Monthly Archives: June 2013

Multiple Case Study of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. & The Ralph Lauren Corp.

My research focuses on a comparison of how Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Ralph Lauren Corporation managed the public relations around their company violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The FCPA makes a federal crime any incident of bribery of foreign officials. Consequently, I am interested in how each company responded to uncovering violations of the Act and how their press releases or press statements reflect their handling of the matter.

I am using a Case Study approach that utilizes a content analysis of each company’s press releases/statements. Categories that I will look at are the type of frame(s), themes, sub-themes, and key words that are presented in each press release or statement. After completing the content analysis, I will gauge each company’s treatment of the FCPA violations against best practices of public relations management as prescribed by the Arthur W. Page Society’s Page Principles.

To date, I have been able to secure four press releases from Wal-Mart related to the bribery violations from their online news archives. I have also reviewed all of Ralph Lauren’s news archives but have not found any releases on the FCPA violations. I have however, found quotes from the company in online news stories related to the bribery case. I will call the company this week to see if they have an official press statement. The fact that they don’t have any releases on the matter in their archives is an interesting finding in itself.

Overall, I am very interested in any theories involving public relations management or research involving best practices in the field. I expect that the findings from my research will touch upon these two areas.

Maxwell – Chapter 2

Maxwell’s Chapter 2: Setting Goals

 

When we talk about goals we mean motives, desires and purposes. Goals answer two main actual functions: Guide the design decisions, and justifying the relevance of the whole study (page 23).

According to the author there are three main kinds of goals in a proper study.

Personal goals refer to the things that matter to the researcher in a subjective way. Trying to avoid or ignore them is whether futile or just counterproductive. When researchers try to hide their personal goals to others, they often feel that only they are failing to live up to the goal of scientific neutrality (page 25). On the other hand, the lack of personal goals would cut a major source of insights; therefore it’s highly recommendable to systematically monitor the researchers’ personal goals, their subjectivity (page 28). Most importantly, the lack of personal goals would severely diminish the motivation of the researcher, which plays a major role in any long distance race such as a research study. Another important feature of personal goals is how they help to answer the question “Why do I want to do a qualitative study?”. It is a key question to check the compatibility and pertinence of other goals, the research question and the actual activities involved in doing the qualitative study all together (page 26).

Practical goals such as administrative or policy goals are focused on accomplishing some need or specific objective. Maxwell argues that the research question has to ask directly about how to accomplish those practical goals. The researcher needs to frame the research question in ways that help the study achieve the practical goals. This issue, along with the intellectual goals will be developed in Chapter 4.

Goals that Qualitative Research Help you Achieve

Quantitative and qualitative research methods have different strengths and logics. A key difference between the two approaches is the distinction between “variance theory” and “process theory”. Quantitative research tends to see the world in terms of variables and statistical relationships between them. Process theory however tends to see the world in terms of people, situations, events and the process that connects these. This process implies an inductive approach and emphasis on descriptions rather than numbers (page 30). These elements influence the king of intellectual goals most convenient for a qualitative research method; such as the meaning of certain events or experiences, the features and influences of contexts on people, the processes by which events take place, the identification of unanticipated phenomena, and developing causal explanations for them (page 31).

The author also points out that researchers need to recognize the innate difference between qualitative and quantitative research methods: quantitative research tends to focus on whether there is a direct correlation between variable x and y, whereas qualitative research technique the researchers explore to which degree variable x play a role in causing y. Regardless of the differences of techniques, both approaches need to identify and situate threats to validity. (Page 31, the author further discusses this topic in Chapter 6)

Another goal that qualitative research helps you achieve is generating results and theories for the service of the people you are studying and future researchers. The results have to be clear, credible and understandable. Furthermore, the research should strive to achieve to improve the existing practices, protocols, or policies regarding the field/topic you are studying and not just reiterate the facts of the relationship between two variables. This technique is called “formative evaluation” (Page 32). It is more important to comprehend the processes that happen in your research and how the participants of your research understand it, than to excessively compare and contrast the situation of your study to others to establish a comparison (Page 32). Lastly, it is important to engage in grassroots and community-lead action with the participants to further create allegiance and solidarity with the community you are doing the work with.

To help us put the discussion of research goals into context, look at Example 2.3 – “Deciding on A Dissertation Topic” on page 33. This example describes the process one doctoral student took with regards to deciding on a topic for her dissertation. The issues the student, Isabel, took were her motivation to pursue her study, the responsibility she felt on making the research. She also expressed that she chose to disregard other people’s opinion on her to keep her centered and focused on her research.

Maxwell Chapter 5 – Methods

Maxwell’s Chapter 5 focuses on the design of the Methods section of your research.

The focus is on how to design the use of specific approaches and methods in a qualitative study, not on how to actually do the research itself. The author stresses there is no “cookbook” or cut and dry method for doing a qualitative research study. There are general guidelines for different approaches but the subject you are researching and your available resources will guide the exact method you use.

Below is an outline style rundown of the important parts of the chapter.

More and Less Structured Approaches:

  • Any substantial prior structuring of methods leads to a lack of flexibility to respond to emergent insights, and can create methodological tunnel vision in making sense of data.

Conducting a Qualitative Study has Four Main Components:

  1. The research relationships that you establish with those you study
  2. Selection: what settings or individuals you decide to observe or interview, and what other sources of information you decide to use
  3. Data collection: how you gather the info you will use
  4. Data analysis: what you do with this information to make sense of it

Negotiating Research Relationships:

  • The researcher needs to interact with people to collect data, and these relationships create and structure this interaction. Ongoing contact continually restructures these relationships.
  • Negotiating entry= allows the researcher to ethically gain the information that can answer your research questions.
  • Example 5.1 on Page 94 gives a good narrative of how a researcher prepared for his study

Site and Participant Selection:

  • Where to conduct your research and whom to include in it (sampling)
  • In qualitative research, the typical way of selecting settings and individuals is neither probability sampling nor convenience sampling. It falls into a third category, which can be called purposeful selection or purposive sampling: particular settings, persons, or activities are selected deliberately to provide information that is particularly relevant to your questions and goals

Decisions About Data Collection:

The Relationship Between Research Questions and Data Collection Methods

  • There is no way to mechanically convert research questions into methods. Your methods are the means to answering your research questions, not a logical transformation of the latter. The method selection depends not only on your research question, but on the actual research situation and on what will work most effectively in that situation to give you the data you need.
  • Figure 5.1 on Page 109 shows an example of how collected data is organized from an interview-based study.

Using Multiple Data Collection Methods

  • Collecting data using multiple methods in qualitative research is common.
  • Mixed-methods research: joint use of qualitative and quantitative methods in a single study
  • Different purposes: 1. Triangulation- using different methods as a check on one another, seeing if methods with different strengths and limitations all support a single conclusion. 2. Gain information about different aspects of the phenomena that you are studying. Different methods are used to broaden the range of aspects or phenomena that your address, rather than simply to strengthen particular conclusions about some phenomenon.
  • The use of generalized, present-tense, and specific, past-tense questions as with the joint use of observations and interviews can address the same issues and research questions but from different perspectives. The goal is to gain a greater depth of understanding rather than simply greater breadth or confirmation of the results of a single method.

Decisions About Data Analysis:

Strategies for Qualitative Data Analysis:

  • Different strategies and tools can be used for qualitative analyses
  • First step is reading the interview transcripts, observational notes, or documents, and listening to tapes you are analyzing. During this you should write notes on what you see and hear.
  • Analytical options: memos, categorizing strategies, and connecting strategies (narrative analysis).
  • The distinction between categorizing and connecting strategizes is basic to understating qualitative data analysis. The distinction involves two different modes of relationship: similarity (resemblances or common features) and contiguity (juxtaposition in time and space, the influence of one thing on another, or relations among parts of a text; their identification involves seeing actual connections between things, rather than similarities and differences).
  • Categorizing analysis begins with the identification of units of data that seem important or meaningful in some way. This often called “open coding”, which involves reading the data and developing your coding categories based on what data seems most important.
  • Figure 5.2 (Page 117) and Example 5.4 (Page 118-119) show example data and provides a narrative on how the data would be analyzed.

Computers and Qualitative Data Analysis:

  • Software designed for qualitative data analysis is now widely used and is almost obligatory for large-scale projects.
  • The main strength of such software is in categorizing analysis and many current books on using computers for qualitative data analysis focus almost entirely on coding. 

Although this chapter does not provide detailed steps for crafting the method of your research study, it gives a good overview of how to go about creating your own method. Qualitative research is more “loose” than quantitative research, and your method should reflect the way you are planning to get the richest information with the time and resources you have available.

By Benjamin Young, Marissa Levitan, & Christina Markoski

Maxwell Chapter 6- Validity

In Maxwell’s chapter on validity he uses the definition “the correctness or credibility of a description, conclusion, explanation, interpretation, or other sort of account” (page 122).

One point that he stresses is that validity, “is not a commodity that can be purchased with techniques” (Brinberg and McGrath, 1985) meaning that the validity of your research isn’t based on the methods that you used.  Rather, validity depends on how your conclusions relate to reality- validity is a relative concept.  Simply put, validity is proven through evidence, not methods (page 121).

The purpose of proving validity is to answer the question, “Why should we believe it?” about your research.  Validity doesn’t necessarily prove that your research is the ultimate truth about phenomena, but it gives people reading it a reason to believe that your research is credible (page 122).

Maxwell next explains a key concept for validity- the validity threat which is essentially a way that you might be wrong.  A validity threat is therefore an alternative explanation, interpretation or conclusion than the one you have put forth (a “rival hypothesis”).  For example:
-The people you interviewed aren’t presenting their actual views
-You have ignored data that didn’t fit your interpretation
-There is a different theoretical way of making sense
Validity manes that you are conceptualizing these threats, acknowledging them, using different strategies to discover if they impacted your research, and dealing with them (page 123).

While quantitative researchers can often use manipulations or controls to deal with validity concerns prior to conducting their research, qualitative researchers have to address most of their validity threats after the research has begun (page 123).

It’s important when we’re writing our proposals that we don’t just stick in a bunch of terms relating to validity like “triangulation” and “bracketing” but that we actually demonstrate that we’ve thought these issues through and thoughts about how we will deal with them in regards to our specific research (page 123).

Next Maxwell went into the two types of threats to validity that are most common in qualitative studies: researcher bias and reactivity.

Researcher Bias: Maxwell defines this as “the selection of data that fit the researcher’s existing theory, goals, or preconceptions, and the selection of data that “stand out” to the researcher.” We have already talked about the fact that we can’t completely eliminate our theories, beliefs and perceptual lenses as researchers.  However, in our proposals when we are discussing validity we should explain our possible biases and how we will deal with them during our research (page 124).

Reactivity: Maxwell defines this as “the influence of the researcher on the setting or individuals studied.”  Again, eliminating the actual influence of the researchers is impossible but what’s important is understanding how you are influencing the situation.  An interesting point is that in natural settings an observer isn’t as likely to influence participants’ behavior as in an interview setting (known as reflexivity) (page 125).

Validity Tests: on pages 126-130 Maxwell provides a checklist for some of the most important strategies that can be used to attempt to guarantee validity. Page 126, lists other authors that have compiled more extensive lists on the same subject.

– Intensive, Long-term Involvement
– Rich Data
– Respondent Validation
– Intervention
– Searching for discrepant evidence and negative cases
– traingualation- collecting info from a diverse range of individuals and settings, using a variety of methods.
-Numbers
– Comparison

From pages 130-134 there is a very important table- the Validity Matrix for a study that is a great reference point for any study you will be interested in conducting.

Questioning the research design’s validity is a systemic application process to approach research questions (John Platt, 1973). The researcher should first devise alternative hypotheses and “think about all the ways a given conclusions could be wrong” (p. 135). This is important because it allows the research to infer knowledge from the research and to understand the data from all angles. Next, the researcher should integrate and address validity threats in all aspects of the research design. Finally, to identify strategies for validity threats, the researcher should refer to to Maxwell (2004) Using Qualitative Methods for Casual Explanation and Qualitative Research Design (2005).

It would be an excellent idea to complete Exercise 6.1 (p. 136), a companion to Memo 6.1 and the matrix, Figure 6.1. This exercise will help the researcher to identify and deal with validity threats present in their study. It’s certainly worth a look.

Finally, when discussing validity, generalization must be mentioned (p.136-138). Maxwell directs the reader to Polit & Beck (2010). Generalization “refers to extending research results, conclusions, or other accounts that are based on a study of particular individuals, settings, times, or institutions to other individuals, settings, times, or institutions than those directly studied”. There are two kinds of generalization: internal, and external. An in-depth explanation can be found on p. 137.

It is also important to mention Becker (1991) when discussing generalization of qualitative research. Becker states that “generalizations are … about a process, the same no matter where it occurs, in which variations in conditions create variations in results. Qualitative research also lends itself to “face generalization”, which, according to statistician Judith Singer, means that there is no obvious reason not to believe that the results can be applied more generally.

Interviewing Women (Article)

Interviewing Women authors Shulamit Reinharz and Susan E. Chase examine the role of women as “perceivers” when it comes to social research and look at how women have been traditionally disregarded as worthy interview subjects by men (p. 222).  Women had been perceived by others, but not given the opportunity to be heard.  In this research, Reinharz and Shulamit address the issue of “gynopia,” which is the inability to see women in social settings and traditional social sciences (p.222).

Reinharz and Chase discuss the notion that interviewing women can’t be a “one-size-fits-all” approach –an interesting notion applicable to the concept of interviewing in general. Interviewers need to take into account the race, ethnicities, classes, sexual orientations, ages, disabilities or abilities of their interviewees. The authors mention that women in general have many different life experiences and varied ways in communicating with the researcher. There is a “missing tradition” in terms of interviewing women because throughout the 19th and (much of) the 20th Century, the majority of men did not have an interest in interviewing women, unfortunately leading to male perspectives and untested, unexamined assumptions about the lives of women (p.223).

A different narrative emerges when women who are usually silenced are given a voice to speak.  Reinharz and Chase describe the story of a researcher who wrote about her experiences in interviewing homeless women. She found these women had certain needs and hopes that hadn’t been heard because no one cared to hear them or ask. The perspectives of these women had been completely disregarded; therefore, it is important to allow those the opportunity to have a voice who may not otherwise have had that chance. Reinharz and Chase’s article also describes how women interviewing other women can cause the reviewer to participate in their own self disclosure and sometimes have mirroring experiences with the interviewee. The interviewing process can affect the researcher herself, causing her to relive or recount her own similar past experiences (p.226-227).

Reihnarz and Chase discuss (p. 228) how female interviewers may establish connections or “sisterly bonds” with female interviewees and they offer examples of how these bonds occur through the interview process (a study of single women involved with married men whereby some  interviewees cried and expressed gratitude to the interviewer for the sense of release the interview provided). The authors indicate a major drawback in treating this type of relationship as an “ideal research relationship” is that either party may not want or need to continue the relationship past the research. Also, this type of relationship may be condescending to the interviewee. The authors distinguish between “rapport” (which they view as a necessary ingredient for interviewing and define as strong listening skills) and “intense bonding” (which they describe as a promise of future support or friendship). They further indicate that researchers have a responsibility to fully articulate the expectation of the research and set boundaries to the research process. If an intense bond forms, that should be considered a “serendipitous event” and not the norm.

On p. 230 the authors share some of the issues that may arise with women interviewees including social location and subjectivities. Some social scientists argue that due to the heavy responsibilities of working class women of color, they may be less willing and more skeptical to participate in social research. Also, the fact that an interviewer may share the same ethnicity as their interviewee does not mean that the interviewer will fully identify with the ethnic identity of that interviewee. For other interviewers, ethnicity may be an inhibiting factor while for others it may be liberating. According to the authors, what feminist researchers should share is a commitment to reflect upon the complexities of their own and participants’ social locations and subjectivities.

In the section Men Interviewing Women (p. 232), Reinharz and Chase indicate that women may feel more inclined to share personal details of their experiences with women instead of men, suggesting that gender affects voluntary sharing of personal experience. Gender can also affect where interviews take place and, at times, a male interviewer may decide not to conduct the interview himself. Basically, the same methodological principles apply when men interview women as it does when women interview women: the researcher must take into account his/her own social location and how they may affect the research relationship.

The authors conclude the article by indicating that interpreting women’s words and stories requires a delicate and reflexive balancing act. Researchers need to understand and respect participants’ interpretations of their lives especially if those interpretations differ from their own lives. Finally, the researcher needs to be open to how these interpretations may change over time.

Chapter 11: “Turning the Story” and Conclusion

 

This chapter focuses on “turning the story” from studies and using a different approach to conduct a qualitative study. The author describes Figure 11.1 (p. 270) as encompassing the three main factors of a qualitative study.  The combination of  the following are components of a qualitative study and can be changed to turn the story: Approach to Inquiry, Research Design, and  Assumptions, Worldviews, & Theories .

The author uses the gunman case study in Appendix F as reviewed in Chapter 5  to show us how researchers can turn a study from one type to another type and perform completely different studies.  Essentially, the main way for researches to approach telling different stories from one study is by reverting back to the general problem or issue that the study addresses.  Refining and revision of the main issue or problem leads to a new study with a different approach.

 

A Case Study

The initial case study is about campus reaction to a gunman incident  where a student  tried to shoot a gun at his classmates.   After discussing the initial problem of campus violence and explaining the events that happened during the attempted attack,  the researchers gathered data with interviews, observations, documents, and audiovisual materials.  The layering of themes that came up during the study  (ex: denial, fear, safety, campus planning)  boiled down to a psychological theme and organizational theme which were addressed in  the study.

A Narrative Study

The narrative study that  could emerge from the initial case study focuses on the teacher who was present at the time of the attempted attack. He and the student were both African American and the author proposes how the story could be turned into a narrative of the professor.  If the researcher wanted to do this, the approach would have been to restory the stories into an account of the gunman that followed a chronology of events.   The researcher would have examined life events, or epiphanies, picked out from storied told to him by the professor.  The story would have different themes from the original study (ex: race, discrimination, marginality).  The study could have taken a plethora of routes depending on which story the researcher wanted to get.

A Phenomenology Study

Narrative study involves studying a single individual as in a biography but on the other hand a phenomenology study involves studying several individual students and examines a psychological phenomenology. The phenomenon that you are study could involve studying human experiences and feelings such as fear. One can engage in extensive interviews and use the steps described in Moustakes (1994) to analyze them. While writing the results you can include a description of your own experiences and then proceed to describe the significant statements of the people that you interviewed. These statements can then be clustered into broader themes and finally ending with a long paragraph combining both textual (what they experienced) and structural descriptions (how they experienced).

A Grounded Theory Study

Grounded Theoretical study involves developing a theory around a process. The researcher’s intent would be to develop or generate a theory. The results section can be presented as a visual model which includes casual conditions that influenced the central category, intervening factors and strategies surrounding it.  One can validate their hypothesis by judging the thoroughness of the research. For an example refer the gunman example listed in the chapter.

An Ethnography Study

Ethnography involves creating a description and understanding the workings of a ‘culture sharing group’. It involves looking at a particular incident and how it triggered responses from the members of the community.  By doing this one can study micro cultures in the group and observe shared patterns of behavior.  This data collection would depend heavily on interviews and observations.

 

The focus of the study helps shape its design. The differences between the five approaches to inquiry, in terms of foci, are clearly outlined in Table 4.1 of this book.  For example, a single case study of an individual can be studied either as a biography or a case study. A small bounded system such as an event, a program, or an activity can be approached as a case study whereas a cultural system, including cultural behavior, language and artifacts, should be studied as ethnography.

Qualitative research has a predominant interpretative element because what we write or produce in the research comes from our personal experiences and our role in the research process. The findings of the research are as interpreted by us and the participants, readers and others reading our writing will have their own interpretations. The language used in the research design procedure of a study depends on the approach to inquiry. The appropriate terms to be used in various phases of qualitative research are discussed in chapters 6 and 9. Appendix A in this book also illustrates a list of words that researchers might use for their research design.

The participants who are studied reflect the approach to research. This is explained in Chapter 7 which also highlights the differences between various approaches depending on the extent of data collection. The approaches to inquiry vary greatly in the data analysis phase, ranging from unstructured (ethnography, narrative, interpretative) to structured approaches (grounded theory, phenomenology, case study). These procedures define the overall structure of data analysis and the extent to which the data would be described during analysis (Chapter 8). The final written research and the rhetorical structures used in the narrative also depend on the approach to inquiry (Chapter 9). The kind of approach adopted also defines the criteria to judge the quality of the study (Chapter 10).

Creswell recommends designing one’s study based on one of the approaches described in this book. He also suggests that even though one might choose to mix together different approaches, but it is important that those approaches be sorted out first before combining. According to Creswell, a study designed using one on the approaches enhances the sophistication of the project and conveys a standard of methodological expertise.

 

Creswell Chapter 9

Writing a Qualitative Study

“Writing and composing the narrative report brings the entire study together” (213).  In this chapter, the author begins with four writing issues: reflexivity and representation, audience, encoding, and quotes. Then he takes each of the five approaches to inquiry and assesses two writing structures: the overall structure and the embedded structure. Finally, he compares the narrative structures for the five approaches in terms of four dimensions.

Please review P.213 – P.214 for the Questions for Discussion of this chapter.

“…qualitative writing has been shaped by a need for researchers to be self-disclosing about their role in the writing, the impact of it on participants, and how information conveyed is read by audiences” (214). Several writing strategies are introduced in the beginning of this chapter as the followings.

Reflexivity and Representations in Writing

“…qualitative researchers today are much more self-disclosing about their qualitative writings than they were a few years ago” (214). The author consider that our writing is a reflection of our own interpretation based on the cultural, social, gender, class and personal politics that we bring to research. Indeed, writings are co-constructions, representations of interactive processes between researchers and the researched (Gilgun, 2005).Moreover, the concern about the impact of the writing on the participants is increased. Weis and Fine (2000) discuss a “set of self-reflective points of critical consciousness around the questions of how to represent responsibility” in qualitative writings. And followings are the major questions that should be mainly considered by all qualitative researchers about their writings:

  • Should I write about what people say or recognize that sometimes they cannot remember or choose not to remember?
  • What are my political reflexivities that need to come into my report?
  • Has my writing connected the voices and stories of individuals back to the set of historic, structural, and economic relations in which they are situated?
  • How far should I go in theorizing the words of participants?
  • Have I considered how my words could be used for progressive, conservative, and repressive social policies?
  • Have I backed into the passive voice and decoupled my responsibility from my interpretation?
  • To what extent has my analysis (and writing) offered an alternative to common sense or the dominant discourse?

Reflexivity means that the writer is conscious of the biases, values, and experiences that he or she brings to a qualitative research study. The author thinks it is combined by two parts. The first part is the writer’s own experiences with the phenomenon being explored and the second part is how is the researcher’s interpretation of the phenomenon shaped by these past experiences.

Audience for Our Writings

“A sense of an audience peering over the writer’s shoulder needs to pervade the writing and the written text” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). How the findings are presented depends on the audience with whom one is communicating (Giorgi, 1985). A small example for this strategy please see page 217.

Encoding Our Writings

“A closely related topic is recognizing the importance of language in shaping our qualitative texts” (217). Richardson’s (1990) study of women in affairs with married men illustrates how a writer can shape a work differently for various audiences. Details of the research and how this research inspired Creswell’s thoughts are mentioned in p. 217 – p.219.

Quotes in Our Writings

“In addition to encoding text with the language of qualitative research, author bring in the voice of participants in the study” (219).  And the author also found that Richardson’s (1990) discussion about three types of quotes most useful. The first one is short eye-catching quotations; second one is combination of embedded quotes and briefly quoted phrases within the analyst’s narrative; the third one is a type of quote that is the longer quotation used to convey more complex understandings.  These three types’ characteristics are shown on this book at pg. 219.

Overall and Embedded Writing Structures

Creswell notes that there are two writing structures a qualitative researcher must consider when writing their report – the overall writing structure, and the embedded structure. By overall, he means the general feel, narrative and design of the report, and by embedded, he means the rhetorical structure, and the use of language and figurative devices to explore the details of the story.

A chart outlining the overall and embedded writing structures for the five approaches is on pgs. 221 – 222.

The overall writing structure in narrative research is rather flexible. It can mimic an actual narrative, following the chronology of a story, or be closer to a dissertation, with an introduction, literature review and the like. It can focus on brief episodes or themes, or raise questions that are answered throughout the report. (223)

The embedded structures in narrative research will tie into the general strategy. Narrative like reports may use the progressive-regressive method, which starts at a key event and works backwards and forwards. They key event may be an epiphany that serves as a culmination of the story. Other embedded structures may be the use of dialogue, transitions or foreshadowing. (225)

 

Those who are writing about phenomenology stick to a tighter overall structure. The organization helps readers better understand sensitive topics and experiences. Three models are discussed on pgs. 226-227, but all three models involve describing the research process and presenting data. The embedded structure is used to further help the reader understand the phenomena in question. A writer can present the essence of an experience through a short paragraph, invoke a discussion to educate the reader, explain their personal inspiration for choosing the study, or using significant statements and a table of meaning to get the details across. (228) The goal is that the reader should come away with the feeling that, “I understand better what it is like for someone to experience that.” (227)

The overall structure in grounded theory is to best explain how the author developed the theory. Each element is discussed in detail on p.229, but much of the writing in each section (literature review, methodology, findings, etc.) must describe the evolution of the study as the author came closer to understanding the theory. The report must include the relationships among categories, key concepts and open coding and diagrams. (230) Much of the report involves writing and revising, allowing ides to emerge as the theory develops.

The embedded structures within a grounded theory report are based on the extent of data analysis. One structure may involve an analysis of key stages or categories in the theory, or another may focus on the relationships and follow a logic diagram to present the theory in a visual model. (231) Another tactic is use emotions or moods in discussion, ask questions, and use unexpected definitions, all to lead a reader into the topic. (232)

The author goes on to explain the different styles of writing ethnographies and states that many ethnographies are written as realist tales, confessional tales, and impressionistic tales.

•     In a realist style of tale, a writer provides direct, matter-of-fact portraits of studied cultures without much information about how the ethnographers produced the portraits.

•     A confessional tale takes the opposite approach and the researcher focuses more on his or her fieldwork experiences than on the culture.

•     The impressionistic tale has elements of both realist and confessional writing and presents a compelling and persuasive story.

You can find more details on this on pages 192-193

Creswell then explains the embedded rhetorical structure of ethnographies. According to him, ethnographers use embedded rhetorical devices such as figures of speech, also known as “tropes.” Some of these tropes are metaphors, synecdoches, storytelling, and irony. Another important note that Creswell mentions is the importance of using “thick description” in writing qualitative research. To see an example of this go to page 194.

For case studies, Creswell mentions that he is reminded by Merriam (1988) that “there is no standard format for reporting case study research.” But he still goes on to mention an approach suggested by Stake (1995). On pages 195-196, there is an outline of this approach and I suggest for anyone who is doing a case study to take a look at this.

When it comes to embedded rhetorical structure, Creswell suggests “approaching the description of the context and setting for the case from a broader picture to a narrower one.” (196)

He also suggests that researchers need to be cognizant of the amount of description to use in their case study versus the amount of analysis and interpretation or assertions; and that this is basically up to the writer to decide.

Finally turn to pages 197-198 to see a very short conclusion of Creswell’s comparison of narrative structures.

What goes here…

This page us for students to share their research question and their study design. It is a space to reach out to each other for feedback and ideas on how to better design or articulate your research.This is an open forum for every one to converse about individual projects and to practice communicating your research to each other and to a larger audience.

Qualitative Research Design: Chapter 2

In this chapter, Maxwell focuses on the importance of having a clear understanding of the goals of your research, as they are an important part of the research design and justification of your research. Maxwell refers to goals in the broadest sense including “motives, desires, and purposes” of your research. He states that goals serve two important purposes: 1) “They help guide your design decision to ensure that your study is worth doing, that you or those you write for, get something of value out of it. Second, they are essential to justifying your study, explaining why your results and conclusions matter” (p. 23).

Maxwell describes three different kinds of goals: personal goals, practical goals, and intellectual goals. He notes that it is neither necessary nor advisable for researchers to separate between “their research and the rest of their lives.” He says this separation results in loss opportunities to gain from one’s ”insights, questions, practical guidance” and motivation to get the research done. (p.24).

Maxwell, however, cautions researchers to be aware of their personal goals and biases and how they may be shaping your research such as the selection of your questions, settings, participants, data collection, and the resulting potential impact on your conclusion (p 26). He recommends, “to think about how best to achieve these and to deal with the possible negative consequences of their influence” (p. 27).

Maxwell explains practical goals are focused on “accomplishing something—meeting some need, changing some situation, or achieving some objective.” He describes intellectual goals as focused on “understanding something.” They help researches help determine why and what is happening, and answer questions that previous research has not satisfactorily addressed (p. 28).

Maxwell further notes, “research questions need to be questions that your study can potentially answer.” He cautions against using questions which use terms such as “can” or “should” since they are open-ended in nature and no amount of “data or analysis can fully address (p. 29). Consequently, Maxwell recommends that researchers ensure that they frame their research questions “in ways that help you achieve your study goals.” For further information on designing your research questions see chapter 4.

Maxwell begins discussion on “goals qualitative research can help you achieve” by distinguishing between qualitative research and quantitative research. The most important difference, he states, is that quantitative research employs “variance theory” that is, seeing “the world in terms of variables” (page 29) while qualitative research uses “process theory” which looks at data from the perspective of people, situations and events, the interactions therein forming the basis of analysis. Which is best to use? It depends on the kinds of questions being addressed and intellectual goals (page 29).

Maxwell contends qualitative research is well suited to accomplishing five goals (page 30):

  1. Understanding the meaning to study participants of events, actions, situations or experiences that affect them. Here, the author notes disagreement among researchers on how study participants interpretation of reality vs. reality is handled (page 30). However, he emphasizes that it is the focus on participant’s interpretation of experiences and how this influences their behavior that is a major distinction from quantitative methods.
  2. Recognizing how the study participant’s behavior or actions was shaped by context or unique circumstances
  3. Discerning how process leads to outcomes, actions and events
  4. Identifying unexpected phenomena and generating new theory
  5. Developing causal explanations

Maxwell notes that recent research indicates field research is superior to solely quantified approaches in developing explanations of how actual events resulted in specific outcomes.

When tackling credible threats to validity in research methods, the author asserts that qualitative research, with its use of inductive, open-ended strategy has three further advantages:

  1. It produces readily understood, plausible results and theories. Here Maxwell claries with an example from Patton (1990, pp. 19-24) (page 31)
  2. Its design is oriented to improving “practices, programs or policies” rather than remaining neutral
  3. Its process is participatory and collaborative

Maxwell ends this section by highlighting the need for ongoing assessment of “personal, practical and intellectual goals” by the researcher. The examples he provides throughout this chapter illustrates how reassessment can benefit him or her. In particular, Maxwell encourages the use of a “the researcher identity memo,” a writing exercise which may help us clarify the personal identity we bring to the mini study.

Maxwell provides several examples to help illustrate the chapter’s main concepts.

In 2.1 (p 25), Using Personal Experience to Choose a Dissertation Topic, researcher Carol Kaffenberger found her doctoral work suspended by a significant family illness: her daughter’s hospitalization and long term treatment for leukemia.

The crisis caused a significant upheaval in the family, yet Carol believed her other teen children to be coping well. She was then surprised by the amount of lingering anger and distress they exhibited and, even though counseling was her area of expertise, she came to understand that her prior assumptions about their needs had been totally incorrect. Motivated by this rift, Carol switched her dissertation topic to study the long term impact and meaning of adolescent cancer for survivors and siblings.

Message: you might be the best person to study a topic that’s significantly impacted your life.

In 2.2 (p 26), The Importance of Personal Values and Identity, researcher Alan Peshkin experiences widely differing emotions about two of his study subjects: devout rural communities. One community he liked and admitted that he felt “protective” toward its members. In the second, he felt “alienated” and “annoyed.”

Alan’s realization of these biases led him to a preemptive self-examination before embarking on new research. He explored his feelings and goals, then created a tool to avoid perceiving his own “untamed sentiments” as data.

Message: Negative as well as positive biases can effect your research if you don’t recognize them.

In 2.3 (p 32), Deciding on a Dissertation Topic, doctoral student Isabel Londono feels a conflict between her personal, professional and academic interests. She weighs many factors before finally deciding to “do my thesis about something that moves me.”

Message: your research should be on learning about the topic itself, not on how you believe you might profit from the study’s outcome.

In 2.4 (p 35), Researcher Identity Memo, Barbara Noel shares the reasons for her interest in bilingual culture, with a deep exploration of her own developmental experience as a bicultural American. She is candid about the emotions that the topic generates (anger, affinity) and cautions herself that “putting myself in their shoes” might mean making incorrect assumptions about her participants’ meanings.

Of note: Barbara re-evaluated her feelings after research had begun and made additional notes to her memo.