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Introduction to qualitative research

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Anna Madill

on 3 November 2017

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Transcript of Introduction to qualitative research

Thematic analysis: Decision points (Braun & Clarke, 2006)
Introduction to qualitative research
design by Dóri Sirály for Prezi
Qualitative Research
Methods in Psychology

Introduction to qualitative research
Professor Anna Madill
Learning outcomes

By the end of this lecture and your own independent reading you should:

have an overview of qualitative methods of data collection

have an overview of qualitative methods of data analysis

be able to situate qualitative research within psychological science

Qualitative research
Working definition of qualitative research to get us started = research that does not use numbers
Why is it relevant to distinguish qualitative and quantitative research?

often have fundamentally different assumptions about the nature of knowledge (i.e., epistemology)
which leads to fundamentally different approaches to conducting research
Methods of collecting qualitative data
Collecting or generating qualitative data?
Realist theory of knowledge (epistemology)

facts exist in the world independent of the researcher

researcher’s job is to find those facts

collecting data
Relativist theory of knowledge (epistemology)

what are considered to be ‘facts’ are always mediated by human understanding
researcher and participant co-construct ‘facts’

generating data
What counts as a theme?
inductive or theoretical?
(i.e., bottom-up or top-down direction of analysis?)
wide or narrow?
(i.e., rich description of the data set or detailed account of one aspect?)
semantic or latent?
(i.e., how explicit or implicit are themes?)
epistemological assumptions
(e.g., realist or relativist?)
Defining qualitative research
Focuses on ‘lived experience’?
...but what about analysis of policy documents?
Is humanistic, democratic, or emancipatory?
…but what about psychoanalytically-informed methods?
Is interpretative?
…but what about
conversation analysis?
Is relativistic?
…but what about realist
versions of thematic
Is ‘not quantitative’?
…but what about
repertory grid
research as
a ‘fuzzy set’
“The field consists of clusters of methods with features in common that overlap, in some respects, with other clusters, while at the same time, some methods have no obvious features in common with other methods”.
(Madill & Gough, 2008, pp. 254-255)
Situating qualitative research
Natural science
A method of inquiry based on gathering evidence that is:
(i.e., detected through the senses)
(i.e., exists in some quantity)
can be subjected to the hypothetico-deductive method:
generate hypothesis (prediction)
test hypothesis against observations
which may include manipulation of variables in controlled context (experimental method)
aims to discover
generalisable laws
This package of assumptions
and procedures (prediction,
manipulation & control) is
known as positivism
Human science
The activity of humans studying other humans incorporates some unique phenomena:
people may change their behaviour as a result of being studied
researchers are not independent of, or outside, what is being studied – even if they try to be
people try and make sense of the process of being studied before, during, and after –which may affect the findings
what is deemed important to study, how the study is conducted, and what are deemed to be legitimate findings are inherently evaluative and subjective
Method of investigation needs to take into account the inherent reflexivity of humans studying other humans
Qualitative research as human science

considers the role of the researcher in generating and analysing material
considers how the phenomenon investigated (e.g., experience, identity) may already be a social product

pays attention to the context in which data collected
analyses data with this context in mind
privileges naturalistic settings

generation of small scale, local theories from observations
research questions NOT hypotheses
Which is best - quant or qual?

Depends on what the researcher wants to ask

Although, in reality, this is heavily influenced by the current research paradigm within the field

which will influence the researcher’s assumptions about the phenomenon of interest
which will influence the kinds of questions it appears legitimate to ask
unless the researcher is brave enough to ask different kinds of question!
Key references

Madill, A. & Gough, B. (2008). Qualitative research and its place in psychological science. Psychological Methods, 13, 254-271.

Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101.
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