Chapter five expands on the five different qualitative studies by giving example to each method—narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnographic, and a case study. We will discuss each study by elaborating on the key highlights of the discussion.
A Narrative Study: “Living in the Space between Participant and Researcher as a Narrative Inquirer: Examining Ethnic Identity of Chinese Canadian Students as Conflicting Studies to Live By” – Appendix B
Elaine Chan, who is an assistant professor of Diversity and Curriculum Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, conducted a two-year long study at a Toronto middle school following the experiences of Ai Mei Zhang, an immigrant student from China in a close-examination setting. Chan used school-based narrative inquiry to research the ways in which expectations of academic performance and social behavior by teachers, peers at school, and parents at home played out in the life of an immigrant student. Ai Mei immigrated ot Canada five years prior to the start of the study and she did not speak a single word of English when she moved. In the discussion of the study in Appendix B, Chan reveals that Ai Mei experienced bullying and pressures from her peers, along with experiencing conflicting sentiments from her family, and acquaintances.
Chan has used narrative inquiry to explore the “interaction of student, teacher, and parent narratives, a story of interwoven lives” (page 304, Appendix B) in a Canadian context where she and her family are first generation immigrants. The researcher has also partaken in the family life of Ai Mei, and particularly notes the influence- for better or worse, Ai Mei’s mother had on her self-esteem and participation in the Toronto cultural platform. Chan states: “The interaction between Ai Mei and her mother highlighted the potential for tensions to develop when expressing differences in perspective about the value of certain kinds of behaviors over others” (Page 314) Ai Mei’s mother has criticized her for being too short, or not for helping her with household chores and Chan argues that this effected her self-esteem and could hinder her immersion into the multicultural English-speaking Toronto cultural landscape during her school-formation years. Chan also researched Ai Mei’s positionality within the classroom as she observed Chan during every homeroom classes for two-years straight. Chan also participated in school field trips, class activities, and other collective experiences that Ai Mei was a part of.
The method and approach of narrative inquiry, as Chan states: “facilitated the identification of the many nuances of living as an immigrant student in a North American school contest, and provided a framework in which to ponder these complexities.” (page 318) The narrative approach, as we see, close-examined a singular experience of one immigrant student, yet offers an indicative example to the experiences of immigrant students anywhere. In the conclusion part of her study (page 322), Chan puts forward that this study can offer tremendous value of insight to educators and policy makers who need to be well-versed and informed about students who come from immigrant backgrounds and to best accommodate their needs to succeed in both academic, and social life.
A Phenomenological Study—Cognitive Representations of Aids (Appendix C)
This study, conducted on a sample of 58 people- of which 41 were men and 17 were women, aimed to unpack the ways in which people who live with AIDS imagine their disease, and how these can be useful in understanding the medication adherence and other health behaviors of the individuals. The researchers E. Anderson and Margaret Spencer, studies 58 individuals and surveyed them to get statements regarding their experiences living with AIDS. Out of 175 statements, they concluded 11 themes, which were evaluated through the phenomenological point of research. In phenomenology, the researchers transcends the precedent knowledge and research in order to understand the phenomenon at a deeper level: they attempt to approach the issues with a sense of “newness” in order to pull out data that is more indicative and significant. (Page 331)
In this study, Anderson and Spencer used the Self-Regulation Model of Illness Representation, meaning that the patients are the “active problem solvers whose behavior is a product of their cognitive and emotional responses to a health threat” (Page 328). After surveying and interviewing the patients about their conception of their condition, they specified the attributes to illness representation under five categories: 1)identity, 2) time line, 3) perceived cause, 4)consequences, 5)controllability. By looking at the attributes, researchers were able to hypothesize how these findings could indicate an adherence to therapeutic regiments, engaging in high-risk sexual and safety behaviors, and an overall enhanced quality of life.
Amongst the participants, some focused on the final outcome of death by AIDS, while others treated AIDS as a chronic illness such as cancer or diabetes. The difference in attitudes and approach indicate a relationship with their condition. Participants who expressed pessimism and hopelessness has a different relationship to coping with their condition than participants who were more optimistic and hopeful of their condition. Examples of such approaches include someone describing their experience as a “skeleton crying” (page 335), or “death, just death” (page 333), while others chose to forget or push aside their condition. Another group of participants were able to recoup with their condition with time, or chose to turn to a higher power. The study concluded that the ways in which a person imagines AIDS might “influence medication adherence, high-risk behavior, and quality of life” (page 344)
Grounded theory approach consists of face to face interviews and uses the Strauss & Corbin approach (117). This approach consists of “coding, concept development, constant comparisons between data and the emerging concepts, and the formulation of a theoretical model.” According to the researcher, the grounded theory is the phase in which you develop your theory. This is where a behavior process is understood and analyzed in order to develop the theoretical model which advances phases (117).
3 Theoretical phases in the behavioral process of integrating activity into a lifestyle:
An initiation phase
A transition phase
Defining features of a grounded theory approach include: understanding a behavior process, and then watching a theory emerge. This theory helps develop the framework for the study. The collection of data includes conducting a plethora of face to face interviews. Data is analyzed using the Strauss and Corbin approach.
Ethnographic study is useful for studying culture sharing groups. This is where you can take data sources, analyze the data and identify themes. Themes are developed in order to understand how subcultures work. (pg. 118)
For example, in (Haefnler, 2004; see Appendix E), the researcher used the Ethnographic method for researching the lifestyle of the “straight edge movement”. The researcher’s ethnographic data included interviews with members of the group, researcher participated in movement, gathered music lyrics from popular culture music, and analyzed behaviors and beliefs in order to understand the culture.
Core elements of ethnography include (119): identifying your study (finding your culture sharing group), describing the group in terms of its members and then using this knowledge to create a theme about the behavior of the group. You will want to find the appropriate theory that applies to your ethnographic study, and figure out the critical approach to take.
During an ethnography study, the researcher must position oneself in the study: observer or participant? This researcher participated in the movement of his study. The researcher also engaged in fieldwork by engaging in in-depth interviews with members of the movement. Here you also analyze emic & etic data. Emic data is how people “think”, how they perceive and categorize the world, and etic data focuses from the local observations, categories, etc to those of the anthropologist.
In a case study, you analyze data for a specific theme. This data is aggregated into large clusters of ideas, and providing specific details that supports the theme (p.293). Case studies use one specific case that could be applicable to other similar cases.
The intent of the case study is not to just be completely intrinsic/ it could be used to look at other similar cases involving a similar subculture. (pg. 120)
(ex: a case of gun violence in one school which can be looked at in a larger picture).
A case analysis can be ended by presenting assertions using collected data responses. Assertions can also be grounded in literature support. The literature can be “a larger explanation for our descriptive and thematic analyses.” (pg. 121).
Differences Among the Approaches
This section of Chapter 5 helps differentiate the 5 approaches to conducting a qualitative study by highlighting the central purpose of each one. Table 5.1 (p. 122) illustrates the focus of each approach by breaking them down to their basic principles. A narrative study will focus on an individual who illustrates a particular experience by gathering data though observations and conversations (See p. 112 for the narrative study on Ai Mei Zhang). Phenomenological studies are rooted in the lived experience, or essence, of the individuals studied through interviews like in Anderson and Spencer’s study on AIDS patients (p. 114). Grounded Theory involves the creation of a theory through data collected and organized relative to a theoretical model. Ethnographic studies focus on culture-sharing groups and their behaviors, like sXe movement (p. 118). A case study focuses on an issue and the surrounding details that contributed to or led up to the issue.
The main way to effectively understand and employ each of the five approaches is to think about what your study intends to accomplish. The context of your idea for a study would help point you in the right direction as to which approach to take. Other factors to consider when choosing an approach to your study are outlined on page 124. These factors include audience opinion, your qualifications and comfort as a researcher, and scholarly contribution to the specific field you are studying.
The importance of understanding each of these approaches is critical to the work we’ll be doing because the data collection is different for each approach and the work the researcher does with the data varies also. As discussed in class, the approaches are employed as a means to show what exactly we are trying to research. Fittingly, it is important to find the smaller, more refined research question out of the bigger ideas we initially have.