Tagged / research methods
- Collard, S., van Teijlingen, E. (2016) Online focus group: New approaches to an ‘old’ research method, Health Prospect 15(3):4-7.
Over the past few weeks, students on BA Sociology and Anthropology (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at BU) have been carrying out ethnographic studies in West Howe, Bournemouth. As part of a focus on expanding undergraduate opportunities to conduct first hand research, students have designed their research projects collaboratively with local groups and organisations based in West Howe.
A short drive from Talbot campus, West Howe comprises a large post-war council estate, and faces a number of contemporary challenges in terms of employment, education, health and well being. It is also a green, spacious and welcoming community, with many active local initiatives aiming to improve quality of life for people in the area. Some aspects of its pre-World War Two history as a rural farming community remain present in its contemporary physical environment, combining with the modernist 1950s vision of suburban public space expressed in the architecture and street design. Local people’s experiences of the transition of the area from a largely rural hamlet to a modern housing estate, involving rapid population increase and large scale construction, was captured beautifully in two oral history books published in the 1980s – West Howe Proper and West Howe Too!
From an early point in their research projects, BU students invested time in building relationships with people in West Howe, working collaboratively with local schools, churches, children’s centres and volunteer groups to identify their key research questions, think through issues of research ethics, and use appropriate methods to gather relevant data, including participant observation, interviews, surveys and focus groups. Many student projects were inspired by the activities of local organisations, residents and volunteers, and the possibilities of engaged ethnography to produce findings that are locally useful and make a difference to people’s lives.
Next Thursday 3rd December students will be presenting their research findings to the community and inviting their engagement, comment and discussion. Themes of the research projects include: primary school education, children’s play and recreation, access to employment, perceptions of addiction, wellbeing and social support, social mobility and transport. Interested BU colleagues are also welcome to attend – please email Dr Rosie Read know if you plan to come (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thursday 3rd December, 10am-1pm. Fernhealth Play, Verney Road, Bournemouth BH11 8DA.
With working at a university and the rise of the REF, you would have almost certainly come across the terms ‘impact’ and ‘outcomes’. Whilst there might be a great deal of similarity and overlap in the use of these terms, it is important to discuss the sometime subtle differences between ‘impact’ and ‘outcome’. What consequences might this have for the design of social research?
The health and social care literature uses these terms in a rather haphazard manner. The differences are rarely discussed and it can be suggested that many use the wrong terminology. In this blog post on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog, relating to the field of information and advice on welfare issues, I briefly discuss and propose that there are fundamental differences between what an impact refers to and what an outcome refers to. Furthermore, I suggest that these differences are significant and profound enough to align each to opposing research methodologies.
These thoughts relate to the key areas of my PhD project with Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) in London. EAC coordinates the FirstStop service which provides information and advice to older people (and other stakeholders) on housing and care issues. My research is focused on how older people use information and advice on housing and the wider impact that this has.
If anyone has an interest in this area, do get in touch!
In November 2011 I (Joanne Mayoh) was the recipient of one of the first BU Research Development Fund (RDF) Small Grant Scheme prizes. This award gave me the opportunity to travel to Champaign (Illinois) in May 2012 to present a paper at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. The budget covered my travel to Illinois, hotel accommodation, conference fees for the five day event, and sustenance costs during this time. As an early career researcher, who has only started publishing within the last few years, this was an excellent chance for me to receive support to present internationally, and engage in essential networking and profile building.
In addition to the conference paper, this opportunity resulted in targeting networking with a number of influential methodologists, and the submission of two journal articles, and a further (accepted) conference abstract in collaboration with a newly formed contact. This new associate is one of the most experienced mixed methodologists currently publishing within my target journals, and is therefore an invaluable connection for at this stage in my career.
The process of applying for RDF funding was extremely simple and one that I would recommend my colleagues engaging with if they have any need for a small grant. I would definitely apply to this fund in the future to support conference attendance, research support or general networking. Overall it was a wonderful experience, and I am very grateful for the support from BU and the Research Development Unit.
A new research methods textbook in sport and physical activity, authored by three academics at Bournemouth University, is published this month. Published by Sage, “Qualitative Research in Sport and Physical Activity” has been written by Ian Jones, Lorraine Brown and Immy Holloway. The text builds on growing interest in qualitative methods within the discipline, and uses a growing body of literature based on qualitative research in Sport and Physical Activity . This is the second sport-related research methods textbook to emerge from Bournemouth University, following Research Methods for Sport Studies, also co-authored by Ian Jones. Published by Routledge, that text recently sold its 20,000th copy worldwide.
Designed especially for students in sport and physical activity, this book provides a detailed guide to planning, undertaking, and writing up qualitative research. Opening with a discussion of the main traits of qualitative inquiry and its use in Sport and Physical Activity, the text provides an accessible overview of qualitative research, using numerous examples to bring the text alive. The book is designed to be essential reading for undergraduate and Masters students carrying out a qualitative research project in sport and physical activity and for PhD students looking to refresh their knowledge.
As previously mentioned, the School of Tourism has launched a programme of seminars on research methods for its research students. The 12 seminars over the next 4 months provide an introduction to the broad range of research methods used by our PhD students, and I thought that you might like an update, now that we are three seminars into the programme.
I led the first seminar on Initial Considerations in Research, where we examined issues relating to ontology, epistemology and axiology. This time, the can of beans did not explode (a long story) and the interest (or was it confusion) has given rise to a series of potential parallel seminars looking at Philosophy. The first two titles in this sub-series are: Towards a true understanding of reality. Ha, ha, ha! and The definitive guide to post modernism. Ha, ha, ha! (or alternatively, a spurious siren from the pre-ancient. Tears, crying and woe?).
The second session brought us back down to earth when Professor Roger Vaughan looked at the Quantitative Data Collection Process. Roger has a fantastic ability to produce a coherent structure on which to hang complex ideas. His emphasis on preparing well in order to make data collection easy (ier) was an object lesson for those tempted to charge headlong into gathering data without some deep reflection, as were his insights into the way that elements of what you do at the start of a PhD reappear and eventually come full circle.
The third session, led by Dr Lorraine Brown, looked at The Features of Qualitative Research. I think that Lorraine exhibits a really embodied understanding of the qualitative research process and this came across in the seminar. Naively some think that qualitative research is easy, possibly because they haven’t done it -“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” Hamlet 1:5. Student and staff jaws did drop when she mentioned that she had managed to realize 10 research papers from her PhD. Another object lesson to us all. As was the quote from the Physicist Professor Brian Cox on Radio 4….”Science makes no claim to be right. Quantum mechanics requires you to jettison your perceptions of the world………..”
BSc. (Hons.), PGDip. AgSci., PGCert. RDS., Cert. Ed., NSch.
Winston Churchill Fellow. Rotary Foundation Scholar.
Senior Lecturer, School of Tourism, Bournemouth University.
I’ve recently been doing some work to identify what can be done to improve response rates in both qualitative and quantitative research. Although this work was conducted as part of a HEIF4 project and in the financial services sector, the findings are of relevance to anyone conducting research with individuals. Of particular interest to me were those respondents who were not initially apathetic to research and had in the past taken part in surveys and interviews, but who had developed a reluctance to participate over time. What had caused this reluctance and how could response rates be improved?
Digging into the literature, two pieces of work caused me to stop and think about the whole research context. The first was the work of Pickery, Loosveldt and Carton (2001) who found that the interviewer in the first wave of research was more important than the interviewer in the second wave in terms of the impact on subsequent response rates. If the experience with the first researcher was positive then the respondent was more likely to engage again and vice versa. If we link this finding to the more recent work of Clark (2010) it seems that respondents engage in (qualitative) research for many and various reasons and not just to contribute to knowledge or for altruistic reasons. Some actually enjoy the experience; they enjoy the social comparison and the therapeutic aspect of talking about themselves and their experiences. Participation for these respondents is more about the experience and the value they as individuals gain from the interaction.
In the financial services sector there is always the grim warning that “past performance is no guarantee of future performance”. Of course, there are also no guarantees in research; however in this case there does seem to be evidence to suggest that past performance in terms of the research experience is a good indicator of future performance in response rates. The question now is how do we make the research experience more positive, stimulating and enjoyable from the respondent’s perspective?
Pickery, J., Loosveldt, G., and Carton, A (2001) The effects of interviewer and respondent characteristics on response behavior in panel surveys: a Mulit-level approach. Sociological methods and research. 29:509-523
Clark, T. (2010) On ‘being researched’: why do people engage with qualitative research? Qualitative Research. 10: 399-419
With many of the leading journals in the field of Tourism and related studies now recording rejection rates in excess of 90%, the pressure is on all of us with an interest in publishing in such journals to enhance our level of engagement with the variety of alternative research methodologies available to us and to deepen our level of knowledge of those deemed most appropriate; as well as to improve the level of rigour with which we apply them in our work! In addition to constructive criticism from panel members of the level of conceptual and theoretical engagement in many papers reviewed for RAE2008, feedback from reviewers points to methodological weaknesses in papers submitted and a sense of frustration over the a lack of rigour and an apparent unwillingness to try contemporary approaches.
In response, the School of Tourism has invested much time in developing the methodological expertise of its staff and for 2011-12 is launching a new programme of Research Methods on Wednesday mornings throughout the year. Available to all School staff and PhD students, the new programme, being led by Professor Roger Vaughan and Dr Lorraine Brown, explores both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research, a number of emerging methods of contemporary interest, with the programme concluding with sessions on the use of “voice” and “trustworthiness” on the writing up of qualitative research and the presentations of quantitative findings.
For further information please contact Dr Lorraine Brown at email@example.com
There have been a wide range of important studies that have used covert methods, that have collected data from people who do not know they are being studied at the time, who would not give permission or, had permission been sought, where the data may have been dubious or biased. Researchers justify their actions by stating the need to gain access to inaccessible groups, to illuminate important social issues, and to uncover the unpalatable. Famous examples include, of course, Rosenhan’s study of the ways in which mental illness may be attributed by location and situation (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/179/4070/250.short), Holdaway’s insider research into the police, and Hunter S. Thompson’s research into Hell’s Angel communities.
Covert methods have fallen out of vogue and are often difficult to get through postgraduate committees or, indeed, university and other research ethics committees, which increasingly promote a risk averse and pedestrian approach to scrutiny. The reasons for this include the important focus, within disciplinary ethical codes, academic and professional ethics committees, on informed consent, and promote a seemingly natural desire for excising duplicity and dishonesty from data collection in research. However, there are arguments that suggest covert methods may not always be dishonest or duplicitous and, indeed, not to use them in certain circumstances, may be, unwittingly, unethical (see Parker et al., forthcoming).
The use of undercover reporting in investigative journalism, for example relating to NHS hospitals and patient treatment, and more recently non-NHS hospitals; whilst not research, illuminates many hidden and dubious practices in current society, representing some of the social good that can be drawn from such methods, and indeed ‘impact’ (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/226545.php).
Where do our research ideas come from in the social sciences? Often from lectures and dialogue within these with students, from supervision, and observations we make in everyday life. That we have collected initial soundings and thoughts from these settings and situations, which has not been scrutinised or completed without informed consent is not questioned: it would be ridiculous to assume we needed informed consent to undertake our daily practices!
As we strive for research excellence and relevance here at BU, we should grapple enthusiastically with the issues and challenges involved in covert research and back it wholeheartedly where its importance is clear. A flaccid response can lose the excitement and challenge involved in the production of new knowledge from in depth engagement with individuals, groups and societies. URECs need to highlight legal challenges, of course. Current mental capacity legislation (which my own research for the Social Care Institute for Excellence and Department of Health suggests transposes ethical scrutiny drawn from moves to protect the public from dangerous medical experimentation Parker et al. 2010) demands ethical scrutiny by appropriate committees, but used well can promote and support ethically-driven knowledge creation and exploration of hidden issues that require methods that cannot and should not involve informed consent. To avoid or proscribe such research methods in all cases leads us down a safe but uninteresting and, potentially, unethical, track.
 Rosenhan, D.L. (1973) On being sane in insane places, Science, 179, 4070, 250-258.
 Holdaway, S. (1983) Inside the British Police: A force at work, Oxford: Blackwell.
 Thompson, H.S. (2003/1965) Hell’s Angels, London: Penguin.
 Parker, J., Penhale, B. and Stanley, D. (forthcoming) Research ethics review: social care and social science research and the Mental Capacity Act 2005, Ethics and Social Welfare
 Fielding, N. (1982) Observational research on the National Front, in M. Bulmer (ed.) Social Research Ethics: An examination of the merits of covert participant observation, London: Macmillan.
 Parker, J., Penhale, B. and Stanley, D. (2010) Problem or safeguard? Research ethics review in social care research and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Social Care and Neurodisability 1, 2, 22-32.