Creswell, John W. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design : Choosing among Five Traditions. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1998.

For my dissertation study, I chose to use a qualitative method (or series of methods), due to its multi-method focus, interpretive approach, and purpose. Qualitative studies analyze and interpret observations to discover meanings and patterns of relationships including social/human, classification, and other. Conversely, quantitative methods are aimed more toward using mathematical models, such as statistics, to gather measurable information. Creswell defines qualitative research as, “an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem” (15). In this way, it is logical to apply a qualitative perspective since my study is largely about social interaction, distance communication, and the way that participants perceive the experience of communicating through asynchronous video means.

In this book, Creswell details five different qualitative studies, including their background, tradition of inquiry, theoretical framework, application, and rhetorical structure, as well as effective means to collect data, analyze it, verify the process, and write the report. For my study, I have chosen what is largely a phenomenological approach because it focuses on understanding a concept or phenomenon and seeks to understand the meaning of the experiences of the participants; considering how they respond, interact, and experience the phenomenon to find some meaning of these participants’ experiences.

Creswell details four discernible themes in the phenomenological approach (52-53):
A return to the traditional tasks of philosophy.
This refers to the traditional concept of philosophy as a search for wisdom. As Creswell notes, “The researcher needs to understand the philosophical perspectives behind the approach, especially the concept of studying how people experience a phenomenon. I am grounding this study in the philosophical tenets of phenomenology, including those of Edmund Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, and apply an established set of procedures, all to discover the essence or underlying meaning of the experiences. Creswell notes a point of Husserl:

Researchers search for the essential, invariant structure (or essence) or the central underlying meaning of the experience and emphasize the intentionality of consciousness where experiences contain both outward appearance and inward consciousness based on memory, image, and meaning” (52).

A philosophy without presuppositions.
Husserl put forth the concept of epoche, the researcher’s suspension of all judgments about what is real and what he expects to find. While I, admittedly, may have gone in with an idea of what the study might reveal, I will suspend all such predictions or expectations and let the survey and interview responses determine the results. Similarly, since I a also a user of this technology and participant in the online video conversations, I must also bracket my perspective regarding my own experience with this phenomenon.

The intentionality of consciousness
This concept relates to the idea that consciousness is always intentionally directed toward an object. Therefore, the reality of an object is directly related to one’s consciousness of it. In part, this idea relates to the perspective the OVC participants regarding the adjacency of the other participants. This is to say, the participants sense a certain level of social presence of the other participants. Such a sense is subjective and therefore real for the experiencer.

The refusal of the subject-object dichotomy
This is closely related to the intentionality of consciousness and refers to the idea that an object’s reality is perceived only within the meaning of the experience of an individual.

Social Phenomenology
Of the various phenomenological approaches, I am applying a sociological perspective, which stems largely from the Alfred Schutz’ “The Phenomenology of the Social Word,” a text I will draw from for my study.

Schutz is interested in how ordinary members of society constitute the world of everyday life, especially how individuals consciously develop meaning out of social interactions (people interacting with each other)” (53).

Data Collection
In my last post on my pre-proposal methodology section, I discussed my three data collection techniques. The first collection method–a survey of students who have actually participated in and experienced the phenomenon of the OVC–fits with Creswell’s procedures in that the research questions are explore the meaning of the experience for the individuals.

Data Analysis
The analysis of data through the phenomenological approach consists of A series of steps. I’ll likely adhere to these as detailed by Creswell (55): Dividing the original protocols into a series of statements (Horizonalization) and transforming those units into clusters of meanings, and using those units to make a general description of the experience including a structural description (how the participants experienced the phenomenon) and a textural description (what the participants experienced, including the meaning experienced) of what was experienced.

My goal in this approach is to emerge with a better understanding of “the essential, invariant structure (or essence) of the experience, recognizing that a single unifying meaning of the experience exists” (55).