CHAPTER 3 Research design and methodology: a qualitative paradigm
This chapter describes and explains the research design, setting and the main reasons behind its choice. Furthermore, it describes the methods used in the identification of the population, selection of the research sample, data management and its components namely data collection and data analysis. Issues of ensuring the quality of data and the research process comprising of ethical guidelines and trustworthiness of data are also discussed (Streubert and Carpenter, 2003:19).
The selection of a suitable setting is critical for the study to be put into context. Polit and Beck (2004:28) suggest that the ideal setting is where entry is possible, where there is a higher probability that a rich mix of the processes, people, interaction structures that may be part of the research question will be present.
This study took place in a naturalistic setting. This is in line with Patton’s (2002:280) stipulation, that in-depth qualitative studies are undertaken in a natural setting to be able to put the participants’ experiences into context. Within this study the selected sites were the open distance-learning environment, that is the University of South Africa and practice environments (clinical settings where students were working) for critical-care nursing students nationally and internationally. The Selection of different countries is supported by Nahas (1998:665), who asserts that the lived experiences of participants coming from different settings enhance the richness of the data collected. Two international participants one from Saudi Arabia and the other from England could not be visited in their clinical settings. The researcher gleamed their clinical setting and context through the situational analysis form that they had submitted on the clinical facilities in their areas. The layout of their units could also be accessed from their website and the summarised overview of ICU’s of the Saudi Arabia and England where students are employed (see Annexure 10). An overview about UNISA and the department of Health Studies and the critical care programme was provided in chapter 1:1.2.1, 1.2.2 and 1.2.3.
Any research project or study requires a plan of action and this plan is referred to as a research design.
A research design is defined as a structural frame of the study (Burns and Grove, 2001:795). It is a blue print of how the researcher intends to conduct the study (Polit and Hungler, 1995:55). Mouton (2000:57) refers to a research design as the way in which the research is conceived, executed and how findings are eventually put together. The research design ensures that the researcher strives for objectivity and that approach to the knowledge is systematic (Holiday, 2001:15).
In this study, a qualitative, explorative, descriptive, contextual and interpretive phenomenological research design was used to explore, describe and interpret the meaning of the critical care nursing students’ experiences about clinical accompaniment in ODL. The phenomenological approach used in this study is in line with Heidegger’s interpretive approach. Components of the research design are discussed in the following subheadings.
According to Denzil and Lincoln (2000b:157), qualitative research is a multi perspective approach to social interaction, aimed at describing, making sense of, interpreting or reconstructing the interaction in terms of meanings that the subjects attach to it. There are a number of terms or labels used that refers to qualitative designs. The most commonly used terms are field research, naturalism, ethnography, interpretive and constructivist research (Lofland, and Lofland, 2004:167). These terms and their definitions further qualify qualitative designs as inductive, interpretive and field oriented in nature.
Qualitative designs are sensitive to the contexts in which people interact with each other (Mouton, 2000:194). They rest on a paradigm that explains humans as conscious self-directing beings who are continuously constructing and re-constructing social reality (Tjale, 2004:293). They are not aimed at explaining human behaviour in terms of universally valid laws of generalization, but rather to understand and interpret the meanings and intentions that underlie every human action (Mouton, 2000:67).
Qualitative designs are also naturalistic in nature. This research took place in the real world setting and the researcher did not attempt to manipulate the phenomenon of interest (Patton, 2002:39). Participants presented their experiences in words and narratives about clinical accompaniment in the clinical setting in the ODL mode to construct meaning from the presented data (Henning et al., 2004:56). As Gills and Jackson (2002:182) state that one of the major distinguishing characteristics of qualitative research is that the researcher attempts to understand the people in terms of the explanation of their world rather than numbers and quantities. Equally, Norman and Yvonnas (2003:95) reiterated that the participants’ ability to independently provide explanations from their own experiences is the core value in understanding their world view first hand in qualitative designs.
Attributes of qualitative research
The attributes of a qualitative research design, in accordance with the phenome-nological endeavours can be summarized as follows:
Naturalistic in nature: Qualitative research is naturalistic to an extent that the research takes place in the real world setting. The researcher does not attempt to manipulate the phenomenon of interest (De Vos, 2000:280).
Inductive reasoning: This is a process where reasoning is from the specific observation to a more general rule (Polit and Beck, 2004:720). The thinking process is also interactive, moving back and forth from data collection and analysis checking with members and validating data with participants (Creswell, 2003:183).
An emic perspective: Qualitative researcher has an emic perspective because people’s conception of reality is not directly accessible to outsiders or strangers.
These inquiries capture and unravel the view point and the experiences of participants (Patton, 2002:34).
Triangulation: Qualitative researchers employ multiple data collection methods that are interactive and humanistic. This is an effort to explore the phenomenon studied. Triangulation of data such as in-depth face to face and telephonic interviews, review of record and artefacts are used to provide thick descriptions of phenomena studied (Creswell, 2003:181).
It is emergent rather than pre- figured: Several aspects emerge during the The research question may change and be refined as the inquirer learns what to ask and to whom it should be asked. Data collection methods might change as the study develops (Creswell, 2003:182).
It is interpretive: This means that qualitative research formulates and interprets the data. This includes developing a description of an individual setting, analysing data for themes or categories and finally making an interpretation or drawing a conclusion about its meaning personally and theoretically (Creswell, 2003:182).
Holistic in approach: Social phenomena are viewed holistically and are expanded upon to make a broad analysis and to give them panoramic views rather than depicting microanalysis (Creswell, 2003:181).
In this study, a qualitative design was used because:
In terms of ontology, there was a need for the emic perspective of the lived experiences of critical care nursing students about clinical accompaniment in open distance learning. It was desirable that meanings, process and context of the experiences of students in their natural habitat are understood.
The purpose of the study was to generate theory. The researcher achieved this by approaching the study open-mindedly with no pre-set hypothesis to guide the study (Burns and Grove, 2003:62).
The choice of a qualitative research designs in this study is also influenced by the focus on the subjective perspective for the understanding of human experiences, which, in this case relates to the experiences of critical care nursing students about clinical accompaniment in ODL.
Explorative designs are used where there is little or nothing known about the phenomenon to find more about issues researched. In some instances, they are designed to develop or refine hypothesis or to test and refine the data collection methods (Polit and Hungler, 2003:529). Brink and Wood (2001:100) emphasizes that exploratory designs are suitable to probe a single process, variable or concept in a way that covers all aspects of the problem. While Latimer (2003:80) also suggests that explorative studies are mostly conducted –
to satisfy the researchers curiosity and desire for better understanding of the phenomenon;
to test the feasibility of undertaking a more extensive study;
to develop the methods to be employed in any subsequent studies, to explicate central concepts; and
to determine priorities for further research (Latimer, 2003:80).
The exploratory approach was suitable because not much is known about the experiences of critical care nursing students on clinical accompaniment in ODL. Moreover, no literature could be found on the views on of critical care nursing students on the phenomenon. The researcher had to depart from the position of what she knows as a critical care nurse, nurse educator and facilitator of clinical accompaniment. In-depth interviews were used to explore the experiences of critical care nursing students about clinical accompaniment in ODL.
In qualitative research, descriptive studies open up a world of knowledge for the reader through which detailed and concrete descriptions of phenomena could be viewed (Denzil and Lincoln, 2000:97). In this way the reader can understand the phenomenon under study and draw her/his own interpretation about the significance thereof (Patton, 2002:428).
In addition, a descriptive design in qualitative research is used to provide a picture of situations as they naturally happen. In a descriptive design, no manipulation of variables is necessary, since the aim is not to establish causality but to describe the phenomena as it appears (Polit and Hungler, 2003:142). Descriptive designs are also used to develop theories, identify problems with current practices, justifying current practices, or determine what is done in other similar situations (Waltz and Brussell, 2001:58). In this study, a descriptive design was used to describe the experiences about the phenomenon so that the nature or its meaning could be interpreted and understood.
This research is situated within the interpretive hermeneutic phenomenological research design with emphasis on the experiences of critical care nursing students, their descriptions and interpretation thereof. The interpretive design seeks to provide an understanding and meaning of the phenomena from the descriptions presented (Johnson, 2005:4). This ties in with the focus of the this study, as its purpose was to gain empirically based understanding of the meaning of the lived experiences of critical-care nursing students about clinical accompaniment in open distance learning from the stand point of their unique context.
The core of interpretive approach is the creation of meaning by individuals and their subjective reality. The role of the researcher as the co-creator of meaning in the individual(s) experiences becomes more important. Interpretive researchers believe that the goal of science is the acknowledgment that there are multiple interpretations of reality that exist within peoples’ minds (Polit and Beck, 2004:15). Hence, researchers in this approach address the process of interaction within a specific context (Lincoln and Guba, 2000:121).
The foundational assumption of the interpretive design is that, most of the knowledge gained, filters through by the use of social construction such as language and consciousness (Trauth, 2001:291). The enquirer in this study achieved this through the analysis and interpretation of the text to look for the way in which the students make meaning of their experiences, that is, not only what they experience, but also the meaning they make of the experiences.
In this study, interpretive (hermeneutic) phenomenological research approach, guided by Heideggerian principles, had an impact on the research process. Phenomenology was seen as appropriate to develop a greater understanding of the phenomenon under study (Johnson, 2005:3). Moreover in data analysis, all data was related to the meaning of the whole. The hermeneutic circle which, is essential for gaining understanding, was only fully experienced when the process of interpretation was characterised by openness towards the lived experiences (Cronquist, Lutezen and Nystrom, 2006:406).
The frame that shapes the meaning holds that the research in interpretive design is extremely sensitive to the role of the context (Henning et al., 2004:20).
Context represents the setting, that is, the location within which the phenomenon is studied. It provides an understanding of where, how and the circumstances under which the human meanings are molded. Context becomes the framework, the reference point, and the map. It is used to provide space and time for activities to take place and as a resource for understanding what the people say and do at that time in that space (Patton, 2002:62). The context is rich with clues for interpreting the experiences of the participants (Patton, 2002:63). By looking at the context the researcher is primarily concerned with the process rather than the outcomes of the phenomenon (Bogdan and Biklen, 1999:213). Specific conditions that may arise and be applicable to actions, time, space and environment are considered (Holloway and Wheeler, 1996:193).
In a phenomenological study such as this, symbolic reality as in language forms a strong determinant of the context of the data. In phenomenological studies it is not what the people say they experience and what they do that is important but how they say it and do it, what they omit and which discourse is dominant in the information (Henning et al., 2004:24). Context is therefore only valid within the time and place in which the phenomenon happens. Consequently this study’s context is the clinical setting where clinical accompaniment in open distance education takes place (De Vos, 2000:201).
The researcher described the context of this study, including the background in chapter1.
Babbie and Mouton (2002:75) distinguish between the research methods and research methodology. Research methodology is regarded as the epistemological home of an inquiry, because it addresses the development, validation and evaluation of the research tools and the research process as a whole (Babbie and Mouton, (2002:23). According to Henning et al (2004:36), methodology goes beyond the reasoning strategies that the researcher uses.
The term ‘research methods’ denotes a coherent group of activities that compliment one another to deliver data and findings that will reflect a response to research questions and address the research purpose. These methods include the specific different stages and concrete means used by the researcher to implement specific tasks of the research process (Creswell, 2003:17) such as the population, sampling and sample, data collection methods, data analysis and ethical considerations. These specific tasks, according to Silverman (2000:79), are useful depending on their fit for the purpose.
In order to answer the research question, individuals, objects or elements that can shed light to the issues related to the topic under investigation have to be identified. These are termed the ‘research population’.
‘Research population’ refers to all elements that meet the criteria for inclusion in the study (Burns and Grove, 2001:320). Patton (2002:228) refers to the population as the unit of analysis. Groups or individuals are selected as a unit of analysis when they possess an important characteristic that separates them from the others and that characteristic has an important implication for the study. This means that the primary focus of data collection is on what is happening to individuals in a setting and the activities within it (Polit and Beck, 2004:76). Babbie and Mouton (2002:174) view ‘population’ as the theoretically specified aggregation of study elements from which the sample is actually selected.
In this way, terminology referring to ‘population’ includes universal population sometimes called the ‘target population’ and ‘accessible population’ (De Vos, 2000:198). ‘Universal population’ refers to all elements with the attributes that the researcher is interested in (De Vos, 2000:198). Within the universal population, there is what is called ‘accessible population’. An ‘accessible population’ refers to the portion of the universal population to which the researcher has reasonable access. The universal population might not be manageable due to size, location, numbers and other practical considerations. In this instance the accessible population becomes practical for sampling (Brink, 2006:1230).
The accessible population in this study comprised of critical care nursing students registered in open distance tertiary institutions with lived experiences of clinical accompaniment in distance learning.
Table of contents Page
CHAPTER 1 Orientation and overview of the study
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE RESEACH PROBLEM
1.2.1 Overview of UNISA as an open distance learning institution
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.4 PURPOSE AND AIM OF RESEARCH
1.5 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
1.6 RESEARCH QUESTION
1.7 PARADIGMATIC PERSPECTIVE
1.9 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
CHAPTER 2 Methodology: phenomenology as a guiding framework
2.2 DEFINITION OF PHENOMENOLOGY
2.3 THE MAIN SCHOOLS OF PHENOMENOLOGY IN NURSING
2.4 PHENOMENOLOGY AS A PHILOSOPHY AND A RESEARCH APPROACH
2.5 CRITICISMS OF PHENOMENOLOGY
2.6 APPLICATION OF HEIDEGGER’S PHILOSOPHICAL UNDERPINNINGS TO THE METHODOLOGY AND THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK GUIDING THE STUDY
2.7 RATIONALE FOR THE USE OF INTEPRETIVE HERMENEUTIC PHENOMENOLOGY IN THIS
CHAPTER 3 Research design and methodology: a qualitative paradigm
3.2 RESEARCH SETTING
3.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
3.4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.5 DATA COLLECTION PROCESS AND METHOD
3.6 ETHICAL CONSDERATIONS
3.7 RIGOUR AND TRUSTWORTHINESS IN THE STUDY
3.8 DATA ANALYSIS PROCESS ADHERED TO IN THIS STUDY
CHAPTER 4 The data analysis and interpretation process adhered to in this study
4.2 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION PROCESS
4.3 RELATING THE DATA ANALYSIS TO THE PHILOSOPHICAL UNDER-PINNINGS AND THE GUIDING FRAMEWORK OF THE STUDY
CHAPTER 5 Presentation of the research findings with specific literature support
5.2 RESEARCH FIDNDINGS
5.3 DISCUSSION OF THE THEMES CATEGORIES AND SUBCATEGORIES DERIVED FROM THE COLLECTED DATA
5.4 CONCLUSIONS RELATED TO THE FINDINGS
5.5 THE EMERGENT CONSTRUCT /CLASSICAL MEANING
CHAPTER 6 Guidelines for facilitation of clinical accompaniment of critical care nursing students in open distance learning
6.2 PROCESS OF DEVELOPING THE GUIDELINES
6.3 APPLICATION OF THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE
6.4 FORMULATION OF GUIDELINES FOR FACILITATION OF CLINICAL ACCOMPANIMENT OF
CRITICAL CARE NURSING STUDENTS IN OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING
6.5 ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION OF THE GUIDELINES
CHAPTER 7 Conclusions, limitations and recommendations of the study
7.2 THE AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
7.3 CONCLUSIONS ON THE RESEARCH OF THE STUDY
7.4 EVALUATION OF THE GUIDELINES
7.5 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
7.7 CONCLUSIVE REMARKS AND REFLECTION OF THE LECTUER
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CRITICAL CARE NURSING STUDENTS’ EXPERIENCE OF CLINICAL ACCOMPANIMENT IN OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING (ODL): A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE