Thursday, 6 December 2007

Qualitative research in Psychology

Subjectivity and bias are two of the most difficult key criteria to meet in good qualitative research (Larkin, 2002). To achieve this goal, the researcher needs to formulate a methodology that develops logically and demonstrates an understanding. It needs to lead to a direct and coherent connection between theory and method with no factual inaccuracies or misunderstanding. Simply put, it must avoid the “anything goes” mentality that is the critique of qualitative research (Antaki et al., 2002).

There are several key concerns associated using thematic analysis. A crucial concern with qualitative research pertains to the idea of interpretivism. This is a suggestion that humanity is interpretive in action and in a conception of the conduct of those about us. More simply, we compel meaning on our environment both in cultural practices defined by collective elucidation and a paradoxically function as an “isolated individual”.

While the “concept” of thematic coding is undemanding, the practice is not so easy. It is imperative to maintain a taxonomic definition of codes as they are constructed. Consistency in the application of these codes is also essential. The intricacy of this method is in warranting a particular occurrence of code “A” as being functionally equivalent to the same as occurrence “B”. Trivial variation in vocabulary, language and even the approach used complicate the conclusion that “subject X” has an equivalent response to “subject Y”.

Language is a fundamental attribute of the human condition. Through language we share a perception of and order our consciousness. Ludwig Wittgenstein (S 5.6, 1922) suggested “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world” to espouse the proposal that language profoundly erects a substantial framework to interpret conduct. He suggests that the precise character and associations of this milieu are the quintessence at the heart of anthropology, sociology, social linguistics, and psychology.

There is an inherent “quantification” implicated with various type of thematic analysis. In generating “quanta” of occurrences concerning behaviours and responses that are clustered for “similar” features, conjectures that motivate qualitative research often animate the supposition that the disparity amid subjects contextualise to make those distinctions strongly significant.

This does not infer an innate defect with thematic analysis, but indicates one of the predicaments consequential with this methodology. Whereas significant correlations involving positions compared with contrasting cases do emerge, Thematic Analysis is problematic .Conducting research without diversions from profound theoretical issues, bias or subjective prejudges is intricate at best.

  • Antaki, C., Billig, M., Edwards, D. & Potter, J. (2002) “Discourse analysis means doing analysis: a critique of six analytic shortcoming.” DAOL Discourse Analysis Online, 1(1).
  • Miles, M. Hurberman, M. (1994) “Qualitative Data Analysis: an expanded sourcebook”. London, Beverley Hills.
  • Parker, I. (1992) “Discourse Dynamics: Critical analysis for social and individual psychology”. Routledge
  • Smith, J.A., Jarman, M. & Osborn, M. (1999) “Doing interpretative phenomenolgical analysis”. In Murray M. & Chamberlain K. (Eds.) “Qualitative Health Psychology”. Sage.
  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig Josef Johann (1922) “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” (5.6)

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