which methodological approach to use?

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    I am doing a research study on the information behaviour (i.e., how do people find and use information for a variety of purposes) of women researchers. Information here has a subjective meaning and therefore can be interpreted differently. The study aims at identifying the information needs, information sources used and the process of finding information, the barriers participants may face and finally to describe how information found was put into use. Due to the exploratory nature of the study I will collect data by using diaries and interviews.


    My question is in which methodological approach would you describe my study? It seems to me that it is not a case study because a case study is a bounded system and my topic is about information behaviour, and I could sample indefinitely. Ethnography is also a form of qualitative research examined but the emphasis in this study is not on the socio-cultural interpretation and observation will be not used due to ethical reason.  A grounded theory study is also a form of qualitative research examined but the emphasis is not on building a substantive theory from the data, rather exploration, depth investigation and description.


    Sometimes, I came to a conclusion that the research literature does not offer an answer with regard to what type of research methodology my study can be categorised. Because I am not a research methodologist, it is important for me to hear from you and learn from your experiences. 

    Katie Metzler

    Hi Fatmah,

    I’ve got a couple of questions, out of interest, why ‘of women researchers?’ Do you think you’ll find a difference between men and women researchers and the way they find and use information? Do you have some pre-conceptions which have led you to approach this as study of just women researchers?

    The question ‘What is my methodology?’ is sort of unanswerable. This is for you to determine based on what you want to emphasise and what the essence of your research question is and the beliefs you hold. If you wanted to prioritise the everyday lived experiences of women researchers, you would be doing a phenomenological study for example. You’re on the right track with the comments you’ve made about traditional uses of case studies and ethhnography, but you seem to be saying that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ methodology for you to use, but it’s about what you are trying to find out and also what you want to emphasise in your research. Perhaps you might want to read about feminist methodologies – these authors are very good. http://www.andreadoucet.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Doucet-Mauth…

    What is your research question? What led you to chose this as a research topic? You are using diaries and interviews – why? How will you analyse your data? Thinking through some of these questions will help you to work out what your priorities are and your beliefs about epistemology and ontology, which will, in turn, help you to position yourself within a research tradition.

    I hope that helps!!


    John Glass

    I would consider this to be an inductive study if I were conducting it. As such, I would not be worried about what to call the method, just concerned with the data I would collect.

    If you are using diaries and interviews, you will need to perform some kind of content analysis. You might consider something as simple as word count frequencies to begin with. From there, you could begin the process of developing codes and categories. It also depends on what the purpose of the research is. If it is purely “academic,” then you could stop with the development of the codes and categories and begin the interpretive analysis (as an aside, it is hard not to utlize “socio-cultural” interpretation of the data; this is what we all do, regardless of how “objective” we are attempting to be). If you are interested in developing an application/interention based on the data (i.e., how to improve information utilization by women researchers), then you might go beyond the codes and categories and begin to focus the analysis on how to remove or reduce the barriers (which might require more data collection).

    So, in my mind, what you call what you are doing is not as important as the purpose of why you are doing it. Methods are just different ways of collecting data. To some extent, you have already decided on a method (collecting diaries and interviews). I would suggest making sure that that method is going to provide you with all of the data you need to fulfill the purpose of the study.

    Those are my thoughts.


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