Indiana Reading Journal Volume 44 Issue 1 - Page 27

Creswell cautions researchers to avoid conducting studies in familiar sites or with previously known individuals. While most gender studies comprise adolescent participants, a purposeful sample of younger boys enhanced findings in the area of reading motivation. Each of the selection criteria was consistent with the descriptors of those boys found to be struggling most in reading performance (Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 2007; Fleischman, Hopstock, Pelczar, & Shelley, 2010; Smith & Wilhelm, 2004; Tatum, 2005).

All five African American boys were members of a local afterschool club (referred to in this article as The Club), the consistent meeting place for all interviews and observations of this study. The research setting was favorable to this study, primarily in three ways: location, purpose, and population. First, the research questions posed in this study necessitated a location outside of school where boys gathered regularly, addressing the epistemological assumption of credibility (Creswell, 1998). The more authentic the setting is to the participants, the stronger the role is of the investigator. If conducted at school, the data would have risked influence of academic expectations or “schoolish” notions. This setting was a location offering both academic and recreational activities, yet unaffiliated with any school.

The second factor of the setting that was beneficial to this study was its purpose; The Club offers both academic and recreational support to youth. The local facility is clearly making a difference in the community, as youth willingly congregate after school and on weekends to receive athletic, academic, and mentoring support for a minimal membership fee of ten dollars per year.

The third way in which The Club seemed fitting for this study was by its membership population. The facility is unaffiliated with the local public school corporation, yet it serves as an extracurricular facility for over 800 members, 60% of whom are male, and 73.2% from minority background. Over half of the members at the youth facility come from families who make less than $20,000 per year.

The qualitative researcher does not seek to answer a question by witnessing from a distance or by reading the writings of another, but conducts the study with vulnerability of inquiry to more fully understand and make meaning of a methodological question (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Merriam, 2002), in this case, through a focus group. Focus groups are used in qualitative research primarily for two purposes: “(a) capturing people’s response in real space and time in the context of face-to-face interactions and (b) strategically ‘focusing’ interview prompts based on themes that are generated in these face-to-face interactions and that are considered particularly important to the researchers” (Kamberelis & Dimitriadis, 2005, p. 899). A focus group of boys, all experiencing the similar phenomenon of poor reading attitudes, provided empirical data of interview responses. . A focus group of five individuals allowed for natural conversation most resembling “everyday speech acts” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 887), while providing for a manageable setting.

The interviewer is considered the primary instrument in a qualitative research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Merriam, 2002); however, in order to strengthen the validity and reliability, a pre-assessed tool guided the inquiry. Several instruments were considered, but very few fulfilled the purpose and qualities of this unique study; most were quantitative in nature, not conducive to open-response. Qualitative studies require meaningful experiences, an induction of analysis, and process involving rich description (Merriam, 2002). Each of the described characteristics is supported through open-ended questions without limitation of closed response.

Gambrell, Palmer, Codling, and Mazzoni (1995), designed the Motivation to Read Profile (MRP), which measures both “Self-concept as a reader” and “Value of reading”. The MRP allows for both quantitative and qualitative data collection through the administration of two tools, the Reading Survey and the Conversational Interview. The Reading Survey is a likert test, easily administered to a small group of individuals. The test includes a recoding of questions to increase validity of responses.