Workshop and discussion exercises
Practice with these exercises to prepare for your seminars and wider research.
1. How would you design a study of the causal influence of police crackdowns on driving behaviour that overcame the threats to internal validity listed in Box 32.2 in Researching Society and Culture and the threat to external validity mentioned later in the chapter?
2. Seek out and read two studies that represent different ‘moments’ in the history of qualitative research. For example, choose a study that involves grounded theorising and another where the author situates him- or herself within postmodernism. How do the studies differ in their conception of what makes a good research study? How might each author apply these criteria to the other’s work?
3. Choose a research study in an area of work where you have some knowledge of existing literature and assess it in the light of the following questions:
(a) How consistent are the findings with what is already known?
(b) What evidence is supplied to support the credibility of the conclusions and how persuasive is this?
(c) What relevance might the study have for political, policy or practical affairs?
4. In relation to a specific study, consider whether its quality would be improved by attention to the issues raised under the ‘positivist’ headings of measurement validity, internal and external validity and reliability. To what extent could the modified interpretivist criteria outlined in the chapter be applied to the study? Do these lead you to consider different issues from those raised under the ‘positivist’ headings?
5. This exercise requires you to work with others on some qualitative data, such as some interview transcripts, to assess the relevance of concerns about inter-rater reliability.
(a) Without discussing your ideas with others in your group, read one part of the data transcript (e.g. a single interview) and draw up a list of key themes you perceive in the data.
(b) Compare the themes you have identified with those of others in your group. What are the similarities and differences?
(c) Take four or five themes from those identified by members of the group and, working individually again, apply them to some new data (e.g. a second interview) by marking parts of the transcript which you believe exemplify each theme.
(d) Compare what you have done with others in the group. What difficulties are there in consistently applying the themes? Does inconsistency matter?
6. Evaluation of the quality of two research reports. Obtain the following two articles:
- Reay D. (2004) ‘“Mostly roughs and toughs”: Social class, race and representation in inner city schooling’, Sociology, 38(5): 1005–1023.
- Stanley J. (2012) Women’s absence from news photos: the role of tabloid strategies at elite and non-elite newspapers’, Media, Culture and Society, 34(8): 979–998.
One of these reports a study using quantitative methods and the other a study using qualitative methods. Provide a critical account of these studies, paying attention to the following:
(a) A description of the sampling methods used in each study and an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of these
(b) A description of the data collection methods used in each study and an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of these
(c) A description of the approach taken by each study’s authors to the presentation of their findings, and the strengths and weaknesses of this approach
(d) For each study, a brief account of how the issues it explores might have been addressed by taking a different approach to (a) sampling and (b) the method of data collection