How to write a Research Project abstract

how to write a research project proposal example and how to write research methodology for project report and how to write a good literature review for a research project
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Doing your Research Project Judith Bell bell041PBbrighter.qxd 1/22/2007 11:24 AM Page 1 OVER 200,000 COPIES SOLD OVER 200,000 COPIES SOLD D DO OIIN NG G Y YO OU UR R R RE ES SE EA AR RC CH H P PR RO OJ JE EC CT T Doing your An invaluable resource for anyone carrying out a research project. Research Project We all learn to do research by actually doing it, but a great deal of time and effort can be wasted and goodwill lost by inadequate preparation. This book provides first-time A guide for first-time researchers in researchers with the tools they need to establish good research habits and avoid some of the pitfalls and time-wasting false trails. It takes researchers from the stage of choosing a topic education, health and social science through to the production of a well-planned, methodologically sound, and well-written final report or thesis. It is written in plain English and makes no assumptions about previous knowledge. 4TH EDITION 4TH EDITION This new edition of Doing your Research Project includes: • New chapters on Ethics and Integrity in Research; Reading, Referencing and the Management of Information; and m Literature Searching  Coverage of additional techniques such as grounded theory and electronic referencing m  Completely updated coverage of documentary evidence  More examples from health studies and other disciplines This book is a guide to good practice for beginner researchers in any discipline embarking on undergraduate or postgraduate study, and for professionals in fields such as social science, education and health. J Ju ud diit th h B Be ellll has worked as a university lecturer, head of department and vice principal in colleges of further education; senior counsellor and course team writer for the Open University; and as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools specializing in continuing education. In 1997 she was awarded the MBE for services to educational research and in the same year was awarded the degree of D.Univ by the Open University. She now holds the honorary post of Special Professor in the School of Continuing Education at the University of Nottingham. Cover illustration: Chris Maddon   Cover design: Kate Prentice Judith Bell    PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION The first edition of this book was written as a result of the accumu- lated experience of teaching research methods to undergraduate and postgraduate students in British and overseas universities and of writing distance learning materials for the British Open Uni- versity and the University of Sheffield. Now, there are many good books on research methods on the market, but at that time, I had been unable to find one which quite covered the basic principles involved in planning research, but which was also an easy read and which made no assumptions about students’ previous know- ledge of research. Doing Your Research Project was intended to be a confidence builder, a starter book to provide new researchers with the necessary skills and techniques which would enable them to move on to more complex tasks and reading. I am told that it is now a set book for many undergraduate and postgraduate courses. All the techniques and procedures described in the first edition were well tried and tested, but there are always ways of doing things better. The experience of teaching and supervising research students, and working through some of the procedures and tech- niques in research methods workshops suggested alternative approaches and the desirability of providing additional material. These were incorporated into the second edition in 1993, the third edition in 1999 and now further changes have become necessary for this fourth edition.xii Doing your research project When the first edition was published in 1987, relatively few students were skilled in information technology (IT) and only the most advanced libraries provided general access to computer search facilities. By the time the second and third editions were published, times had changed so it became necessary to provide new material on access to libraries, search techniques, locating published materials, computer databases and the Internet. Other changes in this edition include more examples of research in a wider range of disciplines, additions to checklists and to further reading lists. All chapters in this edition have been updated and rewritten and new chapters have been included on ethical research, literature searching and literature reviews. However, the basic structure remains much the same as in the first, second and third editions.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I have been helped throughout the preparation of all four editions of this book by the interest of friends and colleagues who have given strong support in difficult times. I have been particularly grateful to Dr Ann Hanson and friends and former students from The Open University, Professor William Hoff, Emeritus Professor at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Tech- nology (UMIST) and to Dr Clive Opie, Deputy Head of the Northern Institute of Education at the Manchester Metropolitan University who all read drafts of this fourth edition, commented and made suggestions for changes. They were a great help. I have particularly welcomed comments from research students who kindly (and sometimes gleefully) pointed out that they had found better ways of doing things than I suggested in the first three editions. I have been happy to incorporate their suggestions. My continuing thanks to Michael Youngman, formerly of the University of Nottingham, who devised the question types in Chapter 8, which have eased the burden of many research students who are in the early days of designing questionnaires and interpreting the results. The generous assistance and support he invariably gave to many struggling PhD students, including me, made the difference between our dropping out altogether and actually finishing. My thanks also to Brendan Duffy and Stephen Waters, two outstanding Open University research students whoxiv Doing your research project carried out investigations into aspects of educational manage- ment in their own institutions and developed a considerable degree of expertise in research methods in the process. Both generously allowed me to use some of their ideas and experiences. Brendan, who already held a PhD in History before he embarked on research into education management wrote ‘The analysis of documentary evidence’ in the earlier editions of this book and has extended and updated Chapter 7 for this edition. I am grateful to Clara Nai and Gilbert Fan, Singaporean-based former postgraduate students of the University of Sheffield, who kindly permitted me to quote parts of their MEd literature reviews in Chapter 6 and to John Richardson and Alan Woodley, both of the British Open University, for permission to quote from their journal article ‘Another look at the role of age, gender and subject as predictors of academic attainment in higher education’ (Richardson and Woodley 2003). My thanks also to Janette Gray of Edith Cowan University in Western Australia for providing material for the section on narrative inquiry in Chapter 1. Her enthusiasm for and knowledge of this approach encouraged me to read further but also to begin to understand what is involved in narrative inquiry. I am similarly grateful to Katie Horne, once a first-time researcher herself but now a professional researcher. She kindly produced her Top Ten Guide to Searching the Internet at short notice, which is included in Chapter 5. Friends and colleagues have been particularly helpful in arranging for me to have access to several excellent small specialist libraries which are not normally open to outsiders. Linda Mealing, friend, nurse and first-time researcher very kindly introduced me to the librarians and the Director of Research of St Ann’s Hospice in Stockport and opened my eyes to the extent of ongoing research into palliative care. Thanks also to the librarians in other specialist libraries who allowed me to consult their library catalogue and the range of journals on the shelves even though I did not have a library card. I was not always so fortunate, so no thanks at all to the few librarians who curtly refused to allow me through the door. Well, we can only ask. Fred Bell did his best to sort out a new computer which was giving me unanticipated and ongoing grief, read all the scripts, drew attention to typographical and other errors, winced at whatAcknowledgements xv he regarded as some of my oversimplifications, which I usually ignored, and generally pointed out the error of my ways, as always. Finally, I should like to thank two people who have been closely involved with all editions of Doing Your Research Project, namely Chris Madden, the artist who produced the maze on the front cover of each edition and Shona Mullen, formerly Publishing Director at Open University Press who saw me safely through each edition with great patience and good humour. Over the years, we have become friends and selfishly, I am sorry her new position as General Manager at McGraw-Hill will mean that we shall not be directly associated with any further publications. Chris Madden and I have never met, but I have been delighted to work with an artist who appears to have the same weird sense of humour as me, but who also has the skill to put these ideas into practice. He had the original idea of a maze for the front cover of the first edition. The development of the maze theme over the following three editions has given me, and I hope him, a good deal of fun over the years as we thought of new ideas for including examples of distraught researchers who were going down blind alleys, losing patience and wondering why they ever started on the research in the first place. In the third edition, I especially liked the image of the student kicking his computer. I’ve felt like doing that myself on numerous occasions, particularly recently. However, the overall image is of students who managed to negotiate the maze and, having overcome the difficulties experienced by all researchers, are seen to be leaving it deliriously happy, in academic dress, holding their diplomas on high, throwing their mortarboards in the air and going forth to do more and even better research. To you all, my grateful thanks.INTRODUCTION This book is intended for those of you who are about to undertake research in connection with your job, or as a requirement for an undergraduate, certificate or postgraduate course. Regardless of the topic or the discipline, the problems facing you are much the same whether you are working on a small pro- ject, a Master’s or a PhD thesis. You will need to select a topic, identify the objectives of your study, plan and design a suitable methodology, devise research instruments, negotiate access to institutions, materials and people, collect, analyse and present information, and, finally, produce a well-written report. Whatever the size of the undertaking, techniques have to be mastered and a plan of action devised which does not attempt more than the limitations of expertise, time and access permit. Large-scale research projects will require sophisticated techniques and, often, statistical and computation expertise, but it is quite possible to produce a worthwhile study without using computers and with a minimum of statistical knowledge. We all learn how to do research by actually doing it, but a great deal of time can be wasted and goodwill dissipated by inadequate preparation. This book aims to provide you with the tools to do the job, to help you to avoid some of the pitfalls and time-consuming false trails that can eat into your time allowance, to establish good research habits and to take you from the stage of selecting a topic through to the2 Doing your research project production of a well-planned, methodologically sound and well- written final report or thesis – ON TIME. There is, after all, little point in doing all the work if you never manage to submit. Throughout this book, I use the terms ‘research’, ‘investigation’, ‘inquiry’ and ‘study’ interchangeably, though I realize this is not acceptable to everyone. Some argue that ‘research’ is a more rigorous and technically more complicated form of investigation. Howard and Sharp discuss this issue in The Management of a Student Research Project: Most people associate the word ‘research’ with activities which are substantially removed from day-to-day life and which are pursued by outstandingly gifted persons with an unusual level of commitment. There is of course a good deal of truth in this viewpoint, but we would argue that the pursuit is not restricted to this type of person and indeed can prove to be a stimulating and satisfying experience for many people with a trained and enquiring mind. (Howard and Sharp 1983: 6) They define research as ‘seeking through methodical processes to add to one’s own body of knowledge and, hopefully, to that of others, by the discovery of non-trivial facts and insights’ (p. 6). Drew (1980) agrees that ‘research is conducted to solve problems and to expand knowledge’ (p. 4) and stresses that ‘research is a systematic way of asking questions, a systematic method of enquiry’ (p. 8). It is the systematic approach that is important in the conduct of your projects, not the title of ‘research’, ‘inquiry’ or ‘study’. Where collection of data is involved (notes of inter- views, questionnaire responses, articles, official reports, minutes of meetings, etc.), orderly record keeping and thorough planning are essential. No book can take the place of a good supervisor, but good supervisors are in great demand, and if you can familiarize your- self with basic approaches and techniques, you will be able to make full use of your tutorial time for priority issues. The examples given in the following chapters relate particularly to projects which have to be completed in two to three months1 APPROACHES TO RESEARCH It is perfectly possible to carry out a worthwhile investigation without having detailed knowledge of the various approaches to or styles of research, but a study of different approaches will give insight into different ways of planning an investigation, and, incidentally, will also enhance your understanding of the litera- ture. One of the problems of reading about research reports and reading research reports is the terminology. Researchers use terms and occasionally jargon that may be incomprehensible to other people. It is the same in any field, where a specialized language develops to ease communication among professionals. So, before considering the various stages of planning and conducting investigations, it may be helpful to consider the main features of certain well-established and well-reported styles of research. Different styles, traditions or approaches use different methods of collecting data, but no approach prescribes nor automatically rejects any particular method. Quantitative researchers collect facts and study the relationship of one set of facts to another. They use techniques that are likely to produce quantified and, if possible, generalizable conclusions. Researchers adopting a quali- tative perspective are more concerned to understand individuals’ perceptions of the world. They seek insights rather than statistical perceptions of the world. They doubt whether social ‘facts’ exist and question whether a ‘scientific’ approach can be used8 Doing your research project when dealing with human beings. Yet there are occasions when qualitative researchers draw on quantitative techniques, and vice versa. Classifying an approach as quantitative or qualitative, ethno- graphic, survey, action research or whatever, does not mean that once an approach has been selected, the researcher may not move from the methods normally associated with that style. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses and each is particularly suitable for a particular context. The approach adopted and the methods of data collection selected will depend on the nature of the inquiry and the type of information required. It is impossible in the space of a few pages to do justice to any of the well-established styles of research, but the following will at least provide a basis for further reading and may give you ideas about approaches you may wish to adopt in your own investigation. Action research and the role of practitioner researchers Action research is an approach which is appropriate in any con- text when ‘specific knowledge is required for a specific problem in a specific situation, or when a new approach is to be grafted on to an existing system’ (Cohen and Manion 1994: 194). It is not a method or a technique. As in all research, the methods selected for gathering information depend on the nature of the informa- tion required. It is applied research, carried out by practitioners who have themselves identified a need for change or improve- ment, sometimes with support from outside the institution; other times not. The aim is ‘to arrive at recommendations for good practice that will tackle a problem or enhance the per- formance of the organization and individuals through changes to the rules and procedures within which they operate’ (Denscombe 2002: 27). Lomax (2002: 124) provides a series of useful questions for action researchers under the headings of purpose, focus, relations, method and validation. Under the ‘purpose’ heading, she asks: • Can I improve my practice so that it is more effective?Approaches to research 9 • Can I improve my understanding of this practice so as to make it more just? • Can I use my knowledge and influence to improve the situation? Under ‘method’, she asks whether the action researcher can collect ‘rigorous data’ which will provide evidence to support claims for action. These and similar questions can serve as a starting point for action research but when the investigation is finished and the findings have been considered by all participants, the job is still not finished. The participants continue to review, evaluate and improve practice. The research involves ‘a feedback loop in which initial findings generate possibilities for change which are then implemented and evaluated as a prelude to further investigation’ (Denscombe 1998: 58). It implies a ‘continuous process of research’ and ‘the worth of the work is judged by the understanding of, and desirable change in, the practice that is achieved’ (Brown and McIntyre 1981: 245). There is nothing new about practitioners operating as researchers, but as in all ‘insider’ investigations, difficulties can arise if dearly-held views and practices of some participants are challenged, as can happen if the research evidence appears to indicate that radical changes must take place if progress is to be made. Denscombe reminds us that: Because the activity of action research almost inevitably affects others, it is important to have a clear idea of when and where the action research necessarily steps outside the bounds of collecting information which is purely personal and relating to the practitioners alone. Where it does so, the usual standard of ethics must be observed: permissions obtained, confidentiality maintained, identities protected. (Denscombe 1998: 63) Of equal, or perhaps even greater importance is that before the research begins, everyone involved must know why the investi- gation is to take place, who will see the final report, and who will have responsibility for implementing any recommended changes.10 Doing your research project Case study Even if you are working on a 100-hour project over a three-month period, the case study approach can be particularly appropriate for individual researchers because it provides an opportunity for one aspect of a problem to be studied in some depth. Of course, not all case studies have to be completed in three months, or even three years. For example, Korman and Glennerster’s (1990) study of what led to the closure of a large mental hospital took seven and a half years to complete. Sadly, you will have to wait until you are head of research in your hospital, local authority, university or government department before you will be in a position to under- take and to obtain the funding for such a venture, so for the time being, be realistic about the selection of your case study topic. Yin reminds us that ‘case studies have been done about decisions, about programmes, about the implementation process, and about organizational change. Beware these types of topic – none is easily defined in terms of the beginning or end point of the case.’ He adds that ‘the more a study contains specific propositions, the more it will stay within reasonable limits’ (Yin 1994: 137). Good advice and worth following. Case studies may be carried out to follow up and to put flesh on the bones of a survey. They can also precede a survey and be used as a means of identifying key issues which merit further investiga- tion, but the majority are carried out as free-standing exercises. Researchers identify an ‘instance’, which could be the intro- duction of a new way of working, the way an organization adapts to a new role, or any innovation or stage of development in an institution. Evidence has to be collected systematically, the relationship between variables studied (a variable being a charac- teristic or attribute) and the investigation methodically planned. Though observation and interviews are most frequently used, no method is excluded. All organizations and individuals have their common and their unique features. Case study researchers aim to identify such features, to identify or attempt to identify the various interactive processes at work, to show how they affect the imple- mentation of systems and influence the way an organization functions. These processes may remain hidden in a large-scaleApproaches to research 11 survey but could be crucial to the success or failure of systems or organizations. Critics of case study Critics of the case study approach draw attention to a number of problems and/or disadvantages. For example, some question the value of the study of single events and point out that it is difficult for researchers to cross-check information. Others express con- cern about the possibility of selective reporting and the resulting dangers of distortion. A major concern is that generalization is not always possible, though Denscombe (1998: 36–7) makes the point that ‘the extent to which findings from the case study can be generalized to other examples in the class depends on how far the case study example is similar to others of its type’. He illustrates this point by drawing on the example of a case study of a small primary school. He writes that: This means that the researcher must obtain data on the sig- nificant features (catchment area, the ethnic origins of the pupils and the amount of staff turnover) for primary schools in general, and then demonstrate where the case study example fits in relation to the overall picture. (1998: 37) In his 1981 paper on the relative merits of the search for generalization and the study of single events, Bassey preferred to use the term ‘relatability’ rather than ‘generalizability’. In his opinion an important criterion for judging the merit of a case study is the extent to which the details are sufficient and appro- priate for a teacher working in a similar situation to relate his decision making to that described in the case study. The relatability of a case study is more important than its generalizability. (Bassey 1981: 85)12 Doing your research project He considers that if case studies are carried out systematically and critically, if they are aimed at the improvement of education, if they are relatable, and if by publication of the findings they extend the boundaries of existing knowledge, then they are valid forms of educational research. (p. 86) Writing about an education case study in 1999, he amends or rather adds to his 1981 thoughts. He recalls that Previously I had treated the concept of generalization (of the empirical kind, that is) as a statement that had to be absolutely true. This is the sense in which physical scientists use the term. It is the basis of their concept of scientific method . . . in which a hypothesis stands as a generalization (or law) only if it withstands all attempts at refutation. I argued that there were very few generalizations (in this abso- lute sense) about education – and even fewer, if any, that were useful to experienced teachers. (Bassey 1999: 12) He makes it clear that he still holds to this view as far as scientific generalizations (of the absolute kind) are concerned but now acknowledges there can be two other kinds of generalization which can apply in the social sciences, namely statistical generalizations and ‘fuzzy’ generalizations: The statistical generalization arises from samples of popula- tions and typical claims that there is an x per cent or y per cent chance that what was found in the sample will also be found throughout the population: it is the quantitative measure. The fuzzy generalization arises from studies of singularities and typical claims that it is possible, or likely, or unlikely that what was found in the singularity will be found in similar situations elsewhere: it is a qualitative measure. (p. 12)Approaches to research 13 The pros and cons of case study will no doubt be debated in the future as they have been in the past. It’s as well to be aware of the criticisms but, as I said at the beginning of this section, case study can be an appropriate approach for individual researchers because it provides an opportunity for one aspect of a problem to be stud- ied in some depth. You will have to decide whether or not it suits your purpose. Survey It would be nice to have a clear, short and succinct definition of ‘survey’ but as Aldridge and Levine (2001: 5) point out, ‘Each survey is unique. Therefore, lists of do’s and don’ts are too inflexible. A solution to one survey may not work in another.’ Moser and Kalton (1971: 1) agree that it would be pleasant to provide a straightforward definition of what is meant by a ‘social survey’ but make it clear that ‘such a definition would have to be so general as to defeat its purpose, since the term and the methods associated with it are applied to an extraordinarily wide variety of investigations . . .’. They continue by giving examples of the range of areas which might be covered by a survey: A survey may be occasioned simply by a need for administra- tive facts on some aspects of public life; or be designed to investigate a cause–effect relationship or to throw fresh light on some aspect of sociological theory. When it comes to sub- ject matter, all one can say is that surveys are concerned with the demographic characteristics, the social environment, the activities, or the opinions and attitudes of some group of people. (Moser and Kalton 1971: 1) The census is one example of a survey in which the same ques- tions are asked of the selected population (the population being the group or category of individuals selected). It aims to cover 100 per cent of the population, but most surveys have less ambitious aims. In most cases, a survey will aim to obtain information from a representative selection of the population and from that sample14 Doing your research project will then be able to present the findings as being representative of the population as a whole. Inevitably, there are problems in the survey method. Great care has to be taken to ensure that the sample population is truly representative. At a very simple level, that means ensuring that if the total population has 1000 men and 50 women, then the same proportion of men to women has to be selected. But that example grossly oversimplifies the method of drawing a representative sample and if you decide to carry out a survey, you will need to consider what characteristics of the total population need to be represented in your sample to enable you to say with fair confidence that your sample is reasonably representative. In surveys, all respondents will be asked the same questions in, as far as possible, the same circumstances. Question wording is not as easy as it seems, and careful piloting is necessary to ensure that all questions mean the same to all respondents. Information can be gathered by means of self-completion questionnaires (as in the case of the census) or by an interviewer. Whichever method of information gathering is selected, the aim is to obtain answers to the same questions from a large number of individuals to enable the researcher not only to describe but also to compare, to relate one characteristic to another and to demonstrate that certain features exist in certain categories. Surveys can provide answers to the questions What? Where? When? and How?, but it is not so easy to find out Why? Causal relationships can rarely, if ever, be proved by survey method. The main emphasis is on fact-finding, and if a survey is well struc- tured and piloted, it can be a relatively cheap and quick way of obtaining information. The experimental style It is relatively easy to plan experiments which deal with measurable phenomena. For example, experiments have been set up to measure the effects of using fluoridated toothpaste on dental caries by establishing a control group (who did not use the tooth- paste) and an experimental group (who did). In such experiments, the two groups, matched for age, sex, social class, and so on wereApproaches to research 15 given a pre-test dental examination and instructions about which toothpaste to use. After a year, both groups were given the post- test dental examination and conclusions were then drawn about the effectiveness or otherwise of the fluoridated toothpaste. The principle of such experiments is that if two identical groups are selected, one of which (the experimental group) is given special treatment and the other (the control group) is not, then any dif- ferences between the two groups at the end of the experimental period may be attributed to the difference in treatment. A causal relationship appears to have been established. It may be fairly straightforward to test the extent of dental caries (though even in this experiment the extent of the caries could be caused by many factors not controlled by the experiment) but it is quite another matter to test changes in behaviour. As Wilson (1979) points out, social causes do not work singly. Any examination of low student attainment or high IQ is the product of multiple causes. To isolate each cause requires a new experimental group each time and the length and difficulty of the experiment increase rapidly. It is possible to run an experiment in which several treatments are put into practice simultaneously but many groups must be made available rather than just two . . . The causes of social phenomena are usually multiple ones and an experiment to study them requires large numbers of people often for lengthy periods. This requirement limits the usefulness of the experimental method. (Wilson 1979: 22) So, experiments may allow conclusions to be drawn about cause and effect, if the design is sound, but large groups are needed if the many variations and ambiguities involved in human behaviour are to be controlled. Such large-scale experiments are expensive to set up and take more time than most students working on 100-hour projects can give. Some tests which require only a few hours (e.g. to test short-term memory or perception) can be very effective, but in claiming a causal relationship, great care needs to be taken to ensure that all possible causes have been considered. It is worth noting at this point that there can be ethical issues associated with experimental research. Permission to conduct the16 Doing your research project research must be obtained from the heads of institutions or units concerned and from the participants themselves. All must be fully informed about what is involved. Proposals may have to be considered by ethics committees and/or research committees in order to ensure that subjects of the research will not be harmed by it. Particularly if children are involved, permission to participate must be sought from parents. Cohen et al. (2000) particularly object to the principle of ‘manipulating’ human beings. They write that: Notions of isolation and control of variables in order to estab- lish causality may be appropriate for a laboratory, though whether, in fact, a social situation ever could become the anti- septic, artificial world of the laboratory or should become such a world is both an empirical and moral question . . . Further, the ethical dilemmas of treating humans as manipulable, controllable and inanimate are considerable. (Cohen et al. 2000: 212) Quite so, though ethical issues have to be considered in all research, regardless of the context. If you decide you wish to undertake an experimental study, ask for advice, consider any implications and requirements – and be careful about making claims about causality. Ethnography and the ethnographic style of research Brewer defines ethnography as The study of people in naturally occurring settings or ‘fields’ by methods of data collection which capture their social meanings and ordinary activities, involving the researcher participating directly in the setting, if not also the activities, in order to collect data in a systematic manner but without meaning being imposed on them externally. (Brewer 2000: 6) Ethnographic researchers attempt to develop an understanding ofApproaches to research 17 how a culture works and, as Lutz points out, many methods and techniques are used in that search: Participant observation, interview, mapping and charting, interaction analysis, study of historical records and current public documents, the use of demographic data, etc. But ethnography centers on the participant observation of a society or culture through a complete cycle of events that regularly occur as that society interacts with its environment. (Lutz 1986: 108) Participant observation enables researchers, as far as is possible, to share the same experiences as the subjects, to understand better why they act in the way they do and ‘to see things as those involved see things’ (Denscombe 1998: 69). However, it is time- consuming and so is often outside the scope of researchers work- ing on 100-hour projects or on fixed-time Master’s degrees. The researcher has to be accepted by the individuals or groups being studied, and this can mean doing the same job, or living in the same environment and circumstances as the subjects for lengthy periods. Time is not the only problem with this approach. As in case studies, critics point to the problem of representativeness. If the researcher is studying one group in depth over a period of time, who is to say that group is typical of other groups that may have the same title? Are nurses in one hospital (or even in one specialist area) necessarily representative of nurses in a similar hospital or specialist area in another part of the country? Are canteen workers in one type of organization likely to be typical of all canteen workers? Critics also refer to the problem of generalization, but as in the case study approach, if the study is well structured and carried out, and makes no claims which cannot be justified, it may well be relatable in a way that will enable members of similar groups to recognize problems and, possibly, to see ways of solving similar problems in their own group.18 Doing your research project The grounded theory approach The grounded theory approach to qualitative data analysis was developed by Glaser and Strauss in the 1960s during the course of a field observational study of the way hospital staff dealt with dying patients (1965, 1968). So what does it involve? Strauss (1987) tells us that The methodological thrust of the grounded theory approach to qualitative data analysis is toward the development of theory, without any particular commitment to specific kinds of data, lines of research, or theoretical interests. So, it is not really a specific method or technique. Rather it is a style of doing qualitative analysis that includes a number of dis- tinct features, such as theoretical sampling, and certain methodological guidelines, such as the making of constant comparisons and the use of a coding paradigm, to ensure conceptual development and density. (Strauss, 1987: 5) He defines theoretical sampling as sampling directed by the evolving theory; it is a sampling of incidents, events, activities, populations, etc. It is harnessed to the making of comparisons between and among those samples of activities, populations, etc. (p. 21) The theory is not prespecified. It emerges as the research proceeds (hence ‘theoretical’ sampling). Over the years, there have been some adjustments to the original 1960s’ approach to grounded theory, but the principles remain much the same, which are that theory evolves during actual research by means of the analysis of the data. Punch considers that grounded theory is best defined as a research strategy whose purpose is to generate theory from data. ‘Grounded’ means that the theory will be generated on the basis of data; the