Increasing the Rigor and Ecological Validity of Qualitative Studies Through Observation and Elicitation
The vast majority of qualitative social work research consists of interview-based studies. This over-reliance on “interview only” research, however, deprives a study of broader interpretive power. This workshop offers instruction on how social worker researchers can enhance interview-intensive studies through the use of field observation and mixed-media elicitation. Using protocols and examples from two NIMH-funded qualitative studies that focus on homeless services for dually diagnosed adults, the instructors will describe how data collection and analysis can be made more rigorous through observational methods of shadowing, ethnographic site visits, and “go-alongs” as well as interview elicitation techniques using photographs and life history timelines. Attendees will be shown how such techniques are ‘protocolized’ into the study design and then used to provide additional insider perspectives that complement and deepen interview data. Rigor is enhanced by using these methods to triangulate (corroborate or complete) formal interviews. Overall, a study’s reliance upon in vivo field observation increases its ecological validity and ‘evidentiary adequacy’.
- Understand the history and importance of observation within qualitative methods.
- Identify various strategies to incorporate observational methods into a study’s design
- Develop and apply elicitation techniques to enhance the richness of interview data
- Enhance rigor and interpretive power through data triangulation.
- Address ethical issues associated with observational data and human subjects protections
Outline of Presentation
- Overview of study design incorporating observational techniques: Developing protocols and procedures for data collection and protection of human subjects
- Applications in the field: Conducting ‘shadowing’ or ‘go-along’ observation
- Applications of elicitation: Using photograph-elicitation interviews and life history timelines
- Data analysis and interpretation of observational and interview data
Teaching methods: This presentation will make use of lecture, power point slides, documents (sample study protocols) and group discussion to accomplish the learning objectives described above.