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The focus of this chapter is to present the research methodology used in this study. The chapter also focuses on how the methodology guide the process of data collection, data analysis and theory development on diversity strategies and best practices in community colleges and universities. The chapter first introduces the purpose of the study and explores background information on grounded theory. It then the relevance of grounded theory methodology to this research. The chapter also examines data sources, sampling techniques, data collection, data analysis techniques and methodology limitations..
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this research is examine and analyze strategies and best practices used by community colleges and universities in advancing diversity issues in higher education. The paper further develops a grounded theory to explain higher education institution diversity initiatives and policies. This study will seek to answer the following research question:
What strategies and best practices do community colleges use in their efforts to improve diversity?
Rationale for Methodology
To answer the research question posed above, the researcher relied on grounded theory methodology. Ground theory uses qualitative data collection and analysis techniques. It has been established as an appropriate and robust approach for carrying out qualitative research in which the purpose is to inductively generate theory in research (Brady & Loonam, 2010). Grounded theory enables a researcher to develop a theory that offers an explanation about the main concern of the population of which in this case population in higher education, the concern being diversity. It is a methodology developed by sociologists Glaser and Strauss in 1967 in order to describe a new qualitative method they used in their research. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Grounded theory methodology is used to generate theories, test and elaborate upon previous grounded theories and ongoing analysis of data (Creswell, 2003). It is mainly concerned about how the theory fits the facts, understanding the facts and generality control. The sociologists believed that the quality of a theory can be evaluated by the process by which the theory is constructed where as scientists based their evaluations on the ability to explain new data. They used this approach to discover categories, concepts and properties read from a textual database to evaluate their interrelatedness.
The main aim of grounded theory methodology is to unravel basic social processes. Grounded theory is idyllic for exploring essential social relationships and the behavior of groups where there has been diminutive exploration of the contextual factors that affect individual’s lives (Crooks, 2001). Grounded theory helps in executing the process so as to resolve the concern (Charmaz, 2006). It is a constant comparative analysis method which enables you to seek out and conceptualize the concealed social patterns and structures of your area of interest. It allows for new concepts and theories to emerge from gathered data and is mostly used in humanities and social science literature (Strauss, 2007).[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Contributions of grounded theory can be useful and valid even when they don’t make their way into the formal standards of higher learning as it is not entirely based on a wholly original or groundbreaking theory (Compton & Barrett, 2016). As long as it is substantive and meaningful data it can be used in the resolving of a specific human or social behavior within a selected population. The researcher constructs a theory through the analysis of data (Baron & Eisner, 2004). Strauss and Corbin captures the relevance of grounded theory to the exploration of social phenomena in their famous assertion that;
If someone wanted to know whether one drug is more effective than another, then a double blind clinical trial would be more appropriate than grounded theory study. However, if someone wanted to know what it was like to be a participant in a drug study .., then he or she might sensibly engage in a grounded theory project or some other type of qualitative study. (p. 40).
Grounded theory belongs to the realm of qualitative inquiry. Qualitative research is done under a different set of assumptions about the nature of truth and reality as compared to quantitative based research (Creswell, 1993). A qualitative research design was adopted for this particular research. The study relied on grounded theory to answer the questions developed above. Qualitative data was collected from diversity officers from community colleges that are members of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE).
Barritt (1986) argues that by increasing awareness and subsequently increasing discourse around experiences, a better understanding emerges. A theoretical perspective had to be formulated to improve current practice towards civic engagement in higher education. This would help institutional missions to clarify values and priorities as they set goals for the future. A grounded theory approach was used by researchers for Iranian students to study on the quality improvement in virtual higher education. The article seeks to explore the elements of quality and quality improvement including the process and specific actions associated with these elements, which contribute to enhancing quality in virtual higher education institutions. Since grounded theory is all about comparing facts a comparative analysis was implemented to construct a grounded theory model.
In grounded theory research, the researcher’s role is to uncover something that is already there (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) . The concept of emergence of categories and of theory also plays an inventive role of the researcher. The researcher has to deliver a fully formed theory which is profoundly influenced by positivist, which is a theory that data can be acquired only through observation and experimentation.
This research adopts a constructivist grounded theory approach. Charmaz observed that “the researcher can move grounded theory methods further into the realm of interpretive social science consistent with a Blumarian (1969) emphasis on meaning, without assuming the existence of unidimensional external reality” (Charmaz, p. 521). In a constructivist grounded theory, the role of the researcher is not to be just an observer but also a participant.
Population and Sample
Research participants were identified using researcher judgment. Diversity officers from five community colleges and five four-year universities were selected as participants. The diversity officers were from institution that won one of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education diversity awards. Information about participants and winners of NADOHE diversity awards was drawn from publications on the official website of NADOHE. NADOHE has 130 institutional members and serves as one of the few organization whose mission is to “serve as the preeminent voice for diversity officers” (n. d.). Thus, NADOHE is a critical source of research participants who are experts on diversity in higher education institutions. The research was also done under the guidance of the university’s ethical principles that are laid out in the human subject protection codes.
Grounded theory mainly relies on theoretical sampling, also known as purposive sampling. With theoretical sampling, research participants are chosen using a criteria developed by the researcher. Initial findings are also critical to the creation of a sample. The process of early data collection highlights issues that need to be explored and provides the guidance for sampling and the development of theory.
According to Glaser and Strauss (1967) theoretical sampling is a process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects codes and analyses his data and decides what data to collect and where to find them in order to develop a theory as it emerges. It involves constant comparison and theoretical saturation and common procedures are used in the initial sampling.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Data collection techniques
According to Miles and Huberman (1994), data collection and analysis is done through alternating sequences. Alternating sequences are also described as iterative cycles of induction and deduction. Thus, data is collected and new findings are identified and it is from the new findings that further data is collected. Key variables critical for the research are not identified before the data collection process. They are a product of the data collection and analysis process. Variables are initiated by research participants and then adopted and used by the researcher. The cycle of data collection and analysis is broken when the researcher reaches the point of theoretical saturation. Theoretical saturation is the stage in research when the data collected is no longer new and the analysis is developing no new variables.
Creswell (1998) argued that the process of data collection for grounded theory is rigorous. According to Creswell (1998) grounded theory is done through “a series of interrelated activities aimed at gathering information to answer emerging question” (p. 110). Two key elements are needed for data collection which are the selection of relevant research participants and information gathering.
The main data collection technique used in this research the interview. Interview questions for grounded theory research are usually broad so as to give the participant enough room to discuss issues that are important to them. Through coding, key concepts are created and categories developing that are critical to the development of grounded theory. According to Charmaz (2006), coding constitutes the initial step in the data analysis process. Coding also enables the researcher to move from the statements of gathered in the interviewing process to abstracts critical in the interpretation of data and development of theory.
Most grounded theory research relies on open or line by line coding. Open coding allows the researcher to create new themes and concepts by listing all critical elements from the research transcripts. The researcher goes through an interview line and attach labels on every line. Line by line coding though tedious enable the researcher to create labels and interpret the data with fresh eyes and new assumptions. After focused coding, the researcher can then adopt selective coding.
Selective coding focuses on particular lines of an interview transcript. The next stage is the synthesization of categories developed in the open and selective coding phases. This phases known as axial coding is comprised of matching categories and subcategories together to create robust themes (Charmaz, 2006). Because of the rigidity of the axial coding process, it is often better to do theoretical coding and skip this phase. Theoretical coding helps in exploring the relationship between key categories.
Managing and Recording Data
Data management is viewed as a critical part of the research process. According to Weitzman (2000), the use of research and other advanced technology enhances the process of writing, editing, coding and storage of information. Software improves data management and reduces the amount of documents that a researcher has to keep. The utilization of Ms Office software and NVivo aids with the categorization and storage of important research data.
Software like NVivo is not only a data analysis tool but also useful for data management. Transcribed data collected from interviews of diversity officers is safely stored and later used for theory development. NVivo is a welcome development in the organization arranging and management of huge amounts of data derived from extensive interviews. As Weitzman (2000) observed, software can help with consistency and comprehensiveness. Thus, the research heavily relies on software for data management and analysis.
Data Analysis Procedures
Data collected from diversity officers through interviews, literature review and institutional documents was analyzed using a three part coding and analysis procedure. The three part procedure included;
- Open coding – which is to find categories
- Axial coding – which is to find links between the themes or categories
- Selective coding –which is to find the core category
The three processes mentioned above are one of the main characteristics of grounded theory. The coding text is used to theorize the data collected and it is done in stages as illustrated below;
|Codes||Identify the attachments that allow the main points of the data to be gathered|
|Concepts||Compilation of codes of comparable content that allows the data to be grouped|
|Categories||Extensive groups of similar concepts that are used to generate a theory|
|Theory||A compilation of categories that specify the subject of the research|
Themes and categories developed in the coding process mentioned above are synthesized through a data analysis process of memo writing. The process of memo writing is the intermediate step between coding and the first draft of the research study. Memos are viewed as analytical thoughts developed during the coding process and cannot be treated as complete reviews and analysis of data. They also enable the documentation of the development of theory. Memos can also be considered as notes or researcher audit trail. They can be used in improving further interview questions and in the creation of meaning.
Use of Grounded Theory Methodology in this Study
Using the cyclical process that is at the center of theoretical sampling, this research used findings from early research to produce a new data collection process. The pilot study involved calling diversity officers from three colleges. The initial data collection phase was followed by more interviews. These were in-depth and developed the themes derived from the initial pilot study. A survey was also administered to colleges that are members of National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. The data collection process was divided into three distinct stages – pilot study, interviews and survey.
Charmaz (2006) developed an extensive criteria for performing grounded theory studies. According to Charmaz (2006) grounded theory research need to have a combination of four elements; credibility, originality, resonance and usefulness. All these elements come with a number of questions.
- Are there strong links between gathered data and argument?
- Are data sufficient to merit claims
- Do categories offer a wide range of empirical observations?
- Has the research provided enough evidence for the researcher’s claims to allow the reader to form an independent assessment?
- Do the categories offer new insights?
- What is the social and theoretical significance of this work?
- How does grounded theory challenge, extend, refine current ideas, concepts and practices?
- Do categories portray fullness of the studied experience?
- Does the grounded theory make sense to the participants?
- Does analysis offer them deeper insights about their lives and worlds?
- Can the analysis spark further research in other substantive areas?
- How does the work contribute to knowledge?
- Does the analysis offer interpretations that people can use in their everyday lives/worlds?
(Charmaz, 2006, p. 182).
Despite the ability to develop new theory that help explain new phenomena, grounded theory comes with its own limitations. The main problem with grounded theory is that it is time consuming. The process of going through different phases of coding, the interviewing process and the constant developing of themes and categories eats into the researcher’s time. Qualitative researchers have development advanced software to deal with time issues but these softwares have not completely eliminated the long data collection and analysis process.
Another important element that limits the impact of grounded theory research is that it is subjective. The data collection and analysis process is only as good as the researcher. Because it allows subjectivity, grounded theory is prone to abuse by researchers lacking methodological skills and strength (Charmaz, 2006). [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
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