Qualitative research is one of the two types of empirical research designs and this method was employed for my research and enquiry. Qualitative research is fundamentally an exploratory investigation and is characterised by a broad methodological approach. This involves a thorough comprehension of underlying impetuses and perspectives. It intends to scrutinise a question without quantifying variables or drawing parallels between these variables. It is regarded as more restrictive in testing hypotheses due to the elevated costs and the time consuming nature, particularly in contrast to quantitative methods. Qualitative research is ordinarily used as a basis for subsequent quantitative research. Its data collection methods vary using unstructured or semi-structured techniques—with regard to my research, a semi structured approach was adopted. Frequently used methods include focus groups, interviews, and participant observation—the method employed in my investigation was interviews.
This essay aims to evaluate the research process and methods executed by my group, whilst elaborating on our findings as well as interesting parallels and considerations discerned that may be useful for future investigations possessing a similar basis and stratagem. The general topic of investigation given was to relate to university lifestyle. As asserted by Creswell (2013), all qualitative research commences with an issue; thence, as a group, the issues related to university lifestyle were identified. Further, we concluded that social life was arguably the biggest factor in university for a student—and this varied from student to student—due to underlying factors such as location and living costs. Subsequently, we intended to investigate the apparent dichotomy between social life on campus and social life in the city. Howbeit, it became evident that the scope for discussion in such an investigation was rather limited as only very few, similar questions could be asked of our participants. Consequently, our topic of investigation slightly altered. The research topic which we eventually opted to investigate was the quality of student life on campus in comparison to the quality of student life in the city. This was chosen as apart from social life, we were also able to enquire about accommodation, transport, and amenities.
In order to conduct our research, overt participatory interviews were employed as our research method. This was our chosen method as interviews elicit requisite information for enquiries and they illustrate, as well as emphasise upon, central themes. Phones were used to record the interviews, and we ensured these were password protected to ensure the privacy and anonymity of participants and these recording were later transcribed. The investigation was tactfully and sensitively executed, as this was necessary to maximise the quality of research and reliability of results as asserted by Seidman (2013). The “Explore, don’t probe,” method was adopted and the participants were made to feel comfortable during the interviews (Seidman, 2013).Prior to the research implementation, consent forms were signed by both the interviewer and interviewee to ensure the research was ethical and anonymity was a huge factor in maintaining participant privacy. An interview timetable was also constructed and subsequently adhered to. The schedule listed the wording and sequencing of questions and provided a means by which the reliability of my research data was augmented. As a group of 4, we interviewed 8 participants (2 per person), ranging from first year to third year students—making it a micro-study. Each person interviewed on male and one female, as well as one person living on campus, and another in the city. In retrospect, the gender factor had no effect on results, albeit this is partly due to the fact that gender was not an original consideration—one male and female from both campus and city should have been interviewed to witness the intricate parallels introduced by the gender factor. The gender factor was considered by Vaez and Laflamme (2003) and Cicognani et al (2007). In both research enquiries, it was found that gender impacted on the quality of life in the respective locations.
My interviews were characterised by a structured setting in which each interview was conducted with the same questions in the same order. This minimised the impact of context effects, where the answers can be dependent on the nature of the preceding questions. This was done as it ensured that responses were reliably aggregated and comparisons could be drawn between different samples with confidence. With this method, answers to questions are often pre-set and close-ended, but I opted for open-ended responses to allow further participant exploration and to enable more parallels to be detected within these more detailed responses. However, as with all research methods, there were limitations—there were complications with the interview planning. Recruiting participants proved difficult due to the personal nature of the interview. In addition, arranging the venue and time of the interview proved difficult—I had one participant cancel the interview, making me search for another participant, which extended the time spent on data collection. Furthermore, the topic researched is not widely investigated, thence we had limited secondary resources to compare and contrast findings with.
Employing focus groups instead, as our research method, would have impacted our findings.
Interviewing demographically diverse groups would have resulted in a larger sample size and, in turn, more reliable results. In such a setting participants benefit from each other as build on their divergent views and enhance their comprehension of different issues, counteracting the extractive nature of research as illustrated by Romm (2015). Notwithstanding, this method was not chosen as it is subject to bias, observer dependency and a lack of anonymity.
In synthesis, we discerned that the quality of life on campus appeared to be better than in the city. The central and recurring themes were transportation, social life and location. Interviewees on campus were satisfied with transportation, though they make much less use of it, whilst those in the city were dissatisfied with the transportation to and fro campus—with one defining it as ‘unreliable’. Nightlife in the city was generally preferred by both groups, albeit campus dwellers tend to attend club nights on campus whilst those in the city seldom have nights out on campus, citing transportation and ‘a worse experience’ as reasons for these choices. From this, it was evident that location impacted social life. Further, campus students find it easier too socialise due to being around more student and being ‘closer to societies’. Those in the city found it easier to shop for clothing and food items, due to proximity to shops, in contrast with those on campus. Thence, a consideration for the university may be to improve the transport services.