Qualitative Research Essay Example & Outline

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Comparing Three Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is a systematic subjective approach to research used to describe life experiences and give them meaning. There are six common qualitative research designs, that is, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnographic, historical, action research and case study. Three of these designs will be discussed in this paper.


1. Phenomenological Studies

Phenomenological studies are an examination of human experiences through descriptions that are provided by the persons involved. Such experiences are called lived experiences. The main aim of phenomenological studies is to give a description of the meaning that experiences hold for each subject under study. This type of research method is used in the study of areas in which there is little knowledge available. In phenomenological research, the respondents are asked to give a description of their experiences as they perceive them. They may write about their experiences; however, information is generally obtained through interviewing them.

To gain an understanding of the lived experience from the vantage point of the subject, the person conducting the research has to take into account their own feeling and beliefs. The researchers have first to identify what they expect to discover and then deliberately put aside these ideas of their own. This process is called bracketing. Only when the researchers disregard, their own ideas about the phenomenon under study it is possible to see the experience from the eyes of the people who have lived through the experience.

This type of research would ask a question such as, “What is the experience like for a mother living with a teenage child who is dying of cancer?”. The researcher might perceive that he, himself, would feel very frightened and hopeless. These feelings would have to be identified and then disregarded to listen to what the mother is saying about living through the experience of a dying child. It is very possible that the mother might have discovered an important reason for living while previously she probably hadn't felt needed anymore by her teenage child.

In the research question development, the researcher has to come up with research questions that are relevant to the case under study. Some of the research questions include: What does the existence of feeling or experience indicate concerning the phenomenon to be explored?, What are the necessary and sufficient constituents of experience or feeling? And what is the nature of the human being? These research questions will help in guiding the researcher through the research process.

In the data collection methodology, there are no clearly defined steps to carry out the research. This is so as to avoid limiting the creativity of the researcher. A major step involves seeking of persons who understand the study and are willing to express their inner feelings and experiences. These people then describe the experiences of the phenomenon under study to the researcher. The respondents can also write experiences of the phenomenon under study. The researcher can gain additional data through direct observation and use of audiotape or videotape.
The analysis of data from these types of studies requires that the researcher “dwells with the subject’s descriptions in quiet contemplation.” The researcher then tries to find out the meaning of the lived experience for each of the subjects interviewed. Patterns and themes are sought in the data. Collection and analysis of data occur simultaneously. Presentation of the data collected is done through reports that may be published.


2. Ethnographic Studies

Ethnographic studies involve the collection as well as the analysis of data about cultural groups. Ethnography may be described as “encountering alien worlds and making sense of them”, Agar (1986). Ethnographers try to depict how actions in one world make sense from the point of view of another world. It entails learning from people. It can also be described as the systematic process of observation, detailing, description, documentation, and analysis of the life ways or particular patterns of culture or subculture in order to understand the patterns or life ways of the persons in their familiar environment.

In this research, the researcher lives with the persons under study and becomes part of their culture. He or she explores with the community their customs and rituals. The subject of the study can be an entire cultural group of a subgroup in the culture. The term culture can be used in the broad sense to mean the entire tribe of Indians, for instance, or in a more narrow sense to mean one unit of nursing care.


The researchers interview persons who are most knowledgeable about the culture under study. These persons are called key informants. Data are generally collected through observation of participants and conduction of interviews. Just like in phenomenological studies, the researchers identify their own personal biases, beliefs and set them aside or disregard them, and then try to gain an understanding of the daily lives of the persons under study as they live them. The collection and analysis of data occur simultaneously. As the researchers gain more understanding of the data, new questions tend to emerge. The end purpose of this type of research is to aid in the development of cultural theories.


This method has been used in anthropological research for a long time. Quite recently, the method has been adopted in areas such as health care. In anthropological research, for instance, Margaret Mead in 1929 used ii to study the Samoans. This method has been the principle method used by anthropologists to study persons all over the world. The researchers study how people live and how they communicate with one another.


The type of questions that this kind of research would answer include: What are the customs of the culture under study?, What are the rituals of the culture under study? And How do the people in the culture communicate with one another? The sample size for the study is usually quite large as the researchers have to observe a large sample to be able to understand the cultural aspects of the people under study fully. In the selection of the people to interview, the researcher selects the people who are most knowledgeable in the community and interviews them. Having identified the culture to conduct the study, the researchers identify variables for the study and review available literature. As mentioned above, data collection involves gaining entrance into the culture, acquiring informants and gathering data through direct observation and interaction with the subjects. Data analysis requires that the researcher dwells with the subjects’ descriptions in quiet contemplation. Themes and patterns are then sought in the data collected. Data presentation is usually through reports on what has been observed in the field.

3. Grounded Theory Studies
Grounded theory studies are studies in which data are collected and analyzed and then a theory is developed that is based on or grounded in the data collected. This method utilizes both a deductive and inductive approach to the development of theory. According to Morse and Field (1985), "concepts and constructs are grounded in the data while hypotheses are tested as they arise from the research."

Grounded theory is a very good method for understanding the processes through which patients manage chronic or new problems relating to health. Each of the persons may manage the health problem in a way that is different from the other person. For instance, a researcher who is a nurse may be interested in knowing how young women cope with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). One woman might be embarrassed to talk about the topic while another may be comfortable to talk about it. Each woman will definitely respond to the topic in their own unique way. Instead of using probability sampling procedures, the researcher uses purposeful sampling. This is to mean that the researcher searches for certain subjects who will be able to give new information on the phenomenon that is being studied. The researcher seeks diversity rather than similarity in the persons sampled.


Data are gathered settings that are naturalistic. The collection of data primarily consists of observation of participants and interviews. Data are recorded through tape recordings or handwritten notes. Collection and analysis of data occur simultaneously. Data are constantly compared to those which have been gathered already, a process called constant comparison. Concepts that are pertinent are identified, and codes are assigned to them. The codes assigned are constantly reviewed, with new interpretations being made of the data. The researcher has to keep an open mind, and he uses intuition in the interpretation of the data.


After identification of concepts and specification of relationships, the researcher goes ahead to consult the literature to aid in the determination of whether similar associations have been already uncovered. Despite the great diversity of data gathered, this approach presumes that there is a possibility of discovering patterns that are fundamental to all social life; the patterns being called basic social processes. This method is more concerned with coming up with rather than testing of hypotheses. Another factor is that the theory generated is self-correcting, meaning that as data are gathered, there are adjustments made to the theory to allow one to interpret new data obtained. The sample size for the data is usually small, and presentation is in the form of reports of data collection and analysis.

References
Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2000). Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications
Flick, U. (2008). Designing Qualitative Research. London: Sage Publications
Garner, R., & Scott, G. M. (2013). Doing qualitative research: Designs, methods, and techniques. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education
Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1989). Designing qualitative research. Newbury Park, Calif: Sage Publications
Maxwell, J. A. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications