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The aim of this research is to establish what the key is to meeting NIHEs Homeless Strategy 2012-17; in Eradicating Youth Homelessness amongst 16-17 year olds Leaving Care and Homeless by 2020. In order for me to achieve the most accurate results I intend to carry out research with key Policy Providers from a number of sectors who work with this vulnerable group, in finding out what these Policy Providers believe is the key to meeting this strategy.
There are two types of research methods which could be used; Qualitative and Quantitative Research.
Qualitative research aims to gather in-depth understanding of social phenomena and investigates the; who, what, why, when and how of decision making.
Denzin (1994) believes that "qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of and interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. Qualitative research involves the studies use and collection of a variety of empirical materials - case studies, personal experience, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactional and visual texts - that describe routine and problematic moments and meaning in individuals' lives." Denzin & Lincoln (1994:2)
Advantages to using qualitative data is it will provide an in-depth source of data that can be used to draw up conclusions, although it can very time consuming to carry out.
Quantitative Research refers to counts and measures of things; it's based on the handling of observations and numerical representation for the purpose of describing and explaining the phenomena that the observations reflect. The research can be done through surveys and questionnaires.
"Quantitative research is based on the collection of considerable data from representative samples of a larger population (â€¦) It describes group tendencies; what members of a group tend do, if a group is examined, there will be a variety of responses or reasons for some action, but the conclusions usually employ a single characteristic to describe what most commonly or typically responds." Black T, (1999)
According to Babbie, E (2010) Advantages to using quantitative data is that it makes the observations clearer and easier to aggregate, compare and summarize the data. Although quantitative research is restricted to the data it collects, by using numbers instead of words it can risk potentially losing the richness of the meaning that words can bring to data.
In order for me to carry out my research to achieve the best possible results, the most appropriate method of research to use would be qualitative research methods.
Using qualitative research will allow me to work with raw data and explore the nature of the responses the key policy providers tell, it will also allow me to look at the different perspectives, understandings and interpretations that each policy provider brings and more importantly be able to interpret if there is any key trends familiarising amongst the policy providers that may become the foundation of meeting my aim.
Using quantitative data wouldn't help me in being able to gather the different views and opinions from the Policy Providers around the identified topic. I need to use open ended questions and receive broad, in-depth answers which is why I intend to use qualitative data over quantitative data.
Qualitative research can be carried out in many forms, Silverman D, (2011: 17) describes some of the different qualitative research methods;
- Participant Observation where the researchers establishes a direct relationship with the social being who are in their natural environment. The observer has the intended purpose of observing and describing the person's social actions. By interacting and participating with them in their everyday ceremonies and rituals, and learning their code in order to understand the meaning of their action.
- Non Participant Observation where the researcher observes the activities, but doesn't take part in them.
For this piece of research I won't be using participant/non participant observations as the group I am studying is too complex and sensitive, I will find it difficult to negotiate access to carry out an observation on this piece of research, and if I did gain access to, Child Protection, Data Protection and confidentiality issues may hinder me from recording the observation, leaving me to try and take valid notes, observe, listen, possibly participate, interpret the information and get all the key information down to be able to carefully analysis the data to draw up my findings. This alone will be very difficult and almost impossible to generate credible results.
Focus Groups/Group Interviews
Focus group methodology usually involves engaging a small number of people in an informal group discussion focused around a particular topic or set of issues. Focus groups would be good to use as it is suited for obtaining several perspectives about the same topic which is what I want to collect, but I have chosen not to carry out focus groups as I feel it would be too difficult in the short space of time I have to carry out. I would also need help from another researcher to help me carry out the focus group by recording the discussions while I chair it, as it would be impossible for me to carry out the focus group myself and ensure I had every individual views noted. For this reason I feel the best qualitative research method to use would be to carry out individual interviews to gather each Policy Providers individual answers.
According to Robertson D (2004: 121) all interviews are designed to elicit information and are the core tool employer in qualitative work.
By carrying out individual interviews it would allow me to fully explore and record the personal attitudes and feelings about Youth Homelessness in the question. An interview is a way of generating a conversation; it is a dialogue which provides the interviewer with data that reflects; "Peoples experiences, opinions, aspirations, attitudes and feelings." May (1997: 109)
When interviews are conducted properly they can yield a wealth of information so therefore it is important to use the correct type of interview for my research. There are 3 types of interviews to consider using;
Structured interviews: In a Structured Interview the order in which the questions are asked is the same in every interview and the interviewer uses an "Interview Schedule" to ask them. The schedule has the exact list of questions for the interviewer to ask each respondent. Advantages of this type of interview is that all the Policy Providers would be asked the same question which would therefore increase the comparability of responses, and also make it easier for the researcher to collect the data, simplify and analysis the data quickly and fairly, thus reducing bias.
Although the structured interviews are quick and easy to undertake and collect it does have disadvantages. According to Robertson D (2004: 125) "Structured Interviews are limited to the flexibility and standardising of the wording which may inhibit responses." For my research I want to avoid standardised responses, as emphasised previously, the key to my search is collecting different views and opinions from the key Policy Providers in reaching a conclusion so for this reason I am going to avoid using structured Interviews.
The next type of interview to consider is
Un-Structured Interviews: This can be described by Robertson D (1996: 106) as informal interviews which can produce a natural flow of conversation between the interviewer and respondent with no attempt to determine the sequence or exact wording of the questions like the structured interviews. Un-Structure interviews would therefore provide flexibility for the interviewer to respond to the respondent's answers. This would be useful for my research as it would allow the respondents to freely express themselves in their own opinions unlike the structured interviews. Although this type of interview has the advantage of gaining the Policy Providers own views and opinions, it does hold some disadvantages which would prevent me from using this type of interview. Conducting an un-structured interview will mean I have no structure across each individual interview. It would also be difficult to manage all the data, analyse it and interpret every bit of the interviews to ensure I collect all the relevant responses, this would mean even interpreting and noting down the irrelevant pieces of data recorded, this to me would be far too demanding in terms of time and not knowing if the quality of the data recorded would be worth all the work.
In-between these two types of interviews is the;
Semi-Structured Interviews: described by Schensul, S (1999:149) as "combining the flexibility of the unstructured, open ended interview with the directionality and agenda of the survey instrument to produce focused qualitative textual data at the factor level."
In other words it would allow the Policy Providers to talk about aspects of the topic within a looser framework to ensure that all the important issues are properly covered. To carry this out an interview schedule is used to guide and focus the interview sessions but not to be used as a script like the structured interviews. By carrying out a semi-structured interview it means I could ask the questions I want, allowing the Policy Providers to respond and give their own views and opinions and also give them the opportunity to mention important topics I haven't thought about, the schedule would also give me the opportunity to use probes to manage the interview without interrupting the conversation if the respondent was getting away from the topic.
Semi-Structured interviews wouldn't be the easiest way of doing research well, as Walsh M. (2003:98) feels that the validity of the data collected may not be 100% truthful as it could be the opinion of the organisation etc. and not the respondents own view and opinion as theirs might not relate to the organisations beliefs and ethos. Recording the data can be difficult, as writing down what people say is hard and the respondents may find it intrusive as it will interrupt the flow of the interview as you will have to keep stopping to write.
Although semi-structured interviews have disadvantages I feel that it would be the best type of interview to use as I am in a short time frame to complete my research, it would be less time consuming than other research methods such as unstructured or focus group interviews. By carrying out semi-structured interviews it would provide me with more flexibility than structured interviews would, and for my research, I need the flexibility as I am interviewing a range of different Key Policy Providers with different experiences to Youth Homelessness amongst the targeted age group. I can now use standard questions which I can ask them all but will also be able to reword other questions to suit each Policy Provider.
From the reading that I have done I have found that there are several reports similar to mine who have used the same methodology as mine to gather their findings.
Crisis, The National Charity for Homeless People carried out in-depth interviews with Professionals for a report called; Young, Hidden and Homeless in April 2012 it researched the transition into homeless and what is being done to tackle and prevent Youth Homelessness.
Research from Think-piece published by Quilgars (D) which was undertaken by University of York and School of Built Environment and Heriot-Watt University in 2011 called; Ending Youth Homelessness: Possibilities, Challenges and Practical Solutions, used semi-structured interviews with experts in Youth Homelessness in both statutory and voluntary sector to examine the concepts and tasks of ending youth homelessness in the UK. In the research they asked open-ended questions.
This piece of research seemed to have been very useful to the researchers as they were able to conclude that from their research they have found that Prevention and early intervention is needed to end Youth Homelessness. Quilgars (D) (2011:35)
This Think-Piece research has strengthened my confidence knowing I am using the best type of methodology to carry out my research as their study is very similar to mine and they have been able to conclude with a strong opinion coming from all the experts interviewed.
I will record my data through a Dictaphone (on the agreement from the interviewees) To analysis this data as well as noting down key points of the interview I will listen to the recordings, taking each question at a time, wright down every word of the respondents, rewind, play it again to ensure I've accurately took down the correct wording and continue this process until every word is noted to each answer. I am aware that data analysis of semi-structured interviews is very time consuming so for this reason I will follow my Gantt chart to use my time effectively. I plan to analysis each interview on the same day as recording it as my memory will be fresh. I will then highlight the key information found to make it easier to visualise key trends and popular views and opinions forming within the Policy Providers.