The Study Dude – Do You Have More Thumbs than AU Friends?

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

The Study Dude – Do You Have More Thumbs than AU Friends?

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to find a friend at AU?one who can validate your thesis.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

This week’s Study Dude further explores Creswell’s book Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. If you need to study qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods strategies, I urge you to read Creswell’s book. Although he’s a highbrow, prolific author, he writes simply.

Good-to-go? Validating Qualitative Research
When you need to validate your work, get a friend to look it over. Yes, find someone you know at a graduate level?even someone who knows little about your research.

Unfortunately, when I was in graduate studies I had no friends. Let me clarify: I had great friends outside of graduate studies, but no-one inside who would take the time to read my thesis.

You might find yourself in a similar situation. At online universities, finding friendships feels like finding a full-sized spacecraft in your front yard: it doesn’t seem likely to happen. Yet, working on The Voice Magazine forges friendships. For instance, for some of The Voice Writers, interviews with professors or students creates connections. And even the AU students’ union gets traction with making connections. For the rest of the students, however, finding friends to validate your research proves difficult.

And some students don’t want school friends?that’s why they study at AU. Introverts have their place on this planet, too.

So what do you do?

Creswell lists a number of different ways you can validate your research?with or without an academic friend:
– Use the triangulation approach to validate your data. See if more than one data source agrees with your themes. Perhaps you use interviews and focus groups combined. If these two data sources lead to similar themes, then your data is likely valid.
– Use the member checking approach to validate your data. Show your participants the themes that emerged from the data. See if the participants agree with the themes. If they do, then your data is likely valid.
– Use thick description to validate your data. In other words, describe things in detail. Describe the setting in detail, for instance, if you are doing an observation at a site.
– Present contradictory findings to validate your data. Believe it or not, showing what doesn’t fit with your findings is a form of validation. Go figure.
– Spend lots of time at the site to validate your observation findings.
– Get a peer to look over your findings and validate your data. Let the peer suggest ways to tweak your findings so that they fit with his or her view of the world.
– Get an external auditor to validate your data. An external auditor will be someone with little knowledge of your research. Where do you find an external auditor? Creswell doesn’t say.

Mix Up Your Methods
According to Creswell, mixed methods research always tangles the qualitative with the quantitative.

Through these Study Dude articles, I hope to strengthen my knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research?and one day do a mixed methods strategy. I dream nightly of doing mixed methods research.

You see, I want to teach and research at a university. However, the department head at my old university happens to be my former supervisor. She lurks in her office, awaiting my application so that she can shove it in her shredder and toss it in the trash.

Her disapproval of me knocked me out of the teaching gig. Plus, my frequent bouts of anxiety made teaching almost undoable. But, I’ve overcome the anxiety. Also, I’ve discovered that I have the qualifications to teach at a college level. So, if I keep trying, I may find myself teaching?and, as a side effect, some day realize my dream of getting a PhD.

Whether I’m kidding myself or not, Creswell tells no jokes when he lays out a roadmap for mixed methods research:
– Six different ways of integrating qualitative and quantitative data exist: (1) sequential explanatory style, (2) sequential exploratory style, (3) sequential transformative design, (4) concurrent triangulation design, (5) concurrent embedded design, and (6) concurrent transformative design.
– Sequential explanatory style is when you start with quantitative research and follow with qualitative research. The emphasis lies on the quantitative. You have the option of using a theory. When unexpected findings arise from the quantitative research, a qualitative follow-up can shed light.
– Sequential exploratory style occurs when you start with qualitative research and follow with quantitative research. The emphasis lies on the qualitative. You have the option of using a theory. Your main goal is to explore a phenomenon, come up with a sort of theory, and then test that theory with a quantitative method. Sequential exploratory style is often used to build an instrument (like a survey), especially when you can’t find an instrument you need in the literature.
– Sequential transformative strategy uses a theoretical lens like feminism, queer theory, disability advocacy, and so forth. Introduce the theory in your thesis and end with a call-to-action. Emphasis can be on either the qualitative or the quantitative-but one is conducted before the other (hence, the word “sequential”). Be wary, though: not much has been written about sequential transformative strategies, so you won’t have a ton of guidance.
– Concurrent triangulation strategy occurs when you gather qualitative and quantitative data?at the same time. Emphasis is given to both, but researchers often give more weight to one than the other in practice. You can merge the data or compare the data. When you write up your thesis findings, you can place the quantitative results supported by qualitative quotes (say from interviews). If you find disagreement between your quantitative and qualitative findings, do more research on it to discover why.
– Concurrent embedded strategy occurs when you gather qualitative and quantitative data?at the same time. You give emphasis to either the qualitative or the quantitative. If you give, say, the qualitative, lesser emphasis, then you would address separate questions with the qualitative and embed them into the quantitative study. For instance, you could do a survey on employees and interviews on upper level management.
– Concurrent transformative strategy occurs when use a critical theory, feminist theory, queer theory, and so forth (which is where the “transformative” comes from: change). You can use either the concurrent triangulation or concurrent embedded strategies discussed above?just with a critical theory.
– The concurrent strategies discussed above all take less time than the sequential strategies.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

Creswell, John W. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.