Gaining Access: A Practical and Theoretical Guide for Qualitative Researchers

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You use their interaction to collect the information you need on a particular topic. To what depth of information the discussion goes depends on the extent to which focus group participants can stimulate each other in discussing and sharing their views and experiences. Focus group participants respond to you and to each other. A focus group discussion usually lasts 90— mins. All questions need to provide an answer to the phenomenon under study.


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You need to be prepared to manage difficulties as they arise, for example, dominant participants during the discussion, little or no interaction and discussion between participants, participants who have difficulties sharing their real feelings about sensitive topics with others, and participants who behave differently when they are observed. The purpose of the focus group discussion determines the composition. Smaller groups might be more suitable for complex and sometimes controversial topics. Also, smaller focus groups give the participants more time to voice their views and provide more detailed information, while participants in larger focus groups might generate greater variety of information.

In composing a smaller or larger focus group, you need to ensure that the participants are likely to have different viewpoints that stimulate the discussion. For example, if you want to discuss the management of obesity in a primary care district, you might want to have a group composed of professionals who work with these patients but also have a variety of backgrounds, e. GPs, community nurses, practice nurses in general practice, school nurses, midwives or dieticians. Focus groups generally consist of 6—12 participants. Careful time management is important, since you have to determine how much time you want to devote to answering each question, and how much time is available for each individual participant.


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  4. If all eight respondents participate in the discussion, this boils down to about two minutes of speaking time per respondent per question. New media are increasingly used for collecting qualitative data, for example, through online observations, online interviews and focus group discussions, and in analysis of online sources. Data can be collected synchronously or asynchronously, with text messaging, video conferences, video calls or immersive virtual worlds or games, etcetera.

    3.2 Choosing A Research Approach

    Virtual means those approaches that import traditional data collection methods into the online environment and digital means those approaches take advantage of the unique characteristics and capabilities of the Internet for research [ 10 ]. New media can also be applied. See Box 3 for further reading on interview and focus group discussion.

    Brinkmann S, Kvale S.

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    Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Sage: London; Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data. Developing focus group research. Politics, theory and practice. Kruger R, Casey M. Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. You cannot wait with the analysis, because an iterative approach and emerging design are at the heart of qualitative research. This involves a process whereby you move back and forth between sampling, data collection and data analysis to accumulate rich data and interesting findings.

    The principle is that what emerges from data analysis will shape subsequent sampling decisions. Immediately after the very first observation, interview or focus group discussion, you have to start the analysis and prepare your field notes. First, transcripts of audiotaped interviews and focus group discussions and your field notes constitute your major data sources.

    Trained and well-instructed transcribers preferably make transcripts. Usually, e. In conversation analysis non-verbal actions such as coughing, the lengths of pausing and emphasizing, tone of voice need to be described in detail using a formal transcription system best known are G. To facilitate analysis, it is essential that you ensure and check that transcripts are accurate and reflect the totality of the interview, including pauses, punctuation and non-verbal data.

    In this process of incubation, you search the transcripts for meaning and essential patterns, and you try to collect legitimate and insightful findings. You familiarize yourself with the data by reading and rereading transcripts carefully and conscientiously, in search for deeper understanding. Ethnography, phenomenology, and grounded theory each have different analytical approaches, and you should be aware that each of these approaches has different schools of thought, which may also have integrated the analytical methods from other schools Box 4.

    In general, qualitative analysis begins with organizing data. Large amounts of data need to be stored in smaller and manageable units, which can be retrieved and reviewed easily.


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    To obtain a sense of the whole, analysis starts with reading and rereading the data, looking at themes, emotions and the unexpected, taking into account the overall picture. You immerse yourself in the data. The most widely used procedure is to develop an inductive coding scheme based on actual data [ 11 ]. This is a process of open coding, creating categories and abstraction. In most cases, you do not start with a predefined coding scheme. You describe what is going on in the data. You ask yourself, what is this?

    What does it stand for? What else is like this? What is this distinct from? Based on this close examination of what emerges from the data you make as many labels as needed. Then, you make a coding sheet, in which you collect the labels and, based on your interpretation, cluster them in preliminary categories.

    The next step is to order similar or dissimilar categories into broader higher order categories.

    Grounded theory - Wikipedia

    Each category is named using content-characteristic words. Then, you use abstraction by formulating a general description of the phenomenon under study: subcategories with similar events and information are grouped together as categories and categories are grouped as main categories. You reread, recode, re-analyse and re-collect data until your findings provide breadth and depth.

    Throughout the qualitative study, you reflect on what you see or do not see in the data. They can be a few sentences or pages, whatever is needed to reflect upon: open codes, categories, concepts, and patterns that might be emerging in the data. Memos can contain summaries of major findings and comments and reflections on particular aspects.

    In ethnography, analysis begins from the moment that the researcher sets foot in the field.

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    The analysis involves continually looking for patterns in the behaviours and thoughts of the participants in everyday life, in order to obtain an understanding of the culture under study. When comparing one pattern with another and analysing many patterns simultaneously, you may use maps, flow charts, organizational charts and matrices to illustrate the comparisons graphically.

    The outcome of an ethnographic study is a narrative description of a culture. In phenomenology, analysis aims to describe and interpret the meaning of an experience, often by identifying essential subordinate and major themes.

    Saturation in qualitative research: exploring its conceptualization and operationalization

    You search for common themes featuring within an interview and across interviews, sometimes involving the study participants or other experts in the analysis process. Grounded theory generates a theory that explains how a basic social problem that emerged from the data is processed in a social setting.

    The steps in the analysis are known as open, axial and selective coding. Throughout the analysis, you document your ideas about the data in methodological and theoretical memos. The outcome of a grounded theory study is a theory. Descriptive generic qualitative research is defined as research designed to produce a low inference description of a phenomenon [ 12 ].

    Descriptive generic qualitative research often applies content analysis. Descriptive content analysis studies are not based on a specific qualitative tradition and are varied in their methods of analysis. The analysis of the content aims to identify themes, and patterns within and among these themes. An inductive content analysis [ 11 ] involves breaking down the data into smaller units, coding and naming the units according to the content they present, and grouping the coded material based on shared concepts.

    They can be represented by clustering in treelike diagrams. A deductive content analysis [ 11 ] uses a theory, theoretical framework or conceptual model to analyse the data by operationalizing them in a coding matrix.

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    An inductive content analysis might use several techniques from grounded theory, such as open and axial coding and constant comparison. However, note that your findings are merely a summary of categories, not a grounded theory. Analysis software can support you to manage your data, for example by helping to store, annotate and retrieve texts, to locate words, phrases and segments of data, to name and label, to sort and organize, to identify data units, to prepare diagrams and to extract quotes. Still, as a researcher you would do the analytical work by looking at what is in the data, and making decisions about assigning codes, and identifying categories, concepts and patterns.

    See Box 5 for further reading on qualitative analysis. The next and final article in this series, Part 4, will focus on trustworthiness and publishing qualitative research [ 13 ]. The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.

    Eur J Gen Pract.