Through detailed description of 5 different studies, Creswell provided further clarification for different methods of qualitative research.
A Narrative-Biographical Study: Angrosino tells the life-story of Vonnie Lee, a man with mental retardation and a colorful criminal record. Vonnie Lee, currently transitioning out of a rehabilitation center called Opportunity House into a sort of employment half-way house. Presented through the eyes of Angrosino, Vonnie Lee tells his life story around and through complex descriptions of the city’s public transportation system. Through his 1.5 hour bus route to work, Vonnie Lee finds stability and empowerment. As a narrative-biographical study, the author tells the story of a single individual, reconstructs conversations and stories into a “life experience,” tells of the subjects’ “epiphany” (the bus route, in Vonnie Lee’s case), describes the surrounding context of the epiphany, and acknowledges his own presence in the study.
A Phenomenological Study: The authors studied 58 men and women with AIDS. Through an exploration of the patient’s experiences and cognitive representations of their disease, the authors attempted to understand how the patient’s emotional response to the disease could lead to improved therapy and quality of life. The authors systematically analyzed the data (which included multiple interviews and actual drawings that represented some of the patient’s image of their disease) which led to 11 themes, created exhaustive descriptions of the data, and described the unique cultural phenomenon of how individuals experience AIDS. While reading the studies, this one seemed the least clear. It was not until I completed the chapter that I felt more comfortable with the difference between this method and ethnography – initially, they seemed pretty similar. They certainly bear some similarities, but now I recognize the differences.
A Grounded Theory Study: In response to two open-ended questions, 11 women who were victims of childhood sexual abuse spoke of their experiences and how they have survived. With the sensitive data from interviews and focus groups, the authors formed categories of information and systematically related them in a visual model. The visual model depicted the two phenomena (or theory) that emerged, in terms of women’s coping strategies: keeping from being overwhelmed by threatening and dangerous feelings, and managing helplessness, powerlessness, and lack of control.
An Ethnographic Study: The author studied the culture-sharing group involved in the straight edge (sXe) movement, a punk rock inspired movement to abstain from drug and alcohol usage and casual sex. The author interviewed 28 people, attended 250 punk rock concerts, and participated in the movement for 14 years in order to describe the core values and beliefs of the unique subculture. He described the group, explored five themes about the subculture, and ended the study with a broad picture about how the subculture existed. From the perspective of a critical ethnographer, the author described how the complex group resisted the dominant culture through a variety of multilayered and transformative qualities found within group members.
A Case Study: The authors described how a campus reacted to a situation where a student with a gun attempted to shoot students. Through analysis of interviews, observations, and detailed (and thick!) descriptions of the events, experiences, and responses surrounding event, the authors saw several themes (denial, fear, safety, campus planning, etc.) and two overarching responses (organizational and psycho-social) emerge. They broadly interpreted the situation and identified the problem, the context, the issues, and the “lessons learned.” Finally, they formed questions to help the university in its response-planning for future experiences of campus violence.
I appreciated the individual studies, as they helped me to envision both the varied intricacies and the similarities between each type. I also liked Creswell’s figure that visually represented the different approaches of foci in each case – that helped to further clarify the differences. I am excited about the upcoming research project – where I actually get to utilize one of these methods of research!
If I had to select my “favorite” research method, I would waiver between ethnography and grounded theory. As a cultural study, I like that ethnographies describe and explain the particular experience of a group of people, and they are often connected with an issue of social justice. However, I love the concept of allowing theory to emerge from the data, as such in grounded theory. Here, it seems as if you are giving a voice to an experience that was previously untold or undocumented. Essentially, I am eager for my research to mean something…