A simple qualitative method
This simple qualitative method works well for a first thesis. Its descriptive methodology is suitable for people research, and is an easy starting point. It is usually used to look for main themes, core principles, patterns of cultural conceptions or attitudes, factors that people consider in decision-making, conceptions of causation, comparisons, and elements in making definitions.
State your research problem clearly and succinctly with a tight focus. One sentence is good. (Try again If you need more than one simple sentence.). You can only have one purpose and it must to solve your research problem. Try to imagine how the methodology will work (see below) and what kind of conclusion you might reach.
In choosing your target population, you will have to identify all important viewpoints that might arise and choose a population that will make enable you to reach a conclusion. If choosing a sample, it should be a balanced representation of the whole.
You should differentiate between:
- a group that is a representative sample of a wider population
- the population that defines your research, outside of which your conclusions do not apply.
In the second group, the population is integral to your definition of the problem and you need to put it in your title.
Find out what the literature says that is relevant to your topic. Try to be selective in choosing your material so that everything you read is directly relevant to your research problem. Avoid material that is only indirectly relevant or materials that are general knowledge for people in your field of study. By being selective and focused, you will go further and get the best value for the time you spend.
Start by doing a rather brief, open-ended survey to catch issues that you will need to include.
As you go, make notes of your methodology. Your explanation needs enough detail for someone else to repeat it, both the planning and the implementation in the field. Include anything that you had to consider when making decisions, the decisions you made, and the reasons for making the decisions you did.
Write a questionnaire:
- Use open-ended questions that focus on getting data that will be useful for solving your original research problem.
- Explain the rationale of why you wrote it as you did.
- Get a colleague to look at your questionnaire and check it for obvious faults.
- Field-test your questionnaire with people from your target population so you can eliminate questions that they think are ambiguous, confusing, incline them toward one particular answer, or incline them away from other answers.
- Decide whether you will use your questionnaire in written or oral form, and explain the reasons for your decision.
Go out and use your questionnaire with people from your target population. There is no particular minimum number of people you should interview, but it needs to be enough to show a pattern and to validate it. Keep good field notes; don't trust things to memory.
Describe your field-test results in the methodology section.
In this chapter, give a summary of the raw data, then spend most of the chapter analyzing it. The analysis is the core of the whole paper, and should make up at least thirty per cent of the whole.
The conclusion must be focused on the thesis for which you have argued. It must be one sentence only, and it must answer the original research question that you raised in the introduction. It's not a bad idea to review what you did in the chapters that brought you to this conclusion. You can look at any implications and perhaps give recommendations for application, but don't preach or bring up anything new.