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Abbreviated qualitative research is a generic term for the investigative methodologies described as ethnographic, naturalistic, anthropological, field, or participant observer in conducting research. This mode of study in education emphasizes the importance of viewing variables in the natural setting in which they are found (Amos, 2002). In qualitative research, researchers seek to understand, by means of exploration, human experience, perceptions, motivations, the intentions and their behavior.
It is therefore interactive, inductive, flexile, holistic and reflexive method of data collection and analysis. Exploration, the main feature of qualitative research, helps researchers understand the perceptions and actions of participants. It needs to be inductive, interactive, reflexive and holistic. The inductive approach is useful in developing concepts and generating hypothesis and is especially important when little is known about the topics of study (Louis, Lawrence, & Keith, 2007). Comparatively, the interactive and reflexive nature of the approach helps avoid bias by studying phenomena in a detached way. Herein, researchers probe, facilitate, and note tone, hesitations and repetition in participants’ responses.
There are three basic research paradigms in education– positivism, interpretivism, and critical science, which are the focus of these abbreviated qualitative research plans. Detailed data is obtained by way of open-ended questions that provide direct quotations from the participants. The purpose of qualitative research is understanding as it seeks to understand people’s perceptions of phenomena; its reality is dynamic as it changes with individual’s convictions; it has an insider viewpoint into people’s beliefs; it is value-bound as it takes into account the interviewees’ values; its focus is holistic in seeking a complete picture of reality.
Data collection and hypotheses generation
Abbreviated research is discovery-oriented as it generates theories and hypotheses from gathered subjective data with humans as the primary collection instrument; the results are valid as data is collected under natural human conditions. Participants in qualitative research are allowed to put in their responses and concerns in context. Correspondingly, flexile, imaginative, creative and varied strategies are employed in qualitative studies through one-to-one interviews, observations, letters, diaries, and group discussions to get into the personal, intimate and private world of the participants. Louis (2007) states that the main approaches applied in qualitative research are ethnography, phenomenology, discourse analysis and grounded theory. Ethnography collects human data in their natural environment to know the causes of their behavior. Phenomenology focuses on individuals’ explanations of their experience and personal expression.
Discourse analysis describes the verbal, non-verbal, and written systems of communication, while grounded theory refines data to retrieve theories and hypotheses. These approaches help develop and enhance the validity of scales, questionnaires and tools, help develop, implement and evaluate interventions, and assists in further exploration and testing (Louis, 2007). It also allows use of studying of different aspects of the same topics, exploration of complex human phenomena from different perspectives, as well as confirmation and cross-validation of data.
Despite the fact that procedures and outcomes of qualitative data analysis differ from those of quantitative data collection and analysis, the principles of research are not so different. In both cases, according to Kieron, Melanie, & Jonathan (2005), the researcher will have to describe the sample questions, order and reduce/code the data (perform data processing), display summaries of data in such a way that interpretation becomes easy such as by compilation of diagrams, sheets, flowcharts, or matrices. Moreover, the researcher has to draw conclusions, relate them to other data sets of the study and decide how to integrate the data in the report; and if required, develop strategies for further testing or confirming the qualitative data in order to proof their validity.
Validity of the theories and hypotheses to be developed from the research is compromised by poor and inaccurate data collection and processing. To maintain this validity, the researcher needs to be a good listener who records information accurately and initiates writing early enough to include the primary and secondary data in the final report. Acceptance of the theorized models also depends on the candid nature of the researcher in conducting the study and seeking feedback promptly to achieve a balance of reality and relevance in their findings (Kieron, 2005).
To sum up, research in education eventually embarks on the analytic phase of the work. Analysis of the collected and processed data comprises identification of the patterns of the phenomena being studied, working out the limitations, expectations and variations present; synthesizing tentative explanations for the patterns and finding whether or not they are present in other settings or situations; processing explanations to generate theoretical and hypothetical models; and confirming or modifying these models (Kieron, 2005). Often more subtle than issues in other surveys is the ethical issues in qualitative research. Stances regarding these ethics include the absolutist stance, relativist stance, contextualist stance, and deception model all of which address various areas of ethical concern. As in all other researches, informed consent should always be obtained from participants capable of such consent. The investigator also has a responsibility to ensure confidentiality, avoid harm, promote reciprocity, and seek feedback of results.
Amos, J. H. (2002). Doing qualitative research in education settings. Tennessee: SUNY Press.
Louis C., Lawrence M., & Keith B. (2007). Research methods in education. Coventry: Routledge Publications.
Kieron S., Melanie N., & Jonathan R. (2005). Ethics and research in inclusive education. Coventry: Routledge Publications.