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Dissertation Solved - Understanding the 3 Stages for Conducting a Generic Qualitative Study

This blog, Dissertation Solved, is the first of a series of blogs in which I share my experiences and the experiences of colleagues who have obtained a PhD. It is meant to help those interested in or in the process of acquiring a PhD.

In this first blog, I will share using BPMN, the 3 stages for conducting a generic qualitative study. These three processes or stages, describe key actions taken as the researcher, and information that flows between key actors of these processes.

1. Recruiting Participants

In qualitative research that requires participant responses, without participants, you won't get the data you need. But without the approval from sites to recruit participants, you won't get the participants you need. Did you know, sites like LinkedIn and Google have forum groups, which have a wealth of potential participants with the backgrounds you desire for your study? Organizations, colleges, and businesses also offer great areas to recruit from.

As you will see in the first model, we describe how recruitment can began after we have approval from the institution review board (IRB). We use BPMN to represent the nature of obtain site access, submitting recruitment material, determining participant eligibility (based on your inclusion and exclusion criteria), inviting the participant to the study, the consent process, and scheduling your first interview.

2. Interviewing Participants

Interviewing participants can be quite exciting as you get to engage with those who have direct knowledge of your field of study. However, there are key steps to interviewing that you should consider. Anytime during the interview process, a participant can decide to withdraw from the study, it is important to remember this.

In our second model, we describe how the interviewing process occurs. So, after you interview a participant, you must transcribe the data. Always provide a copy of the transcript to your participant(s), as they can provide clarifying remarks or validation of your transcription of the interview which will improve the reliability of your results.

In our example we describe two interviews, per participant. We do so, because sometimes, it makes sense to have a series of follow-up questions based on the various responses from all of your participants. Each transcript is loaded into NVIVO. There are also other qualitative tools out there (ATLAST, MAXQDA). Using a tool, will make accessing and analyzing the data much easier.

3. Analyze, Code, and Synthesize the Data

The last step before you write your dissertation's findings is analyzing, coding, and synthesizing the data from your transcripts. In this example, we illustrate the process for inductive thematic analysis with constant comparison of the data. Meaning, as we transcript our data, we identify themes, and through constant comparison (each new transcript analyzed), we update the patterns and themes.

In our example we illustrate how activities in our process continuously loops. For example, in the first activity, "Review Transcripts and Highlight Meaningful Text", you don't just review and highlight the transcript for meaningful text one time of the participant 1, you do it multiple times. Because, you want to succeed right? Well, each of those activities when done multiple times, will enable you to provide better results for your study because you will be less likely to miss key data, code wrong data, or identify themes that do not pertain to answering your research questions. Again, we illustrate that as we make changes, the NVIVO database is being updated. This is true for many of the steps in our process.

Whether or not you use a inductive thematic approach or not, the steps outlined will help you understand the simplicity of the process for conducting qualitative research for your dissertation.

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