The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Increasing the Rigor and Ecological Validity of Qualitative Studies Through Observation and Elicitation

Friday, January 18, 2013: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Marina 5 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Deborah K. Padgett, PhD, New York University, Benjamin Henwood, PhD, University of Southern California and Emmy L. Tiderington, MSW, New York University

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’.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the history and importance of observation within qualitative methods.
  2. Identify various strategies to incorporate observational methods into a study’s design
  3. Develop and apply elicitation techniques to enhance the richness of interview data
  4. Enhance rigor and interpretive power through data triangulation.
  5. Address ethical issues associated with observational data and human subjects protections

Outline of Presentation

  1. Overview of  study design incorporating observational techniques: Developing protocols and procedures for data collection and protection of human subjects
  2. Applications in the field: Conducting ‘shadowing’ or ‘go-along’ observation
  3. Applications of elicitation: Using photograph-elicitation interviews and life history timelines
  4. 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.

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