In broad terms, qualitative techniques are the approaches that allow individuals, organizations or even government institutions examine people’s experience and traits by using specific research methods such as interviews, focus group discussions, observations, content analysis, illustration methods, and life histories and biographies (Rihoux& Ragin, 2009).
Qualitative techniques are the tools that assist in the elucidation and appreciativeness of social interactions and phenomena. Perhaps, one of the main features of qualitative techniques is that they assist the researchers or those who are conducting the specific investigation identify issues from their perspective of the study hence understanding the meanings as well as the interpretations that they get to behavior, events and objectivity. In addition, qualitative methods are typically used for providing an in-depth understanding of the issue that embraces the perspectives of the population under study and the context under which they live.
Essentially, according to Miller & Dingwall (1997), qualitative techniques involve the use of qualitative data such as the results of an interview, documents and participant observation data in a communal perspective and the techniques include; questionnaire method techniques, qualitative research technique, interview technique, computer application techniques, case study techniques as well as observations. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, they are the techniques that are suitable for addressing and describing sensitive issues such certain traits in particular matters of public interest.
In addition to this, qualitative techniques are very vital in understanding and explain people’s views and behaviors, understanding processes such as how people make decisions and uncovering the meaning that people give to their experiences. Additionally, qualitative techniques offer understanding of the social interactions among diverse people alongside uncovering the social, political, cultural and economic alignments in which activities take place as well as giving voice to the issues of a certain population. In other words, qualitative techniques are aimed at gaining deep understanding of a particular organization or event rather than a surface description of a large mass of individuals. Most importantly, the practices aim at providing an explicit representation of the structure, array and broad patterns of a group of participants.
The methods are also known as over ages because many scholars are used to referring to the methods as field technique equipments. In this way, qualitative techniques generate data about human groups in communal settings. Most importantly, qualitative techniques aims at the acquisition of information through first-hand experience, truthful reporting’s and quotations of actual conversations (Watzlawik & Born, 2007). Moreover, the techniques aim at deriving meanings from the individuals under study and establishing how the issue under investigation influences their way of expression.
With respect to regional elections, qualitative techniques are mostly emphasized in different dimensions. In regional elections, qualitative techniques or methods are used to establish and better understand the experience of voters.
According to Raggis (2012), this involves understanding why individuals are involved in voting, whether they had problems when they tried voting, as well as noting their views on the voting system. In fact, the partaker’s opinions about possible voting system are recorded, their trust and confidence in the election process noted, and finally, how participants think about new voting mechanisms in order to streamline the entire voting process in the future are established through the utilization of the qualitative techniques.
Several surveys have recognized that qualitative techniques are vital in uncovering and providing overall summary evaluation of regional elections voters’ experiences. Inherently, the shifted focus onto critical and structural elections suggest that greater use of qualitative techniques help comprehending of electoral processes as grounded, contingent and embodied processes deeply intertwined with the broader societal surroundings.
There is a broad collection of approaches to qualitative techniques. Qualitative techniques have been developed to meaningfully account for and gain insight from localized surroundings, educational arrangements, and civilization as they outline and are ingeniously re-molded through personality life-courses, family units and the public. Hewitt and Stevens (2003), for example, explain that qualitative techniques
“involves reverential listening, hard and exigent activities, cautious consideration to fine distinction in the lives of ‘other individuals, ‘and a significant, long-term thoughtfulness of the implications of methods in the erection of meanings”.
Moreover, the technique delivers the best when used in the realm of the social and cultural interests; it consistently reflect concern for the role of symbols and language and of the act of research in creating illustrations and revealing truths about dissimilar aspects of human understanding (Ragin, 1989).
According to Ragin (1989), “Regional elections” utilize techniques that enable consideration of a group of people’s state of affairs in different environmental and political contexts. Local changes associated with global economic restructuring, unemployment, global health threats, security concerns and instructive transformations in addition to shaping which qualitative techniques should be adopted. Essentially, the qualitative techniques used in regional elections are as discussed below:
Survey questionnaires are one of the most valuable qualitative techniques that are used to describe complex phenomenon or situations in the real life. Essentially, regional elections are a complex task that involves collection of data regarding diverse people’s views and perceptions on a particular public policy (Presser, 2004). Survey questionnaires is an essential qualitative technique that allows collection of unique data, interpretation of events, illumination of experience and unexpected events from diverse people of varying roles and responsibilities in the society.
In a broad spectrum, in most cases, regional elections aims to provide means of obtaining views of the neglected in the society or rather those whom their views and concern are rarely heard and addressed (Presser, 2004). Employment of survey questionnaires in a qualitative study such as regional elections is vital as it allows collection of data in such a large geographical area. In addition, this technique can be used in a regional election when initial exploration with the aim of developing theories to explain different situations are required (Covington, 2008). According to Inter-parliamentary Union (2008), survey questionnaires can be defined as data collection technique which involves a standardized set of questions that are used to assemble the required information for a specific subject or phenomenon.
Ultimately, a survey questionnaire is a data collection technique associated with qualitative study and aims to test given hypotheses. In the case of regional elections, the researcher may tend to collect diverse participants views and perceptions regarding their experience and knowledge of a given public policy being tested (Covington, 2008). The use of survey questionnaire qualitative technique in a regional election can be supported by the fact that it ensures a rigorous and a systematic approach of data collection and thus ensuring that the required information is obtained (Presser, 2004). In addition, the technique ensures that the results obtained are reliable due to the fact that it follows a systematic procedure.
Regional election is a complex undertaking that encompasses collection of individuals views regarding a particular policy which is of public interest and thus to ensure the success of the process, adoption of a systematic approach and techniques is highly advocated (Covington, 2008).
According to Presser, (2004), survey questionnaires are used in regional elections due to the fact that they care highly cost effective. This means that the use of standardized set of question regarding a particular study topic enables the process to cut costs that could be incurred if different questions in different areas could be used. The author affirms his stand by stating that regional elections encompasses seeking information from diverse people from different cultural, economic, political, social and religious background. In this case, use of similar questions helps to reduce the costs that could be incurred if different questions were used for people from different areas and backgrounds.
In other words, the technique is paramount in regional elections as it helps to minimize the required financial resources (Sybouts, 1992). Survey questionnaires can also be incorporated in regional elections based on the fact indicated by Inter-parliamentary Union (2008), that they are comparatively simple to administer even in a large geographical area and easy to analyze.
Ultimately, survey questionnaires for many years have been identified as an essential technique that can be used when views of many people from different areas are required based on a certain policy issue of regional interest. Moreover, the technique is also used in regional elections since it is easy to educate individuals on how to present their views regarding a particular subject of interest through them. According to Covington, 2008, many people are conversant with survey questionnaires and thus tend to prefer the technique than any other in presenting their views and concerns. Most importantly, survey questionnaires are used in qualitative study such as regional election due to the fact that they incorporate simple and straightforward questions that can be completed in time and at place of participant’s choice or convenience (Presser, 2004).
Regional elections especially one involving important public issues such health and access to resources require qualitative technique such as survey questionnaires due to their ability to ensure that the participants are interrogated to ensure a comprehensive investigation of the phenomenon and collection of the appropriate and required data (Covington, 2008).
According to Inter-parliamentary Union (2008), survey questionnaires are essential in undertaking regional elections since they help to reduce the probability of errors and bias when collecting information regarding a particular policy issue of public interest (Covington, 2008). More importantly, adoption of survey questionnaires in conducting regional elections can not be underestimated due to the ability of the technique to be effectively correlate with qualitative study through collection of data based on behaviors and interactions of the issue under investigation (Sybouts, 1992).
The technique is also vital in conducting regional elections where appropriate results based on individuals views and perceptions are required. The fact that survey questionnaires eliminate errors and bias makes it necessary to use this technique in regional elections and helps to improve the validity and reliability of information collected (Sybouts, 1992).
Despite the above reason supporting survey questionnaires in regional elections, the procedure is associated with various shortcomings that may hinder the process of data collection in a wide geographical area. To start with, the method is inflexible and in most cases and hinders the process of administering the questionnaires to the area of focus.
According to Inter-parliamentary Union, (2008), survey process that is used at the initial stage of a study can not be changed throughout the process of data collection. Design inflexibility of this procedure is regarded as a weakness that can be an impendent to effective data collection (Covington, 2008). Nevertheless, the use of survey ensures fairness and precision throughout the process of data collection. With respect to elections in a wide geographical area, administering questionnaires must be done in a flexible manner to ensure the required data pertaining a specific issue of public interest is effectively addressed.
In addition, use of survey questionnaires for data collection is not suitable especially when the aim of the study involves controversial issues in the society (Inter-parliamentary Union, 2008).
According to Presser, (2004), questions that contain aspects of controversial may lead to problems when it comes to answering by the respondents. With respect to regional elections, survey would not be effective if the primary aim of data collection is to investigate controversial issues such as marriage between individuals’ from the same gender (Presser, 2004). The author affirms that such controversial issues in the society as better handled through other qualitative techniques such as focus groups or face to face interviews (Covington, 2008). For instance, a regional election may seek to investigate individuals’ views and perceptions regarding passing anti-gay law. In this case, use of survey questionnaires may result to invalid and unreliable data as the participants tend to indicate false information since there is no direct contact with the researcher (Presser, 2004).
The other main drawback of survey questionnaires in collecting data regarding a particular issue in a given area is the fact the method sometimes lead to inappropriateness of questions. Initially, survey questions are standardized prior to administering them to the target subjects. In this regard, the administrator must come up with general questions that cover the whole population (Sybouts, 1992). Nevertheless, such general questions may sometimes become inappropriate to some participants due to diverse factors such as culture, religion among others.
According to Inter-parliamentary Union, (2008), survey questions that aim to collect data from a diverse geographical area should account for various aspects such as cultural and religious background of the participants to reduce inappropriateness of the questions to some respondents. In addition, the researcher should focus on the nature of the questions before administering them to ensure that they do not counter attack some participant’s beliefs and culture (Sybouts, 1992). With respect to regional elections, the researcher should focus on the nature of the situation or rather the variable being investigated in order to come up with the most appropriate questions to all target population.
Notably, the technique is not worth using when the main aim of the study is to collect individual’s feelings, emotions and behaviors towards a particular situation or subject (Covington, 2008). In this case, the method is not adequate or rather appropriate in collecting such information. Most of the survey questions tend to close ended, in this case, the technique may not be effective where vast information is required regarding a given phenomenon in the society (Presser, 2004).
Qualitative research is based on phenomenologist approach which is simply an artificial creation of the research questions and in most cases tends to provide inadequate information which lack proper explanation (Covington, 2008). In this case, the data collected may lack validity and hence cannot be relied upon in the context of regional or leadership elections (Sybouts, 1992). In relation to regional elections, most issues covered required proper explanation and adequate information to ensure a more justified and reliable inferences. Because a region covers a wide area, studying a given phenomenon requires vast knowledge from all individuals within the area since their views and feeling may vary (Presser, 2004). In such cases, use of survey questionnaires may act as an obstacle to effective investigation and achievement of the set goals and objectives.
According to Sybouts, (1992), qualitative techniques such as survey questionnaires are not appropriate in cases when the participants or rather the respondents are required to provide their views regarding a past event. In this case, the respondents may forget some vital information thus rendering the accuracy of the information provided questionable. In addition, it is hard to measure the accuracy of the data collected, and to tell authenticity of the information provided by the participants (Covington, 2008). Finally, conducting regional election using qualitative techniques such as survey questionnaires tends to be questionable since different respondents interpret questions based on their own understanding and thus may lead to diverse answers in a similar question (Sybouts, 1992). This implies that the primary goal of conducting the election might not be reached due to inaccurate and varying data.
Case study “a qualitative technique”
A qualitative case study is a technique and an approach that is used by researchers to facilitate exploration of a phenomena within a particular context using a variety of data sources to reach a solution.
According to Klenke (2008), case studies allow the regional issue to be explored in a variety of lenses, which in this case allow for manifold phases of the phenomena under investigation. Most importantly, there are two key approaches that guide case study technique; one of the approaches was proposed by Stake (1995) and the other one was suggested by Yin (2006). The two approaches ensure that the subjects of interest are explored as well as the essence of the incident under exploration and research revealed. However, despite working towards achieving goal of common interest, they employ quite different methodologies.
According to Klanke (2008), a case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real- life context especially when the real boundaries between the phenomenon are not clearly evident. Moreover, a qualitative case study is an intensive holistic description and analysis of a single instance, issue of public interest (regional elections) as well as a technique for research that involves a social unit.
According to Green (2011), the deployment of a case study on qualitative research involving regional elections subject to regional elections contribute to the general understanding of the nature and the views of the social group under research. Experienced qualitative researchers on the social issues and regional making of choices have identified case study as a stand-alone qualitative technique.
According to Green (2011), case study research has a higher level of flexibility that is not readily offered by other qualitative techniques in matters concerning regional elections. They are the techniques that in this case are designed to suit the case of the subject under examination and in the perspective of regional elections; case studies demonstrate wide diversity in the technique design. Inherently, a case study involve careful and in-depth consideration of the nature of the case, historical background of the phenomenon under study, the physical setting including the perceptions and believes as well as other institutional and political contextual factors.
An interpretive method or social constructivist approach to qualitative case studies well fit when employed in the matters concerning regional elections. This works well where the researchers employ the transactional method of inquiry and includes a personal interaction with the case. In this way, the case is developed in a relationship between the researchers and the participants, and are presented to involve the target results with anticipation for a straightforward case discovery ( Klanke, 2008). As earlier quoted, in the case of the case study technique in the regional election aspect, multiple data collection and analysis are further adopted to develop and understand the case and are shaped by context and emergent data. This qualitative technique explores contemporary bound and multiple bounded systems over time and works well in regional elections point of view.
As qualitative technique, case study has proven to be of significance and great importance in many aspects of public and regional gathering of information concerning issues of public concern (Lodico et al., 2010). Especially in regional elections, case study as a technique provides a good source of ideas about behaviors, beliefs as well as the alignment of individuals towards making decisive choices in specific regions.
Secondly, case studies are advantageous in the process off collection of qualitative data because it provides a good foundation for studying rare phenomena. In addition, Lodico et al (2010) argues that case study provides a basis for finding good methods for challenging theoretical assumptions hence finding the real information about a specific phenomenon. However, Case study as a qualitative technique has its own shortcomings. For instance, with the use of case studies in regional elections, it is probably hard to draw definite cause and effect conclusions. In addition, there is possibility of biased results as well as difficulties in generalizing from one case.
Observation as a qualitative technique
Observations involves noting systematically and recording occurrences and behavior as the they occur in their natural and social setting that has been identified and selected for the study. It is a way of gathering data by watching events behavior and characteristics in their natural setting (Guest, Namey & Mitchell, 2013). For observation to be effective the population being observe is concealed of the activity In order to ensure that the subject do not behave differently in their natural setting. People will actually behave naturally without the knowledge of being observations is either direct or indirect (Watzlawik & Born 2007).
Direct observation involves watching direct as the subjects interact in their natural setting whereas indirect observation involves watching the resulting effect o the subjects’ interactions. It may range from highly complex and structured behavior to more holistic description of occurrences and attributes. This techniques is mostly used when the researcher want to understand the activity that is in progress. The situation is watched and evaluated as it occurs.
When designing and planning for an observation, it is wise to first determine the focus (Watzlawik et al 2007). This is through choosing the appropriate group that will be observed. For example, when the researcher wants to determine the extent of implementation of a certain policy within a community or a society, he will definitely choose that segment that is involved directly. In this case the focus will be observing the interaction between the people in a community and those charged with the duty of implementing. Once the focus group has been identified, a data collection system is the designed (Phillips & Stawarski ,2008).The researcher will put consideration on those specific items that are they want to collect information about. There are three primary ways of collecting observation data. These methods may be sometimes combined to give a good outcome and meet the data requirements.
The use of recoding sheet and checklist are the most common and standardized approach for collecting data through observation. This method typically collects data that can be described in advance even before observations are made. Additionally observation guides may be used. These are technically structured questions outlining what the researcher in more interested in a certain event. They give a list of interactions, behavior and processes observed in the field with a space to record the researcher’s reaction on the data. Field notes are also incorporated in data collection. They are standardized ways of gathering information that does not include the present questions or response. They are actually open ended narrative information that can be recorded or dictated (Corbin, Strauss & Strauss, 2008).
Observations as a significant technique, is more useful and important especially during both summative and formative phases of evaluation of issues of public interest. For example in regional elections, formative phase may be used to determine whether or not the process is operating as intended. Further more formative phase may be applied to describe any faulty that is evident in the manner in which the activity is running by observing and examining the extent to which the subjects decipher the concepts, ask relevant questions and are actively engaged in the interaction ( Conway & American Society for Training and Development1998). Such approach could also provide valuable insight into the observer’s styles of gathering data and how the information actually covers the topic under study.
On the other hand, summative phase of the study can be used to determine whether the activity in question is successful. This technique is directly employed in examining the approaches applied in carrying out an activity and how the participants are involved. The phase is also concerned with the challenges and the opportunities encountered when collecting data through observation of the subjects as they freely interact in their natural setting (Conway & American Society for Training and Development 1998 ) .
Observation techniques are carried out using carefully developed list of steps and tools. The observer often goes to the scene with a set of target criteria for observing events ( Gues et al, 2013) . The information recorded is eventually judged against some set standards and predetermined expectations. In most cases the observation are guided by a carefully structured protocol that may take different forms. These protocols helps at assuring that all observers collect data with appropriate skills and applying universally accepted criteria in data evaluation ( Hennink, Hutter & Bailey, 2011).
Inherently, the observer is guided by some fundamental distinctions that concern the extent to which he is a participant in the setting under study. The extent of participation will vary from full involvement in the setting to complete separation from the setting. In this case the observer participates in the event and at the same time tries to uncover some attribute through personal experience. The extent to which full participation is probable depends upon the nature of the activity and its participants.
The social and political context may are also key at influencing the level of observer involvement in the activity under study. The top desire here is negotiate and settle at a degree of participation that will yield highly meaningful data about the event given the attributes of the participants and the sociopolitical environment of the project ( Watzlawik et al 2007).To make the process successful.
It is advisable to have more than one person observing at the same time. This approach increases the quality of data by avoiding personal bias on pat of the observers. However, the presence of many observers sometimes may compromise the quality of data by threatening the subjects and causing them alters their natural interaction especially when they are aware of the intentions to observe them.
Observation method indeed is one among the good method to collect information that relate to sociopolitical setting of the subjects. In the case of the regional election the method is ideal and has been actually applied to observe as the participants take part in issue that of the public interest. Observations are diverse, flexible and highly applicable. They take both informal and unstructured forms and as a result, they find wide range of application. It also provides a very direct access to social aspect under consideration. Unlike the interview it does not rely on respondents self-reporting. Instead observer looks and records the behaviors of subjects in a situation and in the process, avoid bias associated with self reporting commonly known as social desirability.
Another widely used qualitative technique is interviews. Interview is a conversation that involves two or more people, whereby structured and relevant questions are posed to interviewee by the interviewer to unravel facts and truths from the interviewees commonly known as the respondent. It is a direct face-to-face approach that attempts to gather information that is valid and reliable through verbal responses from respondents .During the conversation the roles of either interviewer or interviewee change continually as the situation demands (Kvale, 1997).
In regional elections interviews may be used. This is used when a researcher want to understand a full perception experiences reaction and how a given subject in broadly views by people. Interviews will be highly important especially when a researcher want to get a proper impression of how the regional elections are conducted. The candidates are induced to speak freely with their interviewer about their experience (Klenke, 2008).
The conversation is planned and directed to achieve the main purpose which majorly revolved around monitoring and establishing how regional elections are conducted and any improvement that can be made to enhance integrity and transparency of the process. The interview may also predict an accurate phenomenon especially when done repeatedly in a particular locality (Kvale, 1997). They also provide important opportunity to for different regional election zones to exchange information that will facilitate in acceptance or rejection of a certain process in regional elections.
The researchers develop some set of question that link to the information that they want to extract from an interviewee (Foddy, 1996). When designing an interview, it is important for the interviewer to try and develop those questions that are likely to yield relevant information desired to capture the views perceptions and believes of all the parties involved in the regional election process (Foddy, 1996). Good questions should be open- ended, requiring yes or no answer, simple and very natural. This enable the respondents build up confidence in order to generate a rich data that has the potential to effectively solving the problem at hand (Foddy, 1996).
In the matter of elections that involves many people of varied denominations, culture and political background, it is worth to select those questions that cuts across the common requirements of the respondents .Additionally a clear schedule is provided to facilitate the understandability and capability of the questions structured. The length of interview will vary depending on the numbers of participants engaged in the interview.
Before an interview takes place, the respondents should be notified about the study specifications and given assurance about their moral principles will be treated with utmost confidentiality. This gives them an idea of what is expected of them, increases the probability of honesty and the most important right of informed consent (Mishler, 1986).
If possible, the interviews should be contacted in calm areas that are free from natural; and artificial detractors and most important those areas that respondent are familiar with such as their homes or area of their work. Familiarity will help them relax gain confidence and be more productive and resourceful. Establishing a conducive and friendly environment with the respondents before the onset of the interview has a positive effect on the subsequent results obtained from the interview. When conducting the real interview, it is wise for the interviewers to make themselves known to the interviewee so that the activity may appear more natural and unpracticed.
- An Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods in History
- Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
- “Methods of Measuring Public Opinion”