Chapter three describes in
detail the procedure of the study. This involves relating the research
methodology, restating the purpose statement and research questions,
describing the participants, recounting the instruments, defining the
study’s population and sample, providing steps for data collection, and
detailing procedures used in analyzing the results of the research data.
For this study, the candidate undertook a phenomological study. A
phenomological study seeks understanding “the subjects’ experiences and
how they make sense of those experiences.” Therefore, the
researcher sought the most effective way to understand his subjects’
experiences and how those subjects understood those experiences.
The remainder of this chapter explains the methodology the student
Statement of Purpose
researcher commenced this project-dissertation for the following
To assess the
attitudes of elders in churches of Christ in Kanawha and Lincoln
Counties of West Virginia regarding inactive Christians
To assess elders’
views of their ability to work with inactive Christians
To assess elders’
willingness to learn how to deal with inactive Christians more
researcher posed the following research questions regarding his study:
How do elders in the
churches of Christ in Kanawha and Lincoln Counties of West Virginia
view inactive Christians?
What encounters with
inactive Christians have elders in the churches of Christ in Kanawha
and Lincoln Counties of West Virginia experienced?
What have the elders learned from those encounters?
How do the selected
elders view their role as a shepherd regarding inactive Christians?
How willing would
the selected elders be to enroll in a seminar to learn skills to work
with inactive Christians?
researcher contacted all mainstream churches of Christ in Kanawha or
Lincoln County, West Virginia and invited the elders in those
congregations to participate in the study. Eighteen mainstream
churches of Christ operate in the two counties under
consideration. Because the student has preached repeatedly
about restoring inactive Christians in the Alum Creek Church of Christ,
he excluded the two elders serving that congregation. Six of the
remaining seventeen congregations do not have elders; therefore, eleven
congregations remained for study.
researcher mailed a letter to each of the remaining congregations
explaining the project and seeking the elders’ participation.
One week following the letter’s mailing, the candidate called each
elder requesting a face-to-face meeting during which the candidate
explained the research project. Through the face-to-face
meetings the researcher indicated both the importance of the elders’
participation and the importance of his research; the meetings also
provided the researcher with first-hand knowledge of the participants’
surroundings. At the face-to-face meetings, the student
introduced the informed consent form.
investigator included all willing elders in Lincoln and Kanawha
Counties of West Virginia in the study. The candidate telephoned
sixteen elders whose names and phone numbers he collected from various
sources. The researcher personally knew six of the elders prior
to the study. Six other names were collected from websites of
congregations listing contact information for the elders. The
four additional names were collected from ministers or members of the
congregation the student knew.
the sixteen elders telephoned, six refused participation in the
study. One additional elder agreed to participate, but he
relocated before an interview could be conducted. Nine elders
participated in the study, for a participation percentage of 56.25.
student broke demographic data into the following categories to make
comparisons between the participants easier: age, length of time as an
elder, size of the congregation served, and religious background.
The table below provides the demographics of the participants.
1. Demographics of Participants
|Time as an Elder
|Size of Congregation
|Churches of Christ
|Churches of Christ
|Churches of Christ
|Churches of Christ
|Churches of Christ
|Churches of Christ
|Churches of Christ
|Churches of Christ
researcher served as the primary instrument for this study. Two
Qualitative researchers believe that
the researcher’s ability to
interpret and make sense of what he or she sees is critical for
understanding any social phenomenon. In this sense, the
researcher is an instrument in much the same way that a sociogram,
rating scale, or intelligence test is an instrument.
Although, in many respects, the researcher served
as the instrument for
this study, he needed direction in gathering usable data; therefore, he
developed an interview guide.
In conducting the interviews, the
candidate did not utilize an
established guide, for such a measurement does not exist.
Instead, the researcher developed an interview guide for use in his
interviews. The interview guide allowed the candidate to make his
interviews “more systematic and comprehensive by delimiting in advance
the issues to be explored.” Additionally, using an interview
guide allowed the candidate to compare more easily the data obtained
from the different participants.
Including all sub-questions, the
interview guide contained forty-nine
questions. The first set of questions allowed the researcher to
explore with the participants their current situation in light of the
research problem; the questions allowed the elders to reflect on their
past and see how that past might impact the way they currently work
with inactive Christians. The second set of questions explored
the elders’ current situation with inactive Christians. The final
set of questions examined what the elders would like to change about
the way they work with inactive Christians.
candidate used his interview guide for standardized open-ended
interviews. In using standardized open-ended interviews, the
researcher made certain each participant was asked the same questions
in the same order as all the others. Utilizing the interview
guide in a standardized manner provided the student with several
benefits. Variation among the interviews was kept to a
minimum, allowing the researcher to categorize data more easily.
The standardized open-ended interviews also allowed the candidate to
keep the interview highly focused which provided for efficient use of
quantitative studies, an instrument’s validity matters, for validity
allows researchers to know “the extent to which an empirical measure
adequately reflects the real meaning of the concept under
consideration.” Therefore, without validity, researchers
would never know with certainty whether their instruments actually
measured what they purported to record.
However, because of divergent methodological suppositions, research
standards differ significantly in qualitative from quantitative
studies. Two writers argued, “Advocates of the antirealist
position argue that qualitative research represents a distinctive
paradigm and as such it cannot and should not be judged by conventional
measures of validity, generalisability, and reliability.” The
term “trustworthiness” better describes the present study. In
summarizing the research of others, another author wrote, “At the
extreme, some qualitative researchers have suggested that the
traditionalquantitative criteria of reliability and validity are not
relevant to qualitative research.” At the same time,
scientific research must meet the rigors of the discipline in which it
takes place. Thorleif Lund, professor of Special Needs Education
at the University of Oslo, wrote the following:
If ‘‘something’’ is to be counted as
knowledge, it has to attain a
satisfactory level of certainty or validity. Hence, validity issues are
fundamental ones in knowledge construction, and such issues are focused
upon in methodological and substantive research.
Therefore, the present study required conformity
to the standards of qualitative research.
in qualitative research, a debate rages as to which terminology should
be applied to the whole issue of validity. The candidate
chose to use the terminology of “trustworthiness,” for trustworthiness
asks the question, “How can an inquirer persuade his or her audience
(including self) that the findings of an inquiry are worth paying
attention to, worth taking account of?” Therefore, the
researcher’s obstacle is to establish the merits of the study.
The study has much trustworthiness or merit.
researcher sought interpretative trustworthiness, “the degree to which
the research participants’” viewpoints, thoughts, feelings, intentions,
and experiences are accurately understood.” The candidate
utilized two techniques to obtain such trustworthiness. First,
the student used a method commonly called “member checking.”
Member checking serves to ensure “the themes or categories make sense,
whether they are developed with sufficient evidence, and whether the
overall account is realistic and accurate.” To carry out this
procedure, the candidate provided all participants a copy of the data
analysis and asked to make sure the student reached justifiable
second procedure the student used to infuse his report with
interpretative trustworthiness involved “using many low inference
descriptors” in presenting the data. Using low inference
descriptors involves utilizing many verbatim quotations throughout the
report. Therefore, Chapter IV contains many verbatim quotes from
researcher also sought honest answers from the participants.
Each elder contacted had the opportunity to refuse to participate, and
six did refuse participation. The researcher gave the remaining
nine elders ample time to read the informed consent and understand its
promises—the right to withdraw from the study and the pledge of
absolute confidentiality. The researcher has a high degree of
certainty that the participants gave honest answers. Three elders
revealed the names of inactive members with whom they were working, and
two elders even told the candidate data they wished to remain out of
the written report.
Another method the candidate used to enhance the trustworthiness of
this report was to examine previous research findings. While
the researcher knows of no other phenemological study along the same
lines as this study, the research outlined Chapter II discusses the
responsibility of elders, causes of inactivity, and how churches can
reclaim inactive members. Chapter V discusses the results of this
study in light of previous researcher.
researcher planned to employ a three-interview model proposed by
Irving Seidman, professor of qualitative research at the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst. However, the researcher conducted
only one interview with each participant, for he was able to ask all
the relevant questions while providing participants enough time to
supply usable data.
Because the candidate used one
interview rather than the planned three,
the project does lack some of the credibility it would otherwise have
had. Had the student interviewed each participant three
times, he could easily have examined the data gleaned from each elder
for internal consistency. In other words, the researcher could
have explored whether or not what an elder told him in one interview
matched what he told him in another interview. The candidate
sought to overcome that deficiency by the “member checking” technique
interview lasted approximately ninety minutes. “Given that the
purpose of this approach is to have the participants reconstruct their
experience, put it in the context of their lives, and reflect on its
meaning, anything shorter than ninety minutes for each interview seems
too short.” Employing a set time limit lessened the
participants’ anxiety; the participants understood how much time was
asked of them. Interviewees generally appreciate the
ninety-minute period, for the time frame expresses an interest in what
the participant has to say.
researcher divided each interview into three sections. The first
section sought “to put the participant’s experience in context by
asking him or her to tell as much as possible about him or herself in
light of the topic up to the present time.” In the present
study, the student attempted to understand the elders’ past experiences
with elders. The candidate focused on the following in the first
section: previous experiences the participants had with church leaders,
how they had witnessed other church leaders handle inactive Christians,
and how they became elders.
second section concentrated “on the concrete details of the
participants’ present experience” relating to shepherding inactive
Christians. The interview sought details of how the elders
deal with inactive Christians in the congregations where they
serve. The researcher directed attention on the following in the
second section: the procedures of the congregations the elders serve in
relation to inactive Christians and experiences they have encountered
in dealing with inactive Christians.
third section encouraged participants “to reflect on the meaning of
their experience.” Reflecting on the meaning of working with
inactive Christians required the elders to “look at how the factors in
their lives interacted to bring them to their present
situation.” The researcher targeted the following: what
participants would change about the way they have worked with inactive
Christians and how the elders plan to work with inactive Christians in
is the most important skill in interviewing.”
Therefore, the student’s listening skills performed a vital role in the
quality of the data he gathered. The student used the skills
listed in the Personal Evangelism Improvement Course by Leon Estep,
professor of ministerial leadership at Regions University. Estep
encourages the following listening skills:
Recognize with Socrates: “Speak in order that I may
Prepare to listen,
Be interested in speaker’s topic.
Hear new ideas readily.
Accept speaker’s personality.
Properly deal with emotionally laden words.
Wait to hear all speaker has to say.
idea—hear feelings instead of words—listen below the level of the
dictionary definition of words or self-meanings.
Question self/speaker as: “What is speaker trying to say?” etc.
Listen “in between lines.”
No-No: Do not take mental
detours – Do not finish sentences for speaker – do not interrupt—do not
time variation between
speaking speed and thought speed to better understand speaker.
The researcher used truly
open-ended questions, for “qualitative
inquiry—strategically, philosophically, and therefore,
methodologically—aims to minimize the imposition of predetermined
responses when gathering data.” In order to ask truly
open-ended questions, the candidate avoided phrasing questions as a
dichotomy, where the respondent could answer “yes” or “no.”
asking truly open-ended questions, the candidate needed several skills
to elicit valuable data. The candidate inquired of participants
when he failed to understand what an elder had said. The
researcher solicited more information when he feared the participants
had not revealed the whole story or when they had simply given
generalizations. While the student did not interrupt the
participants, he followed up on what participants said when doing so
would not stop their current train of thought. The candidate
also avoided reinforcing the participants’ answers with “uh-huh” or “O.
K.” or “yes,” lest such responses might blur future answers.
researcher recorded each interview with the various participants,
for the interview responses provided the raw data for the researcher’s
study. If the candidate transposed his own wording for the
participants’ wording, he would have framed their experience from his
own perspective, not their own; tape recording the interviews
allowed the student to possess all his raw data. To assure the
quality of the recordings, the candidate used an electrical outlet,
rather than batteries, for the outlet offered far more reliability; the
candidate always took extra cassettes to the interview; the candidate
employed an external microphone; and the candidate placed the recorder
on a stable surface.
though the candidate recorded the interviews, he took notes during the
interactions. Taking notes provided several important
benefits. First, note taking conveyed to the participants that
what they said had value to the investigator. Second, note
taking aided the student in focusing on what the participants told
him. Third, note taking allowed the researcher to keep track
of what material the participant has covered and enabled the researcher
to return to this material at an appropriate time. Fourth,
note taking provided the researcher with an immediate “feed-back loop,”
that is, the candidate could write down his impression of what a
participant had said and then check the accuracy of his impressions.
the candidate possessed the raw data, he transcribed the interviews
himself. Although the candidate could have hired a
transcriptionist, transcribing his own interviews provided the
researcher an opportunity to become quite familiar with the
interviews. Some researchers choose to transcribe only those
parts of interviews that they initially find interesting; however,
valuable data can be lost in the process. Therefore, the
student copied the entire interview so that he could possess all data
in the project’s data analysis stage.
candidate used four steps in organizing his data. After
transcribing the interviews, the candidate organized the data by
cutting and pasting in Microsoft Word significant sections of the
transcripts. Second, the researcher read through all transcripts
several times to get a feel for the data as a whole. At this
point, he began to make notes in the data for possible categories in
which the data might fit. Third, the candidate identified the
themes of the interviews and classified his data by those identified
themes. Finally, the researcher organized the data as they occur
in Chapter IV.
These tasks took place
specifically through hermeneutics, “the theory
and practice of interpretation,” a vital task in analyzing verbal
data. The candidate identified themes within the transcripts by
utilizing factors of significance delineated by Joyce G. Love in her
doctoral dissertation at Nova University. First, the
researcher examined the transcripts individually and together for
repetition, themes mentioned by more than one participant or mentioned
by a single participant more than once. The candidate also
listened again to the actual recordings while reading the transcripts
that he might be conscious of a change in tone or volume. At this
point, the researcher also utilized notes taken during the interviews
which described the participants’ nonverbal communication. The
student also took careful note of historical narratives which informed
him of what had shaped the participants’ current perceptions.
While reading the transcripts as
a whole, the researcher began coding
them in Microsoft Word. Instead of using numbers, the
candidate decided to code the data by colors around the hypotheses
formulated before the study began. He used the following color
scheme: red for hypothesis one, yellow for hypothesis two, blue for
hypothesis three, bright green for hypothesis four, rose for hypothesis
five, and orange for hypothesis six. The researcher then used cut
and paste function in Microsoft Word to create documents around each of
the six hypotheses.
candidate followed a quite similar method for coding data for findings
he did not expect to find and for findings in light of the literature
search. To categorize and code these data, the researcher used
the comment function in Microsoft Word to keeptrack of data as he
stumbled across them. Those data were then placed in single
documents arranged by subject headings using the cut and paste feature
of Microsoft Word.
next chapter presents the data in light of the hypotheses formed in the
1. Rubin and Babbie, Research Methods, 389
(see chap. 1, no. 39).
2. Mac Lynn, Churches of Christ in the United States, 2000 ed.
(Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 2000).
3. The letter the researcher sent is located in Appendix A.
4. See Irving Seidman, Interviewing as Qualitative Research, 2nd
ed. (New York and London: Teachers College Press, 1998), 40-41.
5. See Appendix B for a copy of the informed consent.
6. Paul D. Leedy and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod, Practical Research, 8th ed.
(Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2005),133.
7. Please see Appendix C for a copy of the interview guide.
8. Michael Quinn Patton, Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods,
3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2002).
9. Ibid., 344-347.
10. Ibid., 346.
11. Rubin and Babbie, Research Methods, 193.
12. Nicholas Mays and Catherine Pope, “Qualitative Research in Health
Care: Assessing Quality in Qualitative Research,” British Medical
Journal 320 (2000): 50.
13. R. Burke Johnson, “Examining the Validity Structure of Qualitative
Research,” Education 118 (1997): 282.
14. Thorleif Lund, “The Qualitative-Quantitative Distinction: Some
Comments,” Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 49 (2005): 120.
15. E.g., see Jeffrey P. Aguinaldo, “Rethinking Validity in Qualitative
Research from a Social Constructionist Perspective: From ‘Is This valid
research?’ to ‘What is this research valid for?’” The Qualitative
Report 9 (2004): 127-136; Nahid Golafshani, “Understanding
Reliability and Validity in Qualitative Research,” The Qualitative
Report 8 (2003): 597-607; and Glyn Winter, “A Comparative Discussion of
the Notion of ‘Validity’ in Qualitative and Quantitative Research,” The
Qualitative Report 4, nos. 3 &4 (2000),
http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR4-3/winter.html (accessed November 28,
16. Yvonna S. Lincoln and Egon G. Guba, Naturalistic Inquiry (Beverly
Hills, CA: SAGE , 1985), 290.
17. Johnson, “Examining the Validity Structure of Qualitative
18. John W. Creswell and Dana L. Miller, “Determining Validity in
Qualitative Inquiry,” Theory into Practice 39 (2000): 127.
19. Johnson, “Examining the Validity Structure of Qualitative
20. Andrew K. Shelton, “Strategies for Ensuring Trustworthiness in
Qualitative Research Projects,” Education for Information 22 (2004):
21. Ibid., 69.
22. Seidman, Interviewing as Qualitative Research.
23. Ibid., 17.
24. Ibid., 14.
27. Ibid., 11.
28. Ibid., 12.
31. Ibid., 63.
32. Leon Estep, Personal Evangelism Improvement Course (Ozark, AL:
privately printed, 1980), B-6 – B-7.
33. The concept of feedback added to the above illustration from Estep
is adapted from the discussion of the transactional model of
communication found in Michael Z. Hackman and Craig E. Johnson,
Leadership: A Communication Perspective (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland
Press, 2000), 9-10. Hackman and Johnson write, “Effective
communicators pay close attention to the messages being sent to them as
they talk with others” (p. 10).
34. Patton, Qualitative Research, 353.
36. Seidman Interviewing as Qualitative Research, 66.
37. Ibid., 67-68.
38. Ibid., 70-71.
39. Ibid., 74.
40. Patton, Qualitative Research, 380.
42. Ibid., 382.
43. Ibid., 383.
44. Seidman, Interviewing as Qualitative Research, 64.
46. Ibid., 98.
48. These four steps are recommended in Leedy and Ormrod, Practical
49. Margo Paterson and Joy Higgs, “Using Hermeneutics as a Qualitative
Research Approach in Professional Practice,” The Qualitative Report 10
50. Joyce G. Love, “The Hermeneutics of Transcript Analysis,” The
Qualitative Report 2, no. 1 (1994),
November 28, 2006).
51. For another approach to coding in a word processor, see John H.
Carney, Joseph F. Joiner, and Helen Tragou, “Categorizing, Coding, and
Manipulating Qualitative Data Using the WordPerfect®± Word
Processor,” The Qualitative Report 3, no. 1 (1997),
http:/www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR3-1/carney.html (accessed November 28,