Posted by: B. Scott Anderson | May 22, 2014

The finer points in qualitative research

Lindlof and Taylor (2011) went over the nuts and bolts of note taking, writing and researching in qualitative research in Chapter 8. I’m not sure about anyone else in the cohort, but since I have never done an official qualitative research project, I didn’t have a real grasp of the finer points of everything that went into coding, interviewing and note taking. I had, of course, read several qualitative research studies and read in the methods section about how the researcher conducted their study. What really stood out to me was how much of the tone of what subjects said was recorded and thought about. One question I kept thinking that wasn’t addressed was the objectivity of the researcher’s notes (and perhaps coding). For instance, if all of the notes were handed to an uninvolved qualitative researcher, would they come up with the same results or interpretations as the original researcher?

Another question I had related to external validity. It would seem that having a stranger come into your workplace or home to conduct interviews or to observe a subject may entice that subject to give socially desirable answers or to act differently than they normally would. As a researcher, how do you make sure the subjects are giving you legitimate, valid answers to interview questions?

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Responses

  1. Scott raises a good point in his question regarding chapter 8 of Qualitative Communication Research Methods, “One question I kept thinking that wasn’t addressed was the objectivity of the researcher’s notes (and perhaps coding). For instance, if all of the notes were handed to an uninvolved qualitative researcher, would they come up with the same results or interpretations as the original researcher?”

    The quality of qualitative research is taken up frequently through the lenses of bias and consistency. Nicholas Mays, a health adviser, and Catherine Pope, a lecturer in medical sociology, articulately tackle the issue in the British Medical Journal.

    The authors outline two views of how qualitative methods might be judged and argue that qualitative research can be assessed according to two broad criteria:

    1) Validity – For instance, does the research produce similar results when compared to another method of data collection?
    2) Relevance – Does the research add to a body of knowledge, and can it be generalized beyond the setting in which it was gathered?

    Besides getting a sound review from an advisor, is anyone aware of other checks and balances that can help ensure the quality of your qualitative data?


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