The data collection process will mainly involve the use of interviews with experts in the field of interest. In this case, the data collection process will be characterized by expert interviews in a number of fields related to the topic, including international relations, international economy, and foreign policy. Specifically, the research will entail the use of semi-structured interviews in gathering professional data regarding the transformations in the political economy of South Asia. Daymon & Holloway (2010) defined semi-structured interviews as a qualitative form of inquiry characterized by the researchers using pre-determined open questions to guide the discussion, while at the same time providing respondents with the opportunity to discuss specific issues emerging from the further discussion. In this regard, semi-structured interviews are not limited to the pre-determined responses, which is the case with structured interviews. In this regard, the respondents and the interviewer will take part in a formal interview. In addition, an interview guide was developed to direct the semi-structured interview, which captured aspects such as the perceptions of respondents on whether the political economy of South Asia is changing or not; the factors contributing to the observed change or lack thereof; and foreign policy implications associated with this transformation of the South Asia political economy.
When gathering information relating to the topic of research, the guide will be used in directing the discussion. However, the researcher will study the topic issues emerging from the discussions that may not be outlined in the interview guide but may be deemed pertinent in contributing to an in-depth understanding of the topic under investigation. The rationale for the choice of semi-structured interviews in gathering data is chosen due to the semi-structured interviews that are extremely helpful during exploratory research, which is the case with the current research. In this regard, semi-structured interviews provide an opportunity through which concepts can be clarified. Owing to the fact that current research is primarily qualitative and explorative, semi-structured interviews were deemed the most appropriate when compared to other forms of data collection such as questionnaires. Questionnaires were based on grounds that they are highly structured, which results in limited qualitative data. With respect to current research, semi-structured interviews have high fidelity and medium structure, which is consistent with the requirements of exploratory research.
An important aspect to be considered when conducting interviews relates to the mode of the interview, which may take the form of face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews or video-link interviews such as Skype. In the current research, the mode of the interview chosen was based on the convenience of the respondents in the sense that they determined the mode and location of the interview depending on their convenience. Sturges & Hanrahan (2004) acknowledge that different modes of interview produce different results. However, when comparing the interview transcripts from different modes, there were no significant differences between the different modes. It is due to the fact that the researchers opted to make use of various modes of the interview which had to be selected based on the convenience of respondents.
Recording the semi-structured interviews is also a crucial aspect of the data collection process. Usually, the interview guide is used in the process of discussion. Owing to the fact that semi-structured interviews involve the use of open-ended questions, it is more likely that discussions deviating from the interview guide may emerge. As a result, it is crucial to record the interviews and transcribe them for further analysis. Despite the fact that it is possible to take notes during the interview, it is challenging to focus on the interview, while at the same time taking journalistic notes. Taking notes and directing the interview may result in poor outcomes and may have a negative effect with respect to developing rapport between the respondent and the interviewee. Rapport development has been established to be crucial in semi-structured interviews, which will be achieved through the use of non-probing questions. In the current research, interviews will be recorded on tape; nevertheless, a challenge with tape recording during an interview is whether the interviewee will be comfortable providing responses while being recorded. In order to address this concern, the consent of the interviewee to record the interview will be sought. In addition, it is imperative to notify the participant about the reasons for the interviews. In the event that respondents may not be comfortable with an audio recording of the interview, note-takers will accompany the interviewer when performing it. It is due to the need for the interviewer to be fully engaged in the interview with minimal distraction. Transcription software will also be used in transcribing the interview recordings. The transcription software that will be used in transcribing the audio recordings is Express Scribe.
Each interview will be stopped the moment the interviewer will feel that all the questions in the interview protocol, as well as additional questions, have finished and that no new information can be received. In addition, the respondent will also have the right to end the interview. The interview can also be ended in instances when the interviewer feels that the interviewee is tired. In addition, the key points of the interview will be summarized, after which the interviewee will be given the last chance to clarify or expound on any issues. In addition, the final evaluation report will be disseminated to respondents in order to ensure that they have a sense of ownership with respect to their shared information.
In any research, an effective data collection and management process is crucial. It facilitates the storage, retrieval, and analysis of data. In this regard, each respondent will have a unique identifier, which will be used in his/her interview transcripts that will be included in the spreadsheets. After the transcription of the interview information, it is imperative to determine the approach that will be used in the analysis of the qualitative information collected during the interview. According to Monette, Sullivan, & DeJong (2005), qualitative data can be analyzed using two approaches, which include the inductive and deductive approaches. The deductive approach to analysis entails using a pre-determined framework in analyzing information. In other words, deductive analysis is characterized by the researcher imposing a framework on the information gathered and using it in the analysis of the interview transcripts. The deductive approach is implemented in situations whereby the researcher is in a position to predict the responses, which is not the case with current research. The present study will analyze qualitative data collected from the interviews using the inductive approach, which is characterized by not using a pre-determined framework in analyzing the data. However, it is the actual data that determines the manner in which they will be analyzed. The inductive approach was selected for the research regarding its comprehensive nature, as well as the fact that the research is primarily explorative. The specific inductive analysis approach that will be used in analyzing the interview data is thematic content analysis. It involves the analysis of interview transcripts, identification, and interpretation of dominant, emergent and recurring themes in the gathered data and analyzing relationships and patterns that may exist between the identified themes.
Categorizing information is a crucial step in thematic content analysis, which entails indexing or coding the qualitative data. Nevertheless, it is imperative to note that coding data does not imply the assignment of numerical variables as with the case of quantitative analysis. The goal of coding data is to identify patterns or themes in the data, which may include the phrases, terminology, incidents, and concepts of ideas utilized by respondents. Coding data also serves the purpose of organizing data into comprehensible groups in order to summarize and attach meaning to the transcribed interview text. In order to code the data, the researcher will comprehensively read the transcribed text finalize the comprehensible categories of data. Coding data will be based on the abbreviated codes of words and using them next to the discovered ideas and themes. In addition, a descriptive label for the data categories will be provided including a precise description of what is included and excluded in each category. When categorizing data, the researcher will also look for themes that may act as subcategories. Such a process will continue until the researcher is certain that all the relevant themes have been recognized and labeled. Two approaches exist that can be used in categorizing data, including preset and emergent categories. Preset categories involve commencing with a pre-determined list of categories followed by searching to determine whether these themes are present. Such research is explorative and will not utilize a pre-determined framework; thus, preset categories will not be a suitable coding approach. Emergent categories involve reading through the transcribed interview text and finding recurring themes, which are then labeled as categories. Categories may be concepts or ideas that the researcher may not have preconceived. The emergent categories approach facilitates the emergence of categories from the qualitative data. In addition, when using this approach, the definition of categories only occurs after the researcher has studied the data.
After coding the data, the next stage will be to identify the relationships and patterns found between and within the identified categories. When organizing qualitative data, relationships and patterns may be observed both between and within the identified categories. As a result, evaluating the comparative significance of each theme, as well as highlighting notable differences may be crucial in analyzing the data. The first approach that will be used in identifying patterns and relationships is within the category description. In this regard, the researcher will summarize information relating to the various themes and highlight the differences and/or similarities existing between the responses provided by participants. It will involve assembling all the data associated with a specific theme and exploring the key ideas that have been articulated within a particular category, the differences and similarities in the manner in which respondents address the issue, and whether there are any subtle differences. The second approach that will be used to explore relationships and patterns between themes is through the creation of larger super categories having multiple subcategories followed by the use of a specific-general approach in exploring how they are related. In addition, the relative significance of categories will also be explored in the sense that the researcher will look at the frequency of a specific theme occurrence. It will be used to denote the relative significance of themes identified in the data. The researcher will also look for themes occurring together in a consistent manner throughout the data. Such relationships will be used to make meaningful inferences from the qualitative data collected.
Human Participants and Ethics Precautions
The use of semi-structured interviews puts people in a position whereby they can disclose their private feelings and thoughts. In addition, the effectiveness of semi-structured interviews depends significantly on the interviewer’s skills, as well as his/her ability to develop rapport and positive relationships with respondents. In this regard, it is evident that such attributes are valuable; however, they are ethically sensitive. As a result, confidentiality issues, the nature of the questions posed and anonymity are some of the issues that have to be taken into consideration when conducting a semi-structured interview. Just likely any other form of research involving human participants, the current study will take into account the ethical issues associated with undertaking qualitative research. The first ethical concern relates to participation on a voluntary basis. With respect to this, no respondent will be coerced into taking part in the research. In order to adhere to the principle of voluntary participation, respondents will be provided with an informed consent containing the purpose of the study and how its participation will help in the achievement of the study objectives. The informed consent will also contain information relating to how their data will be utilized. In addition, for the case of interviews, it is imperative to have the respondent’s consent to record the interview; it will be achieved through a verbal consent, which involves informing respondents prior to the interview that it will be recorded only if they are comfortable it. The second issue of ethical concern relates to the confidentiality and anonymity of respondents participating in the research. In order to guarantee the confidentiality of respondents, participants will not be required to provide information that could be used to personally identify them. Guaranteeing anonymity will involve the use of unique identifiers when referring to participants. In addition, the interview data will be stored in a password protected computer accessible only by the researcher.