Overwhelming quantity for qualitative

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I am excited to see the positive response to RSG’s NVivo workshops! Within hours of sending out initial email announcements of workshops, we had RSVP steadily emailed to us. Last week I led two introductory workshops with 22 people RSVP’d for each! Due to this high demand and space limitations of 22 computers in our training room in Anderson Lab, we had to turn some people away. But I also promised we’d schedule additional workshops. Now I can share the dates.

Who would use NVivo?

Consider using NVivo to analyze your qualitative research

Introduction to NVivo
Wed. Mar. 21, 2:30-4:00 pm
Thurs. Mar. 22, 12:00-1:30pm
Anderson Lower Level, B-13
RSVP at ssrl AT american.edu

There are many students across AU who prefer to do qualitative research for their SRP, thesis or when working for professors as research assistants. Of course it would be awesome to find a software program that could aid the process! Many of the people who attended last week fell into these prior categories: I’m preparing to analyze for my SRP now; I hope to use it next year on my SRP; I’m working with a professor’s research project this semester; I’m a PhD student and think this would be excellent! Faculty members also attended or requested private trainings.

NVivo is one of the most respected and robust software programs for qualitative research projects including content analysis, open-ended surveys, focus groups, etc. It is not the only software, but the RSG team has been building staff capacity to support it and now train others to use it. Last semester we offered NVivo 8, but we’ve just upgraded to NVivo 9. This brings a learning curve for our staff, but also some very cool new features!!

If you have an interest, check out these video tutorials created by the company:

Coding your data
Importing your “data” or sources
What’s new in NVivo 9?

Each qualitative or mixed method research project is unique and requires a slightly different approach. Our introductory trainings, as advertised above, will provide a nice overview of the basics for coding text, audio or video. I hope you can attend, but please remember to RSVP! Also, you can always stop by our lab to “play with” NVivo 8 or 9 using our staff-created tutorial found on the CTRL website here.


Save the Date: Intro to NVivo Workshop Feb 22 and Feb 24

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Need to analyze your qualitative data?

Don’t miss our NVivo workshops! Two Intro to NVivo workshops will be held this week:

Wednesday Feb. 22 (2:30pm – 4:00pm)
Friday Feb. 24 (10:30am – 12:00pm)
Anderson Lower Level, B 13

Intermediate NVivo will be held on Friday March 2 (11:00 am – 12:30 pm).

Register at least 24 hours prior to workshop if you want to attend! ssrl@american.edu 

Save the Date: Student Research Forum on February 2

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Learn about using interviews for qualitative research projects from two MA students who used this method in the field. Rebecca Davis will present “Building Bridges in Selma Alabama: The opportunities and challenges of interracial contact”. Crystal Corman will present “Leadership Spaces and Potential for Women within Islam in Malaysia: Professional women’s experiences and perceptions.” This forum is sponsored by CTRL’s Research Support Group. It highlights AU student research and allows students to share their learning experiences with selected research methods.

The forum is Thursday, Feb. 2 in SIS room 300. The event runs noon-1:30pm and lunch will be served. RSVPs are appreciated: ssrl@american.edu.

About our speakers:

Rebecca Davis, MA, IPCR

Building Bridges in Selma Alabama: The opportunities and challenges of interracial contact

Racial conflict continues to challenge communities across the United States. This study seeks to identify processes by which individuals build relationships across racial divides and to understand how these relationships influence attitudes and behaviors. A qualitative case study of Selma, Alabama was used, in part, because of the stark separation of the races that continues in the city. With relationships at the center of this study, ten young adults living in Selma were interviewed about the interracial relationships in their lives. This study was guided by a juxtaposition of contact theory, social network theory, and systems theory which allowed for a focus on interpersonal interaction and the intersection between micro-level interactions and macro-level social structure. Conclusions from this study highlight the dynamic nature of race relations in Selma. The power of interracial social trust in a community that has been plagued by interracial mistrust illuminate possibilities for social change at both the individual and community-wide levels.

Crystal Corman, MA, IPCR

Leadership Spaces and Potential for Women within Islam in Malaysia: Professional women’s experiences and perceptions

Career opportunities at Islamic institutions in Malaysia are dominated by men, however education trends show that more women than men are pursuing formal degrees in Islamic Studies and Shari’ah Law. To understand the challenges and potentials for women to professionally participate in these institutions, this study examines the experiences and perspectives of Muslim women who are currently included in Islam’s decision-making and leadership in Malaysia, as well as their perceptions regarding a future increase in women’s participation in such roles. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty women including professors of Islamic Revealed Knowledge or Shari’ah law, Shari’ah lawyers and officers, activists in Islamic NGOs working on women’s issues, and members of the Islamic political party (PAS). Their responses include technicalities of working with men, benefit of women working on women’s issues, the challenge of balancing career and family commitments and the need to boost women’s self-confidence and public speaking skills.

Visit our website for more information. 

Read My Lips

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My research includes interviews. Since the exact words of the participant are important to my qualitative methodology, I wanted to audio record these interviews for later transcription. In addition to preparing my interview questions and scheduling appointments, I began to wonder how to do these transcriptions while still in the field? (Data analysis should start right away, right?)

I searched for freeware programs that I could download (on a Mac) from online. In the end, I found Express Scribe. It met my criteria to support my file formats (MP3 and WAV) and have the ability to vary speed of playback. I also found the customizable “hotkeys” very useful!

My audio files were already downloaded and organized on my Mac laptop. From there, I loaded the file to Express Scribe and hit play. Express Scribe allows you to type directly in its “typing pad”; you can export these “notes” later as a .txt file. You can also open Microsoft Word and type directly here. Even while typing in Word, I could use the hotkeys to stop or begin playback.

Express Scribe Screenshot

I apologize for the distortion, but I need to keep the words of my interviewees confidential.

I am not the fastest typist in the world and feared the hours it would take me to transcribe interviews that often lasted two hours. I began by slowing the playback. I found that slowing the audio below 90% distorted the voices too much for my ear. Still, for fast-talking respondents, slowing to even 95% gave my typing skills a chance to keep up. In all honesty, I often stopped the recording to finish typing the response, then resumed play. This is where the hotkeys sped up my process. With short cut keyboard strokes, I did not need to move my hand to the mouse. I set my own “hotkeys” for whatever functions I thought I would need repeatedly by clicking Preferences > Hot-Keys. I only used “stop” and “start”. For minute rewinding or fast-forwarding, I used the mouse to click the corresponding audio control button. After 15 interviews, my typing skills have improved tremendously! But alas I continue to frequently misspell “the” as “teh” and “because” as “becuase”.

Now that I’m back on campus, I know that the SSRL also has NVivo, which can also assist with transcription of audio or video files. This is not the primary purpose of NVivo, but if you are using it for your entire research project, it offers a few great perks. I’ll save that for a future blog post!

Transcribing is a daunting task. They say it takes about one hour to transcribe just 20 minutes of talk. This really depends on your methodology and analysis needs. If you need to capture every “um”, pause or laugh, it will take some time. If the intonation of the speaker is important, again it will take time to describe these small but important pieces of information. Express Scribe can do more than I asked it to, but it worked for my project and my situation. Perhaps you will find it a useful tool, too.

Check out their online introduction and tutorial for guidance.

Respecting Human Dignity – the IRB

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So you’ve written a research proposal and have the nod of approval from an advising professor. But if your research includes interacting with humans, you have one very important step that must happen before entering the field. Approval from AU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). They need to know your plans for respecting the dignity of selected human subjects.

Not all research projects will require IRB. If you plan to pour over documents for a case study or stare at spreadsheets of quantitative data someone else gathered, you can skip this step. But if you hope to interview people, host a focus group or immerse yourself in a culture for ethnography, you will most definitely be interacting – and even intervening – in the lives of others.

So why this red tape?

Unfortunately in the past, as some researchers pursued truth and knowledge at the cost of human dignity, humans as mere “subjects” were harmed physically or psychologically. Learning from mistakes, universities (and their graduates) uphold a strict code of ethical conduct. As a researcher, you will need to account for the effects of your actions on your subjects. Your behavior should preserve the rights and integrity of the humans involved in your research project.

To begin

Go to the AU IRB web site where you can find all sorts of resources! And forms. If you’re curious about what projects NEED the IRB process, you can read more. But if you’re pretty sure you need it, follow the link for the REQUIRED human subjects training. It will take you approximately 30 minutes and will set the stage for the necessity of this process.

Once you’re certified, begin with the Determination Form, just to test if you really need IRB review and approval. Notice the form is especially concerned with privacy and confidentiality. There are also special categories of subjects that are defined as particularly vulnerable: children, prisoners, cognitively impaired, senior citizens, etc. Does your project include especially vulnerable persons? If so, you will need to take extra care (and paperwork). Once you submit this form, you’ll receive an email with instructions likely requesting your full IRB application or request for exemption. Read through the titles of supplemental forms, just in case your project needs one.

As you imagine going out in the field, how do you expect to be received? Will you stick out like a sore thumb, an obvious outsider? If so, people will ask and word will spread that you are there to do research. It is ethical to ask research participants for consent before directly interacting and collecting data. Use the IRB consent checklist and template to cover all your bases. The process of customizing the template into your own consent form will help you think through all possible risks.

The IRB process should not be dreaded – nor underestimated – but it does take time and foresight. I found the process helpful as it forced me to articulate all possible risks to my future subjects, plan for confidentiality and solidify my data collection, storage and analysis process months in advance. I found the office timely and my contact person responsive, yet I would advise you to give at least 4-6 weeks for the entire process. On the other side of this process, you’ll feel more confident and prepared to interact with people in the field.

Quality and Quantity

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The SSRL is known for its expertise in quantitative research, but it’s expanding its view to include qualitative support, too. Part of the reason is CTRL’s mandate from the Provost to support research campus-wide. Many professors use qualitative or mixed methods, as do many students. So how are we expanding our services?

To enhance our qualitative knowledge base, the Research Support Group (RSG) is reaching out to faculty who have experience and expertise in qualitative methods. This week we held our inaugural meeting to cast the vision for faculty-driven qualitative support at AU. It’s just the beginning, but the pooling of knowledge and identification of needs provides RSG direction. If other faculty or doctoral students are interested in qualitative methods, please email SSRL so we can add you to the list.

One of the goals is to take a holistic view of qualitative research. Before a researcher even thinks about analysis (or how to choose the best software to assist with this), there are many steps to consider! Driven by the research question, which method is best? As a researcher decides, he or she may not be aware of some methods or feel under-prepared to execute others. To fill this gap, the group plans to do a research skills and interest inventory across campus. Which faculty members are prepared to share their qualitative method expertise with colleagues?

Another idea to boost awareness and knowledge of qualitative methods options involves research presentations that don’t focus so much on the outcomes, but the methodology used. RSG already hosts a Research Seminar Series and plans to purposively shift the focus of its programming to this. As we select speakers for this spring semester, please know they will not only present their research question and findings. We will ask all speakers to spend about 50% of their presentation talking about methods selection, implementation and analysis.

This is just the beginning, so expect more to evolve. In the short term, if you are interested in – or currently conducting – qualitative research, please know the RSG staff at the SSRL are here to help. Ask us questions and try out NVivo, if you feel it will help you organize your analysis.

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