Chapter 4: Credible Qualitative Research

Select a qualitative research study in an area you know something about. Now go through the following steps:

  1. Review the study in terms of the quality criteria set out in Table 4.1.
  2. If the study fails to satisfy all these criteria, consider how it could have been improved to satisfy them.
  3. Consider to what extent these criteria are appropriate to your area. Are there additional or different criteria which you would choose?

This exercise asks you to use the field-note conventions set out in Table 4.2. You should gather observational data in any setting with which you are familiar and in which it is relatively easy to find a place to make notes (you may return to the setting you used for Exercise 5.2). Observe for about an hour. Ideally, you should carry out your observations with someone else who is using the same conventions.

  1. Record your notes using these field-note conventions. Compare your notes with your colleague’s. Identify and explain any differences.
  2. What conventions were difficult to use? Why was this so (e.g. because they are unclear or inappropriate to the setting)?
  3. Can you think of other conventions that would improve the reliability of your field notes?
  4. Which further fields of enquiry do your field notes suggest?

This exercise is meant to accustom you to the advantages and limitations of simple tabulations. Choose an accessible setting (e.g. a room in a library, a café).

Now follow these steps:

  1. Count whatever seems to be countable in this setting (e.g. the number of people entering and leaving or engaging in certain activities).
  2. Assess what these quantitative data tell you about social life in this setting. How far can what you have counted be related to any one social science theory or concept with which you are familiar?
  3. Beginning from the theory or concept selected in step 2, indicate how you might count in terms of it rather than in terms of common-sense categories.
  4. Attempt to count again on this basis. What associations can you establish?
  5. Identify deviant cases (i.e. items that do not support the associations that you have established). How might you further analyse these deviant cases, using either quantitative or qualitative techniques? What light might that throw on the associations which you have identified?