Qualitative Research Methods
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Qualitative Research Methods

Monique Hennink, Inge Hutter, Ajay Bailey

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eBook - ePub

Qualitative Research Methods

Monique Hennink, Inge Hutter, Ajay Bailey

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About This Book

Practical and straightforward, this book is a multidisciplinary introduction to the process of planning, conducting and analysing qualitative research, from selecting appropriate methods to publishing your findings. Built around the authors' Qualitative Research Cycle – consisting of the design, data collection and analytic cycles – this pragmatic guide clearly demonstrates the steps you need to take to ensure your research is rigorous and robust. Drawing on decades of experience teaching workshops, the book is packed with techniques and tools to help you turn theory and method into research practice. This second edition:

  • Showcases the importance of linking research design to data analysis, helping you avoid potential pitfalls and get the most out of your data
  • Highlights the relevance and wide application of qualitative methods with an array of international examples of real field research and interdisciplinary case studies
  • Gives clear guidance on writing qualitative research, including how to respond to critiques of qualitative methods
  • Has a renewed focus on evaluating quality in qualitative research, ensuring your work is valid, reflexive and ethical

Offering tried and tested research tools like interview guides that you can apply to your own projects and supported by online resources including checklists and reflective questions, this book is the perfect companion for anyone looking to complete a successful project using qualitative research methods.

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1 Introduction to the Book


After reading this chapter you will:
  • know who this book is for;
  • become familiar with our qualitative research cycle;
  • become familiar with the features of this book;
  • know the structure of this book.

Who is this book for?

This book is useful for researchers and students from different academic disciplines who want to learn the process of conducting qualitative research. The book is suitable for both novice and more advanced qualitative researchers. For those new to qualitative research we recommend starting with Chapter 2, which describes the nature of qualitative research and the underlying principles for data collection that are described in Chapters 79. Researchers who are more familiar with methods of qualitative data collection may be interested in qualitative data analysis, developing inductive theories or writing qualitative research in Part III. For researchers interested in developing participatory qualitative research projects, i.e. aiming at academic and social change outcomes by involving participants and other societal stakeholders, Chapters 4 and 12 are most relevant. This book is also relevant for those who evaluate the quality of qualitative research projects to understand how to assess qualitative study design, data collection and analysis. We provide criteria to assess the quality of your qualitative research at the end of each chapter and in the Postscript.

The qualitative research cycle

In this book we present a framework for conducting qualitative research that acknowledges the cyclical nature of the qualitative research process. We call it the qualitative research cycle, and it is shown in Figure 1.1. Our approach is shaped by conducting qualitative research within the predominantly positivist and quantitative disciplines in which we work (e.g. demography and health sciences). Therefore, we discern that qualitative research involves an explicit study design process (the design cycle); and while the inductive nature of qualitative research is well known, we also recognize that induction continuously alternates with deductive reasoning. Throughout the book we describe how to use inductive and deductive reasoning in designing qualitative research (design cycle), in collecting qualitative data (data collection cycle) and in analysing these data (analytic cycle). Our approach is described in further detail in Chapter 2.
Our qualitative research cycle thus consists of three interlinked cycles: the design cycle, the data collection cycle and the analytic cycle, each of which is briefly described below.

The design cycle

The design cycle is the first component of the qualitative research cycle. It consists of four interlinked tasks: the formulation of research questions and objectives; reviewing research literature and incorporating theory; developing a conceptual framework for the study; and selecting methods of data collection. These four tasks form the conceptual design phase of a research project. As you conduct each task and move around the cycle, you also return to earlier tasks and adjust these so there is coherence between all components in the design cycle. The design cycle leads to the data collection cycle and guides your initial data collection. However, you also return to the design cycle to refine the research question or conceptual framework of the study based on data collected. If you want to conduct a participatory qualitative research project you additionally follow a participatory design sub-cycle as described in Chapter 4. The design cycle is described in Part I of this book.
Figure 1.1 Hutter–Hennink qualitative research cycle

The data collection cycle

The data collection cycle is the second component of the qualitative research cycle. It is closely linked to the design cycle, to ensure a logical flow from the conceptual design of the study to its field application. The data collection cycle comprises the core tasks in qualitative data collection, including designing the research instrument, recruiting participants and collecting data. These three tasks are guided by the study design that was developed in the design cycle. The fourth task involves making inductive inferences, which is the pivotal point that makes data collection into the circular process that characterizes qualitative data collection. Making this inductive turn involves using what you learn in early data collection to guide subsequent data collection to go deeper into the research issues thereby generating richer or ‘thicker’ data as you proceed. The inductive turn may also lead to adjustments in the data collection tasks, for example refining the research instrument, participant recruitment strategies or the method of data collection based on what you learn in early data collection. The data collection cycle therefore begins with deductive reasoning and continues with an inductive process that refines and reshapes the data collection process. Initiating the inductive process involves reviewing data as you collect it, which incorporates early data analysis into data collection, thereby linking the data collection cycle with the analytic cycle. The data collection cycle is described in Part II of this book.

The analytic cycle

The analytic cycle is the third component of the qualitative research cycle. It comprises the core tasks of qualitative data analysis, including developing codes, description and comparison, categorizing and conceptualizing data and developing theory. These analytic tasks are closely interlinked: not only are they conducted in a circular manner whereby tasks are repeated throughout the analytic process, but tasks are also conducted simultaneously and used throughout data analysis. As data analysis proceeds you may also return to data collection to further explore issues or fill gaps in the data, thus linking the analytic and data collection cycles. The analytic cycle also links back to the original design cycle, as data analysis is informed by concepts and theory from the study design. Inductive findings from the analytic cycle are also compared with the original conceptual framework of the study (developed in the design cycle) to discern how the study findings contribute new concepts or explanations to existing theory. The process of qualitative research has now come full circle. If you conduct a participatory qualitative research project, the analysis of your data is followed by validation and dissemination of your findings and the design of social action through the participant-based action cycle (see Chapter 12). The data analysis cycle is described in Part III of this book.

Structure of the book

The qualitative research cycle provides the structure of this book. We begin by describing the nature of qualitative research and the underlying concepts of the interpretive approach (Chapter 2). The book is then divided into three parts corresponding to the three cycles within the qualitative research cycle.
In Part I, we describe the components of the design cycle. In Chapter 3, we outline the design of qualitative research questions and objectives and describe how to summarize theory, literature and the research question in a conceptual framework. We then discuss the selection of research methods and mixed methods study design. Chapter 4 is a new chapter in this second edition and describes how to integrate a participatory research approach into the qualitative research cycle, from the design stage onwards, to conduct research that aims not only at academic outcomes but also social change outcomes. Chapter 5 discusses ethical issues in qualitative research.
In Part II, we describe the components of the data collection cycle. We describe sampling and participant recruitment in qualitative research in Chapter 6. We then focus on three common methods of data collection: in-depth interviews (Chapter 7), focus group discussions (Chapter 8) and observation (Chapter 9). Each of these methods chapters describes the process from instrument design to data collection, and how the process of making inductive inferences contributes to the circular process to generate rich data.
In Part III, we describe the components of the analytic cycle. Chapter 10 describes data preparation and development of codes. Chapter 11 discusses the core analytic tasks: description, comparison, categorization, conceptualization and theory development. Chapter 12 describes how you can move from analysis to social action and social change outcomes, following the participatory approach to qualitative research. It describes how to validate your study findings, with participants and stakeholders, and subsequently co-design and co-implement an action or intervention.
Chapter 13 discusses approaches to writing and presenting the findings of qualitative research. We provide strategies for presenting findings in narrative text and diagrams.
In the Postscript, we reflect on how the qualitative research cycle may be used to assess the quality of a qualitative study.

Features of the book

The following features of the book are included to help you learn the different aspects of qualitative research.
  • Theory and practice. We include a discussion of the theoretical principles as well as the practical application of qualitative research, through case studies, field examples and exercises.
  • International field examples. We provide many examples from our own research in the health and population sciences. Our research reflects the international context of our work and highlights the application of qualitative research in different cultural contexts.
  • Interdisciplinary case studies. We include case study examples fr...

Table of contents