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CSU Qual Research

8 April 2013

Nick Hopwood

on 8 April 2013

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Transcript of CSU Qual Research

Where are our roots planted? Feeding or watering qualitative research So what? Findings and claims Conclusions Trunk Good qualitative research needs to have a solid trunk.

Height = going beyond what we already know - making your contribution. Depending on your field, this may require a taller or shorter tree. If there's lots in your area, you have to be really clear how you stand out. If you're a pioneering (new shoot in a wasteland) then it's different.

Thickness/ sturdiness comes from the suitability of your design and methods in relation to your questions, and their location (roots) ie. ontology and existing research. What do strong roots look like?
1. Penetrate deeply - engage in detail with the field
2. Spread widely - base cannot be too narrow
3. Relevant theory you can work fluently with What kind of climate is your research in?

Is it a stormy one with lots of debates (high winds that can rock your tree?)

Is it dry - lacking rich resources (eg theories) to draw on? Research Professional Development Program:
Qualitative Research Methods You need to step back: what is this whole thing that you have created?
How does it stand out from the field or add something new?
Why should we look at it or eat its fruit - why should we care or take notice?
What about overall aesthetic appeal? In your study you will find some things out about the case or empirical context you have studied. You make CLAIMS based on the DATA, about that CASE.

Like in a tree, some claims might be valid, but best left buried in the less visible centre of the tree - which are the ones that will blossom and are worthy of an appearance in your writing? The tips of the branches are your CLAIMS - specific things you say or argue about your case / empirical context.

These should bear fruit - you need to develop them into CONCLUSIONS which say something about your wider topic. They should be appetising, and help to spawn new practices, research, ideas
Conclusions are seedlings for new stuff presented as tasty fruit! Nick Hopwood
(University of Technology, Sydney) How do you do this?
Do a 'neighbourhood' analysis - what research gets closest to yours? what is in your wider area?

Create texture: different degrees of detail The kind of soil a tree is planted in affects how well it can grow...
In research, the 'soil' includes
1. Our ontological assumptions
2. The quality of existing research - the field we are building on and contributing to
3. The theories we draw on Soils and ontology? Really?
Hard soils - solid basis, rigid, fixed (post-positivism)
Softer soils - room for manoeuvre, things shift, varied interpretations (interpretivism)
Polluted soils - you see something wrong with the world that needs to be put right (critical etc) Just like you check whether a plant is wilting or drowning...

You've got to keep checking your research is 'plumb' - that the assumptions, questions, design, theories, and methods all line up
- See Chenail R J (1997) Keeping things plumb in qualitative research. The Qualitative Report 3(3) Good qualitative research is:
pleasing (maybe challenging)

See my blog (18 Feb 2013) Why here and not there?
Why this topic and not another one?
Why these assumptions / theories and not others?
Why should I or anyone else care? Design Strategy / general approach Ethnography
Case study (multiple / single; Stake vs Yin)
.... leads to questions of sampling... Sampling Samples matter (differently) in qual research!
Who do you talk to / observe?

How are they selected? Who is left out? What does this mean for your claims and conclusions?

What is your relationship to participants and how/why does this matter?

Would more mean better?

Samples can be large/small, but also homogeneous / diverse, random / targeted...

Whose involvement best helps answer your RQs? What you have to resource (feed) your qualitative study also depends on:
Practicalities (time, money, geography)

Compromise is not a dirty word. Reflecting on the implications of decisions / limitations is the way forward. Methods Surveys? Interviews? Observations? Documents? Visual?

Before you get into the nitty gritty of how you do these, you've got to ask how they line up (are plumb with) your assumptions, theories, and research questions

What does each give you evidence of?
INTERVIEWS/SURVEYS = what people say when you ask them X
OBSERVATION = what you notice and note when present at X
DOCUMENTS = what X (authors) wrote at a particular time
VISUALS = how X chose to represent Y (maybe an interview could tell you why, what it means)

Of course we can work with data and interpret it... but it pays to think about the relationship between data, yourself, and reality and how it varies depending on the methods This is about how you actually generate (not collect) your data

SURVEY DESIGN: open/closed questions
INTERVIEW: (un)structured? what does your relationship with participants mean now? (age, gender, power etc)
OBSERVATION: how does your presence affect the action? Does it matter? What do you notice? What are you looking for?
VISUALS: who creates images? How (SPD vs PE)

Is there not an AESTHETIC quality in doing this well? Is there not artistry as well as rigour? Techniques Don't forget all aspects of design are shaped by practical & ethical considerations, as well as research questions, and your personal preferences / affinities Topping out How tall is tall enough?
When do you have enough data?
SATURATION - stop learning / noticing new things
But practicalities, ethics etc.
Not a Nobel Prize... just adding something of value to knowledge Analysis The branches are how we take our data (trunk) further, often in different directions within the same study.
Different theoretical lenses
Different parts of your dataset
Different scales of analysis / levels of detail (micro/macro)

It has to stay 'plumb' - address your research questions, and have a firm basis in your evidence.
How many branches (modes / angles) and how far to take them depends on the study.

Parsimony rules!
Seeking AN not THE interpretation of particular data Strategy, Sampling, Methods, Techniques Example 1 Example 2 Reading the articles and having some understanding of ontology and epistomology I am concerned that the information provided by the people I interview may not be perceived or interpreted by me the way the interviewee might have intended? How can I be sure to interpret information correctly, because it almost seems impossible to do this without some sort of bias or variance?
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