Interviewing has limitations and weaknesses:
• It involves personal interactions; cooperation is essential.
• The interviewees may be unwilling or may be uncomfortable sharing all that the interviewer hopes to explore. They may be unaware of recurring patterns in their lives.
• Interviewers’ may not ask questions that evoke long narratives from participants because of a lack of expertise or familiarity with the local language. Or because of a lack of skill.
• Researchers may not properly comprehend responses to the questions or various elements of the conversation.
• Interviewees may have a good reason not to be truthful (Douglas, 1976).
Observation is the systematic recording and noting of events, behaviours, and objects in the social setting that have been chosen for study. Observational records are frequently referred to as field notes, detailed, non-judgmental, concrete descriptions of what has been observed.
Studies relying exclusively on observation mean the researcher makes no special effort to have a role in the setting. To be tolerated as an unobtrusive observer is enough.
Classroom based studies are one example of observation which are often found in education. This is where the researcher documents and describes actions and interactions that are complex. What they mean can only be inferred without other sources of information.
Observations can range from highly structured, detailed notations of behaviour that are structured by checklists through to a more holistic description of events and behaviour.
In the early stages of qualitative inquiry, researchers typically enter the setting / service with broad areas of interest, but without predetermined categories or strict observational checklists. This way, the researcher can discover the recurring patterns of behaviour and relationships.
Once these patterns are identified and described through analysis of field notes, checklists become more appropriate and context-sensitive.
Focused observations are then used at later stages of the study, usually to see, for example, if analytic themes explain behaviour / relationships over a long time or in a variety of settings. Observation is a highly important method in all qualitative inquiry.
It can be used to discover complex interactions in natural social settings. This can even be used in studies using in-depth interviews. Observations play a key role as the researcher notes the interviewee’s body language and affect in addition to their words. It is a method that requires a great deal of the researcher. Uncomfortable ethical dilemmas and even danger and the challenge of identifying the big picture while finely observing copious amounts of complex behaviours are just a few of the challenges.
Researchers simply observe from afar or find a participant-observer role in the setting, some scenarios may present dangers (“street ethnography is a term that describes research settings which can be dangerous, either physically or emotionally, such as working with the police, conducting research on drug users, cults, and situations in which political or social tensions may erupt into violence” (Weppner, 1977).
These are a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service or concept. Some questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. Discussions in groups produce data and insights that would be less accessible without interaction found in a group setting listening to others’ verbalised experiences, stimulates memories, ideas, and experiences in participants.
This is also known as the group effect where group members engage in “a kind of ‘chaining’ or ‘cascading’ effect; talk links to, or tumbles out of, the topics and expressions preceding it” (Lindlof ; Taylor, 2002)
Focus groups can also provide opportunities for disclosure among similar others in settings where participants are validated. An example of this is in the context of workplace bullying, targeted employees often find themselves in situations where they experience lack of voice and feelings of isolation. There have been uses of focus groups to study workplace bullying therefore serve as both an efficacious and ethical venue for collecting data (Tracy, Lutgen-Sandvik, ; Alberts, 2006 A fundamental difficulty with focus groups and other forms of qualitative research).
Focus groups are usually “One shot case studies” especially if they are measuring a property-disposition relationship within the social sciences, unless they are repeated.
Focus groups can create issues of external validity, especially the reactive effects of the testing arrangement. Other criticisms involve groupthink and social desirability biases.
These are ‘published report about a person, group, or situation that has been studied over time.’
When the case study is about a group, it describes the behaviour of the group not the behaviour of everyone in the group.
Case studies are usually produced by following a formal research method. These studies are likely to appear in formal research venues such as journals and professional conferences. The resulting body of ‘case study research’ has a prominent place in many disciplines and professions, ranging from psychology, anthropology, sociology, and political science to education, clinical science, social work, and administrative science. In doing case study research, the ‘case’ being studied may be an individual, organisation, event, or action, existing in a specific time and place.
The definition of case study: ‘Case studies are analyses of persons, events, decisions, periods, projects, policies, institutions, or other systems that are studied holistically by one or more method. The case that is the subject of the inquiry will be an instance of a class of phenomena that provides an analytical frame — an object — within which the study is conducted and which the case illuminates and explicates.’ (Thomas G., 2011).
According to J. Creswell, data collection in a case study occurs over a ‘sustained period of time.’
One of the approaches, sees the case study defined as a research strategy that investigates a phenomenon within its real-life context.
This research can mean single and multiple case studies and relies on multiple sources of evidence, and benefits from the prior development of theoretical propositions. They can be based on any mix of quantitative and qualitative data. Some are based on a single subject that might be taken, except that the repeated trials in single-subject research permit the use of experimental designs that would not be possible in typical case studies.