The whole time I have been researching my topic I have thought about data collection. It’s become clear to me that my research will take a qualitative approach, as I am more interested in asking a question than forming a hypothesis at this point.
I was in a focus group recently to find out faculty and staff feelings about diversity. I was pretty shocked how honest people were—everyone in the group knew each other and I knew no one—but all of us really spoke our minds. I hope that in conducting interviews to find out what faculty think of online education that they show the same amount of honesty that we did in that focus group. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I would like to find faculty to interview through departments like the Center for Teaching Excellence, which help faculty become better instructors. This purposive sampling will yield the best and most honest answers.
In qualitative studies, it is essential that the researcher—the instrument in these projects—is credible. I think making sure whatever conclusions I draw should be believable and honest. Learning more about data organization/summary/interpretation leads me to believe that this is more difficult than in quantitative studies. In those, once the instrument is created, the numbers speak for themselves. I will certainly keep this in mind when analyzing the qualitative data.
One way I can help with credibility is member checking. Since I will be working with participants well-versed in academia, I think asking them to review my conclusions would really help. They would be able to give intelligent, honest responses, which would really benefit my research. Along the same lines, my credibility can be strengthened be peer debriefing. I would bring my research to the Director of Online at VCU and probably also a colleague in Human Resources, as both would be familiar enough with the types of questions I will be asking and the responses I will receive.
Dependability will help my study appear more reliable. I plan on doing focus groups at several large state universities and I expect many answers to be similar across schools to show consistency. Of course I will formulate the interview questions and groups so that this study can be conducted in other states with other colleges and universities. As online education grows, this will be an issue that affects a greater number of faculty and staff across the country, so it’s crucial that others can replicate the study. Finally, I do not know what my conclusions will be, but I do hope that other researchers will draw the same conclusions as me. This will also make my study more trustworthy.