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Discovering the Truths:
Conducting and Analyzing Qualitative Research

Course Description:

The purpose of this 30-hour (6 Saturday sessions) course is to provide participants with a thorough theoretical and practical knowledge of qualitative research, its conduct, analysis, and reporting in the social sciences.

Two philosophical paradigms in research methodology today rely on quite different designs in their quests for "reality" or "truth;" these are the positivistic (using quantitative, or statistical methods with a pre-established research design, and depending primarily upon deductive reasoning) and the naturalistic or ethnographic (using qualitative methods with an emergent research design and depending primarily upon inductive reasoning).

Qualitative research does not formulate a priori hypotheses to be tested, but seeks to establish what is known as "grounded theory" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This method of developing concepts, establishing "linkages" and thereby creating an understanding of roles in the environment aims to explicate the central phenomena by relating diverse concepts in order to account for complex relationships, and to define the multiple realities within the research setting (see also Denzin & Lincoln, 1994).

As a result, qualitative research provides us with a way of developing an interpretive understanding of a culture such as those found within a particular classroom or an entire educational institution. Where quantitative studies will investigate, for example, the correlation between student study time and test scores or patterns of enrollment, a qualitative study will bring to light otherwise uninvestigated facets of the culture (of the institution or student body), revealing aspects of it which have considerable bearing on what should be researched in depth. For instance, we may discover that students' attitudes towards school and studying, as evidenced in their sets of thoughts, beliefs, customs, artifacts, and patterns of behavior, are far more pertinent to the development of an educational institution's policies than are correlation coefficients.

In Qualitative Research, it is the Metaphysical and Ethical truths which most interest us, as they are the most resistant to traditional positivistic research. We seek ways of understanding negotiated meanings in human relationships, just as we seek to understand humanity. Thus, a new kind of systematic set of beliefs and methods have developed that help define the researcher's perspective in the gathering of such research data; this set of beliefs is what makes up the paradigm of "Naturalistic Inquiry," using qualitative research tools as its sources of information gathering.

Excerpted Readings:

Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y., Eds. (1994). Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Glaser, B. & Strauss, A. (1967) The Discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Glesne, C. and Peshkin, A. (1992). Becoming Qualitative Researchers. White Plains: Longman.
Lincoln, Y. & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Beverly Hills: Sage.
Marshall, C. & Rossman, G. (1989). Designing qualitative research. Beverly Hills: Sage Publishers.
Miles, M. & Huberman, A. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis Second Edition. Beverly Hill: Sage.
Schatzman, L. & Strauss, A. (1973). Field research. New York: Prentice Hall
Spradley, J. (1979). The ethnographic interview. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Strauss, A. (1987). Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Course Outline

Session 1:
Review of Research Methodologies & the Truths They Reveal

Quantitative research:

  • A priori research design 1. Emergent research design,
  • Statistical analysis of 2. Coding, pattern-development,
  • quantifiable data categorization of narrative data,
  • Its purpose is to test theory 3. Its purpose is to discover theory etc.

Empirical truth: An hypothesis or predicate that affirms or denies something consistent with Nature.
Logical truth An or claim logically or mathematically contingent upon another claim already known.
Ethical truth A claim consistent with moral or professional standards of conduct.
Metaphysical truth A basic belief accepted at face value that cannot be tested for truthfulness...

Session 2:
General Procedures to do Qualitative Research

  • The research question
  • Site selection and entry
  • A word on ethics, confidentiality, and anonymity
  • Research participants as informants
  • Data Collection Techniques: observation, listening, interviews, focus groups, psychological strategies, life histories, street ethnographies, historical research, kinesics, proxemics...
  • Debriefing
  • Field Notes
  • A word on trustworthiness of data Credibility, Consistency, Neutrality, and Transferability

Session 3:
A Day in the Field
The participants and instructor will spend the session in a variety of settings, implementing all of the data-gathering techniques referred to last session.

Session 4:
Data Handling: Beginning to Understand What You've Got

  • Coding A procedure which may facilitate this task may be found in the Chromacode data analysis system, demonstrated and experimented with here.
  • Constant Comparisons
  • Analysis
  • Theory Discovery

Session 5:
Reporting Qualitative Research
Case studies and stories. Contextualized analyses of particular anecdotes, quotes, and incidents. Demonstrations and experimentation with case reporting using participants' research studies.

Session 6:
Alternative Reporting Methods
These include qualitative models, (See our course specifically designed on "Designing Qualitative Models") narrated video presentations, multimedia or hypertext and hot-link (non-linear) computer programs, demonstrated and experimented with here. Other modes of reporting using audio, performance, reader's theatre, artistic and participatory modes will also be discussed.



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