Qualitative Research Reflections on Dowson and McInerney’s Psychological parameters of students’ social and work avoidance goals and Applications to My Own Qualitative Research

For reasons of in depth analysis and to allow study participants their full voice, qualitative research and inquiry is where my heart, mind, and soul are, because, to me, people are more than mere numbers and statistics, though, in a very limited capacity, I can see where quantitative research may be useful when a certain population is difficult to reach for part of a research project.  Particularly, due to previous study and their potential to reveal more as well as engage participants more fully, grounded theory (where the critical areas of research are revealed in the data) and participatory action research (also known as action research to some) greatly appeal to me, even if more work is required in the long run.

While Dowson and McInerney (2001) expand the research in this area beyond what previous research is available, I found at least one bias; given that this is Australia (and I would find this same bias in a US study or any other research that considered only academic goals in a school setting without considering other factors).  There is no mention of the indigenous population of Australia and the institutionalized racism they are subject to, and there is no mention of the hardships that should be factored in with academic goals for this population.  Further, there is no mention of any participants from this population, so how representative can this selected sample be for Australia, unless there are no indigenous students among the population in the Sydney, Australia metropolitan area.  I find that omission suspect.  However, they note that previous studies have been flawed in that the focus of the research has been research driven rather than participant driven. So here they rectify it via conversational and semistructured interviews as well as observation.

My views of in-depth qualitative interviews may not be as well-known as my views on participatory action research (PAR), but how will I conduct PAR without knowing where to start and encoding my biases and opinions upon that study?  Interviews will be key with key participants or with individuals that I can engage to determine logical next steps in the research study in question.  My research question in particular, could be revised from, “How are black teen girls’ and women’s unintentional propaganda within social media postings about cultural artifacts (e.g., clothing, music, fashion) effected by mass media that uses sexist themes and may be defined as propaganda of one form or another?” to one where I conduct prior very open-ended interviews with select individuals about their social media activity, what they respond to, what they post, and what they forward to their social networking groups.

Additionally, focus groups could be utilized where I propose topics of conversation in one and initiate conversation in the other with images, music videos, memes, and the like.  The conversations could also address unintentional propaganda through insertion of the topics of fashion choices, influence, and sexism into both the focus groups and individual interviews.  From these conversations, the above research question would be non-existent to avoid prior bias of inserting my ideas into the proceedings until the results were assessed for commonalities and exceptions.

While I have not conducted such a series of interviews for a qualitative research question, I would speculate that after a series of interviews and focus groups (and here I admit bias; given my participation in social media with groups and individuals of young women that are both fascinated by media and fashion as well as aware that it is virulently sexist,  it could look something like, “Are black teen girls and women aware of media influence on their social lives, do they view that influence as positive or negative, and how pervasive is that influence on the interactions within their social groups?” As a research question, this may be not specific enough or it may even be too detailed, but it’s a start and without having conducted actual interviews, all of this is mere speculation.



Dowson, M., & McInerney, D. M. (2001). Psychological parameters of students’ social and work avoidance goals: A qualitative investigation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 35-42.

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