Despite a number of assumptions and characteristics in common, the innate disciplinary base of a qualitative study differs on the facet of purpose and design. The most popular and much-practised kind of qualitative inquiries are:Grounded Theory: The term grounded theory first came to prominence with the publication of The Discovery of Grounded Theory by Glaser and Strauss in 1967 (Leavy, 2014).A grounded study seeks not only to comprehend but also to build a substantive theory about the phenomenon of interest. A rich description is also important but is not the primary focus of this type of study.
Ethnography: Strives to understand the interaction of individuals not just with others, but also with the culture of the society in which they live. Maanen (1982, pp.103-104) rightly notes The result of ethnographic inquiry is cultural description. It is, however, a description of the sort that can emerge only from a lengthy period of intimate study and residence in a given social setting. It calls for the language spoken in that setting, first-hand participation in some of the activities that take place there, and, most critically, a deep reliance on intensive work with a few informants drawn from the setting.
In order to understand the culture of a group, immersion in the site as a participant observer is the key technique of data collection as cited in (Merriam, 2009, p. 28).Phenomenological study: Associated with Husserl (1970) it focuses on the experience itself and how experiencing something is transformed into consciousness. Phenomenologists are interested in retrieving the essence or basic underlying structure of lived experiences, by means of engrossed and immersed interviews.Narrative analysis: “Narrative inquiry is stories lived and told,” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 20). Storytelling has a history of being treated as a good source of comprehending human experience.
Narratives follow the same philosophy of analyzing experiences revealed through stories.Case Study: A case study method involves an in-depth observation and analysis of a subject within a bounded context. It may be one individual, several individuals, a group, an entire program, or an activity (Creswell, 2007, p. 73). This technique of inquiry is research-based, inclusive of multiple methods and is evidence-led.
Content Analysis: It is an objective and a systematic technique widely used in social science and media research, however rapidly pacing up in organizational settings as well. This research method analyses and interprets coded material (textual, verbal or visual). Content analysis is a descriptive approach that aims to construct a model or a system for better inference and description of the material. This approach can be pursued in either ways; inductive or deductive, depending upon the need of the study. Thematic Analysis: This technique is also descriptive in nature. It aims to describe the pattern of the content underlying the textual material and artifacts. Unlike content analysis, where the process interprets qualitative data into quantitative codes or model, thematic analysis is a pure qualitative process of decoding the themes within data by considering both the latent and the manifest content (Vaismoradi, Turunen, & Bondas, 2013).
It is a flexible method suitable to obtain extensive and enriching data.With the passage of time, the branch of qualitative research is expanding. There are variety of methods that helps to fetch information from the respondents. Along with the traditional techniques, a number of methods have evolved over time that deserves a mention in the context of conceptual phenomena related to sources of data collection and analysis. In this section below, those methods are discussed briefly.TRADITIONAL AND EVOLVING METHODS OF DATA COLLECTION Interviews: Personal interviews are the main source of getting data for qualitative research. These are structured, sometimes also unstructured depending upon the requirement of the situation.
This method helps in exchanging the intention of study and perspectives to justify it. Since the researcher himself interacts with the respondents, his understanding of the shared experiences is subject to growth and his broad vision that assist in articulating the findings.Focus Groups: This method of qualitative study is a form of source that seeks opinion, perception, or beliefs of a particular set of people (organization). This method is useful in studying a particular set of culture or behaviour in a restricted bounded context. Observations: Another traditional method to begin a qualitative inquiry about any event or fact. Observation method lead to questions like what is the implication of a particular event on a segment of people or how does a particular fact affect the happenings in a particular context? Etc.Along with these prominent customary methods, there are some new methods which are frequently being used in changing times, in a way to complement the existing ones. These methods are:Text Mining: This is a digital era; all individuals are exposed to one or more of social media platforms.
A huge amount of information is available at the end of user; text mining techniques followed for qualitative approaches may help in retrieving structured information by classifying and sorting which is applied to extract data patternsWeb Crawling: it is basically about building up a web of keywords formed by a program for the purpose of facilitating the process of information filter and indexing. This function is performed with the help of program software which is employed for the purpose of data collection and analysis. There is further classification of crawling like; breadth-first crawling, depth-first crawling, targeted crawling, and context focused crawling etc depending upon the need of sorting. Netnography: It is simply an ethnographic approach in the digital world. The literal understanding of netnography is that it is drafted culture information which is available online and on web portals.
This approach is widely used in business research o comprehend the social interactions in context of online research.Complexity Theory: A grounded approach to understand the complexity of behaviour within an interactive dynamic system like an organization. In workplaces, there includes huge diversity and chaos. The basic tenet of this approach states to be acquainted with the system from its rooted hidden behaviour.In a nutshell, to pursue a qualitative study, selected method and type of study may depend upon the need and problem to be resolved. It is important to note that the evolving techniques are complementary to the traditional ones that aid in addressing the issues of validity and trustworthiness in qualitative findings.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCHAfter a long discussion about different types of qualitative studies and several traditional and evolving methods of data collection, analysis and interpretation in a qualitative approach, it is imperative to recognize and acknowledge the role of ethical deliberations in this orientation of research. Though ethics are vital for research, but in a qualitative field of study, the soul of the results lies in the ethical manner in which the data is gathered, maintained and interpreted. Ethics aims for good with considerate avoidance of any harm to the parties involved. The core of a good qualitative research is the relationship between the researcher, the social setting, and the environment in which the study takes place. Settings like workplaces are composed of people with different skills, values, diverse social and economic backgrounds, and differing organizational philosophies, owing to such huge diversity, the challenges and issues pertaining to research in such type of settings are again dynamic.
Qualitative research is considered to be a flexible approach because a rigid methodology cannot successfully capture the intrinsic subjectivity of the case. It should be flexible enough to be constructed and reconstructed with respect to its research design. It is a holistic process, which intends to discover the deeper feelings, views and experiences of any observable fact in a transparent and ethical manner. Due to the rigorous mechanism, sample size is usually less; this may question the reliability of outcome, thus, it is managed by enriching the process of retrieving responses and transcribing first-hand experiences in a moral pursuit.
Major Ethical PredicamentsEmic perspective: Researcher should lay due emphasis to the observations or the views and say of the participants as they are the basis of his understanding and reflexivity towards their lives, situations and outcomes. The interpretation of a researcher is the core outcome of qualitative findings; hence what he/she may perceive is crucial.Participants Autonomy: it is imperative to comprehend that the participants should be given due freedom in becoming a part of any research. It should be kept in mind that the respondents should take part willingly in giving interviews (structured/unstructured), or communicate or share their experiences and lives and should not be forced. For example, if a researcher is interested in understanding the work engagement of contractual employees in any organization, then he should initiate the process of questioning from those employees who give their consent and not all the employees of contractual nature. Informed Consent: Inclusion of participants requires informed consent. In simple words, the respondents should be aware of the publication of their responses, and the intention of the study.
Maintaining privacy of data and information is the prime obligation of the researcher. For example, in a study of the behaviour of HIV patients who are under treatment is observed, the personal details of the patients, their experiences, doctors who are treating them, the hospital and several other related information (if not properly handled) may cause damage to the reputation of any patient or the hospital. Implications are sensitive; therefore transparency is an ideal prerequisite of ethics in a qualitative study. Equity: Researcher should be fair and honest in giving equal opportunity to all participants and focus on their views in an equitable manner. There should be no unjust or biased exploitation rather; an empathetic concern is expected for reliability of the study. Trust: When there are subjective interactions and those being a part of some study it is the trust between the parties involved that the privacy of information, confidentiality of data should be maintained. No researcher should in any way harm the interest of respondents for the sake of biased outcomes.