Posted by: Jamie Ann | April 10, 2015

Taming the top two ‘big tent’ criterias: Does my research project have what it takes?

Reading Exercise Post 2:4. Jamie Schaub
Chapter 11 Qualitative Quality – Creating a credible, ethical, significant study.
Exercise 11.1 (p.233)

As I wrap my brain around my final project, I found Exercise 11.1 helpful in taking the first of many baby steps towards my final project. The exercise wanted me to gauge my project’s worth and rigor, which are explained under the ‘eight “big tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research (QRM, p.230)’ approach.

What is my final research project? It’s still developing, but in a nutshell I want my project to answer the following question: How do homeless youth use social media in acquiring housing, food, employment, and travel? I also see my project answering a couple of secondary questions that are not yet clear to me.

The Questions
1. Worthiness: The first criteria under the big tent is worthiness, and the exercise begins with a three-pronged question: First, does it have theoretical relevance? Secondly, does it have a practical application? And, thirdly, is there an opportunity for social transformation? Yes, yes and yes. As I start to dip my toes into finding out what research has already been done, I have discovered some interesting findings. For example, in 2011, University of Southern California School of Social Work published a study on homeless youth which found that ‘51 percent use cell phones stay connected to friends from home, and 41 percent connect to their parents (Homeless teens consider smart phone as important as food. December 21, 2011).’

I would explore further to see if those percentages have changed within the last four years (since four years in the tech world means huge innovation jumps in technology) and how shelters are using social media to help kids.

2. Interesting, Surprising and Problem-solving: I suspect that not all homeless youth use social media, but my hunch tells me that social media is a new tool within this population. Initially, I believed in the myth that smartphones were a luxury item and that people with zero to dismal incomes cannot afford its purchase and data plans, let alone access to battery charging stations. This myth was busted by the percentages I mentioned in the question above.

For me, the more myth-busting a research study is, the more interesting and surprising it becomes. What problem(s) will my research project solve? I don’t exactly know, yet. However, I am optimistic that meaningful insights will be uncovered

3. Rigorous: I hope that by the time I am ready to start my project, my plan will be as rigorous as possible to ensure that I am collecting the appropriate data, have enough of it, and that it’s meaningful. For my field study, I would like to work with Outside In, a nonprofit that serves the homeless youth population, and visit a few well-known coffee shops. I would like my advisor to review my data collection approach and seek the opinions of a couple of my peers for their feedback and suggestions.

Overall, this was a great exercise in taking my first steps.

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