Posted by: Keegan Clements-Housser | June 5, 2017

Qualitative Tales: Pulling it All Together

Note: This post is on Exercise 12.1, which focuses on identifying appropriate writing strategies for different types of qualitative essays. The topic of my research is bridging participatory media and professional media; the answers are written with this topic in mind.

I’m planning on a mixed method approach to my qualitative research. Specifically, I intend to conduct interviews of media professionals already using a hybrid participatory/professional content approach, as well as doing some focus group testing of hybrid content. With the level of complexity that a mixed method approach brings, the “themes/topics” strategy seems to be the most appropriate choice for identifying problems and explaining my data.  The clear logical flow inherent to this strategy will help make sense of both sets of data, as well as highlight statistical and thematic convergences in the data sets.

However, when it comes to connecting with my key readers and audiences, the themes/topics strategy may not be the best choice. While I am conducting much of this research with my future academic career in mind, I’m also very specifically trying to contribute to the professional field of journalism. Ideally, my research will be useful not just to me and my own projects, but also to journalists and other media professionals outside of academia. With this audience in mind, it may be more beneficial to adopt the “separated text” strategy. This strategy’s use of distinct analytical/theoretical and descriptive story sections could help non-academic readers get a more personal sense of what the research is about and how it can relate and apply to their situation than a more purely academically-oriented strategy might.

As an added bonus, the separated text strategy is one I’m most familiar and comfortable with as a writer, if perhaps not as an academic (as an academic I’ve only ever used the themes/topics strategy). The familiarity comes from the fact that the strategy is actually very similar to a journalistic technique known as the “ladder” method. In this method, the journalist switches back and forth from a narrative-heavy first- or close third-person account of a scene to a “big picture” overview/theoretical look at the topic – “climbing up and down the ladder.” The method uses the narrative thread to help the reader find the human element and not get lost in the weeds of policy, hard numbers, geography, etc. The fact that journalists, myself included, are already familiar with this approach further reinforces the separated text strategy as being ideal for journalists in my audience.

That said, as I mentioned above, the themes/topics strategy is the one I’m most familiar with in an academic setting. This complicates the question of which one would have the most potential for achieving my study’s goals; after all, if I go for the separated text approach, I’ll be stepping outside of my comfort zone by quite a bit. Honestly, I probably won’t know which one to use until I’m further along in my research.

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