assignment 2 extended by cuiliqing



                                 Course responsible: Gunilla Priebe, Qualitative methods, Master
                                 programme in public health, December 12, 2011 – January 13, 2012

Instructions for Assignment 2: Applying a qualitative
method (Group work)
You will not conduct a proper and complete study, which is why you – in this group assignment –
should focus on the research process, rather than expect valid and reliable results. The purpose of
this assignment is to – by “learning by doing” – give you the opportunity to become acquainted with
the qualitative research process; data collection methods; pitfalls and advantages.

The Assignment is presented in text and a seminar:

       Send in as a written group report due Monday, January 9th, 2012 at 9.00 A.M to and your opponent group (group 1 to group 2, group 2 to group 3,
        group 3 to group 4, group 4 to group 5, and group 5 to group 1)

       Present orally in a seminar Wednesday, January 11th, 2012. Following the presentation,
        another group will give feedback on the report. When preparing feedback to the other
        group, focus on giving constructive suggestions aimed improving the report.

Include in the report (3-4 pages excluding abstract, interview guide & transcription):

       Abstract (200-300 words)

       Research question including motivation

       Description of data collection

       Description of codes and how coding was done

       Results and discussion

       Ethical considerations with regard to the topic and data collection method

       Attach the interview guide and transcription

Understanding how to complete this task:

Before you start working on this assignment you should read the course book by Green & Thorogood
(Qualitative methods for health research, Sage 2009). This book will help you revise the lectures,
digest their content and help you achieve the understanding of qualitative methods that you need to
complete this assignment. Below I have tried to explain the core aspects of qualitative methods,
including the role of theory.

Understanding what qualitative methods are:

In short qualitative methods are methods that are designed to capture the perspective; the
worldview; the everyday reality of the respondent/ informant. In order to do so the tools for data
collection (interviews and observations) are open and plastic. For example, an interview guide is
really a guide: it states the topic and framework for the interview, but should not be so detailed and
– during the interview – strictly abided to so that it hinders the researcher from following the
respondents’ stories.

This does not implicate that everything about qualitative methods are loose and open to any form of
subjective interpretations of any unqualified individual. The theoretical frameworks and the
methodological rules are as elaborate and well-worked out as for quantitative methods. Thus, a
scientific study of respondent perspectives demands more than a blunt account of somebody’s talk
or actions. Researchers therefore need to have a scientific understanding of how people develop
perspectives and what these consist of, and such theories should be the points of departure when
designing studies, interview guides etcetera and when analyzing data. In the lecture where Symbolic
interaktionism was presented, you were therefore introduced to scientific theories about how
people construct meaning (i.e. perspectives of themselves and their lives). In the lecture on
Phenomenology you where introduced to scientific theories about what consciousness consist of and
how it can be studied (what to focus on). The lecture on Hermeneutics introduced you to scientific
theories about what it is to interpret empirical findings (what the process of interpretation consist of
and what, e.g. preconceptions, needs to be taken into consideration), and so on.

These theories are complex and abstract and you are not expected to – after a few weeks –
understand them fully. Still, they are a vital part of qualitative work and you should therefore be
aware of their existence. You should – after completing this course – know that there exist scientific
theories concerning the focus for qualitative methods, i.e. about how people construct meaning;
how their consciousness work; what the process of making sense of ones life look like. And, you
should know that such theories should be (explicit) frameworks, for a qualitative study to be
considered scientific (you have been introduced to central theories, but there are of course many
more than these). In fact, being firmly based in a theoretical framework is of utter importance for the
reliability and validity of qualitative studies. The learning outcome in this course is not that you
should be able to rattle off theories, but that you should understand the role of theories in
qualitative research. Theories and their respective concepts are guides when carrying out a study:
they inform you about what to look for in observations, what to ask about in interviews, and what to
focus on when analyzing the empirical material.

You are not expected to completely succeed in translating the abstract theories to the data collection
phase, but I want you to carry with you the focus of the theories. For example: as the theories focus
on meaning your codes should reflect meaning; as the purpose is to capture the (subjective)
consciousness of the respondent the interview questions should look for that and not try to make the
respondents give objective, distanced accounts of how things really are.

Therefore: focus on how the actual data collection methods are described in Green & Thorogood and
try to remember the instructions from Therese’s and Helle’s lectures. In this email I have also added
an extra power point-presentation that describes the focus of, and different steps in, a Grounded

theory-study, and text from the University of Wisconsin with examples of codes and the analyses
process (e.g. page 7).

(19/12 – 8/1) So, in Assignment 2, you should: Develop a qualitative research question on a public
health issue and then carry out a mini study:

   1. Construct an interview guide, that reflects the research question

           a. Remember that you want to capture the true reality of the respondent, not an in
              advance edited version of it. Editing and interpretation take place during the analysis
              phase, i.e. not before or during the interview.

   2. Conduct an interview/focus group discussion (20-25 minutes) and record it

           a. Each person in the group should conduct and record an interview. Your interviews
              will probably be inconsistent and leave you with many loos ends. If correctly done,
              this shows that saturation has not yet been reached. In an authentic study you would
              therefore have together studied and analysed your results so far, and then continued
              interviewing people until no new information appears. In this exercise we do not ask
              you to continue until saturation occurs, which – partly – is why you will not be able
              to present a valid result.

   3. Transcribe the interview/FGD

   4. Code and analyse the data

           a. A code should (a) reflect the aim of the study, (b) exhaust meaning (if multiple
              meanings in one sentence, construct multiple codes), (c) not overlap with other
              codes, (d) reflect data = express meaning from the perspective of the respondent
              (Remember Nalwadda et al where one code was “misconception”, something that
              does not express the respondents’ perspective, but preconceptions of the

           b. A code and the text piece that it represents should be compared so that a
              phenomenon always is represented by the same code. Code relevance should be
              discussed and validated by colleagues (peer check) and/or respondents (member

           c. Documents should be established for each code that describes the logic behind it
              (quotes added to exemplify its logic: characteristics, what dimension it reflects, what
              subcodes or categories it is linked to). Codes and their appurtenant text segments
              are, in authentic studies, archived.

           d. Analysing qualitative data is demanding. The data collection phase is open and
              elongated which is why the researcher is left with a large amount of raw data. In
              addition, the process of interpretation is intellectually challenging and demands
              profound attention. During the whole research process the researcher uses as a tool

               his/her humanness in order to “live” the reality of the respondents (see
               Hermeneutics). At the same time the researcher should stay scientific; not “go
               native”; stick to the abstract scientific rules. The researcher must therefore, in order
               to make sure that the analysis really reflects the empirical data, with the help of
               reflexive techniques pay careful attention to his/her preconceptions.

           e. The principals for analysing qualitative data vary. In Grounded theory the analysis is
              part of the research process (see lecture and Green & Thorogood). Some other
              modes of analysis begin after data collection is completed, e.g. Thematic content
              analysis. Your task is to choose one mode of analysis, which you find appropriate for
              the study. See also attached document from University of Wisconsin.

6. Send in your written presentation: Monday, January 9th, 2012 at 9.00 A.M

7. Oral presentation of group work: Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

All members of the group should be prepared to present all parts of the project. Who presents what
part will be decided at the seminar.

Each group has 15 minutes to present. Include in your power-point presentation:

      Research question including motivation/background

      Description of data collection & interview guide

      Ethical considerations

      Coding & results

      Discussion

      Reflections for the future – what worked well and what would you change if you were to
       conduct a full-scale project?

Please focus on the research process in your presentation, rather than emphasizing results.

After the presentation, another group will present their feedback on the report. When preparing
feedback, focus on giving constructive suggestions aimed improving the report. Make use of the
course literature in preparing feedback.

   Good Luck! Gunilla

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