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Key procedures and data collection methods in qualitative approach

Key procedures and data collection methods in qualitative approach
So far, you should be able to understand the importance of qualitative studies. The next question is how do we conduct qualitative research?
Maxwell provides a model incorporating five key procedures that we need to go through when we design qualitative research proposals. Now please take a look at this model provided by Maxwell. These five procedures include deciding on the research goals, establishing a conceptual framework, clearly designing the research questions, deciding on the methods and adopting strategies to address the validity issue. The model, as you can see from this picture, can be divided into the upper triangle, they include goals, conceptual framework, research methods; and the bottom triangle, and they include research questions, methods and validity. The upper triangle is more conceptual and usually is the first that we develop; and the bottom triangle of the model is the more operational half of the design.
We will focus on the bottom triangle today. But before we go on discussing each step, I would like to remind you that these five steps are more of a interactive and integrated process instead of separate procedures, we may need to go back and forth in the process. Now let’s take a look at each procedure. The first step is to establish our research goals. We need to ask ourselves, why is our study worth doing? what issues do we want to clarify? what practices and policies do we want it to influence? Why do we want to conduct this study? Why should we care about the results? Who will benefit from this study, etc?
In other words, we should always ask the questions to ourselves
when we conduct a study: what do we want to achieve? And why is it worth achieving? Now this also applies to other types of studies. I have seen some well conducted researches, each step is well really well done and done rigorously, but they get rejected. And the main reason is that the reviewers do not think the study is worth doing. And the kind of contribution of this study is too limited. After the goals are established, we need to work on the conceptual framework by reading extensively on what is known about the topic. We need to look at relevant theories, beliefs and prior research findings. Sometimes personal experiences can help us understand the issue better as well.
Now that we have goals and we have gained sufficient understanding on literature, and have formed a conceptual framework, we are now able to define our research questions. Now the questions need to be crystal clear since these questions will guide us through the whole research project. So what specifically do we want to better understand about the settings or participants? And what do you know about these that you want to learn? What questions better capture these learning and understanding? And how are these questions related to one another? With clearly defined questions, we can now think about what methods, what approaches and techniques we are going to adopt for data collection and data analysis.
As we know, there are many approaches available for qualitative data collection. And there is no best one. Instead, we need to look for the most suitable one or ones.
Sometimes we use a few approaches in the same study. I will explain about this later. You can probably name more than a dozen of approaches for qualitative data collection, but these three are probably the most frequently used ones, including interviews and observation and document analysis. Interviews are most useful when historical information is needed. And it is easy for the researcher to control the line of questions. But there are limitations. Information is filtered sometimes. Research might have some bias, and not all people have the same attitude.
Interviews are not only limited to the face-to-face, one-on-one, in-person interviews, you can also conduct telephone interviews, focus group where research interviews participants in a group of five to eight people. And interviews can also be done via emails and other internet channels. But no matter what format do you adopt, interviews should involve more or less open ended-up questions, and they are intended to elicit views and opinions from the participants. And it is always advisable to design an internet protocol to guide the interview process. And this protocol usually includes a 1-2 page long instruction for the interviewer to follow so that standard procedures are used from one interview to another.
Even if you do the interviews all by yourself, the protocol can help maintain consistency from one time period to another time period. And the protocol usually contain well designed questions and probing questions. Please leave some space for you to note down the responses and always include a final thank you statement. For observation, the researchers can gain first-hand experience with participants and they can respond, and they can record information as it occurs. Unusual aspects can be noticed during observation. It is also useful in exploring topics that may be uncomfortable for the participants. But, there are always a but. Researchers might be seen as intrusive because you are physically there.
And private information may be observed that the researchers can not report at all. And researchers may not have the good attending in observing skills. In other word, this technique depends a lot on the researcher’s skill. When you conduct observation in the field, you can choose to conceal your role as a researcher, you don’t let other people know that you’re doing the research or you can participate both as a participant and researcher. Sometimes we just observe. Similar as interviews, a pre-designed observation protocol is highly recommended. And this can be one page long dividing the space to note on different aspects such as portraits of the participants, reconstruction of the dialog, description of physical setting, account of particular events or activities.

In this video, Dr. Ren will introduce the key procedures and data collection methods in qualitative approach.

What are the most common used data collection methods in qualitative research?

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