Qualitative and Mixed-Method Approaches

Qualitative and Mixed-Method Approaches

Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8116-3.ch010


In this chapter, the juxtaposition and interconnection of deductive and inductive research methods are explored. Qualitative, inductive empirical tools are discussed in depth, specifically in-depth interviews, focus groups, and field observation. Students will learn how these methods are used to generate hypotheses, which can ultimately be tested using deductive research methods. The structure of inductive research questions, and how they differ from deductive research questions, is further addressed, as is how a researcher “makes sense” of qualitative data.
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Qualitative, Inductive Methods

Qualitative research methods include: in-depth interview questions, focus groups, and field observation. In-depth interview questions are open-ended and they are presented more broadly than survey questions. They provide an abundance of information that is not easily reduced to numbers. Encouraging respondents to speak freely, storytelling, and providing examples is central to the in-depth interview experience. Opportunities for follow-up questions often present themselves, and this allows to the researcher to probe further based on the comments of the interview respondent.

Focus groups consist of small groups, usually consisting of six to ten participants. Much like in-depth interviews, focus groups rely on open-ended questions and broad topics to drive a dialogue. The purpose is to establish a dialogue about a topic. If you were going to assess the quality of a research methods professor using a focus group, you would ask very similar questions as with the interview. A focus group differs from the interview in that it is not a one-on-one question and answer session. The focus group relies on creating a conversation among many participants. The moderator, who is responsible for asking the questions and keeping order within the focus group, tries to draw out opinions and stories from all participants. The moderator also encourages the participants to engage one another, to comment on the other participants’ stories, experiences, and opinions. It is important to have a capable moderator, one who prevents a few from dominating the group by encouraging all participants to speak freely.

Like interviews, focus groups often rely on the use of follow-up (or probing) questions, the purpose of which is to address inadequate answers, gain additional information, or clarify statements made by the group’s participants. Within focus sessions, it common to hear follow-up questions like:

  • Could you tell me more about that?

  • Could you give me an example?

  • I am not sure I understand. Could you elaborate some more?

Regarding field observation, there are two types: participant observations and non-participant observations. With participant observations, researchers immerse themselves into an environment, documenting what they see or hear. To further illustrate the difference between a participant observer and a non-participant observer, consider this example. A participant observer that wanted to study a research methods professor and his or her teaching quality would act as part of the class. The researcher would actually attend class, ask questions, provide answers to questions when appropriate, take notes, and complete the assignments as if he or she were like every other student. Conversely, nonparticipant observations assume complete detachment. The researcher has no participatory role. The researcher in this context would attend class, but do very little beyond observing and documenting what was seen.

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