Research Methodology Section Dissertation

If you are going to use interviews you will have to decide whether you will take notes (distracting), tape the interview (accurate but time consuming) rely on your memory (foolish) or write in their answers (can lead to closed questioning for time’s sake).If you decide to interview you will need to draw up an interview schedule of questions which can be either closed or open questions, or a mixture of these.You will need to ensure that questions are clear, and that you have reliable ways of collecting and managing the data.

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You will be familiar with many of these methods from your work and from MA, MSc or BA study already.

Interviews enable face to face discussion with human subjects.

This is a common approach and helps you to 'triangulate' ie to back up one set of findings from one method of data collection underpinned by one methodology, with another very different method underpinned by another methodology - for example, you might give out a questionnaire (normally quantitative) to gather statistical data about responses, and then back this up and research in more depth by interviewing (normally qualitative) selected members of your questionnaire sample.

For further information see Chapter 8 of by Gina Wisker.

They are actually rather difficult to design and because of the frequency of their use in all contexts in the modern world, the response rate is nearly always going to be a problem (low) unless you have ways of making people complete them and hand them in on the spot (and this of course limits your sample, how long the questionnaire can be and the kinds of questions asked).

As with interviews, you can decide to use closed or open questions, and can also offer respondents multiple choice questions from which to choose the statement which most nearly describes their response to a statement or item.You will find that you will need to read all the comments through and to categorise them after you have received them, or merely report them in their diversity and make general statements, or pick out particular comments if they seem to fit your purpose.If you decide to use interviews: Questionnaires often seem a logical and easy option as a way of collecting information from people.Data is often used to generate new hypotheses based on the results of data collected about different variables.One’s colleagues are often much happier about the ability to verify quantitative data as many people feel safe only with numbers and statistics.If you ask open questions such as ‘what do you think about the increase in traffic?’ you could elicit an almost endless number of responses.You need to take expert advice in setting up a questionnaire, ensure that all the information about the respondents which you need is included and filled in, and ensure that you actually get them returned.Expecting people to pay to return postal questionnaires is sheer folly, and drawing up a really lengthy questionnaire will also inhibit response rates.Even the production of numbers is guided by the kinds of questions asked of the subjects, so is essentially subjective, although it appears less so than qualitative research data.: an area of study that would benefit from qualitative research would be that of students’ learning styles and approaches to study, which are described and understood subjectively by students.

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