I have read several qualitative studies for my paper, which has really helped me to understand the types of research design. My proposal will be grounded theory: I will use my research as the basis to form a theory about faculty and online university programs. I think because I am planning to do interviews to really find out how the faculty feel about online instruction, it lends itself to building a theory from the ground up. I don’t know what they think but I really want to talk to them before developing a theory that pretty much explains what their perceptions are.
Because I am doing a qualitative study that is grounded theory, my analysis will definitely be inductive. I am very open to different theories and possibilities in my results, and I look forward to working with the data and finding patterns by taking a systemic approach to analysis.
I am finding in my research that many faculty members worry about themselves when it comes to creating an online course curriculum. That is perfect for grounded theory, because the approach is very personal—how do you feel, etc—and the instructors will happily talk about their own circumstances.
As I have already discussed, my data sources will be very purposive, which is an important aspect of qualitative design. Samples chosen in grounded theory are chosen based on the individual’s ability to give the requested information. To keep with my design, I will interview one homogenous group that I choose from the Center for Teaching Excellence’s active faculty members (for instance, 4-5 people in the Focused Inquiry department, which is generally similar in educational background/age/race/etc) before I interview a second, more diverse group once I develop my theory a little better. I expect the questions will change, too, after that first round.
My role will not be one of observer, but as a researcher who does direct data collection. I want to interview faculty members in focus groups of 4-5 and be able to dig in and ask how they feel about online courses. Because I have done a lot of research myself, I know what kinds of questions to ask them, from the general “How do you feel about the Online@VCU department?” to the specific “How would research grants or money from the online department affect your perception of teaching an online course?”
I do worry that as the interviewer I will let any biases or knowledge I have come out in the questions or interactions in a negative way. Perhaps the subjects will be reluctant to speak to me because of how “close” I am to the research. However, I don’t think training someone would necessarily produce the best results either, so I would prefer to do the interviews myself and let the potential bias be known in the proposal.