Title

“Away from everybody for an hour”: Reflections on informants experiences in qualitative research

Location

New River Room A

Start Time

2-10-2015 10:45 AM

End Time

2-10-2015 12:15 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Ethnographic studies depend on the openness of informants who are asked to disclose sensitive information such as beliefs and values (Lawlor & Mattingly, 2001). The openness of an informant can depend on both relationships with researchers and the experience of being part of a research project. However, the experience of participation that shapes individuals’ willingness to share their stories is often overlooked.

This paper explores the experiences of parents of children with disabilities that participated in two separate studies. These two research projects are particularly significant because although mothers and fathers participated in both studies, the primary focus of these studies was on fathers, who have been described as being difficult research informants due to problems with identification, recruitment, and retention (Mitchell et al., 2007). The purpose of this paper is to analyze parents’ participation in the research process in order to gain insight into aspects of the experience that allow individuals to share stories that are meaningful descriptions of their lives.

Data collection for these two studies included observations of families participating in activities together, interviews with fathers, interviews with mothers, and group interviews with both fathers and mothers. Eight families that included a child with a disability participated in the two studies. During the interview process, informants were asked specially to comment on their participation in the research. This paper consists of narrative analysis of informants’ commentary on the interview process combined with researcher impressions recorded in fieldnotes for interviews and observations.

Over all, the findings demonstrate that the experience of the research process can have a profound influence on what informants share. The setting of interviews and observations influenced informants’ perceptions, the process of data gathering, and the content of interactions. Although talking about their children was not something that often happened in their daily lives, informants described being part of the research project as an opportunity to talk about feelings and experiences. Descriptions of the interview process by the informants included comparisons to both personal and couples counseling. This description of the interview process can be difficult for the researcher reluctant to assume this responsibility.

This paper directly relates to the conference theme of methodologies that advance the study of occupation by reflecting on the process of gathering data for qualitative research. For qualitative researchers that depend on the openness of their informants, it is important to consider informants’ experiences in the interview process. By examining experiences we can gain insight into topics that informants choose to talk about and why informants are willing to participate in research. This insight into the research process can be useful for new researchers designing an original study or experienced researcher reflecting on past data.

References

Lawlor, M. C., & Mattingly, C. (2001). Beyond the unobtrusive observer: Reflections on researcher-informant relationships in urban ethnography. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(2), 147-154.

Mitchell, S. J., See, H. M., Tarkow, A. K., Cabrera, N., McFadden, K. E., & Shannon, J. D. (2007). Conducting studies with fathers: Challenges and opportunities. Applied Development Science, 11(4), 239-244.

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Oct 2nd, 10:45 AM Oct 2nd, 12:15 PM

“Away from everybody for an hour”: Reflections on informants experiences in qualitative research

New River Room A

Ethnographic studies depend on the openness of informants who are asked to disclose sensitive information such as beliefs and values (Lawlor & Mattingly, 2001). The openness of an informant can depend on both relationships with researchers and the experience of being part of a research project. However, the experience of participation that shapes individuals’ willingness to share their stories is often overlooked.

This paper explores the experiences of parents of children with disabilities that participated in two separate studies. These two research projects are particularly significant because although mothers and fathers participated in both studies, the primary focus of these studies was on fathers, who have been described as being difficult research informants due to problems with identification, recruitment, and retention (Mitchell et al., 2007). The purpose of this paper is to analyze parents’ participation in the research process in order to gain insight into aspects of the experience that allow individuals to share stories that are meaningful descriptions of their lives.

Data collection for these two studies included observations of families participating in activities together, interviews with fathers, interviews with mothers, and group interviews with both fathers and mothers. Eight families that included a child with a disability participated in the two studies. During the interview process, informants were asked specially to comment on their participation in the research. This paper consists of narrative analysis of informants’ commentary on the interview process combined with researcher impressions recorded in fieldnotes for interviews and observations.

Over all, the findings demonstrate that the experience of the research process can have a profound influence on what informants share. The setting of interviews and observations influenced informants’ perceptions, the process of data gathering, and the content of interactions. Although talking about their children was not something that often happened in their daily lives, informants described being part of the research project as an opportunity to talk about feelings and experiences. Descriptions of the interview process by the informants included comparisons to both personal and couples counseling. This description of the interview process can be difficult for the researcher reluctant to assume this responsibility.

This paper directly relates to the conference theme of methodologies that advance the study of occupation by reflecting on the process of gathering data for qualitative research. For qualitative researchers that depend on the openness of their informants, it is important to consider informants’ experiences in the interview process. By examining experiences we can gain insight into topics that informants choose to talk about and why informants are willing to participate in research. This insight into the research process can be useful for new researchers designing an original study or experienced researcher reflecting on past data.