The qualitative tradition of research arrives at findings without resorting to numerical analysis. As a research framework, it seeks to derive conclusions by investigating a “phenomenon of interest unfold naturally” (Patton, 2002, p. 39). Instead of using statistical tools, qualitative studies analyze content within text in an effort to make out patterns that emerge within the text (Trochim & Donnelly, 2007). Creswell (2009) summarizes the process of qualitative research process as: The researcher begins by gathering detailed information from participants and then forms this information into categories or themes.
These themes are developed into broad patterns, theories, or generalizations that are then compared with personal experiences or with existing literature on the topic. (p. 64) Process This study proposes the use of qualitative processes and measurements in order to answer its central research question: What is the evidence that the following ten characteristics (behaviors) of servant leadership: (a) listening, (b) healing (c) empathy, (d) persuasion, (e) awareness, (f) foresight, (g) conceptualization, (h) commitment to the growth of people, (i) stewardship, and (j) building community, exemplify the professional life of Dr. Jim Otten?
To answer this research problem, a qualitative interpretive biography has been proposed. Because of the lack of empirical evidence on the existence of servant leadership as a leadership style, this study proposes to give life to theoretical understanding of what a servant leader is. The study focuses on providing empirical basis for servant leadership by examining the ten characteristics as exemplified by Dr. Jim Otten. If he strongly exhibits these characteristics, then we can begin to get a picture of what a real Servant Leader looks like within proprietary higher education.
Based on his accomplishments throughout his career, which will come from interviews, we can begin to collect tangible examples of how Servant Leaders have a positive impact on the business of proprietary higher education. Since what constitutes a good qualitative research is the capacity to help people “understand a situation that would otherwise be enigmatic or confusing,” methods to establish credibility, dependability, and integrity for this proposed analysis of servant leadership will be undertaken (Eisner, as cited in Golafshani, 2003, p. 601).
Credibility Establishing credibility for qualitative research implies “that the results are credible or believable from the perspective of the participant in the research” (Trochim, 2006). This is so because being a study aimed at describing phenomena from the perspective of a participant; it is the participant who is the legitimate judge of the results of a study (Golafshani, 2003). However, the researcher can make use of strategies during data collection and data analysis to ensure this end.
This study proposes the use of audiotaped interviews as its data collection technique. One way of establishing credibility is through “prolonged engagement” which requires multiple interviews with a participant for longer time periods (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Creswell (2009) treats credibility as related the quantitative concept of validity and considers credibility “one of the strengths of qualitative research, and it is based on determining whether the findings are accurate from the standpoint of the researcher, the participant, or the readers of an account” (p.
191). One strategy suggested by Creswell (2009) for establishing credibility is triangulation. Triangulation is a strategy which seeks to strengthen the study with the use of multiple data sources, methods, or approaches (Patton, 2002). Through the use of more than one data source or method, the bias that arises from the use of a single method is negated and the validity of the study is heightened (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002). For this particular study, this researcher proposes the use of multiple sources and multiple methods to triangulate data.
Multiple sources of data are ensured by collecting several informant interviews on the leadership style and behaviors of Dr. Otten. Data will be collected by interviewing Dr. Otten’s peers, subordinates and superiors. Multiple methods of data collection go beyond sole reliance on interviews to inform the research process but to allow convergence of data through field notes and other research artifacts such as professional records, curriculum vita, personal correspondences, academic records, news clippings, and the personal interview of Dr.
Jim Otten. Having other information sources to verify or back up the content of the informant interviews will strengthen and build confidence in the results of the study. Dependability The concept of dependability is related to quantitative concept of reliability (Trochim, 2006). This research proposes several methods to ensure the dependability of the findings derived from this study: member checks, inter-rater reliability, intercoder agreement and dependability audit.
Member checks are a way of confirming findings and verifying the accuracy of data. Member checking is regarded “as an opportunity to gain insight and share opinions, reactions, and clarifications” (Borkan, as cited in Byrne, 2006). Research experts now consider member checking to be of utmost importance to qualitative studies so that it has been suggested that data should not be considered fit for analysis if not verified through member checking (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005).
For this particular study, transcripts of interviews will be sent to each participant for verification and clarification. Inter-rater reliability or peer debriefing is a useful strategy to obtain independent verification from a person other than the researcher during the data analysis period (Creswell, 2009). A rater or a peer debriefer is an individual who has sufficient theoretical background, knowledge on the theory and content enough to critique or challenge whatever assumptions the researcher derives from the study’s results.
For this study, the researcher will retain two (2) peer debriefers who will be graduate students skilled in qualitative methodology to critique the data analysis portion of the study. Inter-coder agreement will also be secured for this study. Inter-rater coding agreement will take place once “independently functioning researchers agree upon data segments to be coded, categories to be used, the placing of data segments into the same categories, and the interpretations drawn from examination of classified data segments” (Harris, 2003).
To this end, a coding protocol and an overview of the theoretical constructs and concepts on servant leadership will be developed by the researcher to aid the dependable conduct of the content analysis phase. Dependability audit is a strategy that allows independent examiners to track the steps and the research decisions made throughout the study (Byrne, 2006). This requires the researcher to produce documentation by keeping a journal, storing primary data, research reports, memos, field notes, and communication with raters or debriefers.
Integrity Through the use of strategies recommended by Creswell (2009), the researcher will ably build the dependability and credibility of the study’s findings, thus establishing its integrity. Integrity will also be established through meticulous planning, truthful reporting, and attentiveness to detail. Moreover, integrity will be further built with the researcher’s adherence to ethics and accepted protocols on qualitative research. References Byrne, M. M. (2006). Evaluating the findings of qualitative research.
AORN Journal. Retrieved from http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m0FSL/is_3_73/ai_72272010/ Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed. ). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Golafshani, N. (2003). Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research. The Qualitative Report, 8 (4), 597-607. Trochim, W. M. K. (2006).
Qualitative Validity. Research Methods Knowledge Base. Retrieved from http://www. socialresearchmethods. net/kb/qualval. php Trochim, W. M. K. and Donnelly, J. P. (2007). The research methods knowledge base. Mason, OH, Thomson Corporation. Harris, J. (2003). The challenge of intercoder agreement in qualitative validity. Retrieved from http://emissary. wm. edu/templates/content/publications/intercoder-agreement. pdf Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed. ). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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