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What is qualitative research? Qualitative research is a type of scientific research.

In general terms, scientific research consists of an investigation that: • seeks answers to a question • systematically uses a predefined set of procedures to answer the question • collects evidence • produces findings that were not determined in advance • produces findings that are applicable beyond the immediate boundaries of the study Qualitative research shares these characteristics. Additionally, it seeks to understand a given research problem or topic from the perspectives of the local population it involves. Qualitative research is especially effective in obtaining culturally specific information about the values, opinions, behaviors, and social contexts of particular populations. (PLEASE ADD MORE INFORMATION) THREE KEY QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS Unstructured Interviews Unstructured interviews can be thought of as ‘guided conversations’. We can divide unstructured interviews into three main types (although these are not exhaustive): 1. Cultural interviews. These are an exploration of the experience of individuals within a culture, and the knowledge they pass on to future generations. 2. Oral (signed) histories. These relate to past events, such as experiences of World War II or the closure of a Deaf school. Participants are asked about their experiences from that time, and what they recall happening and feeling; how they interpreted the events then and now. 3. Life histories. Life histories focus upon the individual, and ask about the experience of that individual from childhood through to the present day. What was like being a deaf child in the 1930’s? How did that experience effect later life decisions, and what is the outcome for the individual today? Unstructured interviews require a large investment of time. This is because they aim for depth of information, which can be time-consuming to obtain, analyse and interpret. The aim during the interview is to move from ‘public accounts’ towards ‘private accounts’. In other words, to go from the sort of answers that an interviewee would give to anyone towards the type of answer that reveals their true feelings and views. This is normally done using three types of question: 1. Main questions. It is always advisable to have a few topics for conversation noted down. There may be certain aspects you want to explore in the interview. If things go well, then you may not need to refer to this list. 2. Probes. Often a participant will say something that you find interesting, but not expand upon it. They may even seem unsure whether they are giving you the information you want – often participants feel that they have a duty to tell you what you want to know! 3. Follow-up questions. These are questions arising from a theme or topic introduced in the course of the interview. Often the interview will take unexpected directions, and new ideas for questions will occur to you. Conducting unstructured interviews is not easy, and is a skill acquired with practice and reflection. In this chapter you will be presented with some basic tips to help get you started:

Encourage. videotape your interviews – with permission from your participant or participants! But do not rely upon this. and use excerpts to ‘bring home’ these themes/topics to the reader. Do not agree/disagree. Do not be afraid to start again. unstructured interviews differ from ethnographic research (which is covered below). ‘Please continue. such as their age. so you will need a way of cross-referencing. 5. Focus groups are considered to be a useful tool for exploring cultural values and beliefs. the demographic balance of the group is important.’ You need to try and make sure you are not leading the participant. In this sense. and always remember to make a back-up of your interview videos! There are also two important things to keep in mind when planning and conducting unstructured interviews: 1. You will. and the aim is for all members to contribute and share their views and feelings. The important thing about a focus group is the group dynamic. It is helpful to use index cards or computer packages (such as Ethnograph and NUDIST) to make this process easier. Socio-demographic characteristics. Oh. 2. Then identify excerpts from the transcription that relate to these themes/topics. Some excerpts will fall into more than one category. You do not want members to feel isolated or under-valued. You have to encourage people to talk openly and freely. There are many ways you can do this. This is also covered in a later chapter on Ethics. ethnic background. ‘It would be really helpful to know your views on …’ and ‘I think it is important to know what Deaf people feel about …’. Use sentences like. What other views do you have on that. gender. It is also important to make them feel they are actually participating and not just being interviewed. and any other details you feel are important when interpreting the interview data. but the most common is to isolate themes and topics from transcriptions of the data. and (d) being positive in appearance and the style of questioning. These notes can help guide the interview (if needed) and also help you remember your thoughts when you later come to transcribe and analyze the video material. Make the participant feel comfortable and relaxed. 3. You must not leave your participant feeling vulnerable. This aside. Do not force your point of view upon the participant. There are many ways to do this. Don’t rely only on videotapes. and you will sometimes set off along the wrong path! Focus Groups Focus groups can be thought of as an unstructured interview with several people at the same time. That’s interesting’ is better than ‘I think you’re right. 2. and encouraging them to say what they think you want to know. Analysis of qualitative data is complex. Use icebreakers. including: (a) having a friendly and relaxed manner. Ethics are important. You should not evaluate what the participant tells you. of course. Use neutral probes. (c) ensuring confidentiality. Qualitative data analysis is an exploration of the data. It is also helpful to make notes during the course of the interview. You will often find that your first attempt is not successful. Be aware that the participant’s frame of reference and viewpoint may be very different from your own. You should do your best to remain neutral. The way in which members of the focus group relate to each other and engage with what each other is saying will determine the success of this approach. and note these down. Unstructured interviews often raise subjects/topics that are sensitive or emotional in nature. It is important to note that focus groups are not confidential. or indicate whether you agree or disagree with them. The aim is to identify themes and topics from the interview that help you to understand the participant’s views and feelings. distressed or uncomfortable. You may wish to use a small structured form to note down details about the participant. Below are some additional pointers to help you get started: . 4. (b) phrasing questions in such a way that the participant feels their responses are valuable. and great care must be taken in putting the group together. Probes should be as neutral as the questions you ask. They can contain from 6 to 20 participants and a group leader (usually the researcher). 6. Don’t just launch into the interview. and does not capture what you think is going on.1. the information given about unstructured interviews (above) is also relevant here. As a result.

the participants are full collaborators. When conducting ethnographic research. when it comes to analyzing. This impacts upon the data you collect. In ethnographic research. Within the social sphere you can take on any of these three roles. This means you have to think about what you have done. interpreting and reporting the data from the research. How do you perceive yourself? How do others perceive you? Your role is ambiguous and fluid. and may be in all three at any one moment in time. While some of the time your participants may be conscious that you are there as a researcher.1. It is important to understand the ambiguity and fluidity of the researcher’s role. If the focus group consists of sign language users. This reflection is itself part of the research process. the researcher enters into the daily lives of those being studied. 2. Importantly. and yet at the same time allow contributions by all group members to be recorded. Make sure have enough material for this length of time. influencing how your participants react to you and what information they give you. Ethnography becomes critical ethnography once you start to reflect upon how the research has been conducted by you as an agent of change and bias. Make sure the focus group meets somewhere that members will be comfortable for 1-2 hours. the room should be well lighted. Focus groups are normally uncontrolled environments. and conduct unstructured interviews. Reflect upon the research process. Comfortable environment. Ethnography and Critical Ethnography In ethnographic research. however. Imagine being an ethnographic researcher who is Deaf and manager of a Deaf Club. engage with participants in a social situation. The methodology is a combination of participant observation (‘observing from within’) and unstructured interviewing. Be aware that you are biased. 4. 2. it is important to be critical. and what conclusions you have come to. Seating should be comfortable. why you have done it. You will need to keep a video record of the focus group. They are included in negotiating the content and direction of the research. with the researcher disseminating findings. This means you must: 1. This bias can manifest itself in guiding the direction of the research. and refreshments must be available. 3. then information can be missed by group members when more than one person signs at the same time. In addition. An unstructured guide. Focus groups usually last for between 1 and 2 hours. so you need to take care with the layout of the room. and a member of that group. you see your role at that time as being quite different. Unless there is some control over who is allowed to sign. the case may be different. This can be a cyclical process. Room layout. . observe from within. 3. acquire the language of those who are being studied. the Deaf person. Controlling the group. by ‘living’ among them. He or she needs to: 1. You can be the researcher. 2. you will be perceived as being in different roles at different times. The layout must promote discussion. you will take on different roles at different times. in that the leader does not act as a formal ‘chair’ of the meeting. 4. 3. As someone operating within the group that is being studied. the participants must be included as well. It requires you to be aware of yourself as a researcher and as an individual with biases. not a criticism you level at yourself in the Discussion of the dissertation. gathering feedback and rewriting the research until all parties are satisfied with and can relate to the final research document. Be aware of the fluidity and ambiguity of your role. Ethnographic research requires certain things from the researcher. and determining how you choose to interpret the data you have collected. It may also be that while you are perceived as being in a research role. This will normally take the form of a few questions which you can use to stimulate new conversation or change direction. at other times they will not. make a record of events and analyze them. and/or the manager.