Chapter Three: Research Methodology
This chapter introduces the research methodology used for this study and how it has guided development of theory, collection of data and analysis of data. On my journey of research, I had in mind the five major qualitative research traditions namely, biography, case study, ethnography, grounded theory and phenomenology (Creswell, 1998). I familiarized myself with all of the traditions and described all five traditions. I further went on to give a synopsis of each that included foci on tradition, discipline of origin, data collection methods, data analysis method and narrative form. Creswell provides much of the general data. I further went on to each of the author of each tradition to get specific information.
Biography is described as the study of a single individual and his or her experiences as told to the researcher or as found in the documents and archival materials (Denzin, 1989). Biography broadly includes biographies, autobiographies, life histories, and oral histories. The researcher investigates the life of one individual, often collecting data primarily through interviews and documents of many types. Analysis typically takes the form of stories, epiphanies, and historical content to yield a vivid picture of the life of the individual in question (Creswell, 1998).
Phenomenology is the study of the shared meaning of experience of a phenomenon for several individuals. Moustakas described it as The understanding of meaningful concrete relations implicit in the original description of experience in the context of a particular situation is the primary target of phenomenological knowledge (Moustakas, 1994, p. 14). Data gathered is reduced as lengthy interviews describing the shared experiences of several informants to a central meaning.
In grounded theory, the researcher generates an abstract analytical schema of a phenomenon. The theory then explains some action, interaction, or process. Analysis occurs primarily through collecting interview data, making multiple visits to the field, interrelating categories of information via constant comparison, and writing a substantive or context-specific theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
Ethnography is a study of an intact culture or social group (or an individual or individuals within a group) based primarily on observations and a prolonged period of time spent by the researcher in the field. The ethnographer listens and records the voices of the informants with the intent of generating a cultural portrait (Thomas, 1993; Walcott, 1994).
Case studies in qualitative research are investigations of bounded systems with the focus being either the case or an issue illustrated by the case(s) (Stake, 1995). A qualitative case study should provide an in-depth study of this system, based on a diverse array of data collection materials. The researcher situates this system within its larger setting.
After familiarizing myself with the traditions, I eventually settled and picked grounded theory. The subsequent three sections describe the data collection phases for this study which consist of in depth interviews and surveys
Grounded Theory Methodology
If someone wanted to know whether one drug is more effective than another, then a double blind clinical trial would be more appropriate than grounded theory study. However, if someone wanted to know what it was like to be a participant in a drug study, then he or she might sensibly engage in a grounded theory project or some other type of qualitative study" (Strauss and Corbin, 1998, p. 40).
This quote shows when it is best to use the grounded theory methodology. It provides useful tools to learn about individuals perceptions and feelings regarding a particular subject area. In my case the aim of the research is to get the perception of people on management and leadership skills and the need to distinguish them. Grounded theory methodology has the following traits similar to other qualitative methods; focus on everyday life experiences, valuing participants perspectives, interactive process between researcher and respondents and primarily descriptive and relying on peoples words (Marshall and Rossman, 1999).
Grounded theory originated from the USA in the 1960s in the fields of health. It advocates creating new theory consisting of interrelated concepts rather than testing existing theories (Strauss & Corbin, 1967).A study guided by this theory aims to explain and at times even predict phenomena based on empirical data.
Data Collection and Analysis in Grounded Theory
Grounded theory uses theoretical sampling which is a form of purposive sampling, where participants are selected according to the researchers specific criteria and based on initial findings. Data collection and analysis take place in alternating sequence. Due to this, development and identification of variables takes place as part of data collection. Hence, the variables are initiated by the interviewee and further developed by the researcher .Data is collected until no new or relevant data emerges regarding a category, and there is an establishment of a relationship between categories (Strauss & Corbin, 1998)
Interview questions should give as little guidance as possible to allow interviewees to express what is important to them .The researcher should then extract those experiences important to the interviewee by assigning a conceptual label known as a code. When these codes are grouped, they will eventually form the basis for the developing theory.
Coding interviews as part of the analytic process
Coding is the first step of data analysis, as it helps to move away from particular statements to more abstract interpretations of the interview data (Charmaz, 2006).
Grounded theory methodology advocates using several coding techniques to examine interviewees accounts. Open coding/ line-by-line coding is a good starting point to identifying initial phenomena. Conceptual labels are attached to almost every line in the interview transcript to capture what was said. When these labels are taken from the interviewees own words they are known as vivo code. Strauss and Corbin (1998) suggest using initial or sensitizing questions, to help the researcher grasp what the data might be indicating. Suggested questions are "Who are the actors involved?", What are the actors definitions and meaning of these phenomena or situations? (Strauss & Corbin,1998, p. 77).
The next phase of coding is more abstract than open coding and known as selective coding. Focused codes are applied to several lines in a transcript and require the researcher to choose the most telling codes to represent the interviewees voice.
Another subsequent phase of coding is axial coding, defined by Strauss and Corbin as "the act of relating categories to subcategories along the lines of their properties and dimensions" (Strauss and Corbin, 1998, p. 123). The aim of axial coding is to add depth and structure to existing categories. Charmaz (2006) explains that axial coding re-assembles data that has been broken up into separate codes by line-by-line coding. Strauss and Corbin (1998) use axial coding to investigate conditions of situations described in the interview, their actions and consequences. Charmaz (2006) warns that axial coding applies a too rigid and formal frame to the data analysis. Instead she recommends the less formalized approach of reflecting on categories, sub-categories and to establish connecting links between these to make sense of the interview data. Several rules are put forward by Glaser (1978) to develop an advanced analysis of the subject area.
After coding several interview transcripts a researcher can identify many issues that are of importance to the respondents. These issues are also known as phenomena and are assigned a conceptual label to become a code, also known as a concept by Strauss and Corbin (1998). It should be stressed that categories have to earn their way into an emerging theory (Glaser, 1978).
The central or core category is a distinctive category that sits at the heart of the developed theory and summarizes what is happening. All other major categories should relate to the core category, which ought to appear frequently in the data (Strauss and Corbin, 1998).
Coding shapes the analytic frame and provides the skeleton for the analysis (Charmaz, 2006). Charmaz sees coding as an important link between collecting data and developing theory but also as a connection between empirical reality and the researcher's view of it. Strauss and Corbin (1998) refer to categories as having 'analytic power', due to their potential to explain and predict.
Use of Grounded Research Theory for Research
The data collection for the research will be a cycle, which characterizes ground research. I will use early determine how the data collection will continue. I will start with survey aiming to explore a large research area on a wider scale than an interview would while I am conducting it. Interviews will follow to address issues brought out by the initial survey findings. Focused coding will be utilized for the next interview phases, which used the initial codes as a basis. Axial coding will not used in this study because the method of specifying properties and dimensions for each category seem too prescriptive and will not help the analysis of the data. For the same reasons, theoretical coding will not be adopted. Instead, careful comparisons between respondents statements, as well as between codes and categories will be undertaken, without being restricted to interpret participants words within a framework of properties and dimensions.
The decision to use grounded theory methodology is supported by the lack of existing theory regarding leadership and management skills.
Objectivist and Constructive approaches to Ground Theory Methodology
Grounded theory methodology has evolved since its inception in the 1960s in the United States. Particularly, the writings of Glaser (such as 1967, 1978), Strauss and Corbin (such as 1990, 1998) and Charmaz (e.g. 2000, 2006) are seen as influential for the development of GTM. The original work of Glaser and Strauss from 1967, The Discovery of Grounded Theory, suggests that the researcher should start collecting data with a 'blank mind', meaning without reviewing the existing literature in order to carry out a truly inductive study. Consequently, theory is built from observation and based on the understanding that the theory is already contained in the data and only needs to be dug up or 'discovered', as Glaser and Strauss' book title (1967) suggests. This perspective assumes that every individual will see and understand the data from the same point of view, making the same observations and therefore will come to similar conclusions. The researcher should take a passive stance and 'let the data emerge', which can be seen as a characteristic of an objectivist or positivist paradigm (Bryant, 2003; Charmaz, 2000). The alternative view in social sciences is the so-called constructivist or interpretivist view. Constructivist grounded theory methodology is for example advocated by Kathy Charmaz in her book Constructing Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2006). This strand of grounded theory methodology emphasizes the research participants experience and how they construct their view of reality. Knowledge, and hence the grounded theory, are constructed by both researcher and research participant and aim at interpreting the empirical evidence within the research context. A divergence between the two authors of 'The Discovery of Grounded Theory' occurred in the 1980s, after which Glaser postulated his understanding of grounded theory methodology (Glaser, 1992). The late Strauss, however, together with his co-author Juliet Corbin, developed a different perspective on grounded theory methodology (Corbin and Strauss,...
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