This book is written for college students and focuses on qualitative research. Reading about a problem may be good (a literature review), but learning how to investigate the problem yourself is better. Research is a systematic process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information in order to better understand the subject of study. All research involves theory, data collection, and attempts to solve a problem by answering a question. A quantitative research study indicates how variables are numerically related and may be used to determine the method of operandi and to make predictions based on confidence levels; however, a qualitative study indicates why variables are related and may be used to determine motives. In either case, by manipulating the independent variables, the dependent variables may be effectively managed. This book presents information on qualitative research and provides a comprehensive qualitative research study.
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Qualitative Research: Intelligence for College Students
By Wayne L. Davis, Ann-Marie C. Buchanan
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Wayne L. Davis, Ph.D. & Ann-Marie C. Buchanan, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
Why conduct academic research?
Academic research has the highest level of credibility. Academic research involves theory and the collection and analysis of data in order to solve a problem (Balian, 1988). Academic research involves processes that enhance the validity and reliability of the data and findings. Academic publications in peer-reviewed, scholarly sources require the work to be critiqued and approved by experts in the field. See Table 1 for an analogy between choice of police weapon and level of credibility.
Research is a systematic process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information in order to better understand the subject of study (Balian, 1988). Research attempts to solve a problem by answering a question. A qualitative research study indicates why variables are related, based on feelings, opinions, and perceptions. This is especially important if the motive for a particular behavior needs to be investigated. A quantitative research study, on the other hand, indicates how variables are numerically related and is especially important if the method of operandi for a particular event needs to be investigated. Quantitative research allows predictions to be made based on confidence levels. Qualitative and quantitative studies have equal value; each type of study only provides half of the information. In other words, neither one is necessarily better than the other. Although it may be time and cost prohibitive in many cases, a mixed study may be conducted. A mixed study is a study that utilizes both qualitative and quantitative research techniques, which provides more comprehensive information. See figure 1 (Lutterman, 2015).
It should be noted that both qualitative and quantitative research studies have independent and dependent variables. By understanding how and why variables are related, people in authority may be able to manipulate the independent variables in order to manage the dependent variable. By manipulating the independent variables (e.g., perception of crime, perception of the police, sport participation, etc.), the dependent variables (e.g., riots, child abuse, aggression, etc.) may be effectively managed. For example, if the number of training hours is inversely related to the number of complaints received against police officers (quantitative study), then a police department may require more training hours for its officers. On the other hand, if residents engage in riots because they feel that the police are abusive (qualitative study), then the residents' feelings will need to be better understood and addressed. See Table 2 for the differences between qualitative and quantitative research.
Quantitative investigations are scientific, objective, and effective in describing phenomena in terms of magnitude (Balian, 1988). Quantitative investigations use numeric values and statistics to identify patterns, to objectively quantify relationships between variables, and to make predictions. In addition, because large sample sizes are used, data can be generalized to larger populations. However, numeric values are ineffective in describing the subjective interpretations of human emotions (Wakefield, 1995). Because individuals have unique lived experiences and their realities are based on their own perceptions, a single objective truth is unattainable; indeed, there are multiple realities when dealing with perceptions. Thus, quantitative investigations are ineffective for the reconstruction of meanings. In short, quantitative studies ask how variables are related but not why they are related. For example, a quantitative research question may ask, Is there a relationship between ice cream sales and the murder rate? In fact, there is a relationship, but trying to solve the murder rate by outlawing the sale of ice cream will be ineffective because the sale of ice cream does not cause murder (Davis, 2015). Failing to properly identify the root cause of the problem will result in a waste of resources.
If you conducted a qualitative study and asked people why they commit murder when ice cream sales are high, perhaps they will tell you that they commit murder when it is hot (ice cream sales to them may be irrelevant). When it is hot, perhaps the heat agitates them to a point of violence, they may be more mobile (compared to when there are snow covered roads in the winter), and they may have more targets available to them in public.
Types of Research
There are many different types of academic research. The appropriate research design will depend on the purpose and focus of the study. See Table 3 for various types of research.
As stated earlier, all research involves theory, collects some type of data, and attempts to solve a problem by answering a question. Theories help explain problems, they provide possible solutions to the problems, and they guide the questions that are to be asked on a survey when collecting data (for validity). For example, if the social learning theory is being used to explain a problem (i.e., learning because of the frequency, intensity, duration, and importance of social learning experiences), it does not make sense to ask biological- based questions on a survey (i.e., diet, medications, etc.). In other words, if the social learning theory is being used to explain the problem, then the social learning theory must be used to solve the problem.
All theories rely on assumptions, which may impact the effectiveness of any decisions based on those theories. Understanding theories is important because applying the wrong theory to solve a problem will be less than optimal. This is why Megan's Law is proving to be less than effective. According to research on Megan's Law, the deterrence theory and labeling theory are being used to solve a biological-based problem (Corrigan, 2006). Thus, the proposed solution is not in alignment with the theories used to explain the problem and, consequently, Megan's Law is less than effective.
Decisions depend on assumptions, and we will never know if all of the assumptions are 100% accurate. Although we may be confident about a decision, we cannot know with absolute certainty that the decision is correct. However, understanding the assumptions that were relied upon in making a decision is important because the assumptions may change, which may impact best-practice decisions.
When studying a topic that cannot be quantitatively predicted, such as human emotions, qualitative studies are most effective. Indeed, qualitative studies are preferred for describing and interpreting experiences in context specific settings because each person's reality is construed in his or her own mind (Adams, 1999; Ponterotto, 2005). Feelings, opinions, and emotions cannot be accurately assessed via quantitative analysis; probing the participants for more detail through in-depth interviews using open-ended questions is required. Although there is no generally accepted guideline for data analysis in qualitative studies, the investigator may obtain software for content (data) analysis in order to identify themes in the data (Berg, 2007; Choi, green, & Gilbert, 2011). Themes in the data provide meaning. Qualitative research attempts to reveal the meanings that participants have given to various phenomena. However, there are some limitations to qualitative studies. Because the sample size is often small and the experiences have occurred in context specific settings that are unique to each participant, the results cannot be generalized to a larger population. In addition, due to forgetfulness and intentional deception, experiences from the past may be reported less than accurate (McLeod, White, Mullins, Davey, Wakefield, & Hill, 2008). In short, qualitative studies ask why variables are related but not how they are related for example, a qualitative research question may ask, Why do you feel that ice cream sales are related to the murder rate?
There are various ways to conduct qualitative research. The appropriate qualitative research design will depend on the purpose and focus of the study, and how the data will be collected and analyzed. See Table 5.
Qualitative Theme Analysis: Content Analysis
Qualitative research studies attempt to understand why events happen by discovering themes in the data. Because there is no generally accepted guideline for data analysis and display in qualitative studies, many different techniques for identifying themes in qualitative data may be utilized (Choi et al., 2011). Some of the techniques work better for short, open-ended responses while other techniques work better for rich, complex narratives. See Table 6 for several different techniques that may be used during content analysis to identify themes in qualitative data (Ryan & Bernard, n.d.).
Content Analysis for Police Officers
Content analysis may be used by police officers to analyze both verbal and nonverbal information. For example, a police officer who stops a pickup truck may become suspicious that there are drugs in the vehicle if the suspects clinch their fists (they may be preparing to fight), if they take off their hats and sunglasses (they do not want to damage them during a fight), if they start whispering to one another (they may be making a plan of attack), if they try to keep certain parts of their bodies shielded from the officer (they may be trying to conceal weapons), if they start looking around (they may be looking for witnesses, weapons, or escape routes), and/or if they try to position the officer between them. Each of these clues may support the theme that violence is about to occur. Indeed, being able to recognize themes may save an officer's life.
One of the most difficult barriers with conducting research is obtaining the data. Once the data are collected, analyses can easily be performed; the researcher can control the process. However, if the data cannot be collected, then the research study cannot be completed. Relying on others to provide data is risky and may be out of the researcher's control. For example, if the researcher plans to collect data from police officers on police department misbehavior, the department may not want to advertise actions that may lead to lawsuits and may block the researcher's opportunities to collect data. It may be a waste of time to complete a research proposal only to find that the data cannot be collected. Thus, a researcher should make sure at the outset of the study that the data can be collected. The data may be collected directly from first-hand experience by the researcher for the current study (primary data) or may be relevant to the current study but collected by someone else for another purpose (secondary data).
For a qualitative study, the participants must be capable of providing the sought-after data. There should be a reason for the manner in which potential participants are selected. Sometimes it may be important that the potential participants reside in a certain geographical location. Perhaps it is important to collect data from both sexes. Other times the potential participants may not be known in advance, such as drug dealers, and they may need to be found via other participants. See Table 7 for sampling designs.
Once the data are collected, descriptive statistical analyses will need to be performed. The descriptive statistics will check for patterns and trends in the data (Norusis, 2008). They provide an overview of the general nature of the data and may point out problems with the data.
Examples of the Difference between a Quantitative and Qualitative Study
Example of Quantitative Study
Quantitative study: Many more people speed at 5:00 pm than at noon (a large problem exists but we have no idea why people are speeding around 5:00 pm). Although a problem has been identified, we would be guessing as to why the problem exists. Spending a lot of resources on a guess is risky and unwise. Perhaps people should be asked why they are speeding.
Example of Qualitative Study
Qualitative study: A mother speeds around 5:00 pm because she has kids at daycare and daycare closes at 5:15 pm (this is why a problem exists, but it is unclear if only a few people actually speed at 5:00 pm due to daycare issues; perhaps people speed for different reasons and this was a one-time event). It would be unwise to spend a lot of resources to fix the daycare problem based on one speeder's response.
Examples of Quantitative Research Questions
What is the relationship among the number of years that African American girls have participated in school-sponsored contact sports prior to graduating from high school, their childhood religiosity, and their amount of aggression as young adults?
Is there a significance difference between male and female athletes and their amount of religiosity?
Is there a relationship between age and emotional intelligence?
Examples of Qualitative Research Questions
What is your perception of how negative punishment in sports has influenced you as a parent?
What are the perceptions that adolescents have of their role models in determining their smoking status?
How do you feel that company policies have affected your work performance?
Why do you believe that the riot broke out? How do you feel about affirmative action?
Examples of Assessing Various Types of Qualitative
Data The Message of Music
Local residents use music to communicate. Therefore, police officers need to pay attention to the music of minorities because their songs may be transmitting qualitative messages of how they perceive society. For example, there must be a reason why minorities sing songs about excessive police force. Perhaps they have experienced such events. Even if the officers do not believe these messages, the minorities may believe them. Hence, it is important for the police to listen to what the community members are saying and to understand their messages.
Example of Assessing Information in Love Songs
The lyrics for 10 love songs, which have all been ranked number one on the billboards, have been collected and examined (About. com: Country music, n.d.; AlaskaJim.com, 2007; Songfacts, n.d.; Songlyrics.com, n.d.). Five of the songs are performed by men and five are performed by women. The five songs performed by men include 1) Pretty Woman, by Roy Orbison, 2) Daydream Believer, by the Monkees, 3) El Paso, by Marty Robbins, 4) Running Bear, by Johnny Preston, and 5) Hello, I Love You, by the Doors. The five songs performed by women include 1) I Will Always Love You, by Dolly Parton, 2) To Sir With Love, by Lulu, 3) Love Child, by the Supremes, 4) Will You Love Me Tomorrow?, by the Shirelles, and 5) Respect, by Aretha Franklin. The songs performed by men will be compared to the songs performed by women by comparing themes between the lyrics. All of the lyrics performed for each sex will be combined and an overall comparison will be made.
The unit of analysis, which "is the amount of text that is assigned a code" (Neuman, 2006, p. 327), shall be the stanza. Furthermore, because the words "I love you," may actually mean, "I am infatuated with you and want sexual intercourse even though I do not know you," the theme of each stanza shall be evaluated by using latent coding. Indeed, latent coding may be more valid than manifest coding, which simply counts the number of times that the words appear. This means that the entire song must be read prior to any evaluations so that the overtone can be assessed. In addition, a stanza may include more than one theme. However, before a content analysis can commence, a list of variables needs to be developed (Sproull, 1995).
1) Long term love – a long term commitment, perhaps as in marriage;
2) Infatuation – burning desire for immediate action;
3) Puppy Love –nonsexual and superficial;
4) Gain love – want other person to provide love;
5) Give love - willing to sacrifice oneself for love;
6) Believes superior to other person;
7) Believes subordinate to (i.e., worships) other person; and
8) Believes equal to other person.
Excerpted from Qualitative Research: Intelligence for College Students by Wayne L. Davis, Ann-Marie C. Buchanan. Copyright © 2016 Wayne L. Davis, Ph.D. & Ann-Marie C. Buchanan, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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Table of Contents
ContentsCHAPTER 1. ACADEMIC RESEARCH, 1,
CHAPTER 2. ETHICS IN RESEARCH, 46,
CHAPTER 3. RESEARCH PREPARATION, 71,
CHAPTER 4. EXAMPLE OF AN ABRIDGED RESEARCH PROPOSAL, 99,
CHAPTER 5. A COMPREHENSIVE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH STUDY, 111,