Chapter 4: RESEARCH METHOD

 

As seen in the previous chapter the research chose to use the method of empirical phenomenological analysis devised by Giorgi (1985) as a tool of enquiry in order to explore the therapist's experience of a client who is reluctant to talk. In this chapter the researcher operationalises the research question by establishing the practical steps in Giorgi's method. Sampling will also be defined and the ethical issues inherent to conducting a qualitative research considered.


4.1 Sampling

The term 'participant' expresses the idea that the interviewee works cooperatively with the primary researcher (Osborne, 1990) whereas for other authors the term 'co-researchers' is more appropriate and encouraging of the human approach behind qualitative interviewing (Tripp-Reimer et al., 1994). Not one particular way of naming the participant seemed to have been needed in order to help conduct the interview, and so the term of 'participant' remained the term used by the researcher throughout the research process.

As seen earlier Giorgi's method of enquiry requires a sample of participants in order to operationalise its process of imaginative variation (Giorgi et al, 1983). Qualitative samples are typically small – but information rich (Patton, 1990). Also, descriptive phenomenology generally uses 'maximum variation sampling' as its primary method of sampling (Langdridge, 2007: 57) which implies that the sample should demonstrate as wide a variety of demographic characteristics as possible whilst still related to the experience of working with a client who was reluctant to talk (Mason, 1997; Polkinghorne, 1989).

Organisational constrains and risks of being overwhelmed with too much data were carefully taken into consideration and on this basis it was decided that a sample size of seven participants would be a reasonable figure for providing the necessary depth in variations that a qualitative approach requires.

A briefing document was sent to each participants where it was made explicitly clear that the interviews were going to be tape-recorded and the data eventually published in a dissertation.


4.2 Selection of Participants

To qualify for this research project it was initially asked that the participants should be trainee or practicing psychotherapist or counsellor accredited with a regulating body (i.e. BACP/UKCP) as well as willing to join the researcher in a mutual effort to investigate in details their experience of a client who appeared to be reluctant to talk.

Several candidates expressed their interest and responded positively by kindly offering to share their experience as part of this research project. At the end six females and one male therapists were selected and then invited to attend one informal semi-structured interview in a mutually convenient location where he or she could reflect upon their personal experience in relation to the research topic.

It was made clear that the interview would be tape-recorded and the data eventually published in a dissertation.


4.3 Ethical Considerations

Qualitative research requires sensitivity to the ethical and political dimensions of the research (Mariano, 1990).

An ethics application (Appendix I – IV) was therefore reviewed and subsequently approved in January 2010 by the School of Ethics Committee at Roehampton University Ethics board.

Participants were then sent a briefing document (Appendix I) stipulating that the researcher would like to invite him or her to take part in an MSc research study which aimed at exploring in details the therapist’s experience of being confronted with a client who was reluctant to talk. It was made explicitly clear in this document that the aim of this research paper was to compile a detailed description of this phenomenon so as to heighten therapists’ awareness about this situation and help create more possibilities for interventions.


Participants were told they could withdraw at any point before a specific date (see Appendix I) when data would be collated for submission. They were also told that the interviews would be transcribed and stored in a secure location ensuring all identities remained anonymous. It was specified that the data would be destroyed after 6 years as per university guidelines and that the results of the study would not be used for any other purpose. Finally, the participants were told that the final dissertation and transcripts would be made available to them on request.


Langdridge (2007: 62) writes“Consent is perhaps the most fundamental of all ethical principles” and so, once selected, a consent form was sent for all seven participants to sign and return (Appendix II). Once the participants' consent were secured the researcher offered an arrangement with regard to the place and time for the interview to take place. According to Grafanaki (1996: 5) “Choosing the right place for conducting the research can be as important as recruiting appropriate participants” and therefore it was decided on a common accord with the participants that the interviews would take place at the clinics where they worked respectively. The researcher made sure that the participants' privacy was always going to be respected by people who could have access to the room.

If the aim was to encourage the participants to talk about his or her experience in an as a “complete, honest, rich and authentic” (McLeod, 2000: 197) manner as possible it remained nonetheless of the utmost priority for the researcher to never intrude, violate or infringe on the the participant's right to privacy. As Levinas (1985: 86) wrote

“The face is exposed, menaced, as if inviting us to an act of violence. At the same time, the face is what forbids us to kill”


It was in a spirit of creating, sustaining and nurturing an ethical relationship of responsibility towards all participants that the researcher approached the interviews in the context of this research project. At the end of the interviews a thank-you letter was sent to each participants for their valuable contribution. In the next chapter the researcher is going to examine the findings.




4.4 Data Collection

In order to acquire the necessary naive descriptions for the method the researcher opted for conducting a semi-structured interview. For Langdridge (2007: 65) “this approach to interviewing represents a trade-off between consistency and flexibility that best meets the needs of many qualitative researchers”.

In line with the principles underlying semi-structured interviews it was important to first create a relax atmosphere and develop a rapport which helped the participant explore his or her experience in relation with the subject being studied.

Once set up the researcher went through the Participant Briefing Form and Participant Consent Form (Appendix I & II) with the participant and asked whether there were any questions the participants wished to ask before starting the interview.


The researcher then asked the research question “Please can you explore with us your experience of working with a client who was reluctant to talk?”

In line with Giorgi's method the researcher would not engage in any kind of conversations or dialogues, except in re-iterating the question when the participant seemed in need of support (Giorgi, 1985).

Interviews were recorded safely using a digital recorder and declared complete once the participant agreed that he had no more to add to his description of the experience being studied.

Finally the recorded data were subsequently transcribed onto word format so as to be ready for analysis. The participant is regarded as a 'subject' and therefore denominated by the letter S (Giorgi, 1985).



4.5 Data Analysis

Giorgi's method has for aim to conduct a direct analysis of the psychological meaning of naive descriptions (Giorgi, 1985: 1) in relation to a therapist's experience of working with a client who is reluctant to talk.

The analysis was conducted following the four essential steps as defined by Giorgi (1985: 10-19).

1. The researcher read the entire description several times in order to get a sense of the whole. At this stage the researcher also engaged in bracketing off his preconceptions in relation with the experience being studied (Langdridge, 2007: 88). It was important to read the text with a sense of discovery without trying to impose meanings or describing what was going through the researcher's mind.

2. Discrimination of Meaning Units Within a Psychological Perspective and Focused on the Phenomenon Being Researched. Once the researcher had grasped the sense of the whole the transcript was read again with the specific aim of discriminating 'meaning units' “from within a psychological perspective” (Giorgi, 1985: 11) and in relation to the therapist's experience of working with a client who is reluctant to talk.

As advocated by Giorgi (1985) the meaning units were identified spontaneously by detecting a change within the narrative. Pauses in talk were important in this respect (Langdridge, 2007: 89). The meaning units were selected as 'constituents' on the basis that they had an indisputable relation with the experience under investigation. The researcher preserved the original language of the participant in order to conserve in full the meaning as it was being expressed in the transcript. Finally, the discriminated meaning units were placed on the left-hand side of a table representing the analysis



3.Transformation of Subject's Everyday Expressions into Psychological Language with Emphasis on the Phenomenon Being Investigated.

In this phase the researcher assessed the meaning units for their psychological significance. The meaning units which had no particular relevance to the experience under investigation were removed and the psychological insight expressed in the remaining meaning units brought to the fore (Giorgi, 1985: 17).

Also in this procedure, the meaning units or constituents were distilled through a process called 'imaginative variation' (Giorgi, 1895: 18) whereby the researcher imagined alternatives in order to delimit the set of experience that defines the phenomena under investigation. At this level of analysis the researcher provided a description which was neither universal because context related nor particular but general and enlightened by phenomenological common sense (Giorgi, 1985: 50).


4. “Synthesis of Transformed Meaning Units into a Consistent Statement of the Structure of the Experience.

In this process all the insights contained in the meaning units transformed in 3. were synthesised into a consistent description of the structure of the experience (Giorgi, 1985: 19).

One individual structural description was then produced for each participants before generating a general structural description. All the psychological meaning units were synthesised through an identification of the key elements or invariant properties in the experience being described (Langdridge, 2007: 90).

Finally the researcher presented the final general structural description representative of the essence of the therapist's experience of working with a client who is reluctant to talk. Verbatim from the participants' transcripts were used in order to illustrate the structure (Wertz, 1984)


In the following chapter the researcher will be looking at the findings.

   

 

Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Literature review

Methodology

Research method

Findings

Discussion

References

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