Memos are important tools in qualitative research and tend to be written about a variety of different topics throughout the phases of a qualitative study. Memos are a way to capture and process, over time, your ongoing ideas and discoveries, challenges associated with fieldwork and design, and analytic sense-making. Depending on your research questions, memos can also become data sources for a study. The goals of memos are to help generate and clarify your thinking as well as to capture the development of your thinking, as a kind of phenomenological note taking that captures the meaning making of the researcher in real time and then provides data to refer and consider the refinement of your thinking over time (Maxwell, 2013; Nakkula & Ravitch, 1998; Ravitch & Carl, 2016). In this course you will write multiple kinds of memos relating to your identity and positionality with respect to your proposed research, research design and development, data analysis. See Ravitch and Carl (2021) for more detailed descriptions of the memos assigned throughout the course.
- A memo on Site and Participant Selection that includes a contextualizing and specific description of the setting and study participants and how/why they would be selected given the research questions (with a specific subsection that describes and explains the selection criteria used to make these decisions).
- A memo on Data Collection that details each data collection method, including a rationale for the choice of each specific method (e.g., interviews, focus groups, observation and field notes, reflective writing, document review), the nature and scope of the information/knowledge you may gain from the method, and the specific structures and procedures of each method with rationales that relate to your research questions and the study goals. As well, describe the strategy/logic behind how methods may be timed and sequenced (Sequencing of Methods) and be clear about the research design in terms of how data will be triangulated in data collection. The data collection section should include not only data collection strategies, such as interviews, focus groups, observation and field notes, member checks, and the like, but also additional forms of data such as research memos, research journal, specific archival/document data, and other kinds of data collected.
- In the Data Analysis, this memo will include a specific description of the processes by which you would analyze your data. Topics to discuss include how data will be transcribed, how they will be analyzed (inductively or a combination of both), how themes will be developed, what analytical approach and processes may be used, how codes may be developed, examples of codes, analytical triangulation, and so on.
- Include a section about Issues of Validity in which you discuss threats to validity and how you would address each one methodologically by structuring validity measures such as triangulation, strategic sequencing of methods, pilot study, piloting data collection instruments, participant validation processes (member checks), and collaborative processes including dialogic engagement (critical inquiry groups). Discuss issues of validity that specifically relate to your identity and positionality as a researcher (this may be included in a subsection titled Researcher Roles and Positionality).
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