Transpersonal Psychology Research In Action

Discussion post I submitted for my Atlantic University TP5015 Course on Jane Orloff’s book, Second Sight – October 18, 2019

1. What are your understandings of the basic characteristics of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods from both Creswell & Creswell and the 4 published studies? 

Having some exposure to survey research in my career, I have a limited knowledge of quantitative, qualitative, and mix methods.  This week’s assignments helped me solidify my understanding.

The easiest way for me to distinguish between quantitative and qualitative is that quantitative is associated with “quantity” and “qualitative” is related to “quality.”  In other words, quantitative research typically involves surveying a cross-section of people to gauge their views on any subject matter.  A top-line questionnaire is developed and a small sample size, typically in the 400-500 people range representing the demographics sought, is contacted primarily by telephone (at least in the old days).  As the research projects we examined illustrated, these interviews can be done in person as well.  Gallup obviously made this method famous, and they still conduct regular polls on a wide variety of topics.  Again, qualitative research is more of a top-line view of people’s feelings and reactions to a particular topic, and the results are typically presented in percentages.  For example,49% of the people believe the country is moving in the right direction, 39% see it as moving in the wrong direction, and 12% are undecided.

Quantitative research, on the other hand, is a deeper dive into people’s views on a particular issue or topic.  For the purposes of the research studies we examined, the purpose was to see if they could lump together aspects of people’s outlooks to determine the factors behind their experiences and/or motivations.  A questionnaire or survey is again a primary instrument, although the questions can be much more in-depth.  Also, the sample sizes are much smaller than the qualitative research studies, since the interviews are much more in-depth and lengthy.  A common vehicle is a focus group and at least one of the studies we examined employed such a vehicle.  The subjects once again represent a cross-section of the target population, and they can be as small as 4 and typically no larger than 15-20.  It’s much more free-flowing, and a facilitator is there to help steer the conversation.  They can last 2 hours or more, and the results are a very detail look at the attitudes, motivations, and feelings of the people studied.

A mixed-method study obviously combines quantitative and qualitative research approaches.

2. What do you feel were the weaknesses and/or strengths of the 4 research studies?

The biggest weakness of Linda Edge’s study on directed dissociation was her sample size.  Her project only included 8 people, and even though the interviews were more in-depth, it’s difficult to make sweeping conclusions with such a small sample size.  She acknowledges as much when she says, “…the sample was small (n=8), thereby reducing the generalizability of the findings” (2004, p 177).

The strength of her study is that for me at least, it was the most interesting topic we reviewed and it produced significant results.  I particularly enjoyed the snippets from the interview that she included in her write-up, and I learned a great deal about common traits of those who have undergone such experiences.  Her tables were also well presented and easily understood, which wasn’t the case for some of the others.

Pipe, Bortz, and Dueck’s study on mindfulness meditation’s impact on nurses also had a relatively small sample size (n=33), 17 of which were used for a control group.  Because of the overwhelmingly positive results of the subject group versus the control, the study was abandoned after only a month so that all could receive the benefits of mindful meditation as a stress-reliever.  While it’s understandable why they wanted to cease the leadership training the control group received, from a research project point of view, it meant the longer-term impacts were never studied.  Again, the researchers note this deficiency when they say that the study had “no long-term comparison to assess durability of observed differences between groups” (200, p. 136).

The strength of the impact of mindful meditation on nurses’ research project was the importance of the topic and how much it helped these caregivers (and hopefully others).  The researchers were surprised at how much stress, anxiety, and depression the nurses experienced, so the results of the research were extremely valuable to them and others in similar fields.

The biggest drawback to Irving, Saltzman, Fitzpatrick, Dobkin, Chen, and Hutchinson’s research study into health care professionals enrolled in mindfulness-based medical practice is that it seemed there was already a significant amount of studies already completed in this topic area. They claim that “there are several limitations” to the similar and numerous studies they cited in the introduction, but I was never really sold on the need for their project, although the merits of the topic are worthy (2012, p. 1). 

I must admit that I had the most difficulty with the Prochazka, Vaculik, Smutny, and Jezek study on transformational leadership and leadership effectiveness.  I found the topic of little interest to me, and never fully grasped its purpose.  I also found some of what they were trying to determine was obvious and didn’t need a study to determine. For example, they note, “Leaders who are open to new experiences are open to new solutions and procedures” (2015, 479).  In another place they state, “Extroverts are more active, energetic, and optimistic than introverts…and they might inspire their followers” 2015, 479). That’s certainly been my observation.

3. What elements and/or findings sparked your curiosity and interest as a fledgling researcher?/4. Does either study hold more meaning for you, and if so, why. Might this be due to the research design, the language of the data presentation, or perhaps the topic itself?

As I noted above, I found Edge’s study on directed dissociation fascinating.  Part of it is because the topic she selected is of particular interest to me and I’m sure to many of my classmates. Experiences people had with OBEs, NDEs, astral travel and other dissociated experiences are areas that I would like to research myself.  So, the research topic itself had more meaning to me than the others.

In addition, while the sample size was small, her interviews were very well conducted and the feedback was enlighting.  She must have a good way with those she interviewed since they were so open with their responses. Clearly given the likelihood of the open-ended responses, a qualitative approach is a way to go, although she includes qualitative as well in her data summaries.  As a top-line, for example, in Table 8 she reports the enrichment experiences of the subjects and notes that 8 out of 8 had a clear sense of purpose or believe that service to humanity is important is useful, among other findings.  

However, the real gems are uncovered in the open-ended responses she gets.  I was struck and enlighted by one respondent, for instance, who said, “Human evolution is about . . . being able to simultaneously go back and forth from one level and one perspective to the other and have them all integrate. . . . The only thing better than having an incredible spiritual experience and seeing light beams flying out over the bay there is having those same experiences and being able to sit back and watch a football game at the same time” (2004, p. 172).  The merits of a quantitative study are clearly seen when responses such as this one are secured.

So for me, Edge’s research study had all the elements of a solid research project: interesting and unique topic, solid research design, interesting presentation, and a learning experience for the reader.

What is your conclusion about the differing approaches of these studies?

In summary, the topic of Edge’s study was excellent, her approach was solid, and the responses were thoughtful and revealing. Her mixed-approach was appropriate and well-executed.  Her sample size was an issue and I would really like to see her expand to a 30-50 person study.

Pipe, Bortz, and Dueck’s study was timely and their results will have an immediate impact on the health of nurses and their patient care.  It’s also easily applicable to other high-stress fields.  Their approach was more quantitative, so maybe a more in-depth questionnaire might produce deeper and more meaningful results.  Also, if they were to repeat the study, I’m not sure how valuable the control group is in the end.  A follow-up study a year later would be helpful in determining how many participants of the original study are still practicing mindful meditation, for example. 

I found the “Experiences of Health Care Professionals Enrolled in Mindfulness-based Medical Practice: A Grounded Theory Model,” not overly useful.  As noted above, there are already a number of studies.  As they themselves say, “The process of change illustrated through the grounded theory analysis represents a model generally consistent with other scholars’ conceptions of how positive outcomes come about through participation in MBSR” (2012, p. 9). Their approach was mixed, with focus groups and questionnaires administered.  I found the quantitative results very difficult to comprehend and the tables in particular very difficult to decipher.

Finally, I found very little value in “Leadership traits, transformational leadership and leader effectiveness: A meditation study from the Czech Republic.” The premise of the survey itself was questionable, which the researchers acknowledged.  Using college students as subjects for a research study that looked at business management leadership via a simulation game was suspect.  As they say, “The game lasted only one semester, followers were not rewarded with real money and…[t]he student respondents had limited previous work experiences so they could not compare their leader with previous leaders as much as employees in organizations could” (2015, p. 494).

Do you prefer one research method over the other or do you see equal merit in each? Why?

I’m a strong believer in a mixed-method approach.  Qualitative research is more difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, but the results are much richer and meaningful.  And, as Edge demonstrated, it’s easy to create top-line quantitative results from a more in-depth qualitative questionnaire.  

At the same time, the research study’s goal and budget will determine which approach is appropriate.  In politics, for example, as the election approaches, most candidates conduct “tracking polls.”  These are very simple, straightforward quantitative surveys asked of a similar demographic on a daily basis.  They’re very short and include the same questions, such as which candidate will you support?  Its purpose is not to identify the profile of the likely voter but as real-time data to give feedback on how the campaign is doing, what ads are working, and most importantly, what course corrections can the campaign make.  A quantitative or mixed approach is not appropriate for this type of need.

References

Creswell, J.& J.D. (2018), Research design, Sage Publications: Oaks, CA. 

Edge, L. W. (2004). “A Phenomenological Study of Directed Dissociation.” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 44(2), pp. 155–181.

Pipe, T. B., Bortz, J. J., Dueck, A., Pendergast, D., Buchda, V., & Summers, J. (2009).Nurse leader mindfulness meditation program for stress management: A randomized controlled trial.” Journal of Nursing Administration39(3), pp. 130-137.

Prochazka, J., Vaculik, M., Smutny, P., and Stanislav, J. (2015). “Leadership traits, transformational leadership and leader effectiveness: A meditation study from the Czech Republic,” Journal of East European Management Studies, 23(3), pp. 474-496).

Irving, J., Park-Saltzman, J., Fitzpatrick, M., Dobkin, P., Chen, A., Hutchinson, T. (2012). “Experiences of health care professionals enrolled in mindfulness-based medical practice: A grounded theory model.”  Mindfulness, September 19, 2012, pp. 1-12.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *