Examining influence in a qualitative study?

It’s very important to use the correct terminology associated with a research method and design. For example, the word influence is widely-associated with quantitative research. Influence can be measured by examining the change in the Y variable when the X variable is manipulated or involving a third variable (Z). Quantitative research is more scientific, less subjective, is repeatable, and can be generalized. Qualitative research is based on the knowledge and skill of the researcher. There are times when an experienced researcher will explore influence in a qualitative study but that is few and far between, generally related to specific disciplines (e.g., medical, social work), and is supported with significant academic research (see here, here, and here). I don’t recommend emerging scholars perform qualitative research. Besides skill, the time needed to complete a qualitative study is much longer than the time needed to complete a quantitative study.

Grant (2019) is an example of why emerging scholars shouldn’t do qualitative research. This emerging scholar explored the influence of leadership behaviors on two dimensions: employee engagement and collaboration (the organization is not germane to this discussion). To perform this study, the emerging scholar created a 7-item open-ended survey and distributed it anonymously to 10 people in an organization exceeding 3,800 people. The emerging scholar would interpret the responses and categorize them to answer the following two research questions –

  • What leadership styles and behaviors are being utilized at [organization]?
  • What is the influence of existing leadership styles and behaviors on employee engagement and collaboration?

Yin (2018) describes five situations where a single case study would be appropriate: critical, unusual, common, revelatory, or longitudinal (pp. 48-50). In addition, Yin describes two types of single case studies: holistic and embedded (pp. 51-53). When reviewing the dissertation, the researcher is attempting a build a common, holistic single-case study. Common because leadership is an everyday situation. Holistic because the organization appears to have a single purpose. However, a case study focuses on “how” or “why” a situation occurred (perhaps leadership style evolution); not “what” style is prevalent or which specific styles influence two outcomes. With an anonymous survey, there is no way to follow up with a participant to clarify their responses. To quote a colleague –

Who’s the researcher? Carnac the Magnificent?

Name withheld

As a result, the research method (QUAL) and design (case study) doesn’t appear to align with the research questions. The results of the study should be ignored. However, I wanted to discuss the themes identified by Grant –

  • A collaborative, or transformational, leadership style is present
  • Organizational leaders are engaging
  • Unfair hiring practices have become standard

First, are collaborate and transformational the same? They’re close, but I believe some scholars would say they’re different. Second, what does the organization’s hiring practices have to do with leadership in an organization? Plus, how can one generalize to an organization of 3,800+ from a sample of 10? Do the math: That’s a 95% CI of nearly 31 points! Even if 90% of the sample described an organization leaders as collaborative, as interpreted by the researcher, that means the 95% CI would between 60% and Inf. What are the other 40%? Non-collaborative?

Reference:

Grant, R. M. (2019). Investigating the influence of leadership behaviors on employee engagement and collaboration in a Federal organization (Doctoral dissertation). ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (22615969)

Yin, R. K. (2018). Case study research and applications: Design and methods (6th Ed.). SAGE Publications.

When do numbers count in a QUAL study?

Gary (2019) wrote –

This research method (qualitative) addresses “how” questions – rather than “how many” through the perspective of those studied – informants.

Gary, 2019, p. 31

Makes sense…qualitative studies are not about “how many” but the words used by participants to describe their experiences and the interpretation of those words by the researcher based on their worldview and theoretical framework.

So, why report this?

Figure 1. Thematic Coding (Gary, 2019, p. 64).

I guess the experiences are important when proposing the study; however, its important to “demonstrate why one should have confidence in the findings” (Hannah & Lautsch, 2011, p. 16). Hannah and Lautsch call his credentialing counting. Who cares if a theme was framed from the responses of 10/10 or 9/10 of participants? Isn’t the theme more important?

There are other problems with this research (e.g., 7 formal “questions” vs an interview guide, no research question of any kind to guide the study), but this counting issue just bugs me. I agree with Sutton (2017): put the numbers in the closet.

References:

Gary, M. E. (2019). Managing toxic leaders: An exploration of human resources management’s role in mitigating the impact of leader imposed toxicity on organization, individuals, and other stakeholders (Doctoral dissertation). ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection (13897507)

Hannah, D. R., & Lautsch, B. A. (2011). Counting in qualitative research: Why to conduct it, when to avoid it, and when to closet it. Journal of Management Inquiry, 20(1), 14-22. https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492610375988

Sutton, R. I. (1997). The virtues of closet qualitative research. Organizational Science, 8(1), 97-106.

Type I errors galore…

Legatti-Maddox (2019) explored the moderating effect of two leadership styles, transformational and transactional, on the relationship between four types of humor and Organizational Citizenship Behavior. The sample for this study were 42 MBA students.

First, the sample size (N = 42) concerned me since it seemed to be a bit small to find a practical (moderate) effect (f2 = 0.15). Using the pwr.f2.test() function from R’s pwr package (Champerly, 2020), it appears a sample of at least 73 would be required with three independent variables and a minimum power of .80 (see below).

          u = 3
          v = 72.70583
         f2 = 0.15
  sig.level = 0.05
      power = 0.8

So, it appears the study was underpowered by design. With underpowered studies there is a low probability of finding true effects and any effects could be false. Let’s move forward…

Second, when performing a moderation analysis, one has to enter both independent variables along with the interaction (see below)

y = X1 + X2 + X1*X2

If the moderating variable (X1*X2) is significant, then the interaction is explored and the independent variables generally lose their value from a research perspective. However, since no independent or interactive variable’s p-values were reported, no moderation evidence was provided by the emerging scholar. Instead. p-values of unmoderated and moderated models were compared, and an increase in the F-statistic reported as evidence of a moderating effect. That’s a flawed approach and, when the null hypothesis is rejected based on that approach, a Type I error ensues.

In a prior post, I discuss the uses of P-P Plots vs. Q-Q Plots and how it’s a default option in regression under SPSS. This emerging scholar used this plot (from SPSS) and stated that the homoscedasticity assumption was met.

Figure 1. Normal P-P Plot of Regression Standardized Residual (p. 70)

However, there is no reference to the independent variables or which model. I wonder what would have happened if her faculty advisor challenged her and said the residuals are hetroskedastic?

Finally, a quick look at a summary table in the study (Table 19 below)

A learned faculty should have counseled this student that the p-values would need to be adjusted for potential family-wise errors as the student’s premise is that all nine models are true. The widely-cited Bonferroni correction would result in a new p-value of 0.0055 (.05/9). If applied, only Model 9 may have met the criteria. However the focus of the study was not on whether a model could be constructed, but whether the interaction of humor and leadership explained the relationship better than the direct effects. Thus, more Type I errors.

The interaction of humor and leadership may influence OCB, but this study provides no evidence. The results of this study should be ignored.

Student Note: The way to approach this would be through some Structured Equation Model (SEM) that controls for Type I errors.

Reference:

Champely, S. (2020, March 16). pwr: Basic functions of power analysis. https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/pwr/pwr.pdf

Legatti-Maddox, A. C. (2019). Humor style in the workplace as it relates to leadership style and organizational citizenship behavior (Doctoral dissertation). ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (22622521)

Ethnicity: M = 1.26, SD = .529?

I understand that one has to “numericize” categories for quantitative analysis, but any student and faculty should understand the numbers mean nothing when compared (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Barplot of Ethnicity (Race) with Distribution overlay (Deonarinesingh, 2019, p. 59).

A chairperson has to perform a lot of reading when reviewing a student’s dissertation. A committee member can hopefully help. But this type of error appeared on every chart in this study’s Chapter 4; regardless of the type of variables (e.g., categorical, interval). Did the faculty not know, or did they simply not read the study?

Student Note: Understand your variables and how best to display them. Don’t rely on your committee; they might not know or remember.

This study will return in a later post…stay tuned.

Reference:

Deonarinesingh, S. (2019). The effect of cultural intelligence upon organizational citizenship behavior, mediated by openness to experience (Doctoral dissertation). ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (13880805)