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The Why and How to Choosing A Qualitative Methodology

This self-learning module will guide you through the why and how to selecting and implementing a methodological approach to qualitative research.
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Katie Benedik

on 19 July 2013

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Transcript of The Why and How to Choosing A Qualitative Methodology

A Self-Learning Module
The Why and How to Choosing a Qualitative Methodology
RSOT 547 Self-Learning Module
Created by Katryna Benedik and Kylee Abrahamson
The Why and How
to Choosing a Qualitative Methodology

This self-learning module will guide you through the why and how to choosing a methodological approach to qualitative research.

You may find it helpful to have a pen and paper handy to record notes and answers to the quiz and tasks.
Learning Objectives
By the end of this module, you will be able to understand:
1) The importance of using epistemology, methodology, and paradigms in qualitative research
2) The definition and appropriate uses of qualitative methodology
3) The main types of qualitative methodology and how they compare and contrast
4) How to choose an appropriate methodology for your qualitative research
Epistemology, Methodology, and Methods in Qualitative Research
Epistemology, methodology, and methods are closely connected, each acting on one another in research planning and implementation
Epistemology
- Your epistemological view will frame your interaction with what you are researching and will depend on your ontological view (your view on the nature of reality)
- It may be partly determined by your discipline and the formal theories you have knowledge of
- A reflexive researcher will actively choose a theory of knowledge while a less reflexive researcher will implicitly adopt a theory of knowledge without explicit assumptions
Methodology
- A methodology is defined as “a theory and analysis of how research should proceed” (Harding, 1987, p. 2)
- It refers to how you gain knowledge and carry out your research
- Methodology “provide[s] the researcher with an overall strategy for formulating, articulating, analyzing, and evaluating their methods” (Carter & Little, 2007, p. 1318)
- Decisions about methodology are important because they will influence (and be influenced by) the research questions, objectives, and study design as well as provide the research strategy
Carter & Little (2007)
Epistemology
- Epistemology is the theory of knowledge, or “the study of the nature of knowledge and justification” (Schwandt, 2001, p. 71)
- The contribution of epistemology to research is mostly theoretical, as it has to do with theories of knowledge and the assumptions and beliefs that we have about the nature of knowledge
- Choosing an epistemological position is the starting point to qualitative research
- It influences choice about methodology, methods, researcher-participant relationship, and the nature of reporting
Introduction
- There are many methodological options to choose from, “each of them [is] of more or less use to different audiences" and "each [is] shaped to greater or lesser degrees by existing theory” (Carter & Little, 2007, p. 1325)
- Methodologies used in qualitative research include:
~Narrative, life history, testimonio, and biographical
methodologies
~Case study approaches
~Grounded theory approaches
~Various phenomenological or phenomenographic
traditions
~Participatory action research
~Various ethnographies
~Discourse analysis
- Each variant of methodology has arisen from particular disciplines, which provides the researcher with a link to those disciplines’ formal theories
- If you understand the theoretical bases for your methodology you are more likely to use it in a flexible and confident way rather than blindly following a specific methodological approach
- Methodologies can be combined or altered, as long as your epistemological position remains consistent and the combinations or alternations can be justified in relation to both the theoretical context of the methodology and the impact of the change on the methods
Methodology
Methodology
Paradigm
- Although the focus of this module is on methodology, you may come across specific paradigms while learning about methodological approaches
- A paradigm is a framework of beliefs, values, and methods that guides how research takes place
- It is made up of ontology, epistemology, and methodology
- It is your job as the researcher to “critically understand, make choices about, and be able to communicate [your] worldview to others” (President & Fellows Harvard University, 2008)
- There are a variety of paradigms, with most qualitative work emerging from the interpretivist paradigm
- You do not need to identify with a specific paradigm while doing qualitative research, your paradigm can be unique to you
- Some broad categories of existing paradigms include:
~Positivist
~Post-positivist
~Constructivist
~Interpretivist
~Critical Theory
~Feminist
- For more in-depth information regarding paradigms and their ontological and methodological compositions see:
http://www.qualres.org/HomePhil-3514.html
http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=qualitative&pageid=icb.page340910
Check In
Here’s a short quiz to see if you are staying on track:

1. Define epistemology

2. Name 2 things epistemology influences in qualitative research

3. Define methodology

4. Provide 2 reasons why decisions about methodology are important

5. Name 3 methodological approaches

6. A methodological approach can be altered. T or F

7. Define paradigm

8. Most qualitative work emerges from a positivist paradigm. T or F

9. Name 2 categories of paradigms

Note: The answer key is on the following two frames.
1. Define epistemology
- Theory of knowledge, or the study of the nature of knowledge

2. Name 2 things epistemology influences in qualitative research
- Any 2 answers of: choice about methodology, methods, researcher-participant relationship, and the nature of reporting

3. Define methodology
- Theory and analysis of how research should proceed, or how you gain knowledge and carry out your research

4. Provide 2 reasons why decisions about methodology are important
- Any 2 answers of: it influences (or is influenced by) the research questions, it influences (or is influenced by) the research objectives, it influences (or is influenced by) the study design, and it provides the research strategy
Check In - Answer Key
5. Name 3 methodological approaches
- Any 3 answers of: grounded theory, narrative (life history, testimonio, or biographical), ethnography, participatory action research, phenomenology, case study approaches, and discourse analysis

6. A methodological approach can be altered.
- T Methodologies can be combined or altered as long as your epistemological position remains consistent and the changes can be justified in terms of both the theoretical context of the methodology and the impact on the methods

7. Define paradigm
- A paradigm is a framework of beliefs, values, and methods that guides how research takes place

8. Most qualitative work emerges from a positivist paradigm.
- F Most qualitative work emerges from an interpretivist paradigm

9. Name 2 categories of paradigms
- Any 2 answers of: positivist, post-positivist, constructivist, interpretivist, critical theory, and feminist
Check In - Answer Key
Paradigm
Now You Will Complete A
Self-Directed Learning Task!
- The remainder of this module will present you with a series of seven research studies.
- It will be your task to choose which type of qualitative methodology is most appropriate for each study and why
- The following two frames will provide you with the resources required to complete this task
- Evaluate your learning by reviewing our proposed methodology selection for each given case study (the answer key!)
- The answer key for each research study will be provided on the frame immediately following each study
Resources
Use the following links to learn more details about methodology types to complete the task.
Overview of Qualitative Methodologies
The clinical dilemma that triggered this study arose from the researcher’s many years of practice as a physical therapist in spinal cord injury rehabilitation. Through her involvement with a newly established fertility clinic for individuals with spinal cord injury, she had the unique opportunity to talk with and learn from individuals who were getting on with their lives and who were many years post injury. For these individuals, their visit to the clinic was the first time they had returned to the rehabilitation centre since their discharge post-injury. The clinician’s conversations with these individuals revealed a discrepancy between the perception of spinal cord injury and its consequences held by clinicians, and that held by those who experience the injury over time. Initial conversations with these individuals revealed that their responses to their injury could be more effectively understood in terms of a significant life event. The study began to emerge as a result of these new insights and attempted to answer the following research question: “What is the experience of spinal cord injury like for you personally?” The aim is to explore the individual experience of traumatic spinal cord injury over time. Data will be collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews.
Research Study #1
What qualitative methodological approach will you choose and why?
We chose PHENOMENOLOGY as the most appropriate qualitative research methodology because the aim of the study was to describe the perceptions of lived experience rather than to categorize, explain, or define it. Additionally, the research question arose from a desire to understand behaviour from an individual’s frame of reference and social context.
Narrative
http://www.edu.plymouth.ac.uk/resined/narrative/narrativehome.htm

Case Study http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=nursing_faculty_pubs

Grounded Theory
http://www.groundedtheoryonline.com/what-is-grounded-theory

Phenomenology
http://dissertationrecipes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Phenomenological-Research.pdf

Participatory Action Research
http://www.caledonia.org.uk/par.htm

Ethnography
http://www.spotlessinteractive.com/articles/usability-research/ethnography-when-and-how-to-use.php

Discourse Analysis
http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=qualitative&pageid=icb.page340345

Outline of Four Types (Phenomenology, Ethnograpy, Grounded Theory, Case Study)
http://faculty.cbu.ca/pmacintyre/course_pages/MBA603/MBA603_files/IntroQualitativeResearch.pdf - start on page 4

Ethnography vs Phenomenology
http://kellydubose.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/ethnographic-vs-phenomenological-research-designs/
Research Study #2
What qualitative methodological approach will you choose and why?
We chose ETHNOGRAPHY as the most appropriate qualitative methodology for this study because the researchers were aiming to portray and interpret human experiences and meanings as described by persons who know their own local experience, in this case, the residents of care homes in Norway.
Adapted from Holthe, Thorsen, & Josephsson (2007)
Research Study #3
The aim of this literature study is to explore what understandings and representations of disability are evident in the literature used at Bachelor programs in Occupational Therapy in Norway. A therapist’s understanding of disability can be assumed to affect how they work, consequently affecting disabled people as their clients. This, coupled with financial saving measures in the healthcare sector (such as utilising different professionals according to their expertise) makes it relevant to know what understanding of disability is present within a profession. Two research questions have been formulated to explore the understandings in the literature: "How is disability represented in occupational therapy literature used at Bachelor programs in Occupational Therapy in Norway?" and "Which is the dominant discourse concerning disability conveyed through course literature at Bachelor programs in Occupational Therapy in Norway?" The data collection will be from literature lists collected from the five schools that offer Bachelor programs in occupational therapy in Norway. The most frequently used literature/chapters at all schools will be included in the study.
Adapted from Eerola (2012)
What qualitative methodological approach will you choose and why?
We chose DISCOURSE ANALYSIS as the most appropriate qualitative research methodology for this study because the aim of this study was to identify discourses that construct the understanding of disability within occupational therapy literature. To focus on literature, language and the picture it constructs must be explored, which fulfills the purpose of this study.
Adapted from Carpenter (2000)
Research Study #4
There is much confusion in the occupational therapy literature surrounding the use of counselling and associated skills in the profession and debate about whether they have a role in occupational therapy. This study will explore how counselling skills are used in occupational therapy in the area of mental health. The aims of the study are to: 1. Provide an account of how mental health occupational therapists use counselling skills to enable them to interact with a client in the occupational therapy process, and 2. Explore how occupational therapists use counselling skills in mental health to enable occupation. The data will be collected via a four-phase study involving nine occupational therapists to ascertain their views on the use of counselling skills in mental health. Theoretical sampling will be used, which will enable the researchers to choose the participants most needed to expand on the data, and it will be performed until there is saturation of the data. The researchers expect to discover an emerging theory from the data analysis.
What qualitative methodological approach will you choose and why?
We chose GROUNDED THEORY as the most appropriate qualitative research methodology. The study stated the use of ‘theoretical sampling’, which is an approach widely used in grounded theory methodology as it allows “relevant data and analytic directions [to] emerge without being forced” (Charmaz, 2000, p. 520). Also, the findings will be in the form of a theory, a common trait of grounded theory methodology.
Adapted from Whitcher & Tse (2004)
Research Study #5
In this study, the researchers plan to investigate two patients they came to know during their stay in a partial hospital program. The purpose of this investigation is to examine how individuals verbally portray their understandings of themselves and their lives and if the methodological approach is effective in eliciting information about an individual’s volition. The individuals will participate in a series of semi-structured research interviews that will be conducted by the first author, exploring their past, present, and anticipated experiences. As the researchers’ understanding of their lives develop, more specific questions will be asked to gain an insider's view of their experiences. The two patients will be encouraged to tell the stories that they deem most important to share. All interviews will be audiotaped and transcribed into a computer program. Colleagues familiar with qualitative research methods will assist with content analysis to minimize bias in the interpretation of themes. The researchers will seek to accurately characterize the stories as the individuals saw them and to understand how they comprehended themselves through discourse.
Adapted from Helfrich, Kilehofner, & Mattingly (1994)
What qualitative methodological approach will you choose and why?
We chose NARRATIVE or LIFE HISTORY methodology as the most appropriate qualitative research methodology because of the use of personal narratives to construct a past, present and future life story over time of the individuals involved.
Research Study #6
The Productivity Plus Co-op research project began when a group of 8 people (outpatients at an urban psychiatric hospital) were working with occupational therapists to create meaningful work for themselves (Cockburn, Clark, Nagle, & Clients, 1995). By soliciting fabric and other donations that were then sewn and crafted into saleable products, group members learned skills, generated money, and developed interpersonally. About three years after they first met, the Productivity Plus Co-op group decided to systematically answer questions about the group’s achievements and shortcomings, the barriers the group had faced and how they had been overcome, and the actions that could be taken to continue to strengthen the work. Within the environmental context of the research and teaching hospital in which it was working, the group felt both supported and intimidated in naming the project research. In this initial phase, the group had many discussions about what defines research, how information is shared, how knowledge about work and people with long-term mental illness is collected and constructed, and what methods could be used. Those who had been patients in the mental health system for many years were enthusiastic about actually developing a research project, rather than being a research subject in someone else’s project. Over a period of about 6 months, the Productivity Plus Co-op developed a proposal for a qualitative research project. The main methods of information collection will be document review and semi-structured interviews.
What qualitative methodological approach will you choose and why?
We chose PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH (PAR) as the most appropriate qualitative research methodology for this study because PAR involves a process of systematically examining an issue from the perspectives and lived experiences of the community members most affected by that issue (Cockburn & Trentham, 2002). Research from this perspective involves the process of gathering these experiences through collaborative information sharing, systematic inquiry, reflection, and action with the expected outcome of meaningful social change (Cockburn & Trentham, 2002). PAR methodology intends to help people within a particular time and location to become more aware of constraints that prevent them from fully participating in their communities and to take action to change or eliminate those constraints. People who are marginalized due to barriers related to race, ability, age, socio-economic status, gender or geographic locations are often those who are included and involved in PAR (Cockburn & Trentham, 2002).
Adapted from Cockburn & Trentham (2002)
Research Study #7
This study will explore the areas of acceptance and adjustment, skill level, and functional use of a myo-electric prosthesis compared to a standard prosthesis with a pre-school aged congenital amputee selected from the Juvenile Amputee Clinic list at the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. The research questions are: "Is there a difference in the general overall use of a myo-electric limb versus a standard limb by a young pre-school aged child, both actively or as a passive assistor/stabilizer?" and "How does the active use of the terminal device differ from the standard limb to the myo-electric limb with regard to amount and quality of use?" and "Does the child's and family's acceptance of and adjustment to the standard and the myo-electric prostheses differ?" Acceptance and adjustment will be measured by the Prosthetic Adjustment Scale and by parent interviews. Skill level and functional use of the prostheses will be measured by simple instruments devised by the writer.
Adapted from Crone (1986)
What qualitative methodological approach will you choose and why?
We chose CASE STUDY as the most appropriate qualitative research methodology for this study. Case study research is used to explore real life experiences and situations, when the researcher is interested in both the phenomenon and the context in which it occurs. The case can be a person or several persons, an institution, an innovation, a process, a service, a program, an event or an activity. Specific to occupational therapy, in case study research the case might be an individual client, an organisational environment, an intervention program or the goal-setting process (Salminen, Harra, & Lautamo, 2006). Case study research seeks out rich, in-depth information using multiple sources of evidence and data-gathering methods. All of these components are present in the case example.
OT researchers are developing a study which seeks to gain knowledge of the occupational patterns of persons with dementia in a care home and how the residents perceive the group activities in which they participate. Furthermore, to understand in what way staff can effectively support people with dementia to address their occupational needs and ensure occupational justice. Through their preliminary literature review, the researchers conclude that people with dementia do change their occupational patterns, though it is questionable whether this phenomenon is due to organic changes in the brain only, or the result of some influence from the social environment. The researchers conclude that little is known about residents with dementia in Norwegian care homes, their occupational needs, and participation in activities, and they decide to carry out their study with the following research questions: "How can the residents’ occupational patterns in a residential care home in Norway be described?" and "How do the residents perceive the activities in which they participate?" The researchers decide to collect the data through observation within the natural setting combined with interviews, rather than solely through interviews since residents with dementia may have impaired memory and lack communicative abilities. This study commenced with a period of fieldwork of 45 hours over eight weeks.
CONGRATULATIONS!
-You have just completed this self-learning module on "The Why and How to Choosing a Qualitative Methodology"
-This module explored the elements of epistemology, methodology, and paradigms in qualitative research, with a large emphasis on methodology
-Using the resources provided you were able to choose the appropriate methodologies for a variety of research studies
-You should now have a good understanding of:
1) The importance of using epistemology, methodology, and paradigms in qualitative research
2) The definition and appropriate uses of qualitative methodology
3) The main types of qualitative methodology and how they compare and contrast
4) How to choose an appropriate methodology for your qualitative research
Carpenter, C. (2000). Using Qualitative Research: A practical Introduction for Occupational and Physical Therapists. K.W. Hammell, C. Carpenter, & I. Dyck (Eds.). London: Harcourt Publishers Limited.

Carter, S. M., & Little, M. (2007). Justifying knowledge, justifying method, taking action: Epistemologies, methodologies, and methods in qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research, 17(10), 1316-1328. doi: 10.1177/1049732307306927

Cockburn, L. & Trentham, B. (2002). Participatory action research: Integrating community occupational therapy practice and research. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69(1), 20-30. Retrieved from http://www.caot.ca/CJOT_pdfs/CJOT69/Cockburn69%281%2920-30.pdf

Crone, N. (1986). A Comparison of Myo-electric and Standard Prostheses: A Case Study of a Pre-school Aged Congenital Amputee. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53(4), 217-222. Retrieved from http://www.caot.ca/cjot_pdfs/cjot53/53.4Crone.pdf

Eerola, M.C. (2012). Representations of Disability within Occupational Therapy Literature–A discourse analysis. Retrieved from http://ntnu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:542347/FULLTEXT01

Harding, S. (1987). Introduction: is there a feminist method? In S. Harding (Ed.), Feminism and methodology: Social science issues (pp. 1-14). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Helfrich, C., Kilehofner, G., Mattingly, C. (1994). Volition as Narrative: Understanding Motivation in Chronic Illness. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 48(4), 311-317. Retrieved from http://ajot.aotapress.net/content/48/4/311.full.pdf+html

Holthe, T., Thorsen, K., & Josephsson, S. (2007). Occupational patterns of people with dementia in residential care: An ethnographic study. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 14, 96-107. Retrieved from http://ot.creighton.edu/community/Occupational_Justice/Holthe_Thorsen_Josephsson_2007.pdf

President & Fellows Harvard University. (2008). Paradigms. Retrieved from http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=qualitative&pageid=icb.page340910

Salminen, A-L., Harra, T., & Lautamo, T. (2006). Conducting case study research in occupational therapy. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 53, 3-8. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1440-1630.2006.00540.x/pdf

Schwandt, T. A. (2001). Dictionary of qualitative inquiry (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Whitcher, K. & Tse, S. (2004). Counselling skills in occupational therapy: A grounded theory approach to explain their use within mental health in New Zealand. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67(8), 361-368. Retrieved from http://docserver.ingentaconnect.com/deliver/connect/cot/03080226/v67n8/s5.pdf?expires=1358903786&id=72531520&titleid=6174&accname=University+of+British+Columbia+Library&checksum=F366B62A8E50E2A02EA9B6F47D4E565E
References
One More Thing..
The creators of this module would greatly appreciate any feedback you have to offer. Please click on the link below to complete a short survey evaluating this module.
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RJCM3YF
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