Qualitative methods, transparency, and qualitative data analysis software: Toward an understanding of transparency in motion

by Jackson, Kirsti, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER, 2014, 216 pages; 3621346


This study used in-depth, individual interviews to engage seven doctoral students and a paired member of their dissertation committee in discussions about qualitative research transparency and the use of NVivo, a Qualitative Data Analysis Software (QDAS), in pursuing it. The study also used artifacts (an exemplary qualitative research article of the participant's choice and the student's written dissertation) to examine specific researcher practices within particular contexts. The design and analysis were based on weak social constructionist (Schwandt, 2007), boundary object (Star, 1989; Star & Griesemer, 1989) and boundary-work (Gieryn, 1983, 1999) perspectives to facilitate a focus on: 1) The way transparency was used to coordinate activity in the absence of consensus. 2) The discursive strategies participants employed to describe various camps (e.g., qualitative and quantitative researchers) and to simultaneously stake claims to their understanding of transparency.

The analysis produced four key findings. First, the personal experiences of handling their qualitative data during analysis influenced the students' pursuit of transparency, long before any consideration of being transparent in the presentation of findings. Next, the students faced unpredictable issues when pursuing transparency, to which they responded in situ, considering a wide range of contextual factors. This was true even when informed by ideal types (Star & Griesemer, 1989) such as the American Educational Research Association (2006) guidelines that provided a framework for pursuing the principle of transparency. Thirdly, the QDAS-enabled visualizations students used while working with NVivo to interpret the data were described as a helpful (and sometimes indispensable) aspect of pursuing transparency. Finally, this situational use of visualizations to pursue transparency was positioned to re-examine, verify, and sometimes challenge their interpretations of their data over time as a form of self-interrogation, with less emphasis on showing their results to an audience. Together, these findings lead to a new conceptualization of transparency in motion, a process of tacking back and forth between situated practice of transparency and transparency as an ideal type. The findings also conclude with several proposals for advancing a transparency pedagogy. These proposals are provided to help qualitative researchers move beyond the often implicit, static, and post-hoc invocations of transparency in their work.

AdviserMargaret Eisenhart
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsTechnical communication; Higher education
Publication Number3621346

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