Qualitative Research Methods

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Qualitative Research Methods


Seminar by Dr. Zhanibek Arynov, Post-Doctoral Scholar at Graduate School of Public Policy, Nazarbayev University


The nature of qualitative data:

- Descriptive rather than numerical

- Hardly measurable

- Requires interpretation

- Provides deeper insights

- How? Why? Questions

Qualitative research method is often used with a purpose to understand and explore the subject, rather than measure in numbers. A researcher is likely to get detailed meaningful results by analysing the qualitative data. However, interpretation of data might be influenced by a researcher’s personal views and turn into subjective results.

Interviews:

Unstructured:

- No pre-developed questions, questions arise spontaneously

- Free-following conversation

- Different people may be asked different questions

- Difficult to obtain comparable data

Semi-Structured:

- Some pre-developed questions

- But still flexible to be changed/adapted depending on intuition

- Can produce comparable data

Conducting interviews helps to grasp profound understanding of the topic. For example, understanding of democracy might considerably differ from a person to a person. Hence, interviewing people might provide more valuable insights for the research.

During unstructured interview, a researcher do not have prepared questions and comes up with new questions along the conversation. Whereas semi-structured interviews are characterised as having some questions prepared in advance and the rest is developed during the meeting itself.

It seems as semi-structured interview method is more widely used comparing to unstructured because its results can be compared to each other.

Developing interview questions:

- Theory-driven questions

- More tailored/specific questions

- Don’t use yes/no questions

- Don’t overload a question with many concepts/ideas

It is important to have theoretical background when developing questions for interview in order for it to stay focused on topic. Moreover, results of interview would be more beneficial and efficient if questions would be designed in accordance with each interviewee’s background and experience. In addition, it has been suggested to avoid questions with yes and no answers, and avoid combining two questions into the one. Otherwise, there is a risk of a respondent providing incomplete answer.

Conducting Interviews:

- Be flexible to adjust to new circumstances

- Identify and contact your potential interviewees in advance:

- Use all possible and ethical means

- Persuade your potential interviewees: trust is vital

- Don’t lose the focus of interview in the process

- Ask for examples or follow-ups if short answers

- Follow gestures/emotions of interviewees

- Ask for names/contacts of other potential interviewees

During an interview, flexibility is an important feature to keep in mind. A researcher should allow himself/herself to adjust to circumstances and alter questions rather than being rigid in keeping prepared questions in the same order. Moreover, try to use all the possible ethical means to get agreement of a necessary person to be interviewed and study his/her biography and experience thoroughly before meeting him/her. In order to have a fruitful interview, a researcher should build friendly and trustful connection with an interviewee by using ice-breakers such as carefree small talks, but at the same time staying focused on a topic. In cases of unsatisfied with short answers, a researcher is advised to ask follow-up questions in person or by email after a meeting. Verbal and emotional expression of interviewees should be paid attention to and taken note of for future data analysis as it provides additional depth to given answers. At the end of an interview, a strategic decision would be to ask a respondent to provide names and contacts of additional interviewees.

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Peculiarities of conducting interview among governmental authorities in Kazakhstan:

- Taking into consideration hierarchy and subordination

- Possibility of waiting up to 6 months

- Using social media as means of approaching respondents directly

- Secretaries creating obstacles for meeting

- Warm introduction before asking core questions

- Keeping focus

Kazakhstan, like any other country in the world, has its own cultural and social peculiarities that should be taken into account when conducting an interview with local state authorities. For example, a researcher should keep hierarchy and subordination in communication with a much older governmental manager. It might include extremely polite and friendly tone and conduct. Moreover, patience is the key because in some cases it might take up to few months until a researcher gets accepted into official’s office hours to interview him/her. Secretary might create an obstacle for meeting with his/her boss, and a researcher is advised to consider using social media as a way of approaching governmental official directly. In addition, it is very important to keep focus and objectives of an interview in mind during extremely polite and friendly engagement in conversation with an authority.

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