Our world as we know is divided into two categories: black and white, day and night, happy and sad, yin and yang, quantitative and qualitative research. Where a quantitative method of analysis uses statistics and figures as its focal point, qualitative methods focus on meaning. My dissertation is largely based on the discourse and analysis of certain advertisements and hence I plan to use a qualitative method of research.
Qualitative analysis is designed to reveal a target audience’s range of behaviour and the perceptions that drive it with reference to specific topics or issues. It is essentially a method to describe or provide further understanding of a subject and its contextual setting, provide explanation of reasons and associations, evaluate effectiveness and aid the development of theories or strategies (Office of National Statistics n.d.). A qualitative method of analysis also focuses on the possibility of multiple meanings which is crucial to my research. It requires one to understand the context, the people and the interaction. Every individual is subject to an opinion and in my research topic it is imperative that I take that into consideration. In this form of analysis research is involved in every step being responsive, flexible, and adaptive and open minded.
Denzin & Lincoln (2002: 3) propose that qualitative research is perpetually surrounded by “interconnected terms, concepts and assumptions”. These include multiple traditions associated with research perspectives. Certain qualitative research traditions consider that knowledge is largely based on the theory of assumption; and examination of the concerned subject is from a subjective position. In other words, a researcher’s own views and personal experiences are legitimately exercised in the inference of knowledge. There may also be more than one way of understanding a subject and attaining knowledge. This goes against the idea of traditional analytical methods which assume the world is predictable and that we are all linear subjects.
A qualitative method of analysis is largely based on the researcher’s ability of reflexivity. The emphasis of the perpetual reflexive method; along with the participants’ values and perceptions affecting data analysis has been highlighted as an essential element in the process. (Pillow 2003). In fact, reflexivity can be seen as a strategy that researchers use in order to understand their participants and accurately use their contribution. For a researcher, being reflexive involves reflecting upon one’s own ideas and values while simultaneously considering how these might affect their research through political or social identities (Pillow 2003). This process is parallel to the reflexive process itself, in the approach and validity of the subject of research. It may also encourage reflection on the findings made during the course of the research.
As a researcher I am also integral to the social world I study. Denzin (1994: 503) points out that “representation is always self presentation; the Other’s presence is directly connected to the writer’s self presence in the text”. Both the researcher and the participants tend to influence one another. There are also various kinds of discourses considered while studying a subject. “Feminist, postmodern, post-structural, hermeneutic, interpretive and critical discourses recognise that knowledge and understanding are contextually and historically grounded” (Mauthner & Doucet 2003: 416).
By self consciously and reflexively accounting for the intimate link between my participants and myself I intend to communicate my understanding of the social world of advertisement viewers and to illustrate the methodological means through which I understood the same. This takes into account the subjectivity of every individual participant (Banister 1999). At the same time I believe it is imperative for the researcher to be grounded of the state of his/ her relationships with the participants and how this may or may not influence the outcome of the study. A researcher may possibly be torn between considering the needs and best interests of their participants and reporting feelings as per their inference (Watt 2007). It is also possible for a researcher for be self-aware of a certain ‘power’ that they may have present over the participants. It is important to ethically progress onwards from this step.
Intuition and creativity are also equally viable to a good research. Janesick (2001) states that the nature of intuition and creativity are key components of qualitative research projects; intuition is a way of knowing about the world through insight and exercising one’s imagination whereas creativity is having the sense or quality of being created rather than imitated. Though design and technique are vital to a good research, intuition and creativity should not be ignored. I understand that as a researcher it can be challenging to be intuitive and creative at the same time, given how there’s a possibility they may slightly contradict one another. After all, can we really say that our ideas are original? Do not they stem from anothers idea/ research?
As a qualitative researcher I am aware that I am situated within the world I study. A qualitative method of analysis would allow me to infer and reveal insights that apply more generally beyond just the participants. In the process I intend to preserve the sanctity of the said method.
- Banister, E.M. (1999) ‘Evolving Reflexivity: Negotiating Meaning of Women’s Midlife Experience’. Qualitative Inquiry 5 (1), 3-23
- Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y. (2005) ‘Introduction: The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research’. in The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research by Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds) . London: Sage Publications, 1-32
- Janesick, V.J. (2001) ‘Intuition and Creativity: A Pas de Deux for Qualitative Researchers’. Qualitative Enquiry 7 (5), 531-540
- Mauthner, N.S. & Doucet, A. (2003) ‘Reflexive Accounts and Accounts of Reflexivity in Qualitative Data Analysis’. Sociology 37 (3), 413-431
- Office of National Statistics (n.d.) Qualitative Research [online] available from < http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/method-quality/general-methodology/data-collection-methodology/what-is-qualitative-research-/index.html> [24 April 2016]
- Pillow, W. (2003) ‘Confession, Catharsis or Cure? Rethinking the use of Reflexivity as Methodological Power in Qualitative Research’. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 16 (2), 175-196
- Watt, D. (2007) ‘On Becoming a Qualitative Researcher: The Value of Reflexivity’. The Qualitative Report 12 (1), 82-101