- All research ultimately has a qualitative grounding. Donald Campbell
Understanding the theories underlining research practice, and the basic assumptions underpinning these theories allow for an in-depth understanding of the research process. This is important to clearly position research carried out.
Ontological and epistemological positions are often not spelled out in research papers. They may not need to be spelled out, but need to be understood since they are at the basis of what is done, of the methods used.
Definitions for qualitative research
Qualitative research developed in social and human sciences as a reaction to the view that human beings can be studied in the same way objects are studied (Minichiello & Kottler, 2010).
Qualitative research emerged from very different traditions, disciplines; as a result very diverse approaches to qualitative research developed. This makes understanding qualitative research often confusing.
There are also many definitions for qualitative research. One example is
- Qualitative research is multimethod in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials – case study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactional and visual texts – that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals' lives. (Denzin & Lincoln 2004, p. 2)
Common features of qualitative research
- Naturalistic – studies phenomena in their natural settings. People in their environment.
- Interpretative – focuses on understanding the way people interpret and make sense of their experiences and the world in which they live. Acknowledges the many ways to acquire knowledge, which can be complementary
Strengths of qualitative research
- Takes context into account
- Allows for taking into account participants’ categories of meaning – is about people’s personal experiences – more adapted to needs of people studied
- Allows in depth study
- Can examine complex issues
- Dynamic (can account for and adapt to change)
- Can inductively generate a tentative but explanatory theory about a phenomenon
Criticism made to qualitative research
- Bias caused by closeness between researcher and participant. The researcher can be seen to influence participants
- Subjective and therefore unscientific
- Knowledge produced might not be generalisable
- It has little credibility with administrators because of prevailing scientific tradition, but also because the use of small samples does not easily allow for quantitative projections
- Data analysis can be very time consuming
Why choose a qualitative approach?
- Because the approach, the methodology reflects a certain view of the world
- Because the research question best suits a qualitative approach
- For pragmatic reasons (training available, supported by supervisor, discipline)
Assumptions and beliefs underpinning research practice
Often assumptions and beliefs are not declared in written research. People differ about whether they should or not be declared. In the end what you do should depend on your audience.
Refers to assumptions about the nature of things, the nature of reality.
Epistemology or theory of knowledge
Epistemology is about the nature of knowledge and how knowledge is produced. Epistemology has to do with how we believe we might discover knowledge and what constitutes knowledge. How do we know the world? What is the relationship between the inquirer and the known?
Some people believe there is such a thing as objective knowledge, some believe that any knowledge is constructed (constructionism) and therefore largely subjective. This is the case of critical research which tends to view knowledge as produced to maintain the status quo and therefore aims to produce research that can lead to social change, by challenging that existing knowledge.
Objectivism is the epistemological view that things exist as meaningful independently of consciousness and experience, that they have truth and meaning residing in them as objects (objective truth and meaning therefore), and that careful (scientific?) research can attain that objective truth and meaning (Crotty, 1998, p 6).
Constructionism focuses on systems of representation, social practices, discourses, and the effects of ideology. Constructionists are concerned above all with the production and organisation of differences, and they therefore reject the idea that any essential or natural givens precede the process of social determination (Fuss, 1989, p 3).
Subjectivism accepts that some basic reality exists, but knowledge of it, as well as of constructed reality, is entirely subjective and a matter of perspective, personal experience. Subjectivism aims to produce knowledge that will lead to social change (Goodrich, 2011).
Any methodology is based on a philosophical position or theoretical perspective or paradigm which provides a context for the process and its logic and criteria, a lens through which research is seen. For Bryman (2004, p 453) a paradigm is ‘a cluster of beliefs and dictates which for scientists in a particular discipline influence what should be studied, how research should be done, how results should be interpreted’.
The notion of paradigm is often linked to Kuhn (1962) who developed it for natural sciences. The concept was further developed for the social sciences by researchers like Guba and Lincoln, who distinguished three main paradigms: positivism, post-positivism and constructivism. Later they also added critical theory and participatory paradigms.
- Assumes there is an objective reality (ontology)
- Assumes people can know, explain describe this objective reality accurately (epistemology)
- Objective reality is perceived as separate from our knowledge of it – we can compare our claims against this objective reality to come up with truth.
- Methodology is often quantitative, and based on testing a hypothesis.
Critical realist Paradigm (post-positivism)
- Assumes objective reality as an ideal one should try to reach (ontology)
- Our ability to know this reality is imperfect, we can only know it from our own perspective. Objective reality can be separated from our knowledge of reality, but cannot be apprehended in a perfect way. (epistemology)
- Methodology favours rigour in sampling and analysis to get as close as possible to 'objectivity' as an ideal. Often uses mixed methods, in natural settings, open ended so participants can provide their view. No testing of hypotheses, but allows knowledge to emerge.
Assumes reality as we know it is socially constructed (Mertens, 2005, p.12) through the meanings and understandings developed socially and experimentally (relativism) (ontology).
Assumes that we cannot separate ourselves from what we know (subjectivist). No separation between researcher and object of research. Reality cannot be separated from our knowledge of it. Who we are and how we understand the world is a central part of how we understand ourselves, others and the world (epistemology).
No objective truth, but truth negotiated through dialogue.
Methodologies used are qualitative or mixed – what is important is that there is a dialogue between researchers and subjects who construct reality together (e.g. interviewing, observation, text analysis). Researcher tends to rely upon the "participants' views of the situation study" (Creswell, 2003, p.8).
Impact of researcher's own background and experiences is accepted and recognised.
No theory or hypothesis to start. Constructivists "generate or inductively develop a theory or pattern of meanings" (Creswell, 2003, p.9) throughout the research process.
Reality has been shaped over time (society, politics, culture, economy, gender, ethnicity) to create structures that are seen as normal/real (ontology).
We cannot separate ourselves from our environment/what we research and this influences what we know (Subjectivist) (epistemology).
E.g. reality constructed through language.
For critical theorists the subjective-objective dualism is just a social construction as 'objective' practices have often been shown to be 'subjective.' The distinction is used as it benefits powerful, groups in power, status quo.
Methods used tend to be dialogic (conversation and reflection) used to challenge assumptions. They will for instance start with an assumption and ask people/data to question this. Aim is to change a situation.
This can include much of the feminist research which aims to emancipate women and improve their lives, by showing bias and inequity.
Transformative emancipatory paradigm
A more pragmatic form of critical theory – developed during the 80s and 90s to address issues of social justice and marginalised peoples (Creswell, 2003, p.9).
Research needs to have a political agenda as well as an agenda to reform, change the lives of the participants, the institutions, and the researcher (Creswell, 2003).
Methodologies used are qualitative and quantitative – favours a mixed approach to offer a broader understanding.
Pragmatism has no loyalty to a system of philosophy or reality. Truth is what works at the time – no duality here between reality and the experience/knowledge of reality. For pragmatists we need to stop questioning the link between the two. Focus is on the outcome of the research. What counts is the ‘research problem’ and all approaches can be applied to understanding the problem (Creswell, 2003, p.11), as well as on consequences of the research.
Methodology used has to include methods that are most likely to answer research question. Concern is with what works. Methods chosen needs to meet needs of researchers and purposes of research. Strongly supports mixed methods.
Mixed methods and paradigms
Mixed methods refers to research mixing quantitative and qualitative research methods. The discussion on this page seems to equate the choice of a particular method with a particular epistemological position, thus making them impossible to co-exist. In practice ‘aligning a particular epistemology and paradigm with a particular methodology is not necessarily straightforward or helpful’ (Goodrick, 2011, p 11). Treating the two main approaches as totally separate, denying the possibilities for working back and forth between these two extremes is problematic according to Morgan (2007), who advocates a more pragmatic approach, examining ‘what people can do with the knowledge they produce and not on abstract arguments about the possibility or impossibility of generalizability’ (Morgan, 2007, p 72). Mixed methods can be used within any paradigm, but are favoured by some, pragmatism, emancipatory.
A methodology should be chosen for its capacity to address research objectives. The question that need to be asked is ‘how much of our existing knowledge might be usable in a new set of circumstances, as well as what our warrant is for making any such claims’ (Morgan, 2007, p 72). As a more pragmatic approach, mixed methods can be seen as a third research paradigm (Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, 2004), a middle position which is essentially outcome driven.
Validity in qualitative research
Questioning the possibility of a truth, a reality that can be measured has implications for how validity is conceived.
Validity in quantitative research (which assumes objective reality that can be measured) refers to:
- internal validity, which depends on the strength of the relation between cause and effect
- external validity, which refers to the possibility to generalize findings.
Validity is a complex issues in qualitative research. Traditional standards cannot easily be applied. If there is no truth or only one that cannot be reached, and knowledge is subjective, criteria for validity can only be very generic or/and subjective. Lincoln and Guba (1985)adapted empiricist criteria for qualitative research (See the link for a detailed description of these criteria).
- internal validity translated as credibility
- external validity as transferability. Generilisability is not easy in qualitative research. It requires strategic planning – research project needs to be framed accordingly and processes made visible to convince.
- reliability became dependability
- objectivity became confirmability
Later the concepts of authenticity and morality (Angen 2000) were also added as validity criteria:
- Real purpose of the research is clear
- Research serves participants
- Gives voice to, empowers participants
- Reciprocity : what do we give back to community?
- Respect of relationship
- Morality or ethical validity - recognition that the choices we make through the research process have political and ethical consideration
- Is research helpful to target population?
- Are there alternative explanations?
- Did we really learn something?
- Post structuralism considers the need for validity criteria itself as flawed
Other useful concepts and ideas which are important when considering validity
- Standpoint position or epistemic privilege: refers to the idea that certain researchers are in an epistemologically advantageous position and therefore likely to generate less partial research. For instance women are in a better position to research women issues than men. Standpoint position is not unchallenged (see Kristina Rolin).
- Validity as important to the research community
- The pragmatic argument that validity should only apply to arguments or conclusions, not to research processes (Richards, 1997)
- Reflexivity - if qualitative reserach is largely subjective, reflexivity is crucial in ensuring awareness of how subjectivity impacts on research.
- Credibility - is the researcher credible to the community, can the work be justified to stakeholders)
- Reliability: is there a clear process – does the research conform to methodological expectations
Possible validity checks at different stages of research:
At all stages it is important to consider
- Relation between researcher(s) and participants
- How to substantiate what is done
At level of data collection
- Sampling strategy
- Participants - researcher relationship. Researcher(s) need to take responsibility for the relationship established with participants, need to be relexive and transparent about this. Is distance between researcher and participants necessary, what does it guarantee? distance?
- Carrying out research in a respectful manner
- Prolonged engagement with participants (insures credibility)
- Record keeping (standardization of fieldnotes, recording, transcribing)
- Refer back to sources to let them read what is recorded
- Collaborative work – cross checking
At level of analysis - how to demonstrate that your interpretation is valid
- Methodological strategies for producing more credible or rigorous qualitative research
- Awareness of choices made and taking responsibility for these choices
- Triangulation: refers to the use of different methods to investigate the same phenomena – allows to judge efficacy or validity of methods and sources used. But triangulation implies a belief in objectivity and truth and may not always be useful or coherent with an approach undertaken. Different ways to measure may show things from a different angle
- Check validity with participants – give epistemological privilege to others. Who judges validity? In some cases it is possible to go back to people who provided the information or to a similar group of people for feedback
- Negative or deviant case analysis
- Check alternative explanations
At level of discussion and conclusion
- Clear demonstration of how conclusion, interpretation was achieved. What is interpretation based on? How has data been woven together? Steps taken need to be continuously noted and justified, nothing should be taken for granted, logic of progression has to be explained. Enough evidence should be provided for the audience to judge how convincing it is (Mason 2006).
- Clearly indicate choices made
- Assess biases
- Self reflect
Validity of final work
- Peer review
- Dissemination of results can reflect quality
- External audits
Resources and references
Angen,M.J. (2000). 'Eveluating interpretative inquiry:reviweing the validity devate and opening the dialogue', Qual Health Research Vol 10/3, pp 378 - 395.
Lincoln, Y and Guba, E (1985) (2nd ed). Naturalistic Inquiry. Newsbury Park : Sage.
Mason, J. (2006) (2nd ed). Qualitative researching. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Richards, L. (2009). Handling qualitative data: a practical guide.Thousand Oaks : Sage.
Rolin Kristina (2006). 'The Bias Paradox in Feminist Standpoint Epistemology', Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 3.1 (2006) 125-136 available at link.
Web Centre for Social Research Methods (2006). (Qualitative validity)
Is it necessary to apply a design framework? Not everyone does. Qualitative research is more than the application of a set of methods. Using a framework is not strictly necessary, many studies do not report on a framework (Goodrick, 2011). Some research is very pragmatic, and reports the aim of a study, the methods used, without discussing an underpinning framework. But a framework can help act as a road map to guide the research process (Goodrick, 2011) and can help focus and refine study. A framework will often direct how to use a method and avoid the contradictory use of methods. What differentiates a methodology from another is how you as a researcher think about the data, and how you then conceptualise, and think from the data (Richard and Morse, 2007, p 48). Different ways of doing things tend to reflect epistemological positions.
It can be hard to get a sense of possible qualitative research design frameworks, since over time they have been categorised in different ways and new frameworks were developed. Frameworks generally reflect research traditions which are not static.
- Common design frameworks in qualitative research include ethnography, grounded theory, case study, phenomenology. Others are narratives, life history, discourse analysis, phenomenography…
- Common design frameworks in quantitative research include experimental, quasi experimental or pre-experimental research.
Any framework chosen has to be appropriate to answer research question. There needs to be a logic informing the research design decision. Any decision needs to be part of a strategy developed to answer a research question. These strategies do not necessarily have to come from a framework. You may want to do a before and after comparison, comparing two places experiencing the same problem in a different context. But whatever is done, whatever choices are made, have to be explained.
Note also that multiple frameworks can be used, but this should probably be avoided if you are not very experienced (Goodrick, 2011).
Generic Qualitative Inquiry
Sometimes, design frameworks are not appropriate. In those cases, researchers can consider a more generic qualitative inquiry approach.
Generic qualitative inquiry is not guided by an explicit set of philosophical assumptions as is the case in ethnography, grounded theory and phenomenology for instance. But it has to be valid and apply rules and methods recognised in qualitative research - exploratory research that seeks understanding and discovery.
Generic qualitative inquiry generally uses thematic analysis to analyse data.
Methods for collecting data
Can involve tapes, photographs, maps, documents, diaries, letters, websites, movies, photographs, objects. Public documents can be easily accessible and research them does not require ethics application; but it is still important to choose documents well.
• Documents need to be evaluated in terms of authenticity, representativeness, meaning and credibility (Denscombe, 201, p 222)
• Most documents have been generated for a specific purpose and are already the result of some form of interpretation
• Keep in mind potential copyright issues
Banks. M. (2001). Visual methods in social research. London: Sage
Loizos, P. (2000). 'Video, film and photographs as research documents' in M.W. Bauer 7 G.
Gaskell (eds) Qualitative researching with Text, Image and Sound, London: Sage
Platt, J. (1981). ‘Evidence and proof in documentary research’, The Sociological Review 21/1, pp 31-66.
Scott, J. (1990). A matter of record. Cambridge: Polity Press
Focus groups interview
A focus groups is a planned sample of participants who are selected for who they are or their experience. Finding participants can be time consuming. This can be done by word of mouth, through the use of key informants, by advertising, or through existing social networks. Incentives, whether gift vouchers or presents, may need to be offered to encourage participation. The possible longer term benefit to groups the participant belongs too, may in some cases be seen as an incentive in itself. Focus groups can be defined as in-depth qualitative interviews or organised discussions held with a small number of carefully selected individuals brought together to discuss a particular topic, so a researcher can gain information about their views and experiences of a topic. Focus groups originated in marketing research and are now also widely used in social research. Focus groups allow a researcher to draw upon respondents’ attitudes, feelings, beliefs, experiences and reactions. Focus groups • Provide qualitative data • Group discussion data • Focus on process and on interaction (Saha, 2006)
Focus group and other research methods
Focus groups are used as a research method for research projects and can be combined with other methods such as individual interviews, participant observation, surveys (Saha, 2006). Focus groups can help explore or generate hypotheses, develop questions or concepts for questionnaires and interview guides (Gibbs, 1997)
=Focus groups and interviews=
- Supplementary techniques can strengthen the total research project
- Focus groups as starting point for constructing an interview schedule
- Individual interviews can help construct focus groups
=Focus groups and observation=
A focus group interview can provide an initial exposure to the behaviours the researcher is about to observe (Saha, 2006)
=Focus groups and surveys=
A focus group interview can help generate the questions for a survey. Focus groups can also serve to explore aspects of the analysis of survey data (Saha, 2006)
How many participants in a focus group?
Gibbs (1997) recommends 6 to 10 participants, while Saha (2006) suggest 6-12 participants. Some conduct focus groups with as much as 15 participants, some with a little as 4 participants. These are not ideal figures.
Who should be selected?
- Participants are usually homogenous - but if the group is too homogenous with regard to specific characteristics, diverse opinions and experiences may not be revealed.
- Sometimes differentiate by gender. religion etc..
- Ideally they should not know each other too well
- Not in any kind of power relationship, participants need to feel comfortable with each other
How often do they meet and for how long?
Some studies only have one meeting with each group, other meet a group more than once. Focus group sessions usually last from one to two hours.
How many groups?
The general rule is that you set up sufficient number of groups to reach 'saturation'. For most projects this means 3 to 5 groups.
Where to meet?
Focus group meetings can be held in a variety of places, for example, people's homes, rented facilities, meeting rooms. Try to choose a neutral location to avoid either negative or positive associations with a particular site or building (Powell & Single 1996 cited in Gibbs 1997).
The focus groups moderator/facilitator:
- Must have training practice
- Must provide clear explanations of the purpose of the group
- Must ensure participation is voluntary
- Must set out ground rules for discussion
- Must explain how long the discussion will last
- Must explain how and why members were chosen
- Must explain how the discussion will be recorded
- May give summary at the end (keeps the group focussed on the topic)
- Must be prepared to adjust style to fit group
- Must not dominate the group (helps people feel at ease)
- Ensures everyone participates (avoids giving personal opinions)
- Moves things forward when the conversation is drifting
You may want to involve more than one moderator, but be clear as to who does what. It can be very useful to have someone taking notes and check the recording.
- Open ended (never yes or no questions)
- No leading questions (to avoid bias)
- Carefully sequenced questions (less sensitive questions first)
- Encourage discussion/interaction between participants
- If necessary challenge participants
- If necessary probe for details
Recording the focus group
Record seating arrangements: by video, tape, manually, using multiple methods.
Advantages of focus groups
- Provides wide range of information on short time
- Can explore unanticipated topics
- Does not require complex sample
- May benefit participants as it can be an opportunity to be involved in decision making processes
Disadvantages/limitations of focus groups
- Participants express their own definitive individual view, in a specific context, within a specific culture. This has to be taken into account by researcher.
- Focus groups can be difficult to assemble
- Some people may find it hard to trust groups with sensitive or personal information/not fully anonymous
- Neither random nor representative
- The quality of data depends a lot on the moderator
Analysis of focus group data
- Focus is on group discussion or interaction, so the process of arriving at consensus or lack of consensus is important
- Identify themes in discussion
- Use multiple sequential quotes rather than isolated quotes
- Interpretation: what is the deviant case
- Logical analysis
- Gibbs, Anita (1997), 'Focus Groups', Social Research Update, Issue 19 Winter 1997, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey, England. Available at the link.
- Krueger, Richard A. (1994). Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, c1994. UC LIBRARY - H62.K72 1994
- Morgan, David L. (1988). Focus groups as qualitative research.Newbury Park, Calif. : Sage Publications, c1988. In the library at H61.28.M67 1988
- Morgan, David L. (1983). Successful focus groups: advancing the state of art. Newberry Park: Sage publications.
- Saha, Larry (2006), Focus groups: interviewing and data analysis, Notes from a workshop provided on 31 January 2006 at part of the Inter-University Research Workshop Program (UC)
- Stewart David W, Prem N. Shamdasani and Dennis W. Rook (2007), Focus groups: theory and practice, Thousand Oaks : SAGE Publications . Available at UC Library H61.28.S74 2007
Interviews are very useful for collecting data on individuals’ personal histories, perspectives, and experiences. A qualitative research interview often examines factual and meaning levels. Interviews may also be useful as follow-up certain respondents to questionnaires.
Interviews can be unstructured with few prepared questions, semi-structured interview which follows an overall structure but allow for more some prompting and probing, or fully structured, with all questions pre-prepared.
- Campion, M.A., Campion, J.E., & Hudson, J.P., Jr. “Structured Interviewing: A Note on Incremental Validty and Alternative Question Types”, Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 998-1002, 1994i
- Foddy, Willam. Constructing Questions for Interviews, Cambridge University Press, 1993. UC Library HM48.F63 1993
- Interviewing In Qualitative Research (Oxford Press)
- Judd, C.M., Smith, E.R. & Kiddler, L.H. (1991). ‘Questionnaires and interviews: asking questions effectively’ (Ch. 11). In Research methods in social relations (6th ed.)(pp. 228-265). Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
- Kvale, Steinar (1996). An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing, Sage Publications.
- McNamara, Carter, PhD. General Guidelines for Conducting Interviews, Minnesota, 1999 Mishler, Elliot G. (1986). Research interviewing: context and narrative. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986. UC Library HN29.M48 1986
Methods for analysing data
Conversation Analysis (CA)
Conversation analysis (CA) studies all kinds of conversations. It is based on the idea that talk makes things happen and that the conversation analyst has something to say about how (Antaki, 2002). CA focuses on what participants see and hear. CA analysis does not attempt to include what is hidden or what cannot be known (e.g. emotions). Conversation analysis generally uses video or audio recordings, which are transcribed and analysed.
Resources for CA
AIEMCA ( Australian Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis) website : http://aiemca.net/
Antaki Charles (1988) (ed). Analysing everyday explanation : a casebook of methods London : Newbury Park [Calif.] : Sage Publication. UC Library HM258.A72 1988
Antaki Charles (1994). Explaining and arguing : the social organization of accounts. London ; Thousand Oaks Calif. : Sage Publications. UC library P302.8.A58 1994
Antaki Charles (2002) An introductory tutorial in Conversation Analysis. Online at <http://www-staff.lboro.ac.uk/~ssca1/sitemenu.htm>. Accessed on 27 April 2011.
Antaki, Charles (2009). ‘An introduction to Conversation Analysis’ in Pertti Alasuutari, Leonard Bickman, Julia Brannen (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Social Research Methods.
Hutchby, Ian (2008). Conversation analysis. Cambridge : Polity, 2008. UC Library P95.45.H88 2008
Hutchby, Ian and Wooffitt, Robin (2008). Conversation Analysis (2nd Edition). Cambridge: Polity Press. UC Library P95.45.H88 2008
Sacks, H (1992). Lectures on Conversation. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. UC Library P95.45.H37 1992
Sidnell, Jack (2009). Conversation analysis : comparative perspectives. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. UC Library P95.45.C66 2009
Sidnell, Jack (2010). Conversation Analysis: An introduction. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. Schegloff, E A (1988) ‘Goffman and the analysis of conversation’. In Drew P. and Wootton A. (eds) Erving Goffman: Exploring the Interaction Order. Cambridge Polity Press.
ten Have, P (1999). Doing Conversation Analysis. London: Sage Publications
ten Have online site available at http://www.paultenhave.nl/
Wooffitt, Robin (2005) Conversation Analysis and Discourse Analysis: a Comparative and Critical Introduction. London: Sage. UC Library P95.45.W66 2005
Analyses ‘texts’ (written, drawn, audio, visual). Tends to be quantitative, as it involves quantifying contents, but can be qualitative when it is interpretative and takes into account contexts.
Generally content analysis involves counting and coding (emergent or a priori) defined units of analysis (e.g. letters or words, paragraphs…). Holsti (1969, p 14) defines content analysis as, "any technique for making inferences by objectively and systematically identifying specified characteristics of messages" . Content analysis is widely used to analyse media as it can be very useful to systematically go through large data sets . It has been used to discover and describe the focus of individual, group, institutional, or social attention (Weber, 1990). Holsti (1969) sees three basic uses to content analysis
- make inferences about the antecedents of a communication (e.g. infer who the author of a text is)
- describe and make inferences about characteristics of a communication
- make inferences about the effects of a communication.
Content analysis has been criticised for not capturing the context of a text, though more recently practitioners do take context into account e.g. Krippendorf
Berelson, B. (1952). Content analysis in communication research. Glencoe: Free Press. UC Library P93.B4 1971.
Holsti, Ole R. (1969). Content analysis for the social sciences and humanities . Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley Pub. Co. Uc Library P93.H65 1969.
Krippendorff, Klaus (1980). Content analysis: an introduction to its methodology. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications. UC Library P93.K74 1980.
Krippendorff Klaus & Bock Mary Angela (eds0 (2009). The content analysis reader. Thousand Oaks : Sage Publications. UC Library P93.C65 2009.
Loughborough University (UK) Department of Social Sciences website about content analysis http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/mmethods/resources/links/ca.html
Manning, Peter K. & Cullum-Swan, Betsy (1994). ‘Narrative, content and semiotic analysis’, in Denzin & Lincoln (eds) Handbook of Qualitative Research Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Neuendorf, Kimberly A.: The Content Analysis Guidebook Online (2002): http://academic.csuohio.edu/kneuendorf/content/
Stemler Steve (2001) An Overview of Content Analysis http://pareonline.net/getvn.asp?v=7&n=17 Weber, Robert Philip (1990) (2nd ed). Basic content analysis. Beverly Hills : Sage Publications. UC Library H61.W422 1985.
Refers to a set of methods and theories for investigating language in use and language in social contexts. Discourse analysis focuses on the implied meaning of a text, rather than on its explicit content (Denscombe, 2010, p 287). It is based on the idea that words and images do not just depict reality, but create and sustain reality. Analysis involves deconstructing data, to expose what it is generating.
Fairclough N. (2003). Analysing discourse: textual analysis for social research. New Yourk: Routledge.
Loughborough University Department of Social Sciences on Discourse Analysis for analysing media content
Phillips, N. & Hardy, C. (2002). Discourse analysis: investigating processes of social construction. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage publications.
The concept is generally attributed to the work of Erving Goffman (1974). It is based on the idea that the way we react, perceive things depends on the way they are framed. Frames thus organise ideas, make sense of events for the reader, tell what is relevant and what is an issue is and by doing so make the world presented look natural, self evident.
Frame analysis aims to unpack this process by examining the major cognitive schemata used to interpret the world and communicate about it (or frames). Frames are 'constructed from and embodied in the keywords, metaphors, concepts, symbols, and visual images' (Entman, 1991).
References and resources
- Entman, Robert (1991). "Farming US coverage of international news: contrasts in narratives of the KAL and Iran Air incidents, Journal of Communication 41 (4), 6-27.
- Goffman, Erving (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. New York : Harper & Row. UC Library HM291.G583 1974
- Introduction to frame analysis, (see the link) Loughborough University Department of Social Sciences website on using frame analysis for analysing media content.
- Menashe, C. L., & Siegel, M. (1998). 'The Power of a frame: An Analysis of newspaper Coverage of Tobacco Issues – United States, 1985-1996'. Journal of Health Communication, Volume 3, Issue 4, 307-325.
- Winett, L. (1995). Advocate’s guide to developing framing memos. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Media Studies Group.
Relates to a story analysed for how stories construct the social world.
Labov, W. & Waltezky, J. (1997/1967). 'Narrative analysis: oral versions pf personal experience'. Journal of narrative and life history, 7 (1-4), 3-38.
- Angen, MJ. (2000). Evaluating interpretive inquiry: Reviewing the validity debate and opening the dialogue. Qualitative Health Research. 10(3) pp. 378-395.
- Creswell, J.W. (2003. Research design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Creswell, J.W. (2007. Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five traditions, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Crotty, Michael (1998). The foundations of social research: meaning and perspective in the research process, St Leonards, NSW : Allen & Unwin , 1998.
- Denzin, N & Lincoln, Y. (eds.)(1994). Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
- Fuss, D. (1989. Essentially speaking: feminism, nature and difference, New York: Routledge
- Goodrick, Delwyn (2011), Qualitative Research, Design, Analysis and Representation, unpublished notes from workshop presented in the context of ACSPRI 2011 (Canberra).
- Guba, E. G & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). "Competing paradigms in qualitative research." Pp.105-117 In Denzin and Lincoln (eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research. .
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- There is a difference between methods and methodology. Methodology refers to an overarching research strategy or design, a plan of action, a process that can be used to try to understand the world. A methodology can be quantitative (tends to be oriented by objective epistemology) or qualitative (tends to be oriented by constructionist epistemology). Methodologies can be further subdivided according to different methodological frameworks or approaches to research. Common design frameworks in qualitative research are ethnography, grounded theory, case study, phenomenology, critical analysis, phenomenology, generic qualitative research. Common design frameworks in quantitative research are experimental, quasi experimental or pre-experimental. Methods refers to the procedures used to gather and analyse data related to a research question or hypothesis. Quantitative methods for instance include surveys, questionnaires, tests that measure, observation that is structured and measures something. Qualitative methods include interviews, focus groups, text analysis.