Yesterday’s campus session for Module 2 students opened up a discussion on the various research tools which could be employed in the inquiry. The discussion focused initially on the differences between qualitative and quantitative data and various qualities attached to these two types. The implications of the data type focused on what we do with the data during the inquiry and we agreed that we have to “make sense” of the data – try to draw conclusions and inferences from it in relation to our inquiry topic.
Produce essentially quantitative data i.e. is that which we can count – from this we elicit factual assumptions. And while the method can be useful for collecting a great deal of data very quickly, it comes with the risk of being superficial and does not go deeper in uncovering reasons behind preferences for instances. However, there are a range of different question types which can be used in designing a questionnaire ….which can lead to richer data. There is an opportunity in surveys for asking open-ended questions which can produce some qualitative data for interpretation. This slide show below indicates the different question types which can be used:
These provide qualitative data which is textual. The challenge here is the analysis whereby themes have to be sought and perhaps then quantified. We could all imagine having a mass of textual data and using highlighter pens to identify certain themes or opinions throughout the data. Practical issues about organizing interviews were discussed and suggestions made on location and that telephone / skype interviews are a possibility. Recording the interviews was also discussed and the practice of note taking. Good practice would be to provide a list of the themes to be covered in the interview to interviewees in advance and to ensure that questions asked could not lead to a yes / no answer. Interviews are there to uncover feelings, attitudes, reasons etc and interviewers should have probing questions to deal with this …. Could you explain that? Why do you think that happened? How did that come about? etc.
Can produce very useful data about the topic. For instance, survey respondents / interviewees could respond with what they think the “right” answer is and / or to offer you what they think you want to hear. An observation could reveal that the practice is different. A risk with observations is that the observer can influence behaviors and therefore a true picture is not being captured. Generally, the longer the observer can spend gathering data can minimize this risk. Observations can produce both quantitative or qualitative data. Quantitative data such as how many times, how long etc. Qualitative data takes the form of field notes describing situations, locations, people’s actions, body language dress etc.
Can be useful in gathering a lot of qualitative data very quickly. For instance, if you intend to interview 6 dance students for instance – instead of individual interviews a focus group to with the 6 could produce the data you want. However, focus groups can be difficult to organize as you need a location, an agreed time and there are challenges in gathering the data as the inquirer will not only have to facilitate the discussion but will need to record the data. There is also the practical issue of managing individuals in the focus group to enable all participants to have a say and not allow one highly opinionated person to dominate the group. It can be challenging also to ensure that the discussion stays relevant to your inquiry and the group discussion does not go off on a tangent. Attention was drawn to Google Plus which offers a hangout facility (like a super skype) where you can have up to 8 people participating in a conversation where all can be seen and heard on the computer. Google plus requires you to have a gmail address …
Using more than one tool …
This can be useful in triangulating data – in order to double check results and data. It can also be used in a linear inquiry whereby data is gathered e.g. from survey and analysed and then the knowledge from this process is used to go deeper into the inquiry using another inquiry tool.
Towards the end of the session, we looked at this issue and how to go about it. The advice given was that you should aim to interrogate the literature. What contribution does it make to your inquiry? What questions does it NOT answer? Where does the piece sit in relation to other views (from literature). I told the group what a former colleague of mine used to advise students. If you want to get a D then describe … but if you want to get an A, then analyse! I came across this slide show which is highlights some of the issues in conducting a literature review.