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qualitative_methods

Qualitative methods __ Typical applications of qualitative methods during the development of new food technologies and associated products:

  1. ethical, moral objections to new technologies
  2. understanding consumer acceptance/rejection of innovative products and technologies
  3. perceptions of benefits and risks
  4. product concept development/refinement and testing (screening with consumers)

Key characteristics of qualitative research. (From Braun and Clarke 2013, chapter 2; Bryman 2012 chapter 17)

  1. Qualitative data consists predominantly of text collected using methods such as interviews and focus groups (generally transcribed from an audio recording) and field notes from ethnographic studies. However, unlike quantitative analysis, there is not an established, unambiguous set of rules for the analysis of quantitative data.
  2. Analysis may be inductive or deductive. The inductive approach is used when there is little previous knowledge. The framework for analysis (concepts, categories) is drawn out of the text by the researcher. The deductive approach is used when the purpose of the study is to test existing theory, hypotheses, concepts or models, and the framework for analysis (categories etc) is derived a priori from existing literature.
  3. Qualitative research deals with meaning (not numbers). It attempts to record real life, put it in a framework and interpret it. It tries to understand people’s own perspectives and meanings – how they frame the issues. (See the phenomenon through their eyes)
  4. Context is very important. Qualitative data come from participants whose behaviour is located in specific contexts. To understand their behaviour we must be aware of the social setting in which it occurs. This is something that must be taken into account during analysis.
  5. Typically qualitative research involves the intensive study of a small group, for example interviewees and focus groups. We cannot generalise from such non-probability samples in the same way that we can from random samples. However we can generalise results from case studies and well-defined purposive samples to cases or populations similar to the ones studied (Hood, 2006: 212.) The process requires judgement from the researcher who must decide which characteristics other populations/cases must share for generalisations to be made. We can also generalize to theory.
  6. There are a number of stories that can be told from the same dataset, so there is no single ‘right’ answer. (That is, multiple accounts of social reality rather than a single absolute account.) This makes the application of quantitative evaluation criteria for reliability and validity inappropriate (Guba and Lincoln, 1994). Rather we need to examine the credibility of the account that the researcher produces and the process by which it was reached.
  7. Qualitative data consists predominantly of text collected using methods such as interviews and focus groups (generally transcribed from an audio recording) and field notes from observational studies. (Other data types exist e.g. video footage. This particular example may lead to quantitative or qualitative analysis). However, unlike quantitative analysis, there is not an established, unambiguous set of rules for the analysis of qualitative data (Bryman 2012: 566).
  8. Analysis of qualitative data may be inductive or deductive. The inductive approach is used when there is little previous knowledge. The framework for analysis (concepts, categories) is drawn out of the text by the researcher. The deductive approach is used when the purpose of the study is to test existing theory, hypotheses, concepts or models, and the framework for analysis (categories etc) is derived a priori from existing literature.
  9. The researcher is present in the research process. The researcher is the instrument for data collection, and can decide what is of interest. Participants may respond differently to different researchers and interpretation will be affected by personal factors (e.g. knowledge, own theoretical position). Hence qualitative studies are difficult (if not impossible) to replicate.
  10. Reflexivity is the process whereby social scientists critically reflect on the knowledge they produce and their role in producing that knowledge. There are 2 areas of concern: a. How have the research tools we have used influenced the research? For example in a study of eating disorders, would the decision to use a focus group methodology give different results from an interview? b. How has the researcher themselves influenced the production of knowledge, or how might their assumptions have shaped the knowledge they produce? For example our own cultural, political and social context may influence the analysis. Or we might assume that a topic is of no concern to certain groups of people and fail to include them in the study.
  11. Factors such as the inability to replicate studies – because they are sensitive to the researcher - and limitations to generalisation of results mean that the evaluative criteria (validity and reliability) used in quantitative research are regarded as largely inappropriate for qualitative studies. (See Bryman p289 and Braun and Clarke p278.)

Sources

  1. Braun V. & Clarke V. (2013). Successful Qualitative Research. A practical guide for beginners. London, Sage.
  2. Bryman A. (2012). Social Research methods. 4th ed. Oxford, OUP.
  3. Hood J.C. (2006). Teaching against the text: the case of qualitative methods. Teaching Sociology, 34: 207 - 223
qualitative_methods.txt · Last modified: 2015/02/18 17:02 (external edit)