Saturday, 2 January 2016

IPA insights: Callary, Rathwell & Young

To be honest, reading the papers I have done so far, I'm quite surprised at the sorts of papers that get published. I seem to have hit a seam of research papers analysing how they have done research. This is a bit weird or me, with my science background. It does make me somewhat concerned - if so many people feel they need to write papers explaining how they completed a research process, then maybe it's going to be rather difficult to do for a first assignment due to be handed in by early March.

Then again, maybe there are a lot of qualitative journals out there, looking for material to fill them, and a lot of researchers out there looking to get papers published.

Anyway, this paper was worth reviewing because it looks specifically at IPA rather than other forms of phenomenology. I suppose my key concern from this paper is that they talk about bracketing. I'm going to have to look more closely about how bracketing does or does not fit into IPA. My understanding was that it isn't done. Perhaps their use of language here is imprecise, as they also talk about writing reflexively on their own experiences of the topic. This sounds more like the reflexivity required of interpretative phenomenology rather than transcendental. Perhaps this is the point that the authors of the previous paper I read were trying to make - unless the author is explicit on the theoretical underpinnings of their work, confusion can reign. I will need to explore Smith's work on IPA to see where I stand with regard to bracketing.

There are some useful examples within this paper of how they have tried to attain rigour (trustworthiness?) through use of group discussion of the themes drawn out and their analysis. Not something I will be able to do, but it gives an indication of the sorts of process I should put myself through to increase trustworthiness.

Callary, B., Rathwell, S., & Young, B. W. (2015). Insights on the process of using interpretative phenomenological analysis in a sport coaching research project. The Qualitative Report, 20(2), 63-75.

Using IPA

IPA is informed by three key positions: phenomenology, hermeneutics and idiography (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2013). Phenomenology describes the 'what' and 'how' of individuals' experienced phenomena, describes the essences of an experience but does not analyse - according to Cresswell (2013). However, what if we're looking at interpretative phenomenology? Hermeneutics seeks to interpret the spoken  or written word to identify the meaning of the speaker. Idiography pertains to small scale research relatable to one or a few people rather than generalising the findings to a larger population.

Smith (2004) links the four key characteristics of IPA to these three positions:
  1. IPA is idiographic because a detailed analysis is made of one case before moving on to the next
  2. IPA is inductive - research questions are broadly constructed to allow for unanticipated themes to emerge.
  3. Results are discussed in relation to existing literature
  4. IPA researchers are influenced by their own lived experience and interpret data through their own lens.
IPA includes a double hermeneutic - the researcher attempts to make sense of the participant, who is attempting to make sense of their own experience (Smith, 2004).

Smith's guidelines for good quality IPA studies include having a clear focus, having both a descriptive and interpretative analysis with both convergent and divergent themes notes.

IPA in sport studies

A range of studies in sport science have been completed using IPA but papers based on the research do not always indicate how the study was performed. Giorgi (2011) complains that because IPA does not follow fixed methods, it is impossible to replicate IPA studies. OK, so, I know I'm only a beginner in all of this, and I haven't read much of Smith's books yet, but I thought that qualitative work wasn't so hung up on replicability. I'll have to read both Giorgi and SMith and see what's going on here. Not much love lost, for sure.

The paper continues with an overview of previous sport science studies and identifies the gap in the literature which this study seeks to add to: a sharing of methodology.

Preparing the IPA study

A discussion of how the discovering of IPA as a methodology caused a change in the team's research question, to concentrate on lived experiences is followed by an explanation of how data were gathered: numbers, development of interview questions, and (confusingly) bracketing.

Collecting rich and personal data on participants' lived experiences

The team explain how interviewing did not go to plan and the interviewer had to think on their feet to get the personal experiences required rather than more general thoughts. This is something I will need to be aware of as I would imagine it is easy to fall into. Methods to avoid this include funnelling (Smith & Osborn, 2003): a three step approach - personalising the statement, understanding the meaning and acquiring the lived experience. They also prompted the participants ahead of the interview that they were interested in the interviewee's own experiences.

Individual level analysis

Each interview is analysed separately to discover emerging themes. These can then be examined across the interviews. Read the interview as a whole, then line by line analysis of the transcript to code the experiences. These allow patterns in the text to be seen - the development of inductive themes. In this study, each team member did it separately.

Group level analysis

List all themes in each transcript, examine the operational definitions to find similarities across all participants and combine similar themes under 4 or 5 broad higher order themes.

Challenges and strategies in IPA data analysis

It is key to lay to one side the coding from previous transcripts, so that convergences and divergences in the data are respected. Through reflexion of emerging themes, this can be done (though this paper again talks about bracketing). Rigour in the process was supported by the group discussions throughout the process - team members' challenging coding and interpretation meant that each stage was rigorously discussed and agreed upon.

Conclusions for researchers interested in using IPA

IPA produces rich data allowing for in-depth understanding of the phenomenon under study.

Further reading:

Cresswell (2013) Qualitative enquiry and research design

Giorgi (2011) IPA and science: A response to Jonathan Smith

Smith (2004) Reflecting on the development of IPA

Smith, Flowers, & Larkin (2013). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: theory, method and research.

Smith & Osborn (2003) IPA in JA Smith (Ed) qualitative psychology: a practical guide to methods

No comments:

Post a Comment