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Qualitative methods: a research approach worth considering

In House Publications
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  • Anthropology


South African Psychiatry Review • May 2007 65 Qualitative research forms part of the classical cycle of research. A researcher notices a phenomenon that he/she has no explanation for. He/she observes the phenomenon and collects data about it to describe it-this is qualitative research. With enough information about the phenomenon the researcher can now formulate a hypothesis or hypotheses that can be tested through quantitative research. Qualitative research developed in the 1940’s in Chicago (when anthropology students were requested to observe a certain street for a week to ascertain if any repeating patterns of behaviour took place) and since then it has become an established research approach in both the human as well as the natural sciences. The purpose of qualitative research is to obtain understanding and knowledge about a specific phenomenon. Usually there is little or no knowledge available about this phenomenon. A researcher then explores and describes the phenomenon. Qualitative research is both theory and hypothesis generating. Basic assumptions about qualitative research include the following: • It is naturalistic; the research takes place in the natural setting of the participants. • The researcher is in a position of humbleness, that is “not knowing” while the participants are knowledgeable about the phenomenon. • The researcher enters the field of research without any preconceived ideas. The researcher utilises “bracketing”- putting aside any preconceived ideas and “intuiting”- focusing on the specific phenomenon that is being investigated. • Purposive sampling or judgmental sampling is utilised by the researcher. Information rich participants are included in the research. • Language is utilised as the major vehicle of research. • There are multiple realities in the field of research based on the participants lived experiences, perceptions and views. • The researcher continues till data-saturation is achieved, that is, no new information is obtained.

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