifications. Click on read more to view my youtube video on Nvivo Classifications and a short summary of what Nvivo Classifications are, how they work and why they are important.

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what is an “original contribution”?

This for me has come just at the right time. I have just started my contribution to knowledge and there are some really good points here. Thanks ever so much Pat!


Many doctoral researchers worry about what ‘original’ in original contribution to knowledge means. They worry whether their research will be seen as original enough. They worry which of the multiple ways in which original might be interpreted will be applied to their thesis.

The notion of original seems to carry with it the idea of singularity – I’ve done something fresh and unique– combined with the notion of originary – I’ve started something new here – combined with the notion of authenticity – this is all my own work, I haven’t copied it from anywhere else. Now each of these terms, applied as assessment criteria, is actually pretty unhelpful when it comes to academic work. These categories of originality might make sense for thinking about painting the Mona Lisa, or even inventing Facebook, but they don’t get very far in relation to scholarship. Let me explain.

Singularity? Something unique?…

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Writing up your PhD …

Contributing to Knowledge
How to write up the PhD.

After five long years of working on my PhD I am now near the end of the road, I have reached the write up stage. It has been a long road with a series of ups and downs and highs and lows. The key word for me throughout this process has been “resilience” and “grit”. Thats not to say that I have not enjoyed it, on the contrary I have loved doing my PhD, but you need to have steel if you ever want to finish. Doing a PhD is not easy, there were times over the last five years when the last thing I wanted to do was work on my PhD after a long days teaching and marking. However I am now at the writeup process and so close to finishing that all of a sudden I feel I have hit a brick wall!!

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Using twitter for your PHD or Research

Twitter as a tool has become somewhat of a cultural icon. Over the years since its inception it has morphed into a powerful tool that has caused enormous change from the Arab spring to viral pictures of cats. It has shown itself to be a useful tool across various different industries and disciplines and has caused a huge amount of disruption in areas such as print media. The same industries such as print media now also use twitter to keep it touch with members of the public for up to date information, pictures and videos and news that are occurring in real time.

In my view there is also great scope to use twitter for research, however one of the biggest issues many researchers and academics have about this medium is how can you possibly say anything of relevance within a 140 Characters.  This is quite a challenge for many academics!!

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Sample size for Qualitative Interviews

Identifying your sample
Through the looking Glass

This is one of life’s great mysteries and one that has troubled many a qualitative researcher. How many interviews are enough before i have enough data? What should be my sample size for Qualitative Interviews? During my research this was a issue I really struggled with and found that justifying a sample size was not an easy task and required me to juggle multiple variables.

This short post covers some of the key considerations researchers need to consider and the issue of data saturation and the sample size for Qualitative Interviews.

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How to structure your research approach

This blog post is all about helping you to create a Methodology approach for your Qualitative research.For many identifying and writing a research approach is a personal journey of reflection, exploration and anguish! During my PHD identifying a research approach was one of the most difficult things I achieved. This was also a common phenomena with some of the other PHD students who were also undertaking their degree at the same time as me. We struggled with every aspect of the research approach and for some it was too much.

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