EXPERIENCING DATA GATHERING PROCESSES IN RUMOUR AND GOSSIP STUDY By Mohd Mursyiddin Abdul Manaf [email protected] uitm. edu. my Mariah Muda, PhD [email protected] uitm. edu. my Wan Hartini Wan Zainodin [email protected] uitm. edu. my Hamimda Agil [email protected] uitm. edu. my Faculty of Communication and Media Studies Universiti Teknologi MARA 40450 Shah Alam, Selangor MALAYSIA Abstract The process of data collection for the study of conception and rumour mongering in organisations may look simple but truthfully it is not an easy task.
It requires a high degree of patience, as not all informants will admit that they are consciously or subconsciously involved in rumour conception and mongering. The issue may sound petty, but it does occur in our daily working lives at our organisation, regardless of the time, place, and involves employees no matter what are their hierarchical positions in the organisation. Therefore, in order to obtain their testimony, the probing questions should not be honest and direct, but shall be directed towards what they normally do but focuses on what they have experienced.
From that, researchers will be able to understand the extent of the informants’ involvement towards the rumour mongering activities. Furthermore, the interviewer should also be cunning enough in asking investigative questions to the informants as such questions may uncover important and useful data in achieving the research objectives and problems. Thus, this conference paper discusses the experience of the authors in the process of data collection which includes i) The Uniqueness of Gossip and Rumour Study, ii) Why Phenomenological Approach? iii) Informants’ Selection Procedure, iv) Researcher as Instrument, v) Issues in Conducting In-Depth Interviews, vi) Strategies in Achieving Internal and External Validity, vii) Strategies to Achieve Reliability, and viii) Recommendation to Future Researchers. The Uniqueness of Gossips and Rumours Study The study of rumour’s conception and mongering in organisation is indeed a unique field of study.
Through the lenses of society, rumour mongering normally could be considered as something petty and nonsensical even though the effects of these activities does involve the members of the organisation without considering their organisational statuses. Whether one either admit or denies their involvement in rumour conception and mongering, every individual should have gone through the experience whether they like it or not. In addition, this activity also could create such organisational culture as explained by West & Turner (2010, p. 77) “people are like spiders who are suspended in webs that they created at work. An organization’s culture is composed of shared symbols, each of which has a unique meaning. Organizational stories, rituals, and rites of passage are examples of culture of an organization”. Despite of its connotation being considered as frivolous and sensational, it however could lead to great impact towards organisations and individual sociologically and psychologically. In terms of corporation perspective, rumours could lead to bad publicity of the organisation and in some cases it may also imply a loss of millions of dollars.
On the other hand, employees who had been a victim of rumour mongering could suffer from stress and depression that usually affect their work productivity as well as social life. The importance of this has long been recognised since early 1940’s by Allport & Postman (1947) in the West. Sadly, none of such issues were given any emphasis by social researchers in Malaysia. Thus, it is vital for this study to be considered as a catalyst in providing an overview of another type of informal communication that lubricates the grapevine communication channel that feeds the rumours and gossiping activities in organisations.
Hence making this study of unique nature as it is quite difficult to determine the rumour mongering culprit, but the phenomenon does exist!. Why Phenomenological Approach? Throughout the research, the researchers were guided by the phenomenological approach and adhered to the processes within. The phenomenon that was being researched is on the “rumour mongering” activities at workplace while the informants are executives in private sector organisation as well as government officers at any public sector agencies.
The research is focused on the interpretation of the informants’ actual experiences on several rumour mongering aspects such as 1) identifying the factors that contributed to the rumour conception, 2) their preferred forms or types of rumours that normally being discussed at their workplaces, 3) raison d’etre of rumours being disseminated; and 4) determining the best measures to be taken by employees in managing rumours at their workplace. Data originating from the informants’ experiences were analyzed from their point of view as part of the phenomenology method (Bogdan and Biklen, 1992).
This approach was chosen because it focused on the essence and structure of an experience based on a phenomenon and it is a field that studies the structure of consciousness of a person’s experiences from the first person angle (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005). Phenomenologist’s are interested to prove how meanings are tediously formed from a simple unit derived from real-life experiences. This approach offers a way to obtain knowledge based on the core experiences of a person via a descriptive, interpretive and reflective manner (Morse and Richards, 2002).
This study is also in line with Bogdan and Biklen (1992) who define phenomenology as a research approach that attempts to understand the meaning of an event or phenomenon and the meaning of human interactions by common people in a certain situation. It is supported by Merriam (1998) who states that phenomenology emphasizes on the process of obtaining meaning based on the experience and its interpretation of a particular phenomenon by certain people. When these approaches were utilized in this study, the researchers had to focus on the essence and structure of the informants’ experiences.
All precedential knowledge known from previous researchers and the literatures are rested for the time being in ensuring the process of obtaining new experiences of informants involved are not disrupted. Creswell (1998) mentions that phenomenology provides explanation to the actual experiences of several individuals on a phenomenon. Thus, phenomenology looks at the structure of conscious state experience from human experiences; which is very appropriate to this study. The process of knowing the meaning of someone’s experience begins with the process of silence (Psathas, 1976).
The process of silence is imperative as an initial step to obtain the chance to understand what they are researching. Then, phenomenologists’ stresses on the subjectivity aspect of their research subjects’ behaviour. At this stage, they are actually striving to arrive into the conceptual world of their subjects (Geertz, 1973), however in Bogdad and Biklen (1992), there are an effort to comprehend how and why of the meaning was formed by the informants themselves in their daily lives.
Therefore, this argument really meets the study of conception and rumours mongering at workplace by the organizational members. Due to this, phenomenologists believe that there are multiple ways for researchers to interpret experiences through their interactions with other people. When meaning is formed, thus it may represent such form of reality experience (Greene, 1978). It is undeniable that reality is formed by human experiences (Berger and Luckmen, 1967).
This study that deal with conception and rumours mongering at workplace also meet the six processes of phenomenology research that recommended by Spiegelbeg (1965) in Merriam (1998): i)Researcher must have in-depth comprehension of the phenomenon being studied; ii)Investigate or explore similar surroundings as an example to the phenomenon being studied in obtaining in-depth knowledge of the research essence; iii)Closely observe and try to understand the relationships between the essence being studied; iv)In exploring the meaning of a phenomenon, emphasis must be given not just to the prevalent questions, but more than that, such as how the phenomenon arised; v)Exploring the meaning of a phenomenon where the emphasis in not just on the prevalent questions, but to the method of prevalence; vi)Must try to comprehend how a phenomenon drive the interest to research; and vii)Bracketing the beliefs held by the researcher to allow the meaning of a phenomenon to be interpreted from the informant’s point of view or to allow the researcher to interpret data in its original state. Infomants’ Selection Procedure Research informants were selected using purposive sampling under the maximum variation type and implemented through the process of theoretical sampling.
Maximum variation sampling means that even though the selected sample was small, sampling was done from various characters in ensuring that the research results varies (Merriam, 1998). For example, in this study, the criteria “irrespective of gender” was set to obtain a sample consisting of male and female professionals; “irrespective of family social economy” to obtain a sampling of various social economic levels, and the criteria “university or college graduates” to reflect a sampling of their professional capacity as a graduate officer or executive in any private or government organisations. The informants were chosen because they have particular features or characteristics (criterion-based selection), which have enabled detailed exploration of the research objectives.
The characteristic of the informants should meet the criterion as stated below: •Have to be the youngest being 24 and the eldest of 58 years. •Regardless of gender. •Regardless of multi-cultural diversity. •Regardless of socio-economic status. •Should be working in any governmental agencies or corporate organizations. •Willing and voluntarily participates in this research. •At least hold an executive level post with minimum of two (2) years of working experience. •For public service officers they should hold at a position with salary Grade 41 or above. •For corporate executives, they should hold at least junior executive post. As defined by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia, the average age of tertiary education graduates are individuals aged between 22 and 24 years old.
However, this research only considered informants who are 24 years old of age due to the consideration of their two years of working experience and their maturity in understanding their involvement in the rumour mongering process at their workplace setting. While the eldest to be involved in this research, are those of 58 years old in considering their experience and understanding of their workplace environment as well as handling issues maturely. This is because, the researchers believe individuals at this stage have the ability to think more maturely (as compared to those aged between 22 to 23 of age). With relevant experience in dealing with the office politics and having social relationship with colleagues, the researchers also believe that selected informants with the criteria above are able to understand the requirements of the study and are able to provide opinions on them when asked to.
Other than that, selection of the informants between the ages of 24 to 58 was carried out, as the individuals in this range are individuals that are going through a process of maturity through experience in dealing with people around them. According to Wyn and White (1997), throughout this process, a unique emotional and physical development that later form a clear identity, behavior and relationship polar between social and psychological maturity. As such, the research was thought to be thought-provoking and necessary to comprehend the phenomenon given from the informants’ perspectives. Selection of the informants was not bound to their ethnicity, as Malaysia is multi-racial in nature.
Be it the Malays, Chinese and Indians, these three main ethnics in Malaysia are the main social components for the country, each with a different culture, religion, traditions, values and beliefs which forms the culture of Malaysia. Differences from the social-cultural aspect are believed to influence their involvement pattern within the rumour mongering activities that being studied. The informants selected may also be male or female, as the researcher believes the gender factor also influences their involvement in rumour activities. This was due to the psychology element in male and female informants that also varies their perspectives, opinions and involvement. In terms of the informants age, the informants are consists of those who are working professionals with any government body or private sector as long as they are between 24 to 58 years old.
This criterion was set, as it is believed to provide variations to the maturity levels and experiences of the informants. This status variation would assist in diversifying the data, as well as, enriching it. The informants were also required to either work in any government agencies or private sector establishments. This is due to the consideration of in varying the perspective of the informants in their experience at the workplace. The experience of an informant in a government agency might different to those who work in a private organization. Issues and discussion took place at these two different workplaces also were a good perspective to be discussed in enriching the data in this study.
The last criteria in selecting informants for this research were that they must participate voluntarily. This criterion is important because as part of conducting an ethical research, informants must not be coerced in participating. In determining the quantity of research informants, a theoretical sampling process is conducted. This means, once data collected from the previous informant has been analyzed, only then would the researcher determine the next informant. This process will continue until the data is saturated. Researchers as an Instrument In order to collect meaningful and rich data first hand, researchers were required to feel and experience the informants’ thoughts and feelings by interviewing them.
The best way to do this the researchers become the instrument and involved in the process of data collection from the start till the end of the field work activities. According to Morse and Richards (2002), the role of researcher as a research instrument meant they are creating data over events that are related to their research problems and topics. They mentioned that data is not strewn over a location like apples on the ground, ready to be picked. In fact, data is found in a person, or events or items that are the centre of someone’s research. For example, in the technique of collecting data through the process of intense interviewing, data resides in informant whom is chosen as respondent.
The party acting as a tool to extract, obtain, listen, comprehend, record and analyze the data was the researchers themselves. Researchers are seen as instrument as they was unable to rely on any other tools to collect information, which is later regarded as data. Every single task of the process was carried out by the researchers themselves, such as observing, comprehending, and recording whatever events that was related to the research. Prior to that, as an instrument, the researcher had to go through several other processes such as introduction and communication, establishing good rapport, conducting discussions, setting appointments based on informant’s convenience, conducting interview sessions, perform transcriptions, analysis, and report writing.
Normally, the concept of “instrument” in research is referred to the tools that are used to gather data. In the quantitative research method, this concept is referred to questionnaires as the tool that being used with the purpose of collecting data such as questionnaires in the survey method, or coding sheet in the content analysis method (Babbie, 2001). However in the qualitative research method, instruments do not refer to interview questions or interview guidelines, protocol and others, but to the researcher themselves. This occurs because data is obtained through the actions of the researchers, for examples through activities such as observations, interview, or document analysis (Merriam, 1998).
By utilizing in-depth interview as a technique of collecting data in this study, researchers acted as an interviewer and initiated the atmosphere for the informants to be stimulated and open in participating interactively, and at the same time tried to include each participant in a balanced discussion, and constantly guide informants in refraining themselves to touch on issues that are not related to the interview topic (Finch and Lewis, 2003). The role of instrument during the interview session is depending on the dynamism and the chemistry between the informant and the instrument based on the roots of the research question being discussed as participants’ interests and attention heavily influence by these factors.
At this moment, researchers experienced that there were some participants who were not keen to share. When this situation occurred, the instruments had to play their role to ensure the discussion stays “alive” and fresh by asking questions, probing questions and debating on other issues that may attract the interests of the informant to continue talking. The role of the instrument is very important to a fruitful interview session. An instrument requires high energy and commitment and sometimes face challenging situations. Skills such as sociable, easy-going, self-confident and able to portray self to encourage discussions with informant are skills that must be owned by an instrument while conducting in-depth interviews.
According to Babbie (2007), in order to obtain the most vital information for a study, the interviewer (the researcher) must be fully familiar with the questions to be asked, in which it allows the interview process to proceed smoothly and naturally. It also essentially a normal conversation by both the informant and the interviewer, in which the interviewer establishes a general direction for the conversation and probes for further information shall the informant a bit reluctant or loss in providing information in regards to the topic being discussed. This is in line with Kvale (1996) in Babbie (2007) methaphors where the interviewer: “wanders through the landscape and enters into conversations with the people encountered.
The traveler explores the many domains of the country, as unknown territory or with maps, roaming freely around the territory… The interviewer wanders along with the local inhabitants, asks questions that lead the subject to tell their own stories of their lived world. ” (Babbie, 2007, p. 306). In order to do this, the researcher i. e. the instrument and interviewer shall also provide the most comfortable ambience so that the informants would be freely expose themselves and provide valuable information about themselves and the topic that have been and will be discussed without hesitation. Then, as an instrument, the researcher had also have to report what actually happened during the interview while performing analysis so that the data received is really complete and filled with rich and thick descriptions. Entering The Field and Pilot Study
One of our researchers began entering the field establishing contacts and organizing data collection work involving few professionals from various organizations. For starters, with the help from one of the research team member, one of our researchers managed to get his first informant from the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. The researcher was fortunate as once his intentions were made known to the informant through the telephone, he was ready to meet and discuss with the researcher. A meeting was arranged at his office at Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur on the 5th October 2010. Before, the interview went into very ‘deep’ discussion, the researcher tried some ‘small talk’ with the informant, just to have warmer and relax ambience.
This was to ensure that the informant would be comfortable with the interview as at times there were provoking questions in regards to his involvement in conception and rumour mongering activities. Once everything was set, the researcher began to explain the background of the research, as well as the need for his assistance in providing precious inputs for the success of this research. The interview with the first informant was regarded as the pilot study process, it was aimed to test the capabilities of the interview protocol, and smoothness of the interview session, and to understand the issues and problems of conducting the process. The interview began at 4. 30 pm, on the 5th of October 2010 in one of the government agency in Jalan Duta Kuala Lumpur. The first interview session took one and a half hours.
Here, the researcher experienced some difficulties helping the informant to comprehend the questions that was given to him. The challenge arose when the researcher had to try really hard to explain the concept and process of data collection via the in-depth interview and the session should be tape-recorded. Once he saw the tape recorder placed on his table, the informant instantly freaked out. He commented that this was the most peculiar way to collect data for a research. To him, the most common way that he have had experience was a survey. Equipped with his communication skills, the researcher was finally able to explain to the informant, even though at the end the officer felt the process of data collection used by the researcher is “different”.
Before the interview began, informant had to fill in the consent letter and provide detailed information about themselves. Next, the researcher briefed the informants on the objectives of the interview. Once the briefing has been made, the informant was being asked questions on his experience on sensational news and his involvement towards it. He also were required to do some reflections of his past experience on this rumour activities that have happened at his workplace throughout his working years. The researcher himself conducted the process of in-depth interview for the pilot study purpose. Basic questions such as those of the interview protocol shown in Appendix A were used.
An audio recording was made as the researcher felt that by taking note during the interview process alone was insufficient as it will not capture as much data during the interview process, as the researcher are also required to moderate the interview and at the same time needed to take notes on what the informant are saying. In the researcher’s opinion, without an audio recording, the researcher might not capture as much as information that are vital to the success of this research. There were several interesting experiences faced by the researcher when conducting the first interview. First, it was often difficult to break the ‘trust barrier’ within the informant. This is due to the nature of this research that would require one to share their experience in gossip and rumour activities, as to some people this issue is not something to discuss openly as it might backfire them in the future.
As such, the researcher decided not to immediately begin the real discussion but attempted to befriend and generate trust, as well as, create an amiable surrounding with the participants. The time taken by the researcher to break the ‘trust barrier’ was 20 minutes. Within this short time, the researcher tried to capture as much as information on the informant such as their likings or family by observing his office i. e. pictures and memorabilia. By doing this, the researcher could initiate a small talk and share common interest with the informant before jumping into discussions related to the research problems. The purpose of this was to develop trust and respect and not look at the researcher with eyes filled with doubts and questions.
When an amiable and trustworthy environment existed, then only did the researcher begin the actual discussion session. The audio recording began, and the questions leading to the research topic were brought forth. After asking the root question, the researcher then lets the informant give his opinions and views freely without hindrance. Only when the informant were out of ideas or had deviated from the root discussion, the researcher move on to the next root question or provided followup or probing questions. The researcher acted in a relaxed manner and followed the tempo of the informant ways of communication and was not too serious or pressuring the informant in his attempt to extract as much data as possible.
There were one or two occasions when the informant tried to avoid the questions thrown to him on his involvement in idle talks with his colleagues. Several probing questions that were given a ‘twist’ were fabricated in order to attract the informant to answer the questions. Sometimes, the researcher also would skip the question and would return to it when the informant is ready to answer them. Once the interview session ended, the audio recording were transcribed by the researcher and verified by another colleague in our research team. Once additions and corrections were made through the interview discussion, 58 pages worth of transcription were analyzed by the researcher using constant comparative technique.
At the first level, the researcher read the entire transcription three times while comparing it with the research question. Beginning from the first research question, the researcher started the coding process, where suitable themes are documented, which described the discussion content beginning from the page 1 to page 58. For the first research question, four themes were arised. The next level is the theme search, where the coding for the second research question has produced six themes. In answering the third research question, the researcher have explored for themes that could understand the how rumours being spread by employees at the workplace and their motivation to spread them further. At this point, the researcher has obtained five themes.
For the fourth research question, which is on the control of the rumour from further spreading, the researcher found one only. While performing the analysis, the researcher realized that he must not form themes from his own understanding and perceptions. The researcher tried to separate himself by forming themes originating from the informant’s own conversation and based on the angle view of the informant only. The researcher was only guided by transcribed text and also notes on several non-verbal reactions that were observed during the interview discussions. Afterwards, excerpts from the interview conversations supporting the themes deduced from the transcription were also documented and reported.
The strategy was carried out by the researcher as recommended by Patton (1990), that data analysis should begin with the activities of providing explanation and description, and later data interpretation were then made as suggested by Miles and Huberman (1994), and Patton (1990). The researcher also received assistance from a friend who is also a philosophy doctorate student to check whether the themes formed by the researcher are acceptable. This is one of the processes in achieving internal validity in this study. After several hours surrendering the obtained themes and transcribed data to the colleague, a discusson was held. Discussion results showed that one of our research team members had several different opinions.
However the differences does not compromise the theme formation due to the subjectivity which occurred that applies only to the word selected as themes, whereas his opinion brought the same meaning. Finally, we came to an agreement and accepted the themes obtained through the process of discussion and peer verification as recommended by Merriam (1998), Patton (1990), Miles and Huberman (1994), and Drapeau (2002). The results of the pilot study showed that questions prepared via interview protocol is sufficient in answering all research problems and questions. However, a minor “weakness” acknowledged by the researcher is the manner in which the researcher as the instrument asked follow up and probing questions.
This weakness is not a result of the weakness of the questions in the interview protocol, but to the way in which the researcher asked the questions. The weakness in question happened when the researcher was too obliging of the direction in which the informant were taking the discussion to until he strayed to far and failed to promptly bring them back to the topic being discussed. This weakness results in the difficulty of the coding process as the same theme for a particular meaning is found everywhere in the transcription. As such, no amendments were made to the interview protocol; the researcher only gave serious attention to a better way in which the future interview session can be conducted.
As such, the data for the pilot study interview was also used in the actual research because the data and search results obtained from the pilot study does not impact the real research within the tradition of qualitative research as mentioned by Holloway (1997, pp. 121) “Contamination is less of concern in qualitative research, where reseachers always use some or all of their pilot data as a part of their main study. Qualitative data collection is often progressive, in that a second or subsequent interview in a series should be “better” than the previous one as an interviewr may have gained insights from the previous interviews, which are used to improve interview schedules and specific questions. Some have therefore argued that in qualitative approaches separate pilot studies are not necessary”. Issues In Conducting In-Depth-Interview
Four researchers collected the data for this study. We take turn to get the informant to be interviewed. Then, one by one interview session took place. For every interview session, the researcher transcribed, analyzed, and does the coding according to the research questions by comparing it with the previous themes that had emerged. This same process was replicated and the interview session for the other informants in order to get their experiences. The entire task had gone through the same processes. All of the 15 informants were exposed to the same interview protocol and at average most of the interview lasted about one hour to reach the exhaustive stage.
Until the 15th informant, the researcher found that the data has reached to its point of saturation, where researchers decided to end the data collection process and analysis. There are a few issues that we would like to advocate in this sensational study. Firstly, almost all of the informants did not admit openly that they were involved with the rumour conception and mongering in the organisation. However, they did admit that they have heard about it and interested to know further about the issues being discussed. This has caused problems to the researchers in conducting data collection, as most of the questions posed to the informants could not be presented to them directly.
Interestingly, when they talk, the researchers also have to play another role of avid listener that would require such a high degree of understanding towards the informants’ statements in associating them with the negative connotations of rumour mongering involvements. Second, almost all of the informants did not admit that they had or have been making up rumours. However, after few probing and further validation questions were thrown at them, they somehow unconsciously responded that thay did have some involvements in producing and spreading rumours at their work environment. Third, majority of the informants that were interviewed mentiond that they did not entertain what more to believe rumours that they have heard.
But after a long chat with the researchers, the informants somehow did give the impression that they also believe and entertain the rumours that they have heard; hence continue to spread the stories to their colleagues and family members. Fourth, none of the informants claimed to have made their colleagues and friends as their rumour and gossip victims. But almost all the informants have said that they have been victims of rumours. So here was an issue of deniability. The issue at hand is, if everybody denies their involvement in creating or concerting the rumour, but the phenomenon did occur in their organisation, where does the story came from? Who is the culprit of creating the rumour?. Hence it appears to be that rumour in organisation is like a ‘ghost’. They did exist but difficult to detect and find the source of the mongerers.
From the four issues above, the researchers have gone through an experience in which the informants did not admit that they have involved in contributing towards such unscrupulous phenomenon, but however such phenomenon does happen and exist in their working environment. These have prompted the researchers to ask questions to informants in the manner of i) What do you know? ii) What have you heard? iii) Have your friend? iv) Has anyone informed you? In other words such questions as i) Have you experienced? ii) Have you been involved? iii) Have you ever said? Could not be presented to the informants as they would not admit that they have, but are more likely to blame "other people do it and they just report to you". Strategies to Achieve Internal and External Validity In this research, the researchers had attempted to obtain a level of internal validity, and external validity. Internal Validity
Internal validity relates to how parallel is the research findings with reality (Merriam, 1998). This is also refered to by the question ”have you researched the topic that you wanted to research? ” (Ritchie and Lewis, 2003). Merriam (1998) proposed six ways to verify internal validity: i. Triangulation – using more than one researcher, relying on more tan one data source, and using more tan one method to validate emerging findings; ii. Members checks- bring back the data and it’s interpretation to the informants, where the data which have been obtained to get validation, whether the data that have been obtained similar to what was recorded, interpreted and meant by the informants; iii.
Longitudinal observations – The researcher must be at the location for an extended period of time and observation must be performed several times on the same phenomenon in obtaining accurate data; iv. Peer examination – getting assistance from peers for comments on the emerging and expanding findings. v. Participatory or collaborative modes of research – involving respondents at all levels of research beginning from the formulation of the research problem till to the report writing; and vi. Declaration of researcher bias – at the end of the research, the researcher needs to make a declaration of his assumptions, views and theoretical assumptions which led to the research.
Ritchie and Lewis (2003) then proposed in ensuring the existence of internal validity, a qualitative researcher needs to look into several aspects on the entire duration of a research when it was conducted. This also involves putting aside samples which are known to be biased, a comfortable environment to allow informants to provide information, informants have been briefed on the topic to be discussed, there are sufficient evidence for all stated elaborations, research results must be really close to the data, and the report must be recognized as an analysis result which has been formed. In ensuring the findings were in line with the research objectives, the researchers have to pay attention to two things: internal validity during the interview process and also during the transcriptions.
When conducting interviews, researchers have repeatedly asks basic questions and follow-up questions that are designed to clarify the research questions. If the informants failed to provide relevant feedbacks, the researchers somehow permit the informants to provide their answers in advance or to speak about what they want to say, but then the researchers would make some modifications towards the questions and re-ask the informants once more in order to achieve the preferable feedback. This action is done with utmost care because if researchers failed to ask the important questions, then the findings will not be of satisfactory, and thus leads to failure of the research itself.
The researchers would only stop when the informant began to give relevant answers to the same questions that have been presented in different manner. Secondly, during the transcription process, the researchers have employed peer- examination. During this process, the interviewer transcribed the interview conversation from audio tape recorder words by word by word. After he/she had finished transcribing, one of the colleagues listened again to the conversation and at the same time went through the typed transcription. Checking and corrections were made where it then passed back to the interviewer who did the transcription. All the 15 transcriptions had gone through the same processes.
This task was done in order to ensure that the transcription processes were done correctly with the hope that nothing was missing and researchers really get the chances to extract meanings and answers from informants interviewed. External Validity In order to obtain the external validity, the researcher chose to write a detailed report, which is filled with rich and thick descriptions. A detailed report was written from the background of study until conclusion. This matter is in line with Merriam’s (1998) opinion which states that external validity or generalizability is a concept which relates to the question of how extensive a particular research finding can be applied to another situation. She gave three ways to achieve external validity in a qualitative research, which are: i.
Extensiveness of the explanation provided by the research by allowing another person to evaluate the proximity of the explanation obtained from the data with the real life situation, and whether the acquired information or knowledge can be transfered in explaining the same phenomenon in another location; ii. Thoroughness of the research findings in explaining the subject being researched; and, iii. The research must be carried out by using several cases and scenarios to allow people to understand and make inferences to different locations, cases and scenarios. To achieve what was stated above, the researcher did the three things as per Merriam’s opinion (1998, pp. 211): i. Rich and thick description or the research findings were reported in a detailed and enriched with information.
By displaying such information, a reader or user of this research findings could determine how close is the researcher’s situation with the subject being researched, thus, an indication of whether it can be shifted to a different situation or not, ii. Typicality or modal category or that can be as common or category which has a form, in which the research findings can be elaborated in terms of its collective programs, events, individuals or phenomenon being reseached to allow them (reader or users of research findings) to make comparison with other aspects in their situation, and iii. Multi-site designs or designs which utilizes many locations, cases and situations especially those which can maximise the variety in finding the answers to the phenomenon being researched. Ritchie and Lewis (2003) proposed two methods of achieveing external validation: i.
Triangulation – usage of multiple data sources that is hoped to assist the accuracy and clarity of a research data. Triangulation can be conducted by: a)Methods triangulation – comparing data obtained using different methods. b)Triangulation of sources – comparing data obtained from different sources i. e. example from observations, interviews and document analysis, and c)Triangulation through multiple analysis – using different observers, different interviewers, or different document analyst, to compare and examine the process of data gathering and interpretation, and d)Theoretical triangulation – viewing data from a different theorical perspective. ii.
Member or respondent validation – bringing back the data and its interpretation to the respondent. Getting validation from the respondent on whether the data obtained and the interpretations made are similar to the meaning they conveyed when the interview This study also has employed the method of member or respondents’ validation that have been outlined by Ritchie and Lewis (2003) in order to achieve external validity. There are several transcriptions that were sent back via e-mail to the informants in order to obtain their consent for the second time before analysis being made. Strategies to Achieve Reliability To obtain the reliability of this research, the researcher had chosen the audit trail strategy.
This strategy requires the researcher to provide explanations on how data was collected, how the themes were formed and the conclusion for the entire research that have been conducted (Merriam, 1998). Merriam (1998) and Ritchie and Lewis (2003) explained that reliability could be referred to the extent of the research that would result in the same findings if it is conducted at a different time using the same research methodology. All three authors were in agreement that this issue was not given emphasis in qualititative research, as no reality will be the same in different times. Merriam (1998) mentioned that the reliability concept must be viewed from two aspects, which are dependability or reliability and consistency of the research findings obtained from the same data.
This situation can be measured through three ways, which are: i)The researcher’s stand, that is the researcher needs to explain his assumptions and theories that have been referred, the informants that have been studied, method of samples selection, explanation of the samples, and the context in which social data was collected. ii)Triangulation, the usage of one or more technique to collect data; and iii)Audit trail, where the researcher must explain in detail how data was collected, how themes were formed and how conclusions were derived from the main issue of the research. According to Ritchie and Lewis (2003), reliability in qualitative research an be refered to the extensiveness of the data that is consistent or comparable, dependable or can stand on its own, and replicable or can be repeated. There are two ways to find out if a data can be reliable. First, the requirement in ensuring the research is robust when being examined internally and interpretatively. Second, it has become a need to a researcher to inform the research process to the readers or clients’ of a qualitative research. Therefore, other than providing a complete and exhaustive report, the researchers did believe that the data derived throughout this study have been through careful and rigorous process of data collection and analysis as well as considerations of internal and external validity. Recommendation for Future Data Gathering
Based on the experience of the researchers in conducting the data collection process for this sensational study, there are few suggestions to be considered to those who are interested in conducting similar study in the future. Firstly, future researchers should avoid asking sensitive questions to the informants in a direct manner. Instead, questions of that nature should be asked in a indirect but subtle manner as though the informants were not the perpetrators. This should help in preventing mood provocation between the informants and the interviewers. It also can create an ambience of comfort and encourage informants to tell more than they should to the interviewers. Secondly, the questions presented by the researcher should somehow provide a degree of sympathetic impact to the informants.
This can motivate the informants to dish out stories without any reluctance. For example, in this study, informants were being asked whether they had been victims of rumours instead of whether they have been spreading rumours. This is to prevent informants to assume that the interviewers being presumptuous towards them. Thirdly, the questions presented should be in the manner of asking their opinions instead of accusing them. However, the researchers should be cunning in asking follow-up or probing questions in obtaining sensitive information without having them realising it. These tactics should also being practiced by researchers in conducting interviews on some ther related sensational issues that has negative connotations in the society.
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