Online Custom «Qualitative Research: Methodology» Essay Sample
Table of Contents
- Summary of the Study and the Method Used by Korczynski (2007)
- Summary of the Study and the Method Used by Ely and Meyerson (2010)
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- Strengths and Weaknesses of the Two Studies
- Conclusion: Relevance of Qualitative Methods in the Research Practice
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Methodology is an essential part of any research that determines the outcomes of any study irrespective of its design and goals. However, in order to choose the most appropriate methods from the existing ones, it is necessary to notice not only strengths of particular methods and methodology, but also their weaknesses in order to avoid them in subsequent researches. Hence, the current paper is a critical evaluation of the qualitative research in practice with a view to determining strengths and weaknesses used in two researches chosen for the analysis and deciding which of the methods can be useful in the future personal research practice. The two articles under the evaluation herein include “Music and meaning on the factory floor” by Marek Korczynski and “An organizational approach to undoing gender: The unlikely case of offshore oil platforms” by Robin J. Ely and Debra E. Meyerson. Overall, both articles present the results of qualitative researches expertly conducted with the help of methods that can be used in the future research practice.
Summary of the Study and the Method Used by Korczynski (2007)
The main objective of the study by Korczynski (2007) consists in undertaking an ethnographic research on a shop floor of the blinds factory with a view to finding out the influence that music has on the worker’s experience of their employment. Hence, his study may be termed as “a mixture of traditional industrial ethnographic research” with “an ethnography of listening” (Korczynski 2007, p. 259). The author has chosen this objective for his research, since it remains largely unstudied nowadays by both industrial sociology and musicology, while music definitely plays a significant role in factories.
With a view to conducting the study, the author negotiated his access to the factory he referred to as MacTells as a worker on the shop floor, in particular switching between four different shops in two distinct workrooms within three months (Korczynski 2007). Hence, he chose the observation method, being a participant as an observer. During the three months after some initial adaptation period, he not only observed his research sample that consisted of 89 co-workers, but also conducted semi-structured interviews with them, afterwards making respective notes during breaks and after work (Korczynski 2007). In addition to these largely informal interviews, he conducted four formal interviews with the factory’s managers. Interviews were based on the question whether individuals associated some particular piece of music in any way with their experience of working in the factory. Most workers expressed an implicit negative attitude to their work experience through music meanings, as well as an active resistance to the domination at work.
Summary of the Study and the Method Used by Ely and Meyerson (2010)
The study by Ely and Meyerson (2010) pursues the goal of finding out how an organizational initiative launched to enhance the effectiveness and safety in a dangerous workplace had the unintentional outcome of undoing the masculine gender and releasing male workers from traditional social stereotypes about masculinity and manliness. The study was conducted on two offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico that belonged to the same company and differed from most platforms in terms of enhanced safety procedures. This focus on safety had an unexpected impact on workers by making them let go of a normative manly behavior, which made the authors conclude that the organizationally induced behavior could be deemed as “undoing gender” and develop a model of the organizational culture, equipping men with ways to undo gender at a workplace (Ely & Meyerson 2010, p. 3).
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In order to conduct the research, the authors chose an embedded case study design as their methodology to collect the primary data from the platforms (Ely & Meyerson 2010). Afterwards, they carried out an analysis of ten published field studies researching the behavior of men in dangerous workplaces in order to compare their findings and generate a theory about the correlation between the organizational culture and undoing gender. The primary data were collected by employing such methods as informal semi-structured interviews and observation, including participant and nonparticipant observations during five visits to the platforms within nineteen months. Findings of the study show that the safety-oriented organizational culture allows undoing gender among male workers at a dangerous workplace.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Two Studies
Prior to focusing on some particular strengths and weaknesses of methods used in the two studies under the consideration, it should be noted that both of them present rather convincing arguments in favor of choosing the respective methodologies. Besides, the authors of both studies have a clear understanding of pros and cons of using their chosen methods, as well as of other methods available for conducting such researches. Moreover, there are some similarities between the two study designs, although a particular focus of the study is evidently different. However, the researchers in both cases worked with real people, with whom they needed to communicate in order to get a meaningful insight into issues they study. At the same time, work environments are completely different as Korczynski (2007) conducted his research in a rather typical industrial environment, namely at the shop floor of the blinds, factory where hazards and dangers are minimal. Factory workers also complained about receiving low salaries and being bored with their work. In their turn, Ely and Meyerson (2010) carried out their study in a dangerous workplace, which is likely to affect workers in a profound way. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of workers at offshore drilling platforms are well-paid men who are not bored by their work as contrary to the blinds factory employing mostly women. Therefore, those factors have impacted the choice of methods in the two studies under the consideration.
Thus, as briefly mentioned above, Korczynski (2007) conducted an ethnographic research. However, prior to starting the research and in the process of analyzing the obtained data, he also performed an extensive search and critical analysis of sources relating to organizational sociology and musicology. The main goal of this literature search is to find out whether any similar studies have already been conducted and which findings relating to the use and role of music in a workplace setting are available. It is an obvious strength of his study, since it provides a comprehensive overview of the studied issues and introduces readers of the article to the research. Furthermore, this literature analysis shows that there is a gap in researches as no one before the author has attempted to study meanings ascribed by industrial workers to music they listen to at their respective workplace. At the same time, the literature search and analysis are not indicated by Korczynski (2007) as methods that he employed in his study contrary to the other study under the consideration. Since Korczynski (2007) subsequently compared his findings with some relevant findings of previous researches, it would have been reasonable to mention that work with the sources as the method employed to avoid ф possible confusion among readers.
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In this regard, Korczynski’s (2007) choice of indicated methods for his ethnographic research seems to be justified and compliant with the topic and objectives of the research. Since he intends to study meanings ascribed to music by the factory workers with respect to their interpretation of and attitude towards their work experience, interviews and observations are really the most effective and efficient methods. Korczynski (2007) chose to conduct a participant observation, which promised to provide him with a lot of the primary data and a general understanding of the working environment, workers, and the role of music. Hence, this ability to observe workers in their natural environment without interruption of their daily routine is an essential strength of the chosen method. Moreover, Korczynski (2007) decided to become a member of this environment and learn more about the organizational culture from within, which is the surest way of receiving the authentic data and seeing unmasked attitudes of the study sample. Another strength of the participant observation as a method used by the author is the fact that he actually worked on the shop floor of the blinds factory for three months, which allowed him to meet and communicate with workers from four different position teams in both workrooms present in the factory. This way, the chosen method produced the fullest and most trustworthy results as workers treated the participant observer as a part of their team and a member of their organizational culture, which promoted honesty and facilitated the author’s comprehension of difficulties, reality, and meanings ascribed to music as reported by workers during personal conversations and informal interviews.
The second key method used by Korczynski (2007) includes semi-structured informal interviews conducted with 89 workers and 4 formal interviews conducted with the factory managers. In fact, the author’s choice to conduct formal interviews with managers seems to be, on the one hand, reasonable as it is necessary to learn what the management thinks about playing music on the shop floor and whether they somehow influence the choice of songs to be played. The matter is that the literature search has shown that some organizations see music as a means to boost the productivity of their workers and, therefore, participate in the choice of particular pieces of music or encourage listening to music in general. On the other hand, the key objective of Korczynski's research (2007) consists in finding out what meanings workers ascribe to music at a workplace with regard to their work experience, which is why the point of conducting formal interviews with managers could be regarded as a meaningless task. Besides, some workers have already been suspicious of the researcher, thinking that he was a management spy; thus, seeing him speak with managers for about an hour or so could further undermine their trust. It should also be noted that the article presenting the results of the study contains no findings obtained from those formal interviews. Therefore, a decision to conduct formal interviews may be viewed as a weakness of the chosen methodology.
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Furthermore, the decision to conduct informal interviews with workers significantly contributed to the study objective. Korczynski (2007) chose an appropriate way of conducting such interviews as he did not attempt to approach his sample representatives right after coming to the factory and being enrolled into some unit. Instead, he spent some time to adapt to his changing positions and establish contacts with his colleagues. Only after establishing mutually trusting relationships, he proceeded with a request to interview them in an informal setting, usually during a break or sometimes even in the process of work. Another strength related with this method of interviewing consists in the fact that a direct involvement into the work process and personal relationships with colleagues provided the researcher with an insight into the team dynamics, as well as contributed towards a better understanding of the reality of their work experience, which was studied as a factor impacting the interpretation of music. At the same time, the establishment and maintenance of personal relationships with the sample could be partially considered as a weakness of the method as it leaves room for bias and subjective interpretation of responses and observations. Nevertheless, the findings show that the bias has not affected negatively the interpretation of results, and his decision to become personally engaged with the sample proved to benefit the study as workers were honest in their responses and treated the researcher as equal. Informal interviews with workers were semi-structured and the researcher asked “whether there was song or a piece of music that spoke to them in any way, musically, rhythmically, or lyrically, for instance, about their experience of working in the factory” (Korczynski 2007, p. 260). It is a strength of the study that the researcher, on the one hand, delineated the topic of the conversation and gave a prompt, while, on the other hand, did not limit workers in their response to the prompt. This way, he received the fullest answers, which allowed singling out twelve categories of music meanings as reported by workers in relation to their work experience. Since the researcher managed to accomplish his study objectives and come to justified conclusions, the chosen methods may be considered as a successful and effective choice for this study.
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Similar methods have been used by Ely and Meyerson (2010) in their respective study and have proved to be a successful choice in terms of the study topic and objectives, as well. Hence, these methods include the selection and critical analysis of similar field studies of the secondary data and interviews and observation of the primary data. As mentioned above, Ely and Meyerson (2010) indicated their analysis, summary, and evaluation of ten field studies of the gender manifestation and normative male behavior in dangerous work environments as their method. It is a strength of their study design as it contributes to the comprehension of the overall study objectives, dangerous workplace as the selected type of the studied workplace, and subsequent comparison of the primary and secondary data. In terms of the interviewing method, Ely and Meyerson (2010) used semi-structured informal and formal interviews, which they conducted with workers of both platforms called Rex and Comus. Interviews were held during five days that a team of five researchers spent on the two platforms, and though they lived in the same quarters as workers and ate in the canteen, it seems to be an insufficient amount of time to establish trusting relationships. Therefore, a presumed wariness and the lack of complete trust are presumed weaknesses of this method. However, a strength of their interviewing method is the fact that they had an opportunity to review the results after the first interview, reveal some patterns, and adjust prompts with a view to focusing the conversation on issues pertaining to their research objectives. The findings obtained as a result of this method were the most significant for making conclusions and then comparing them with the secondary data. Overall, the overview of the interview protocol and results allows concluding that the researchers took into account possible shortcomings and limitations of this method and complemented it with observation.
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The method of observation as used by Ely and Meyerson (2010) envisioned both the participant and non-participant observations. The non-participant observation was undertaken by four researchers during the five visits and then used to compare the results of interviews with a real-life behavior of male workers who constitute the overwhelming majority of workers at the platforms. This comparison showed that the respondents were sincere and honest during their interviews, which allowed making relevant conclusions about the process of gender undoing at a safety-oriented dangerous workplace. The participant observation was undertaken by a female researcher who worked for two weeks on each platform, namely four weeks in total, and had a chance to observe all teams employed at those platforms that regularly switched shifts. A strength of this participant observation is the fact there is an assumption that males tend to excessively display their manliness in the presence of a woman. This way, the female researcher could see whether the gender was undone only when most workers were males or whether the workers’ behavior would change in the presence of a woman. A weakness of this method consisted in the fact that there was only one participant observer, and there was no chance to obtain more results from different sources and compare them.
Another weakness of the study design under the consideration concerns generalization of Ely and Meyerson’s (2010) findings to other work settings. In fact, the authors acknowledge this weakness as a limitation of their study. The matter is that based on the comparison of the primary and secondary data, Ely and Meyerson (2010) conclude that the organizational culture plays a vital role in undoing gender. Moreover, the findings of their study conducted at a dangerous workplace can be extrapolated virtually to any male-dominated occupation, hence providing representatives of different stereotypical professions with means of moving away from gender stereotypes and normative behavior. This particular weakness cannot be negated and ignored as offshore oil platforms can be considered a unique workplace, where workers live together away from the rest of the world, which can significantly affect their behavior and internalize gender assumptions. Therefore, further studies are essential in order to determine whether the study conclusions are valid. Nonetheless, regardless of some weaknesses of the methods used by Ely and Meyerson (2010), they are considerably effective and appropriate in terms of the topic and questions under the investigation, which has allowed the researchers to obtain credible findings and make plausible conclusions.
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Conclusion: Relevance of Qualitative Methods in the Research Practice
As evident from the evaluative analysis of the two qualitative studies, a proper choice of methods that would be the most efficient in terms of the topic and objectives is the key step of the research process. Interviews may be deemed as an extremely useful method in researches that focus on revealing some moods, behavior patterns, attitudes, or opinions of the sample. Moreover, semi-structured informal interviews have been shown to produce the most honest and trustworthy replies as obvious from the analyzed studies. However, they are the most effective when are coupled with the observation, whereas this method allows comparing interview responses with a real-life behavior of responders so that any discrepancies can be noted and accounted for. As the two studies show, the choice between the non-participant and participant observations depends on the topic, context, and environment to be studied. In some cases, like the one with the blinds factory, researchers have a chance to be employed as non-skilled workers at the studied workplace, as well as establish a rapport and build the trust with their sample. In other cases, the work is highly specialized and would not allow to be employed, like it happened with male researchers at oil drilling platforms.