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Methodology is defined as the way in which the researcher may research whatever hypotheses he or she believes can be known (Terre Blanche & Durrheim, 1999). In research, different methodologies are employed to undertake a variety of studies that are conducted for different reasons to achieve different results. Methodology forms one aspect of a researcher‟s paradigmatic stance, which in essence means the way in which the researcher looks at the world out there and how he or she sees the relationship between himself/ herself and that which is being studied (Terre Blanche & Durrheim, 1999).In this chapter, the research approaches, research method chosen, target population, sampling method and sample size, data collection and analysis methods, validity, reliability, objectivity, and finally ethical considerations will be discussed.


Research studies that are well-planned and conducted in a scientific manner find their methodological answers and strategies in either qualitative or quantitative research approaches. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches use “systematic processes of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data (information) in order to increase our understanding of the phenomenon about which we are interested or concerned” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 2).

Comparison between qualitative and quantitative research approaches

Qualitative and quantitative approaches are similar as well as different in the manner in which they approach research. Some of the similarities as outlined by Becvar and Becvar (2000), Dzurec and Abraham (1993), and Rich and Ginsburg (1999), include the following:
Both approaches seek commonalities across human experience.
Both share an investigative approach that poses a question, collects and analyses data, and presents analysis.
Scientific rigour and integrity of the theoretical framework are critical to researchers from both qualitative and quantitative paradigms.
Researchers from these approaches attempt to construct explanatory arguments from their data, that is, to argue about why particular outcomes have occurred.

Qualitative approach

“The term qualitative research encompasses several approaches to research that are, in some respects, quite different from one another. Yet all qualitative approaches have two things in common. First, they focus on phenomena that occur in natural settings, that is, the „real world‟. And second, they involve studying those phenomena in their complexity” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p.133). According to Denzin and Lincoln (2000), the word „qualitative‟ implies an emphasis on the qualities, processes, and meanings that are not experientially examined or measured in terms of quantity, amount, intensity or frequency. It means that there are meanings or processes involved in research that are quantitative in nature and trying to qualify such processes and meanings is inclined to change the meaning they present in any given situation.
Qualitative research, as proposed by Bogdan and Biklen (1992), has the following characteristics:
Qualitative research has the natural setting as the direct source of information, with the researcher serving as the main instrument.
Qualitative research is descriptive in nature, because the collected information is in the form of words or pictures rather than numbers. Quotations from the collected information are used when writing research results in order to illustrate and substantiate the entire presentation.
Qualitative research is interested in processes, rather than simply with the final results or products.
Information in qualitative research is analysed inductively. In qualitative research, researchers do not search for information or proof to prove or disapprove hypotheses they maintain before commencing with the study, instead they build abstractions from particulars that have been collected and grouped together. Pieces of collected proof are then integrated and a theory called „grounded theory‟ emerges.
In qualitative research „meaning is of fundamental interest. Qualitative researchers are mainly interested in the way different people make sense out of their lives and therefore they aim at accurately capturing the perspective of those they are studying.
The primary aim of qualitative research is to develop an understanding of how individuals construct their world. Individuals construct their world through language, that is, stories and conversations, through actions, through systems of meaning, through memory and the rituals they engage in, as well as through institutions that have been created such as families, clans, schools, and religious institutions (McLeod, 2001).
Qualitative methods are effective tools that are utilized for understanding the „why‟ of human behaviour, that is, understanding and explaining the meaning that people make of their experience that lead to sporadic behaviours. Therefore, it focuses on capturing the diversity of the research participants‟ experiences and paying attention to the context of the research event in order to document the voices of the respondents (Banyard & Miller, 1998).
According to Peshkin (1993) qualitative research studies typically serve at least one of the following purposes:
Description. They can reveal the nature of certain situations, settings, processes, relationships, systems, or people.
Interpretation. They enable a researcher to (a) gain new insights about a particular phenomenon, (b) develop new concepts or theoretical perspectives about the phenomenon, and/or (c) discover the problems that exist within the phenomenon.
Verification. They allow a researcher to test the validity of certain assumptions, claims, theories, or generalizations within real-world contexts.
Evaluation. They provide a means through which a researcher can judge the effectiveness of particular policies, practices or innovations.
This present study served an interpretative purpose, because it has allowed the researcher to gain new insight about the phenomenon of positive psychological strengths and their effects on employees attending EAP in the public service. Furthermore, this present study served a verification purpose, as it provided the researcher with an opportunity to test the validity of the assumptions of positive psychology. In short, as qualitative research, this study served both interpretation and verification purposes.


A qualitative research approach was selected for this study, because it enabled the researcher to capture detailed information and adopt a perspective which would not have been as easily and accurately captured through the use of a quantitative method. Choosing a qualitative research approach for this study was also necessitated by the nature of this study itself, the manner in which data was collected and analysed, and how the make-up of the qualitative research approach would assist in the achievement of the outlined aims of this study.


Sampling, according to Barker, Pistrang and Elliot (1994), involves the following three steps:
Specifying the target population.
Choosing the sampling procedure.
Determining the sample size.

Target population

The first step involved in the sampling process is to define the group from which the participants would be selected. The target population for this study is public service employees who attended and benefited from attending EAP. This is the group that described their EAP consultation as a success because it assisted them in achieving their goals.
The inclusion criterion for this study were as follows:
Public service employees who attended EAP in the past six months and benefited from this experience.
The benefit included improved work performance (as indicated by work assessment report and verbal corroboration by the supervisors of the employees attending EAP), better coping abilities (as reported by the EAP practitioner and confirmed by the employees), and physical and psychological improvement as indicated by the employee supervisor, EAP practitioner, and employees themselves.
Attendance of all scheduled EAP sessions (unattended sessions reported and rescheduled) with no premature termination or dropping-out.
Willingness to share their experiences with the researcher for the EAP programme in general.
The presenting problem, which led to EAP consultation, had decreased, disappeared or was being managed by the employee appropriately.

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Sampling method

This study employed a non-probability sampling design. In non-probability designs, according to Leedy and Ormrod (2005), “the researcher has no way of forecasting or guaranteeing that each element of the population will be represented in the sample and some members of the population have little or no chance of being sampled” (p. 206).
In this study, the purposive sampling method, as a non-probability sampling strategy, was applied to select the identified participants. Purposive sampling is a type of sampling where individuals or objects that will generate the most information about the topic being researched are selected (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). In purposive sampling, the researcher‟s judgment is used to select, for a particular purpose, unique and information-rich cases for an in-depth investigation (Grbich, 1999). Information-rich cases are those from which one can learn a great deal about issues of central importance to the purpose of the inquiry. Studying information-rich cases yields insights and in-depth understanding rather than empirical generalizations (Patton, 2002).
The type of purposive sampling strategy employed in this study is called intensity sampling, chosen among the 16 types identified and described by Patton (2002). “An intensity sample consists of information-rich cases that manifest the phenomenon of interest intensely, but not extremely” (Patton, 2002, p. 234). In intensity sampling, the researcher seeks excellent or rich examples of the phenomenon of interest, but not highly unusual cases. The selected cases manifest sufficient intensity to elucidate the phenomenon of interest and to illuminate the nature of success or failure, but not at the extreme (Patton, 2002).
Furthermore, intensity sampling involves prior information and considerable judgment. That is, the researcher must do some exploratory work to determine the nature of the variation in the situation understudy, and then sample the intense example of the phenomenon of interest (Patton, 2002). In this study, only employees who attended and fully benefited from the employee assistance programme were chosen as participants.

Sample size

Patton (2002) states that “there are no rules for sample size in qualitative inquiry. Sample size depends on what you want to know, the purpose of the inquiry, what is at stake, what will be useful, what will have credibility, and what can be done with available time and resources” (p. 244). For the purposes of this study, a sample of eight participants was chosen. The participants were taken from a population of employees who had attended the employee assistance programme and benefited, seen an improvement in work performance (as indicated by work assessment report and verbal corroboration by the supervisors of the employees attending EAP), exhibited better coping abilities (as reported by the EAP practitioner and confirmed by the employees), and had seen both physical and psychological improvement (as indicated by the employee supervisor, EAP practitioner and employees themselves). Those who benefited slightly or dropped out of EAP after experiencing some improvements were not considered for selection.


Narrative Method

Data for this study was collected in two ways. Firstly, the eight selected participants were asked to narrate on paper their EAP experiences and explain specifically what positive psychological strengths in them led to describe the EAP as a success for them because it enabled them to achieve their health goal and eliminate distress. Once narratives were completed in writing, they were then handed back to the researcher, who read them for a deeper understanding and analyzed them in detail for the interview preparation. Basic, standard and structured interview guidelines were then prepared for the in-depth individual interviews with each participant.
Narratives were utilized since they are powerful means of communication to the one told and the one telling. The narrative theory views people as trying to organize their experiences in the form of stories that they regard as true, even though there are no essential truths. Thus, constructing or structuring narratives is very selective because we remove from our personal stories all those aspects that are not congruent with our social, cultural and family stories (Clark & Standard, 1997).


Secondly, the eight participants were then interviewed in–depth to collect as much data as possible. Each participant was interviewed two or more times, depending on the nature of the extrapolated data. The first interview was largely based on the narrative information collected, while the second and subsequent interviews were required for the clarification of information and filling in gaps that were identified during either the narration or the first interviews. In this study, interviews were selected as a data collection method, because they provided the researcher with an opportunity to explore the EAPs in greater depth.
An interview is described as a focused dialogue usually between two people (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). The type of interviews conducted in this study ranged from semi-structured to unstructured, generally depending on the information provided by the participant. The semi-structured part focused on obtaining and verifying personal data and introducing questions based on the participants‟ narrated experiences of having attended EAP, while the unstructured part focused on the content of the narratives and unpacking the details of their EAP experience.
In qualitative research, an interview is used in one of two ways, namely as a dominant strategy for data collection or in conjunction with participant observation or other techniques. It is also used to gather descriptive data in the research participant‟s own words, so that the researcher can develop an understanding of how the participant interprets situations and phenomena in his or her world (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992).
Interview guidelines were employed in this study to obtain basic personal data, establish rapport, and introduce the unstructured part of the in-depth interview. The guidelines also aimed at laying a foundation for obtaining core information on the following themes:
Experiences gained while attending the EAP.
Positive psychological strengths that employees possessed, which they feel made them benefit from attending the EAP.
Negative emotions highlighted by participants.
Interviews were chosen for this particular study because they have the following advantages as highlighted by Babbie (1995) and Ruane (2005):
They yield a great deal of information that the researcher has not planned to ask for.
They are flexible in nature and therefore allow the researcher to probe further.
They give respondents considerable latitude in determining the actual content and direction of the interview.
Interviews are personal exchanges of information between an interviewer and interviewee, but should not be considered to be ordinary conversations which are a series of meandering talking points. Rather, interviews are purposeful conversations, where the interviewer has a set research agenda, key points or questions that must be addressed (Ruane, 2005). It is for this purpose that interviews were employed in this present study.
Silverman (2004), states that the primary objective of interviews is to generate data, which provides authentic insight into people‟s experiences. That is, interviews provide access to the meanings people attribute to their experiences and social worlds. They also provide an opportunity for the researcher to understand and document the participants‟ understandings of their world. Thus, interviews were utilized in this present study in order to achieve results as described above.

Data analysis

Data collected in this study was analysed through content analyses, trends were identified, themes highlighted and recommendations provided. Content analysis could be defined as a “detailed and systematic examination of a particular body of material for the purpose of identifying patterns, themes, or biases” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 142). Content analysis may be applied to any form of communication, because its data addresses the „what‟, the „why‟ and „with what effect‟ of the study. It is also quite systematic in its approach and measures are taken, in it, to make the process as objective as possible (Babbie, 1995).
Patton (2002) describes content analysis as any qualitative data reduction and sense-making effort that takes a volume of qualitative material and attempts to identify core inconsistencies and meanings. The core meanings found through content analysis are often called patterns or themes. A pattern usually refers to a descriptive finding, while a theme takes a more categorical or topical form.
In this study, content analysis was used for analyzing both the collected narrative descriptive data that was written down by the participants as well as the data collected from the in-depth interviews conducted by the researcher. The following steps, as outlined by Leedy & Ormrod (2005) and Bush and Harter (1980), were applied in this study to conduct content analysis:
The researcher identified the specific body of material to be studied and analyzed (themes/positive psychological strengths that the EAP had on the participants)
The researcher defined positive psychological strengths to be examined in precise, concrete terms.
The researcher identified specific examples of each theme (positive psychological strength) as a way of defining it more clearly.
The researcher broke down each item into small manageable segments of words, word sense, phrases, sentences and themes that were analyzed separately. This process is referred to as “open coding” or “manifest coding” as it implies the tentative naming of conceptual categories into which the phenomena under study is grouped (Strauss & Corbin, 1990)
The researcher scrutinized the material for instances of each theme (positive psychological strength) or quality defined
The researcher coded the information being analysed in terms of frequencies and illustrative themes or quotations
The next step, as outlined by Hoepfl (1997), involved the re-examination of categories to determine how they are linked. Strauss and Corbin (1990) call this step “axial coding”, “semantic analysis” or “latent coding” since it focuses on the underlying implicit meaning in the context of the text. In this present study, examination and re-examination of categories was conducted to determine linkages and underlying meaning.
The last step involved extrapolating and translating the gathered data into a storyline (heading), once it was thematically analyzed. In this study, the extrapolated data was translated into themes of positive psychological strengths and then discussed according to the relevant literature and theory applicable to positive psychology and EAP.
Although the above steps of data analysis for this study are described in a linear fashion, they occur simultaneously and repeatedly. They do not occur in a rigid blueprint process.

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Trustworthiness is important when conducting a research study, because it lends credibility to the study. It also plays a central role in research studies in that it is concerned with how concrete measures, or indicators are developed for constructs. Trustworthiness is prominent and significant in social research because what is normally measured or studied in social research is often ambiguous, diffuse, and not directly observable. Therefore, a study is described as trustworthy if it is found to be reliable and valid. However, both validity and reliability differ in terms of what they mean from one research methodology to another (Neuman, 1994).
In social research, the validity and reliability of the researcher‟s measurement instruments influence the extent to which a researcher can learn something about the phenomena they are investigating or studying, the probability that they will get statistical significance in their data analysis, and the extent to which they can draw meaningful conclusions from their data (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Validity in qualitative research, on the one hand, refers to the degree to which the interpretations and conclusions can be regarded as trustworthy (Stiles, 1993), while in quantitative research validity means the extent to which the study measures what it sets out to measure (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Validity is emphasized in qualitative research, because the researcher‟s work has to have an appearance of being true and real and has to evoke in readers a feeling that the experience described is life-like, believable and possible. The experience described should also help readers in communicating with others who are different from them and offer a way of improving the lives of participants and readers (Ellis & Bochner, 2000).
In qualitative research, it can be argued that there is no validity in the interview method itself. Rather, it is the results of an interview study that must be validated in particular situations. The issue with validity is not whether another researcher would discover the same concepts to describe or interpret the data, but whether the findings of an inquiry are worth paying attention to (Guba & Lincoln, 2000). The qualitative researcher should therefore strive for authenticity, and his or her findings should give a fair, honest and balanced account of social life according to the experience of the people studied (Neuman, 1994). The aim in qualitative research, according to Terre Blanche and Durrheim, (1999), is not to come to a better understanding of „reality‟ but rather to come to a better understanding of personal experience.

1.1 Background and motivation for the study
1.2 Problem statement
1.3 Research questions
1.4 Aims
1.5 Paradigm perspective
1.6 Research design
1.7 Research method
1.8 Data processing
1.9 Results
1.10 Limitations
1.12 Overview of chapters
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Definition of employee assistance programme (EAP)
2.3 Historical background of EAP
2.4 EAP in South Africa
2.5 Nature of EAP
2.6 Functions of EAP
2.7 EAP benefits
2.8 EAP models
2.9 EAP in South African Government departments
2.10 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Positive psychology
3.3 Negative emotions
3.4. Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Research approach
4.3 Research approach for this study
4.4 Sampling
4.5 Method of data collection
4.6 Trustworthiness
4.7 Objectivity
4.8 Ethical considerations
5.1 Personal profile of participants
5.2 Diagnoses
5.3 Types of referral
5.4 Number of sessions
5.5. Analysis of results
5.6 Negative emotions
5.7 Conclusion
6.1 Personal data
6.2 The story of Judy
6.3 Emerging themes
7.1 Personal data
7.2 The story of Khosi
7.3 Emerging themes
8.1 Personal data
8.2 The story of Frank
8.3 Emerging themes
9.1 Personal data
9.2 The story of Kedibone
9.3 Emerging themes
10.1 Personal data
10.2 The story of Tumi
10.3 Emerging themes
11.1 Personal data
11.2 The story of Martha
11.3 Emerging themes
12.1 Personal data
12.2 The story of Busi
12.3 Emerging themes
13.1 Personal data
13.2 The story of Mary
13.3 Emerging themes
14.1 Introduction
14.2 Emerging themes: Comparative analysis
14.3 Negative emotions
14.4 Conclusion
15.1 Introduction
15.2 Overview of the study

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