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Vignette Methods in Interpretive Research

Marie Østergaard Møller
mol@dps.aau.dk

Aalborg Universitet

Marie Østergaard Møller is Associate Professor at Aalborg University in Denmark.

Her research interests include social and political categories, categorisation, frontline work, welfare state research, classic social theory of solidarity, and systematic qualitative methods.

Recently published articles include:

  • Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy 
    An Approach to the Development of Comparative Cross-National Studies of Street-Level Bureaucracy (2019)
  • Qualitative Studies
    Health Care Professionalism without Doctors (2018)
  • Administration and Society
    Welfare State Regimes and Caseworkers’ Problem Explanation (2017)
  • Profession and Professionalism
    She isn’t someone I associate with a pension (2016)
  • Public Management Review
    Prevention at the Front Line: How home nurses, pedagogues, and teachers transform public worry into decisions on special efforts (2015)
  • Critical Policy Studies
    Constructing at-risk target groups (2014)
  • Social Policy and Administration
    Disciplining Disability (2013)

Course Dates and Times

Friday 22 February 13:00–15:00 and 15:30–18:00

Saturday 23 February 09:00–12:30 and 14:00–17:30

Prerequisite Knowledge

None; this is an introduction to qualitative courses.


Short Outline

This course is for PhD students who want to address causal explanations or systematic comparisons in an interpretive or qualitative research project.

It is aimed at students of political science, sociology, international relations and public administration, but students of public policy and anthropology would also benefit. You will learn how to:

  • develop one or more vignettes
  • use vignettes in data collection
  • analyse reactions to vignettes
  • interpret and draw valid conclusions from vignette analyses.

After the course, you will understand:

  1. The scientific criteria of vignette method and how to develop vignettes for interpretive or qualitative research questions,
  2. conceptualisation, theory, research design, strategies of framing vignettes, and how to select the vignette’s profile description attributes and wording, 
  3. how to organise and process vignettes through phases of data collection, analysis and conclusion drawing,
  4. how to suit the vignette method to the research question,
  5. how to draw conclusions from vignette analyses.
Tasks for ECTS Credits

1 credit (pass/fail grade). Attend at least 90% of course hours, participate fully in in-class activities, and carry out the necessary reading and/or other work prior to, and after, class.


Long Course Outline

In this course, you will learn how to develop vignettes while familiarising yourself with contemporary thinking about deliberative manipulation to integrate experimental logic into an interpretive or qualitative investigation. We will learn:

  • the scientific criteria behind vignette method
  • variance theory versus process theory as forms of causal explanation
  • the pros and cons of stimulation in an interpretive or qualitative research design.

The course has five objectives:

  1. to examine the scientific criteria of vignette method and teach you how to develop vignettes suitable for interpretive or qualitative research questions
  2. to expose you to issues of conceptualisation, theory, research design, strategies of framing vignettes, and selecting the attributes and wording of a vignette’s profile description
  3. to help you organise and process vignettes through data collection, analysis and conclusion drawing
  4. to teach you how to choose the best vignette method for a particular research question
  5. to enable you to draw conclusions from vignette analyses.

I will cover basic techniques for collecting, interpreting, and presenting analyses of vignettes. We will operate on two interrelated dimensions, one focused on the theoretical approaches to various types of vignette method, the other on practical techniques to formulate, develop and validate the vignettes used in the interpretive or qualitative research design.

Theoretically, the course considers questions such as:

  • What is a vignette and what is vignette method?
  • What questions is it best suited for?
  • By what criteria does it meet or fail to meet the standards of scientific evidence?
  • What is the role of causality in interpretive or qualitative research?
  • Can vignette methods be used to verify hypotheses, or only generate them?
  • Can vignettes support the making and analysing of thematic connections?
  • Do vignette analyses have a small-N problem?
  • In what ways is vignette research ‘grounded’?

Practically, the course considers questions such as:

  • What scientific criteria apply for vignette method?
  • How do researchers construct the ‘right’ vignette for the ‘right’ research question?
  • What collection techniques can be used to enhance the quality of vignette analyses?
  • What scientific positions ground the vignette analyses?
  • What is the unit of analysis?
  • How do researchers organise the vignettes and how do they use them in practice?
  • How can researchers make sense of their interpretations of vignette analyses in a transparent, authentic and inclusive way?
  • How can researchers draw conclusions from their vignettes analyses?

I will take a realist approach to causal explanation, focusing on two techniques in vignette method: profiling versus manipulation. I chose these as examples of methods which use vignette method to put rather different weight on causal explanation. This will strengthen your general knowledge of vignette methods, and give you a solid basis to choose the right strategy of vignette analysis in your own research.

By the end of the course, you will know how to choose between vignette methods, and have insight into hands-on vignette research tools. You will be able to follow advanced courses in interpretive or qualitative methods with a more specialised focus on, for example, ethnographic method, grounded theory, narrative method, discourse analysis or process tracing.

After the course, you should have a basic understanding of:

  1. The scientific criteria of vignette method and how to develop vignettes suitable for interpretive or qualitative research questions,
  2. issues of conceptualisation, theory, research design, and strategies of framing vignettes and selecting attributes and wording of the vignette’s profile description, 
  3. how to organise and process vignettes through the research phases of data collection, analysis and conclusion drawing,
  4. how to choose the best strategy of vignette method for the research question and,
  5. how to draw conclusions from vignette analyses.

Day Topic Details
1 Introducing vignette methods
  1. Welcome
  2. What is a vignette?
  3. What is vignette method?
  4. Why use vignette method?
  5. When do you use vignette method?
2 Positions in vignette methods (1) Hands-on strategies for vignette analysis (1)
  1. Vignettes as result or treatment?
  2. What’ should be in your vignette and how to find out?  
  3. Horizontal or vertical constructed vignette variance?
  4. How to interpret vignette responses in systematic ways?
  5. How to draw valid conclusions from vignette analyses?
Friday Introducing vignette methods.
  1. Welcome
  2. What is a vignette?
  3. What is vignette method?
  4. Why use vignette method?
  5. When do you use vignette method?
Saturday Positions in vignette methods (1) Hands-on strategies for vignette analysis (1)
  1. Vignettes as result or treatment?
  2. What should be in your vignette and how to find out?  
  3. How do you construct plausible stories, which engage your interviewees?
  4. How to interpret vignette responses in systematic ways?
  5. How to draw valid conclusions from vignette analyses?
Day Readings
1

Maxwell, Joseph A., 2004: “Using Qualitative Methods for Causal Explanation”, pp. 243-264 in: Field Methods, Vol 16, No. 3.

Mark Bevir, 2006: “How Narratives explain” in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe. PP. 281-290.

Sayer, A., 1992: Method in Social Science: A realist approach. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. or:

Archer, M., R. Bhaskar, A. Collier, T. Lawson, and A. Norrie, 1998: Critical realism: Essential readings. London: Routledge.

Barter, Christine & Emma Renold, 1999: “The use of vignettes in qualitative research” in Social Research Update. Vol. 25.

Finch, Janet, 1987: “The Vignette Technique in Survey Research” in Sociology. Vol. 21, pp. 105-114.

Møller, Marie Østergaard, 2009: “Research design data collection and data processing”, in Solidarity and categorization, Aarhus: Politica.

Ejrnæs, Morten, 2012: Vignetmetoden, København: Akademisk forlag

2

Seidman, I. E., 1991, Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences. New York: Teachers College Press.

Thomas, David R, 2006: “A General Inductive Approach for Analyzing Qualitative Evaluation Data”, American Journal of Evaluation vol. 27 no. 2, 237-246.

Miles, Matthew B.,Michael A. Huberman and Johnny Saldana (2014): Qualitative Data Analysis. A Methods Sourcebook, 3. edition. London: SAGE. (Excerpts).

Charmaz, Kathy, 2006: Selected pieces from: Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis.  London: SAGA publications.

Friday

Barter, Christine & Emma Renold, 1999: The use of vignettes in qualitative research, in Social Research Update Vol. 25.

Barter, C. and E. Renold, 2000. ‘I Wanna Tell You a Story’: Exploring the Application of Vignettes in Qualitative Research with Children and Young People. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 3(4):307–23.

Eskelinen, L. and D. Caswell, 2006. Comparison of Social Work Practice in Teams Using a Video Vignette Technique in a Multi-Method Design. Qualitative Social Work 5(4):489–503.

Hughes, R. and M. Huby, 2004. The Construction and Interpretation of Vignettes in Social Research. Social Work & Social Sciences Review 11(1):36–51.

Jenkins, N., M. J. Bloor, J. Fischer, L. Berney, and J. Neale, 2010. Putting It in Context: The Use of Vignettes in Qualitative Interviewing. Qualitative Research 10(2):175–98.

Møller, M Ø, 2009: Research design data collection and data processing, in Solidarity and categorization, Aarhus: Politica.

Saturday

Collett, J. L. and E. Childs, 2011. Minding the Gap: Meaning, Affect, and the Potential Shortcomings of Vignettes. Social Science Research 40(2):513–22.

Harrits, Gitte Sommer & M. Ø. Møller: Vignette experiments in qualitative and interpretive research, UNDER REVIEW in Qualitative Research.

Mark Bevir, 2006: How Narratives explain in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 281–290.

Maxwell, J. A., 1992. Understanding Validity in Qualitative Research. Harvard Educational Review 62(3):279–300.

Maxwell, Joseph A., 2004: Using Qualitative Methods for Causal Explanation, pp. 243–264 in: Field Methods, Vol 16, No. 3.

Software Requirements

None

Hardware Requirements

None

Literature

Barter, Christine & Emma Renold, 1999: The use of vignettes in qualitative research, in Social Research Update Vol. 25.

Barter, C. and E. Renold, 2000. ‘I Wanna Tell You a Story’: Exploring the Application of Vignettes in Qualitative Research with Children and Young People. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 3(4):307–23.

Collett, J. L. and E. Childs, 2011. Minding the Gap: Meaning, Affect, and the Potential Shortcomings of Vignettes. Social Science Research 40(2):513–22.

Eskelinen, L. and D. Caswell, 2006. Comparison of Social Work Practice in Teams Using a Video Vignette Technique in a Multi-Method Design. Qualitative Social Work 5(4):489–503.

Harrits, Gitte Sommer & M. Ø. Møller: Vignette experiments in qualitative and interpretive research, UNDER REVIEW in Qualitative Research.

Hughes, R. and M. Huby, 2004. The Construction and Interpretation of Vignettes in Social Research. Social Work & Social Sciences Review 11(1):36–51.

Jenkins, N., M. J. Bloor, J. Fischer, L. Berney, and J. Neale, 2010. Putting It in Context: The Use of Vignettes in Qualitative Interviewing. Qualitative Research 10(2):175–98.

Mark Bevir, 2006: How Narratives explain in: (ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea) Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Method and the Interpretive Turn, New York: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 281–290.

Maxwell, J. A., 1992. Understanding Validity in Qualitative Research. Harvard Educational Review 62(3):279–300.

Maxwell, Joseph A., 2004: Using Qualitative Methods for Causal Explanation, pp. 243–264 in: Field Methods, Vol 16, No. 3.

Møller, M Ø, 2009: Research design data collection and data processing, in Solidarity and categorization, Aarhus: Politica.


Additional Information

Disclaimer

This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed in due time.

Note from the Academic Conveners

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, contact the instructor before registering.