This paper explains exploratory methods of research which are mostly used when carrying out qualitative research. Exploratory research is a type of research that is conducted when the problem has not yet been identified or cleanly been defined. According to Trochim, & Donnelly, (2008) in carrying out explanatory research, exploratory methods are used so that best research design, data collection and subject’s selection are conducted appropriately/ accurately. exploratory research depends mostly on qualitative approaches and conclusions are drawn cautiously after more formal approaches like in-depth interviews, focus groups, case studies or informal methods like discussions with the consumers, customers, management, employees or competitors has been carried out carefully (Trochim, & Donnelly, (2008). In this study focus will be on qualitative methods of data collection and analysis as one of the valuable ways of collecting data which is very accurate for analysis.
Exploratory methods of research are focused on the outside of an organization or idea being researched for. They begin with the present and go into the future through extrapolation or asking of questions that are outside the known familiar trend. Exploring qualitative methods of research involves the applications of certain tools which include; trends impacts, conventional Delphi and cross impact analysis (Trochim, & Donnelly, 2008). This paper will explore qualitative methods of research and answer the questions 6, 7, and 8 in the book by Cozby page 125-126 elaborately with supportive evidence from scholarly literature.
Qualitative methods of research/ data collection
Qualitative research is used by researchers especially when they want to explore and discover the meanings that participants attach to their behavior, the way they interpret situations, and their perspectives on specific or certain situations. For instance, some students may perceive some subjects as difficult and conform to others or some may see school as a place of social meeting while others may see school as an academics arena. Collecting such views require qualitative methods of data collection because such information cannot easily be quantified (Cozby, 2012). Cozby suggests that the researcher selects the method based on the questions to be addressed in the study however, the questions, issues and the researcher topics may change in the course of the study as the reality of the world being studied keeps on changing. These changes may be embarrassing to those researchers who are used to quantitative, experimental or quasi- experimental research methods. Therefore, use of qualitative research provides the researcher with a more exploratory nature of data collection as the world being researched keep on changing.
Creswell, (2009) provides that it is dangerous to design a, completely naturalistic research study prior to beginning the research. This maybe becomes contradictory if research results keep on changing, as the researched progresses. It is important to incorporate qualitative research methods to cater for the changing nature of the world being researched so that data collected can be more accurate (Creswell, 2009).
In qualitative research, the researcher does not begin with the theory that he/ she wants to test but rather develops the theory from the data they have collected. This theory is then called grounded theory because it is based on raw data collected from the research. The researcher employs several methods when conducting qualitative research data collection. The methods may include; observation, interviews and documentary analysis (Trochim, & Donnelly, J2008).
The above three methods are the main methods that researchers use to collect qualitative data during research studies. These methods are further sub-divided into sub-methods for quality data collection depending on the research questions and the world being researched. In this paper only observation method of qualitative data collection will be explored in detail.
Observation methods of qualitative data collection
There are various categories of observational methods used in collecting qualitative data in research study. The methods in clued; naturalistic observation, systematic observation, case studies, and archival research. To begin with we shall discuss each observational method do qualitative data collection separately to ascertain the importance of each method and the time each is needed to be employed in data collection (Creswell, 2009).
Cozby (2012) provides that Naturalistic observation is also called field work or field observation. The researchers make actual observation to the individuals in their natural environments in field observations. This method of research study is believed to emanate from anthropology and the study of the behaviors of animals. Currently this method is widely used in social sciences to help researchers study different phenomenon in all kinds of social and organizations l stetting. Therefore, naturalistic observation can be employed even in the study of business organization employees or members of sports club ( Cozby, 2012).
Research by Zikmund, Babin, Carr, & Griffin, (2010) is one of the best examples of naturalistic observation in psychology. This research describes the individuals of study after the process of observation and then makes conclusion based on the observation. Also graham, tremble, pertain, Purcell, and jelly,( 2006) provided a research study based on the natural environments of the subjects of study. Graham observed the incidences of aggregation on the bar in a large city both on weekends and nights and made conclusion based on the data collected. Such is a naturalistic observation because of was carried out in the natural setting and the researcher did not influence anything that occurred in the setting (Zikmund, Babin, Carr, & Griffin, 2010).
What is case study? When are case studies used? What is psychobiography?
Another observational method of qualitative data collection ids cases study. Creswell, (2009) defines a case study as the description of an individual under study. The individual can bra person, a setting such as school, business, or neighborhood. A case study resembles naturalistic observation because both involve the observation of the natural environment of the subject under study. Naturalistic observation and case study sometimes overlap however; a case study should not be mistaken for a naturalistic observation since it does not involve naturalistic observation but rather involves description of the individual i.e. a patient by a clinical psychologist or description of a historical event (Creswell, 2009).
Trochim, & Donnelly, (2008) provides that A case study is used in collection qualitative data when information like individuals history, symptoms, characteristics , behaviors, reactions to situations or responses to treatment is needed. In particular a case study is used when an individual under study portrays unique, unusual, rare, or noteworthy conditions (Trochim, & Donnelly, 2008). Therefore, case studies help researchers in collecting unique data about the psychological phenomenon such as memory, social exchange, language and many other unique characteristics of individuals. Results of case studies can be used by researcher to derive hypothesis which can be tested using different means of study (Trochim, & Donnelly, 2008).
Runyan, William McKinley (1982) provides that Psychobiography is a type of case study where the researcher makes use of psychological theory to describe the life of an individual majorly a historical figure. This kind of case study makes use of library research or telephone interview with experts or persons familiar with the case to derive conclusions about the individual and not direct observation (Runyan, William McKinley 1982).
What is archival research? What are major sources of archival data?
Archival research is a research study that uses previously compiled information in answering research questions. The researcher, using archival research method does not collect original data but analyses the already existent data such as statistics from public records, lime the number of HIV victims in a given region, the number of rape cases in a given year reports of anthropologists, the contents of the letter to the editor, or information stored in data bases (Creswell, J. W. 2009). data for Archival research can be got from three major sources which include; statistical records, survey archives and written records.
Statistical records are collected by many public and private organizations. For instance, the US census Bureau or state and local agencies which maintain extensive sets of statistical records.
Survey archives contain data from surveys and stored in computers which are available to researchers who wish to analyze the surveys. Pooling organizations and universities provides or makes survey archives data available for analysis.
Written and mass communication records: Written records such as diaries and letters preserved by historical societies together with mass communication records such as articles, books, magazines, movies televisions programs and newspapers also provide or make survey archive data available for the researchers to study and analyze (Trochim, & Donnelly, 2008).
What is content analysis?
According to Creswell, (2009) Content analysis is the systematic analysis of the existing document. This method of qualitative data analysis resembles systematic observation in that it requires the researchers to devise coding techniques that analysts can use to quantify information from the documents. Coding is usually simple and straight forward for instance coding the response to a given political question on a scale about the popularity of a given politician from an interview of 10 people (Creswell, 2009).
In summary, qualitative analysis is one of the best methods of collecting data to ensure that accuracy is maintained. With this method data is analyzed as it is without biasness. Observational methods used in collecting data form a basis for a variety of ways of collecting data depending on the situation or the kind of research questions that are being studied.
Cozby, P. C. (2012). Methods in behavioral research (10th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill Higher Education.
Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Runyan, William McKinley (1982). Life histories and psycho-biography. Explorations in theory and method. New York: Oxford University Press
Trochim, W., & Donnelly, J. (2008). The research methods knowledge base (3rd ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage.
Zikmund, W., Babin, B.J., Carr, J.C., & Griffin, M. (2010). Business research methods (8th ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson/South-Western.