When seeing and talking to the women involved in the income generation project it made me look the quality of someone’s life in a wider view than I did before. In England, if I had looked on paper about the impact of the projects on finances and autonomy, I may not have thought that the project has changed the women live that much. However, when talking to them, I never knew that something as small as a community network could make such a positive impact on a person’s life. And that is a lesson I will take from this trip – never to underestimate the power something that may not otherwise be considered crucial can have in breaking the poverty cycle.
Today we conducted the qualitative interviews of the women working in the paper factory that’s part of the income generation projects. Before today I had regarded Qualitative research with the sort of condescension as a parent telling their child that their drawing is wonderful and that the child is so clever for producing something so interesting and unique and then throwing it in the bin as soon as said child has left the room. However today was rather the revelation for me as the amount of information that we were able to uncover about the women in such a short amount of time was almost surreal. Their willingness to share information and the ease with which they talked about their lives with us was remarkable, though perhaps due in part to their practice at answering such questions. It was extremely difficult for me to keep to the question line, as all i wanted to do was ask them more and more questions about maternal health issues and gender issues, which aren’t relevant to the study but which I find fascinating. It was an adjustment to work with a translator but I found the process to be quite smooth and relatively painless, no doubt due in large part to the practice and skill of both translator and respondent. So, while I could rave about how interesting I found this methodology in practice for hours, I shall not, merely say that I am pretty humbled for not taking it seriously enough before
The process of starting qualitative research was difficult at first as questioning people about what I would deem personal ‘reflections’ on their life seemed like a difficult task for the researcher and the interviewee. My personal reservations soon dissipated as I found the interviewees were open and responsive even though I was nervous and unskilled. The use of a translator was a daunting task but the skill and empathy of them put me at ease and may be a substantial part of the reason I have a new found respect for qualitative research.
Before this qualitative research experience I found myself drawn towards quantitative research due to the precision and scientific basis but this experience has shown me how qualitative research can give you a deeper understanding and a better perspective on the topic. With qualitative research you are able to understand each individual’s starting point and circumstances. The deeper understanding enables you to clearly state what has changed in each individual’s circumstances and what progress they have made instead of grouping them all together and starting them all on the same base and trying to measure progress.
On the journey to the villages I was nervous about doing the interviews – I didn’t feel doing an interview would play to my strengths and that I would flounder looking for a question to ask. These worries were alleviated when watching others do their interviews as the interviewees were friendly. It also struck me that if I were being interviewed in the same way, I feel I would be infinitely patient with the interviewer. As these interviews were going on, I was constantly thinking of different questions I wanted to ask but couldn’t, and different directions I wanted to take the interview away from the provided question sheet. I said to myself I would try to take my interview in these different directions rather than stick entirely to the script. However, when it came to my interview, I found it very difficult to fully understand what the interviewee was saying while also thinking of an original question that was not on the question sheet. As a result, I found that I struggled to go into any real depth into some of the more interesting revelations that were made. Being able to do this will most probably come with practice.
Another issue I found was that I wanted to expand on the information that the interviewee’s husband beat her, but going into too much detail about this wasn’t strictly relevant to the study – about the effectiveness of the income-generation scheme. I also felt that this was potentially too sensitive to go into, for the small potential gains that it would bring.
I was glad to finish the interview despite finding it interesting. The stress of trying to find a good question to ask had made me tense. The interviewee seemed happy with how it went and although immediately afterwards I had felt it had gone badly, thinking about it, I’m happy with it. It would be ridiculous to expect the first attempt to be perfect.
Our first appointment of the day was a seminar held by members of the Department of Mental Health Education at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences. To begin with, we discussed some of our initial impression of India and Bangalore, commenting on numerous things from the traffic to the visible inequalities, while discovering the importance of noting down the initial impressions of the area where the research will take place. Following on from this we had a presentation on power in the context of research and finally discussed and asked questions about the interviews we would be conducting and what we could expect.