I’m always interested in qualitative analysis out of curiosity, although I might/ might not include it in my studies in the future. After years of doing quantitative studies, it might be a good idea to learn something from the other side. Therefore, I attended this workshop: ‘Introduction to qualitative analysis’ in the Welcome Trust Research Centre. The first lecture was loaded with theory, which I mainly forget most of it but it’s not difficult to pick it up by reading a few papers. The main focus of the theory is to identify which type of qualitative study you want to conduct. Is it the grounded theory, which focus on finding the facts and generate theory or the phenomenology, which focus on exploring the feeling and unique experience of the participants.
Then it comes to a very interesting part this afternoon, in which the students did a role play as interviewer and interviewee. We were divided into groups, each group has two interviewers (one grounded theory, one phenomenology) and one interviewee. We were all given the same research question: What factors might affect a student to drop out/continue the PhD degree. I choose the grounded theory approach because I think exploring unique experience is at a more advance level.
First of all, I come up with a bunch of questions direct to the possible factors that could influence a student to continue the degree. As a psychologist, I tend to put everything in a structure at the very beginning. “Which theory are you using? Do you know the structure of this theory? ” I still remember years ago when I started my first research project, this is the question from my supervisor.
(external/internal)Motivation, social support, financial support should be the important determinants. Other determinants might not be quite diverse, but I guess this is why we need an interview instead of scales.
Here’s the list of questions from me:
debrief the purpose of my study.
demographic questions, which degree she’s doing, which year, etc
- Do you have research experience before you started your PhD? Participant said yes, then I continue to explore what was that and was it related to her research field at the moment.
- Do you like the research area you are working on? Why or why not?
- Have you started a family before you do your PhD. If yes, do you think catering the needs of your family and the degree at the same time is a bit difficult? Why?
- Do you have close friends who study a phD or doing similar research? Do you often talk to them? Why or why not? Do you think your friends and family are supportive? Why?
- Do you think your supervisors are supportive? why? Participants said she has 3 supervisors. Then I continue to ask do you do group meetings regularly? Do your supervisors have different opinions about your research topics?
- What do you think about your working environment? Why do you like your office?
- Do you think your colleagues are supportive? Do you work on a project together or do you have plans to work with them in the future?
- How’s your funding situations at the moment?
- What factors do you think will affect your decision to not continue your PhD and why?
These questions mainly covers the hypothesis in my research questions and also encourage the participant to speak out others factors that my questions are not included.
Here are the questions from the phenomenology side:
Why do you want to start a phD degree?
What are your expectations?
Which expectations are met and which are not met?
What stuffs went well?
How to improve your experience?
What didn’t go well?
In general, we retrieve similar content and the phenomenology approach managed to explore specific questions at a deeper level. Since the same participant did the two interviews, her reply to the phenomenology questions might be probed by my questions a bit. There were a lot of moments that the participants find it difficult to answer phenomenology questions because it requires a lot of reflection.
The lecturer seems to appreciate my strategy but other students seem to think that I’m asking superficial questions try to direct how the participant thinks by asking these questions as prompts. From the perspective of a psychologist, it’s good to listen to a narrative description from a participant to identify a problem, however, it’s very often that a participant might not aware that something is an issue that affects how she/he feels about a task. That’s why we need to put everything in a structure, and see if the theory apply to individual cases to a certain degree, then we analysis why or why not it doesn’t apply or what’s missing in there.
In conclusion, I think this is a very interesting practice and I have a wonderful experience in both of the interview approaches. I hope I will have chance to experience more of this in the future.