Prior to beginning work on this assignment, review the assigned readings and the instructor guidance for the week, read the Ashford Writing Center resource Writing an Article Critique (Links to an external site.), and view the Ashford University Library tutorial How to Read a Scholarly Article (Links to an external site.). Your instructor will post an announcement with the reference for the qualitative research study to be critiqued in this assignment. After reading the posted study, use the Qualitative Research Critique Template to compose and organize your assignment.

In your paper,

  • Summarize the research question, methods, and findings of the assigned qualitative study.
  • Evaluate the appropriateness of the research methods and analytical approaches used in the study. Support the position with evidence cited from the textbook and at least one other scholarly source about the research design or method.
  • Analyze ethical issues pertaining to how the study was carried out.
  • Critique the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of the study.
  • Recommend a research question and methods for a follow-up study on the topic.
  • Utilize the provided template with section headings.

The Qualitative Research Critique paper

  • Must be four to five double-spaced pages in length (not including title and references pages) using the template provided and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center (Links to an external site.)’s APA Style (Links to an external site.) The template is a Word document that is pre-formatted in APA style. If unable to use the pre-formatted template, see the following instructions for formatting.
  • Must include a separate title page with the following:
    • Title of paper
    • Student’s name
    • Course name and number
    • Instructor’s name
    • Date submitted


      � 2011 by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc. ● Vol. 39 ● August 2012 All rights reserved. 0093-5301/2012/3902-0010$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/663212

      “I Don’t” versus “I Can’t”: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior


      This research is based on the insight that the language we use to describe our choices serves as a feedback mechanism that either enhances or impedes our goal-directed behavior. Specifically, we investigate the influence of a linguistic element of self-talk, in which a refusal may be framed as “I don’t” (vs. “I can’t”), on resisting temptation and motivating goal-directed behavior. We present a set of four studies to demonstrate the efficacy of the “don’t” (vs. “can’t”) framing (studies 1–3) when the source of the goal is internal (vs. external; studies 2A and 2B), as well as the mediating role of psychological empowerment (studies 1, 2A, and 2B). We demonstrate this novel and effective refusal strategy with actual choice (study 1) and with behavioral intent (studies 2A and 2B) and also illustrate its applicability in the real world in a longitudinal intervention-based field study (study 3).

      One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself. (Leonardo da Vinci)

      A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words . . . the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt. (Mark Twain, quoted by William Dean Howell in “My Mark Twain”)

      Being able to effectively say “no” to temptation is a crit-ical skill required for consumer health and well-being. Distractions and temptations often sway consumers away from the goals they desire to achieve, and consequently much

      Vanessa M. Patrick is Bauer Associate Professor of Marketing at the C. T. Bauer College of Business, University of Houston (C. T. Bauer College of Business, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204–6021; Henrik Hagtvedt is assistant professor of marketing at the Carroll School of Management, Boston College (Carroll School of Management, Fulton Hall 450, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467; The authors contributed equally to this research. The authors would like to thank Ed Blair and Jamie Belinne for their invaluable help in identifying participants for study 3. The authors would also like to thank the editors, the associate editor, and the reviewers for their support, encouragement and valuable feedback during the review process.

      Baba Shiv and Mary Frances Luce served as editors and Rohini Ahluwalia served as associate editor for this article.

      Electronically published November 8, 2011

      extant research has been devoted to identifying factors that enable consumers to resist temptation and pursue their long- term goals. Previous research has implicated a whole host of social, psychological, and individual difference factors that influence responses to temptations and distractions. For in- stance, the consumer’s mood (Labroo and Patrick 2009), the appearance of others (McFerran et al. 2010), the presentation of the tempting item (Shiv and Fedorikhin 1999), the con- sumer’s level of chronic impulsivity (Rook and Fisher 1995), and mortality salience (Ferraro, Shiv, and Bettman 2005) have all been shown to influence resistance to temptation. To our knowledge, however, the current research is the first that in- vestigates a linguistic element of self-talk (a conversation with oneself ) in terms of the impact that the actual words con- sumers use to frame their refusal have on resisting temptation and motivating goal-directed behavior. Further, since our self- talk influences the mental representation of our choices (Senay, Albarracı́n, and Noguchi 2010), we argue that a re- fusal framed to connote a sense of empowerment and control is likely to be effective in self-regulation. The scope and boundaries of this effect are the focus of the current research.

      Imagine, for instance, that Jane and Jackie are both on a diet and have similar weight loss goals. Every time Jane sees something sinful, such as chocolate cake, she says “I don’t eat chocolate cake.” However, when Jackie sees choc- olate cake, she says “I can’t eat chocolate cake.” Although individuals use the words “don’t” and “can’t” somewhat interchangeably in such contexts, we propose that their ef-


      fects might not be interchangeable but may in fact work in very different ways. We posit that using the word “don’t” versus the word “can’t” is representative of two distinct types of refusal that differ in terms of what they implicitly connote about the consumers’ commitment and attitude to- ward their goals. Relying on prior research on linguistic framing (Cheema and Patrick 2008; Hoegg and Alba 2007; Mayer and Tormala 2010), self-talk (Senay et al. 2010), and motivated goal pursuit (Deci and Ryan 2000), we propose that the actual language consumers use to frame a refusal serves as a feedback mechanism that signals to themselves either a sense of empowerment and control or a lack thereof, thus influencing the effectiveness with which they pursue their goals. Specifically, in the current research we hypoth- esize and empirically demonstrate that framing a refusal using “I don’t” is more psychologically empowering than using “I can’t” and can motivate goal pursuit.

      With this research we make a few key contributions. First, we examine the role of a linguistic element in motivated goal pursuit. In their review of the psychology of language use, Pennebaker, Mehl, and Niederhoffer (2003) emphasize the importance of investigating language use, specific words in particular, on individual decision making, especially in terms of goal pursuit. They assert that despite word use being “a meaningful marker and occasional mediator of nat- ural social and personality processes” (548), it is a “rela- tively unstudied phenomenon” (549). The current research, thus, contributes to a significant gap in the extant literature. Further, some recent research (Senay et al. 2010) points to the importance of investigating the role of self-talk in mo- tivating future behavior. The current research demonstrates how empowered self-talk can enhance resistance to temp- tation and motivate goal-directed behavior. In this way, we contribute to the intersection between language use and mo- tivated goal pursuit. Second, we contribute to the growing literature on semantic framing (as distinct from logically equivalent framing effects in the context of choice under uncertainty; Levin and Gaeth 1988), in which two words used interchangeably can have profoundly different influ- ences (Cheema and Patrick 2008; Mayer and Tormala 2010). Finally, we contribute insights into the workings of a prac- tical and viable intervention that might be easily adopted by consumers and corporations (e.g., Weightwatchers) in- terested in behavior modification.

      The remainder of this article is organized as follows. We first review the literatures on motivated goal pursuit and verbal framing and rely on them to develop our hypotheses with regard to the differential influence that “don’t” versus “can’t” refusal framing has on individuals’ feelings of em- powerment and likelihood of engaging in goal-directed be- havior. We then present a set of four studies that investigate the influence of this framing on goal-directed behavior and demonstrate the mediating role of psychological empow- erment (studies 1, 2A, and 2B). We also identify a boundary condition for the influence of the empowering “don’t” verbal frame, in that results are reversed (i.e., the “can’t” increases in effectiveness) when an external cause is made salient

      (studies 2A and 2B). Finally, a field study (study 3) dem- onstrates the effectiveness of the “don’t” (vs. “can’t”) refusal framing by monitoring persistence in goal pursuit over time. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of the findings and directions for future research.


      Barriers to Goal Pursuit

      Managing progress toward goal achievement is funda- mental to theories of self-regulation, and examining factors that hinder or facilitate goal achievement has been a major focus of past research (Bargh and Barndollar 1996; Carver and Scheier 1998). Prior research has identified numerous strategies that individuals rely on in order to successfully achieve their goals. Examples include engagement in com- pensatory effects (e.g., compensatory thoughts or actions can help make up for a loss or deficiency by “building up one’s sense of self, or security about the self” (Wicklund and Gollwitzer 1982, 208), using control strategies (such as emotion control [Kuhl and Beckmann 1994]), forming im- plementation intentions (Gollwitzer 1999), and using mental simulation to envision pathways to goal completion (Taylor et al. 1998).

      Goal pursuit can often be exhausting and effortful. Indeed, Baumeister, Vohs, and Tice (2007) characterize goal pursuit, especially for self-regulatory goals, as so effortful as to be depleting. Often, despite good intentions, we lack the mo- tivation to pursue the goals we set for ourselves. For in- stance, depriving oneself of a desired object can be very demotivating, and after a time one just gives up. In this research, we propose that the way we frame our refusal to give in to temptation may reinforce our goal and give us a sense of empowerment that enables us to sustain our goal pursuit. This framing is achieved via language, and small differences in the words we use have a substantial influence on goal pursuit.

      Linguistic Framing: Language as a Behavioral Feedback Mechanism

      In an early theory on the role of language, Whorf (1956) essentially proposed that there is no thought without lan- guage. In other words, individuals’ perception of the world is based on the linguistic system they use. Viewed in this light, it is unsurprising that verbal framing has a broad in- fluence on consumer behavior. For instance, language in- fluences persuasion (Mayer and Tormala 2010), categorical perception (Schmitt and Zhang 1998), sensory perception and discrimination (Hoegg and Alba 2007), perceived du- rations of time intervals (Cheema and Patrick 2008), future behavior (Senay et al. 2010), and even health outcomes (Campbell and Pennebaker 2003).

      Considerable research has examined the role played by message framing in persuasion processes (Shiv, Britton, and Payne 2004). A stream of research in the judgment and decision making literature has focused on the influence of


      different types of framing that are logically equivalent (e.g., 1/2 vs. 50%; 3% fat vs. 97% fat-free). More recently, re- search in linguistics and persuasion has focused on the in- fluence of words that are not entirely equivalent but none- theless quite similar and often used interchangeably. This research is concerned with identifying when, how, and why the word pairs are effective or persuasive. For instance, Mayer and Tormala (2010) observe the differential effects of “think” versus “feel” frames in persuasion. In a similar vein, Cheema and Patrick (2008) illustrate that the framing of a time interval for coupon redemption as “anytime be- tween” or “only between” significantly influences coupon redemption behavior. Both Cheema and Patrick (2008) and Mayer and Tormala (2010) investigate what might be re- ferred to as “semantic framing,” or the use of objectively similar, albeit not equivalent, words that are often used in- terchangeably but that have profound differences in the psy- chological feedback they provide.

      This prior research on semantic framing has focused largely on how these different frames are perceived by a passive recipient and consequently influence his/her behav- ior. For instance, Cheema and Patrick (2008) illustrate dif- ferential redemption rates for coupons when the redemption time interval was framed restrictively as “only between” or expansively as “anytime between.” The current research fo- cuses on a more active framing effect in terms of under- standing how the language we use to frame our own choices, that is, framing self-talk, influences our own future behavior. Despite the obvious importance of this issue (Pennebaker et al. 2003), very few studies have embarked on this en- deavor. A notable exception is Senay et al. (2010), who demonstrate that an interrogative form (Will I ___?) of in- trospective self-talk, compared with a declarative form (I will ___.), elicits more intrinsically motivated reasons for future action and results in goal-directed behavior. The cur- rent research investigates how the decision not to veer away from one’s goal may be framed using the words “don’t” versus “can’t,” thus contributing to a growing literature on verbal framing, and specifically self-talk, in which a sen- tence can be framed differently by changing only a word or phrase, thus altering the semantic meaning of the sen- tence.


      Prior research has consistently demonstrated that perceived control over performance of a behavior can account for considerable variance in intentions and actions (Bandura 1997; Schifter and Ajzen 1985). Strategies that enhance psy- chological empowerment and feelings of control are thus likely to have a positive influence on goal-directed behavior.

      According to Diener and Biswas-Diener (2005) psycho- logical empowerment consists not only of the actual ability to control one’s environment but also of the perception that one can successfully do so. Several concepts in psychology are related to this notion. For instance, self-efficacy, the

      belief that one can accomplish specific goals (Bandura 1997), internal locus of control (Rotter 1990), and attributing one’s accomplishments to one’s actions, feelings of auton- omy, and competence in goal achievement (Deci and Ryan 1980) all reflect similar notions. Deci and Ryan (2000) dis- tinguish between autonomous motivation and controlled motivation by suggesting that the former involves behaving with a full sense of volition and choice while the latter involves behaving with a feeling of pressure from forces outside the self to achieve specific outcomes. In sum, we conceptualize empowerment as a feeling of strength and control that in turn may help motivate goal pursuit.

      Based on the above, we theorize that utilizing a “don’t” versus “can’t” refusal framing signals the degree of em- powerment one has in achieving one’s self-regulatory goal, resulting in a differential influence on the likelihood that we will engage in goal-directed behavior. We theorize that saying “I don’t do X” connotes a firmly entrenched attitude rather than a temporary situation, and it emphasizes the personal will that drives the refusal. Thus, using the word “don’t” serves as a self-affirmation of one’s personal will- power and control in the relevant self-regulatory goal pur- suit, leading to a favorable influence on feelings of empow- erment, as well as on actual behavior. On the other hand, saying “I can’t do X” connotes an external focus on im- pediments. We propose that this latter emphasis results in less feelings of empowerment and thus also hinders the self- regulatory goal pursuit in question.

      STUDY 1

      Method and Procedure

      One hundred and twenty undergraduates participated in a study designed to investigate the differential influence of the “don’t” versus “can’t” framing on actual choice of a tempting item via the mediating role of feelings of empow- erment. A secondary purpose of the study was to illustrate that this effect is observed for individuals for whom healthy eating is a relevant goal. In other words, the study was designed to illustrate that empowered refusal framing mo- tivates goal-directed behavior.

      Participants first responded to a set of purportedly un- related questions. Embedded among these was the measure for goal relevance. This was done so as to assess the rele- vance of a healthy eating goal for each participant without increasing the salience and accessibility of the goal (Fish- bach, Friedman, and Kruglanski 2003). Goal relevance was measured as the extent to which they were concerned with healthy eating (9-point Likert scale: 1 p Not at all, 9 p Extremely). Next, participants were asked to begin the study by responding to a new strategy for maintaining healthy eating. They were given a description of either the “don’t” or the “can’t” strategy for refusing a temptation. They were told that each time they were faced with a temptation, they would tell themselves “I don’t do X” or “I can’t do X,” depending on the experimental condition. They were asked to rehearse the strategy by saying: “For instance, when you


      are tempted by an unhealthy snack, you say ‘I don’t eat X’ (‘I can’t eat X’).” Participants next reported the extent to which using this strategy made them feel psychologically empowered (How do you feel about using this strategy of saying “I don’t (can’t)” to achieve your goals? In control: 1p Not at all; 9 p Very much; Empowered: 1 p Not at all; 9 p Very much. The two items were later combined to form an empowerment index; r p .81). Participants then moved on to an unrelated study before the end of the ex- perimental session. The main independent variable was cap- tured as the participants were leaving the experiment room. As each participant turned in their questionnaire, they were asked to choose between two snacks provided by the ex- perimenter as a token of appreciation. The snack choices were chocolate candy bars or granola health bars, which were presented in two separate bowls. By discreetly marking each questionnaire as it was turned in, the experimenter covertly noted the choice that each participant made.

      Results and Discussion

      An ANOVA with refusal framing (don’t vs. can’t) as the independent variable and the empowerment index as the dependent variable revealed the expected main effect (Mdon’t p 6.17 vs. Mcan’t p 5.09, F(1, 117) p 11.34, p ! .01).

      Chi-square analysis revealed that 64% (36%) of the par- ticipants in the “don’t” condition chose the granola health bar (chocolate candy bar), as compared to 39% (61%) in the “can’t” condition (x2(1) p 6.59, p ! .05). Six partici- pants in the “don’t” condition and three participants in the “can’t” condition refrained from choosing any snack and were therefore excluded from the analysis. This finding sup- ports our theorizing that using the “don’t” refusal frame is more empowering and is more likely to lead to resistance to temptation than the “can’t” refusal frame.

      A set of binary logistic regressions was conducted to further investigate the relationship between refusal framing and snack choice, as well as the moderating role of goal relevance in this relationship. In the first regression, refusal framing, mean-centered goal relevance, and the interaction between the two were included as predictors. As expected, participants in the “don’t” (“can’t”) condition were more likely to choose the healthy (unhealthy) snack (b p �1.06, x2(1) p 6.76, p ! .01). Results also revealed a significant two-way interaction between refusal framing and goal rel- evance (b p �.71, x2(1) p 5.60, p ! .05). To explore the nature of the interaction, we followed the procedure rec- ommended by Aiken and West (1991; Fitzsimons 2008). A spotlight analysis at plus and minus one standard deviation from the mean of goal relevance revealed that participants in the “don’t” condition were more likely than those in the “can’t” condition to choose the healthy (vs. unhealthy) snack when goal relevance was high (b p �2.04, x2(1) p 11.35, p ! .01), but not significantly so when goal relevance was low (b p �.08, x2(1) p .02, p 1 .89). In other words, although all participants reported some level of goal rele- vance, those with lower goal relevance were not differen- tially influenced by refusal framing.

      Mediation analysis (Baron and Kenny 1986) supported full mediation by the empowerment index of the influence of refusal framing on choice. First, regression analysis showed a significant effect of refusal framing on choice (b p �1.00, x2(1) p 6.45, p ! .05). The effect of refusal framing on the empowerment index was also significant (b p 1.08, t(117) p 3.37, p ! .01), as was the effect of the empowerment index on choice (b p �2.29, x2(1) p 23.72, p ! .001). Finally, the regression analysis with refusal fram- ing and the empowerment index included in the model as predictors of choice revealed a significant effect of the em- powerment index (b p �2.29, x2(1) p 23.34, p ! .001), while the effect of refusal framing was rendered nonsignif- icant (b p �.27, x2(1) p .16, p 1 .68).

      These results support our central thesis that the more em- powering a refusal frame is the more effective it is in mo- tivating goal-directed behavior. Specifically, we show that for individuals for whom healthy eating was a relevant goal, the two refusal frames (“don’t” vs. “can’t”) have a differ- ential influence on actual choice behavior, and this effect is mediated by psychological empowerment. The following two experiments were designed to investigate the conditions under which consumers perceive the “don’t” versus “can’t” refusal framing as effective strategies for goal pursuit. Spe- cifically, we theorize in the section that follows that feelings of empowerment and perceptions of effectiveness of the “don’t” framing will manifest themselves in consumers with an internal focus but that this will not be the case for con- sumers with an external focus.


      Even if two consumers have the same operative goal, the source of motivation to pursue this goal may be different. Indeed, much prior literature has investigated the effect of goals with different foci. For instance, the source of the goal to learn text material or engage in physical exercise may be intrinsic (related to the self: e.g., personal growth) or ex- trinsic (related to some external cause: e.g., impressing oth- ers; Vansteenkiste et al. 2004). Self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan 2000) similarly postulates that an action might stem from an internal drive and be performed for its own sake or it might be motivated by some external cause and be performed as a means to an end. We refer to this as having an internal versus external focus, respectively.

      We propose that the effectiveness of the “don’t” versus “can’t” framing is moderated by this focus. Since the “don’t” frame suggests a stable and unchanging stance that invokes the self (“this is who I am”), it is more effective when goal focus is internal and related to the self (“I don’t eat fast- food”), but it decreases in effectiveness when related to an external cause (“I don’t eat fast-food till the wedding”). On the other hand, a “can’t” frame which implicitly suggests some barrier that prevents action is more effective when related to an external cause (“I can’t eat fast-food till the


      TABLE 1


      Effectiveness Empowerment

      Don’t Can’t Don’t Can’t

      Study 2A: Internal 5.98* 4.79* 6.87* 4.76* External 4.60* 5.81* 5.13 5.80

      Study 2B: Internal 4.09* 2.52* 5.17* 3.91* External 4.08* 5.63* 5.15* 6.36*

      *Don’t condition different from can’t condition, p ! .05.

      wedding”) versus an internal cause (“I can’t eat fast-food because this is who I am”).

      The affirmation of one’s identity resonates with an in- ternal focus. This is consistent with Deci and Ryan’s (1987, 1025) characterization of autonomy and empowerment as that which is “an inner endorsement of one’s actions, the sense that they emanate from oneself and are one’s own.” The “can’t” framing, which implies a specific reason, res- onates with an external cause. In this context, the term “can’t” no longer merely connotes an impediment; it com- municates what one “must not” do for the sake of the ex- ternal cause. It signals commitment and accountability to the cause and emphasizes the value of the goal, which one simply must not forsake. Although not the focus of the current research, we rely on a growing number of studies that have found that interpersonal relationships and external causes can effectively shape an individual’s capacity for self-regulation (Diamond and Aspinwall 2003; Mikulincer, Shaver, and Pereg 2003; Wegner and Erber 1993) to posit that commitment and accountability to an external cause or individual can lead to increased feelings of empowerment and, consequently, goal-directed behavior. We discuss this notion further in the general discussion section.

      Conversely, the “don’t” framing implies that one does (or refrains from doing) something for one’s own sake. There- fore, we expect that an external reason will not increase the effectiveness of the “don’t” framing but in fact may even decrease motivation and effectiveness if the external reason is sufficiently specific and other-focused to render the gen- eral, self-affirming “don’t” framing inappropriate for such a cause. We thus propose that the “can’t” framing is more effective than the “don’t” framing in connection with a sa- lient external cause. In the two studies that follow, we vary the nature of the cause to be external (helping a friend [study 2A] or attending a social event [study 2B]) or internal (per- sonal goal) and thus illustrate the conditions under which the “can’t” framing increases in effectiveness.

      STUDY 2A

      Method and Procedure

      One hundred and seventy-nine adults (80.6% male, me- dian age range p 35–44 years) participated in an experiment via a Qualtrics interface. The participant pool consists of over 3 million unique panel members. To avoid self-selec- tion and professional survey takers, Qualtrics utilizes by- invitation-only online panel recruitment, thus attracting a cross section that better generalizes to the population at large. All participants were presented with a scenario in which they were asked to imagine that they had decided to work out at the gym on a regular basis with a close friend for the next year. This ensured that all participants had the same operative goal and the same temporal horizon. Par- ticipants in the internal (external) focus condition further read that they had decided to work out “on a regular basis for a year, knowing that if you skip out, it may have con- sequences for your own health [it may have health conse-

      quences for him/her].” Participants were given the “don’t” or “can’t” framing, along with examples such as “I don’t (can’t) skip the gym” or “I don’t (can’t) skip my workout.” The study was thus a 2 (framing: don’t vs. can’t) # 2 (focus: internal vs. external) between-subjects experiment. As in the previous study, participants read the scenario and then answered a battery of questions. The empowerment index (r p .83) was the same as in study 1. Participants were also asked how effective the strategy was and how likely they were to use it (How effective do you think this “don’t” [“can’t”] strategy is to stick with the workouts? How likely would you be to use this strategy of saying “I don’t [can’t] skip out?”: 1p Not at all; 9 p Extremely; the two items were later combined to form an effectiveness index; r p .78). As a manipulation check for focus, participants re- ported on a 9-point scale for whom they were trying to stick with the workouts (1 p for myself; 9 p for my friend). Results revealed the expected main effect of focus (Minternal p 3.92 vs. Mexternal p 6.45; F(1, 173) p 49.59, p ! .001).


      A two-way ANOVA with refusal framing (don’t vs. can’t) and focus (internal vs. external) as the independent variables and the effectiveness index as the dependent variable re- vealed the expected framing # focus interaction (Mdon’t, internal p 5.98 vs. Mcan’t, internal p 4.79 vs. Mdon’t, external p 4.60 vs. Mcan’t, external p 5.81; F(1, 174) p 16.59, p ! .001). Contrast analysis revealed that the don’t-internal condition was sig- nificantly different from the can’t-internal condition (p ! .01) and that the don’t-external condition was different from the can’t-external condition (p ! .01). See table 1. A similar ANOVA on the empowerment index revealed a main effect of framing (Mdon’t p 5.96 vs. Mcan’t p 5.32; F(1, 175) p 5.68, p ! .05) and a framing # focus interaction (Mdon’t, internal p 6.87 vs. Mcan’t, internal p 4.76 vs. Mdon’t, external p 5.13 vs. Mcan’t, external p 5.80; F(1, 175) p 21.02, p ! .001). See table 1.

      Mediation analysis was conducted to demonstrate the role of the empowerment index in the influence of refusal fram- ing on the effectiveness index. Consistent with the above theorizing, the analysis confirmed mediation within the in- ternal focus condition. First, regression analysis showed a


      significant effect of refusal framing on the effectiveness in- dex (b p 1.18, t(81) p 2.70, p ! .01). The effect of refusal framing on the empowerment index was also significant (b p 2.11, t(82) p 5.21, p ! .001), as was the effect of the empowerment index on the effectiveness index (b p .68, t(81) p 8.43, p ! .001). Finally, the regression analysis with refusal framing and the empowerment index included in the model as predictors of the effectiveness index revealed a significant effect of the empowerment index (b p .73, t(80) p 7.74, p ! .001), while the effect of refusal framing was rendered nonsignificant (b p .43, t(80) p 1.09, p 1 .28). This demonstrates the expected full mediation in the internal focus condition. The same mediation was not found in the external focus condition, where framing was a directionally consistent but nonsignificant predictor of empowerment (p 1 .14).

      These results replicate the pattern of results from the pre- vious study for the internal focus condition. Additionally, a boundary condition was demonstrated in that the “can’t” framing is more effective in the context of an external focus. We suggest that the effectiveness of the “can’t” strategy in the external focus condition can be explained by commit- ment (and occasionally accountability) to an external cause and not via empowerment, as evidenced by the absence of mediation. The following study was designed to replicate study 2A in a different context, using a different variation of an external cause.

      STUDY 2B

      Method and Procedure

      One hundred and twenty undergraduates (47% male) read a scenario in which they imagined that they had a goal to lose weight. Participants in the internal focus condition fur- ther read that “You want to be able to look at yourself a month from now and feel happy about how good you look and feel.” Those in the external focus condition read that “Your best friend is getting married in a month and you want to look really good at the wedding.” Participants were given the “don’t” or “can’t” framing, along with examples such as “I don’t (can’t) eat ice-cream” or “I don’t (can’t) eat pumpkin pie.” The study was thus a 2 (framing: don’t vs. can’t) # 2 (focus: internal vs. external) between-subjects experiment. As in the previous studies, participants read the scenario and then answered a battery of questions. The em- powerment index (r p .74) and the effectiveness index (r p .81) were the same as in the previous studies. A pretest was run with 51 undergraduates to assess the relative focus that each of the two scenarios described above entailed. Participants were presented with one of the two weight-loss scenarios and then responded to the question: “What is the source of motivation for your weight-loss goal?” on a 9- point scale (Yourself p 1, Others p 9). Results of the pretest supported the use of these scenarios to manipulate internal versus external focus (Minternal p 2.42 vs. Mexternal p 5.64; F(1, 49) p 59.78, p ! .001).


      A two-way ANOVA with refusal framing (don’t vs. can’t) and focus (internal vs. external) as the independent variables and the effectiveness index as the dependent variable re- vealed a main effect of focus (Minternal p 3.30 vs. Mexternal p 4.88; F(1, 116) p 20.66, p ! .001) and the expected framing # focus interaction (Mdon’t, internal p 4.09 vs. Mcan’t, internal p 2.52 vs. Mdon’t, external p 4.08 vs. Mcan’t, external p 5.63; F(1, 116) p 20.74, p ! .001). Contrast analysis revealed that the don’t-internal condition was significantly different from the can’t-internal condition (p ! .01) and that the don’t- external condition was different from the can’t-external con- dition (p ! .01). See table 1. A similar ANOVA on the empowerment index revealed a main effect of focus (Minternal p 4.54 vs. Mexternal p 5.77; F(1, 116) p 13.68, p ! .001) and a framing # focus interaction (Mdon’t, internal p 5.17 vs. Mcan’t, internal p 3.91 vs. Mdon’t, external p 5.15 vs. Mcan’t, external p 6.36; F(1, 116) p 14.19, p ! .001). See table 1.

      As in study 2A, we predicted mediation by the em- powerment index of the influence of refusal framing on the effectiveness index within the internal focus condi- tion. First, regression analysis showed a significant effect of refusal framing on the effectiveness index (b p 1.57, t(56) p 3.37, p ! .01). The effect of refusal framing on the empowerment index was also significant (b p 1.26, t(56) p 2.86, p ! .01), as was the effect of the empow- erment index on the effectiveness index (b p .72, t(56) p 6.58, p ! .001). Finally, the regression analysis with refusal framing and the empowerment index included in the model as predictors of the effectiveness index re- vealed a significant effect of the empowerment index (b p .64, t(55) p 5.61, p ! .001), while the effect of refusal framing was rendered nonsignificant (b p .77, t(55) p 1.91, p 1 .06). This once again replicates the results from the previous two studies.

      In contrast to study 2A, this pattern of results was replicated for the external focus condition. This raises an interesting question regarding the effectiveness of the “can’t” framing in this condition. It is possible that in this condition empowerment stems from commitment to the external cause. We return to this issue in the general discussion section.


      The set of studies presented so far has provided support for our theorizing. Specifically, (1) the “don’t” frame is more effective than the “can’t” frame as a refusal strategy, (2) feelings of empowerment underlie this effectiveness, and (3) external focus is a boundary condition in which the “can’t” frame becomes more effective than the “don’t” frame. Next, we test the efficacy of the “don’t” (vs. “can’t”) refusal framing strategy in the real world to facilitate goal- directed behavior over a period of time. Study 3 was de- signed for this purpose using only participants with an in- ternal focus.



      This study relies on a typical intervention type experimental design characteristic of field-based research in psychology (Vansteenkiste et al. 2004). Based on that methodology, the effectiveness of an intervention (in this case the use of the “don’t” vs. the “can’t” strategy for goal pursuit) is measured by how long individuals continue to use a given strategy or persist in a given task while continuing doing what they do in their daily lives. Previous research shows that individuals who feel success is in their control are less likely to withdraw from the intervention program (Sitzmann and Ely 2010), indicating the effectiveness of the intervention. In the cur- rent study, we expect that if the “don’t” (vs. “can’t”) framing strategy works in the real world for real people, then in- dividuals who commit to using the strategy are more likely to continue using it. We thus hypothesize that the “don’t” framing is likely to result in lower attrition rates (higher persistence) than the “can’t” framing for consumers with an internal focus.

      Method and Procedure

      Thirty working women (Mage p 31 years, age range: 22–53 years) who signed up to attend a health and wellness seminar organized by the authors participated in the field study. The seminar was designed for individuals with long- term personal health improvement goals. As a follow-up to the seminar, they were encouraged to participate in a pro- gram in which they would adopt a new strategy and report how well the strategy was working for them every day for a 10-day period. All participants were given written instruc- tions pertaining to what was described as an easy to im- plement health and wellness improvement program. They were told to identify some areas in which they wanted to improve. Although these improvements should reflect long- term goals, participants would submit the actual progress reports for only 10 days or until they gave up on the strategy because it was not working for them. Participants were as- signed to either a “don’t” or a “can’t” framing condition. In other words, when they were tempted to lapse in the pursuit of their goals they should use the “don’t” (vs. “can’t”) strategy. Additionally, a nonspecific control con- dition was added, in which participants were told that when they were tempted to lapse in the pursuit of their goals they should simply refuse or “just say no.”

      As part of the procedure, participants received a welcome e-mail with a link to an online diary. They were told that they would receive an e-mail every day for 10 days and were asked to report their progress using the given strategy as long as it continued to work for them. Specifically, they were told: “Dur- ing the 10-day window you will receive e-mails to remind you to use the strategy and to report instances in which it worked or did not work. If the strategy is not working for you, just drop us a line and say so and you can stop responding to the e-mails.” Thus, the goal of the study was to measure the ef- fectiveness of the “don’t” strategy versus the “can’t” strategy by monitoring persistence in goal pursuit. Persistence was mea-

      sured as the number of days participants continued to report goal progress in the online diary. We expected that using the “don’t” refusal framing would increase persistence by empow- ering individuals to stick with their goals.


      Results revealed that eight (of 10) participants in the “don’t” condition persisted the full 10 days, that is, the entire duration of the study, whereas only one participant (of 10) in the “can’t” condition and three participants (of 10) in the control condition did so. See figure 1 for an overview of the number of days persisted for each participant.

      An ANOVA with refusal framing as the independent var- iable and number of days of persistence as the dependent variable revealed a significant main effect (Mdon’t p 9.20 vs. Mcan’t p 2.90 vs. Mcontrol p 5.20; F(2, 27) p 11.82, p ! .001). As expected, contrast analysis revealed that the “don’t” condition was different from the “can’t” condition (p ! .001), as well as from the control condition (p ! .01).

      Based on Diener and Biswas-Diener (2005) and Deci and Ryan (1980), evidence of empowerment is indicated by in- creased feelings of autonomy and control, greater self- awareness, and positive behavioral change. Examples of open-ended diary entries (see the appendix) of participants using the “don’t” strategy illustrate the role of empowerment in the effectiveness of this refusal framing.


      The subtle use of language and insightful turns of phrase have long been considered the purview of wordsmiths from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss. Recent research has suggested that the way in which we use language in everyday life can provide insights about individuals’ psychology and social interactions and can have important consequences for their actions in a variety of domains. That research has focused not only on what is communicated but on how it is com- municated in terms of the actual words used. The current article contributes to this stream of work by focusing on how refusal framing can help motivate goal pursuit.

      With a set of three experiments and one field study we investigate the empowering influence of using “don’t” ver- sus “can’t” to frame a refusal. We demonstrate that this form of self-talk motivates goal-directed behavior (studies 1–3) when the source of the goal is internal (studies 2A and 2B) and that this effect is mediated by psychological empow- erment (studies 1, 2A, and 2B). We not only show these effects with actual choice (study 1) and behavioral intent (studies 2A and 2B) but also demonstrate its applicability in the real world using a longitudinal intervention-based field study (study 3).

      Limitations and Issues for Further Investigation

      Given our nascent understanding of linguistic framing, the current research raises a set of questions that remain unanswered. For instance, while the current research has


      FIGURE 1


      demonstrated the mediating role of empowerment in the favorable influence of the “don’t” framing on both behavior and perceived effectiveness, the underlying mechanism for the efficacy of the “can’t” frame in the external focus con- dition still remains to be empirically investigated. We ten- tatively explain the pattern of results as follows. We propose that the “can’t” strategy is effective in the external focus condition because it connotes commitment and accounta- bility to the external cause. Commitment can be empowering

      because it entails a focus on the goal rather than on im- pediments or personal limitations, which might also help explain some previous findings that goal commitment en- hances performance (Klein et al. 1999). Conversely, the “don’t” frame invokes a permanent internal state, which does not align with a specific external cause. To explain this with an example, we expect that the “don’t” frame is likely to be effective for a Weightwatchers member who focuses on her general ideal of staying slim. However, the “can’t”


      strategy is likely to be effective if she focuses on the next time she needs to weigh in. In refusing to eat something it is viable to tell oneself, “I can’t eat the extra slice of bread since I need to weigh in at Weightwatchers on Saturday.” This commitment and accountability to an external cause (especially to another individual) has been demonstrated in previous research to be effective in facilitating self-control (see Seeley and Gardner [2006] for a review). As ironic as it sounds to employ others in one’s own goal pursuit, this can be an effective self-regulatory strategy. Future research might investigate the role of interpersonal relationships in intrapersonal self-regulatory processes.

      Another issue not fully resolved is why empowerment (via the use of the “don’t” strategy) leads to persistence in goal pursuit, as observed in study 3. One possible explanation relies on a resource-based perspective. The current research concep- tualizes empowerment as a feeling of strength and control, and this might influence the availability of resources in two different ways. On one hand, since empowerment is a powerful and positive feeling that is reinforced by successful goal pursuit, one might posit that this feeling can generate increased re- sources and result in the motivation to continue to persist in goal pursuit over the long term. On the other hand, it seems likely that pursuing a goal that is not within one’s own control will deplete available resources since one must from the outset strive to overcome the feeling of one’s own inability. Con- versely, pursuing a goal that feels under one’s own control should utilize fewer resources for goal pursuit. These two routes to explain the influence of empowerment on goal pursuit over the long term might be empirically contrasted in future research.

      Another question is whether framing leads to higher per- ceived goal importance, lower perceived value of the temp- tation, or both. For instance, since the “don’t” frame im- plicates the self, it may highlight the long-term goal of health. Conversely, since the “can’t” framing focuses on resisting the temptation, it may highlight the tempting object more strongly. While this research has focused on empow- erment to explain the role of the “don’t” frame, the mech- anism by which it works may be further explored in future research.

      Implications, Links to the Extant Research, and Future Directions

      In addition to the previously discussed theoretical con- tributions, especially to the literatures on motivated goal pursuit and semantic framing, this research also has clear practical implications. As evidenced by study 3, the “don’t” versus “can’t” refusal framing is a simple strategy that con- sumers can adopt to facilitate goal pursuit, especially when the desired behavior is self-directed. In addition, the “don’t” framing strategy can serve as a viable intervention that or- ganizations that market behavior modification or reinforce- ment programs might be able to use. The specific wording may also be used in advertising and other communication materials to connote empowerment and efficacy or lack thereof. In general, the implications of the psychology un-

      derlying language use, especially in a communications- based field like marketing, are virtually endless.

      Subtle verbal (and nonverbal) cues such as the ones under investigation in the current research are easy to overlook, and yet they may have a substantial influence on a wide variety of consumer perceptions and behaviors. Potential domains of investigation include those related to self-con- trol, like hyperopia. Such aversion to indulgence has been demonstrated to be conceptually and empirically distinct from self-control (Haws and Poynor 2008), and thus vari- ables such as refusal framing may have different influences in these domains. Further, the influence of refusal framing may also vary among individuals. For instance, if consumers possess traits that strongly conflict with a given self-control goal, it may be that refusal framing is not enough to stop them from reverting to default behavior (Poynor and Haws 2008). Additionally, future research may focus on the in- fluence of subtle verbal cues on others. Extending work by Niederhoffer and Pennebaker (2002), one might suggest that the use of words like “don’t” or “can’t” may have a con- tagion effect and influence the feelings of empowerment toward goal achievement experienced by others. These au- thors find that two people talking in person or via computers tend to match each other’s linguistic style. Thus, one in- dividual using certain words may result in others doing the same, with the subsequent emotional and behavioral con- sequences this may have for the mimicking consumer.

      In the current research, we demonstrate an important link between word choice and motivation. It would be interesting for researchers to identify the words used to motivate higher and faster performance. For instance, the wording of an ap- pointment letter might be used to energize a new employee even more than monetary compensation does, or the way an editor phrases his letters to authors might reduce turnaround times at an academic journal. Generally speaking, future re- search could identify and map out a vast variety of effects arising from verbal framing and language use. This would be important not only to better understand the effect of what marketers say to consumers but also to understand what con- sumers say to marketers and researchers. As Senay et al. (2010) note, we often rely on self-reports and thought pro- tocols to understand behavior, and in doing so we take the words consumers use to describe new products or ad concepts at face value. This might explain why a lot of products and ads that do well in research fail in the marketplace. Decoding how (actual language used) interviewees and focus group participants describe ads or new products that go on to fail in the marketplace might help managers avoid making costly mistakes in the future. In other words, it might be possible for market researchers to identify key words and phrases that serve as red (or green) flags.

      The process mechanisms underlying the encoding of the semantic meaning of two similar sets of words is also un- known. Do consumers do this automatically (a System 1 process), or do they need additional cognitive resources to tease out the subtleties of language (a System 2 process)? Further, most semantic framing research has so far been done in English. It would also be interesting to examine whether similar effects are observed using different languages.


      Language is one of the most important tools known to humankind. Indeed, many would argue that it represents the single most important development in human history. An

      increased understanding of its intricate nature may constitute the difference between wielding language as a club and wielding it as a surgical instrument.


      TABLE A1


      Evidence of empowerment Open-ended example

      Increased feelings of autonomy and control

      Today I was very good about not eating unhealthy foods. I also paid closer attention in order to avoid coffee all day this time around. I feel better that I have a bit more control over my choices. (AL)

      The system definitely has its advantages of making you feel in control and changing your attitude about your actions. (AM)

      Increased self-awareness I found that most of the time, this self pep talk really seemed to realign my thoughts of what I want. (AM)

      I have been more aware of what I am eating and more inclined to make it to the gym. (RW) Making more conscious effort to keep the Dont’s in mind & also getting into the habit more

      now. (SS) I thought the strategy was overall a nice reminder of when to say no. When opting out of

      using the elevator or saying no to dessert after dinner, that’s when the ‘don’t’ strategy worked best for me. It also had an encouraging effect on me to help me get to the gym! (RW)

      Positive behavioral change After weeks of thinking about working out, I finally started! (AM) Cut up an apple and snack on that . . . something I haven’t done in years. I would normally

      just reach for the potato chips. (JR) I saw a domino effect of better choices, smaller portions and more fruits & vegetables. (NC) I’ve actually lost a couple pounds, and find myself making much healthier choices on a daily

      basis. (NC) I don’t arrive half an hour late for work. Although I overslept this morning, amazingly I arrived

      at work pretty much on time. (MN) Felt renewed dedication to shedding these extra pounds. My new strategy is that “I don’t”

      drive across campus in my car any more. I bought a used folding bicycle this weekend that I can keep in my office and use to ride across campus for meetings and events. (SB)


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      Qualitative Research Critique

      [Student’s Name]

      PSY 326 Research Design

      [Instructor’s Name]

      [Date submitted]

      Qualitative Research Critique


      [Instructions for using this template: Replace the text in brackets on the title page with your information. Answer the questions and provide the required information indicated below, in the order these items are presented. Use complete sentences in your response and delete the question or instruction, including this paragraph, after you have finished typing your answers. Throughout the paper, cite the source of the information. List the references for all sources that are cited, as indicated in the note on the References page.]

      What is your purpose for writing this paper?

      What is the title of the study you are critiquing, and who are the authors?

      Summarize the research question(s) in your own words as much as possible. If your instructor allows quotes and you find it necessary to quote from the article, use quotation marks around the quoted passage and cite the quote in APA format with author’s last name, year of publication, and page number where the quoted material appeared.

      Briefly summarize background information on the topic from the study’s literature review.

      Comment on whether or not there is any apparent bias in the selection of studies in the literature review.

      Summary of Methods

      Which qualitative research design was used?

      Name the sampling method and describe how the participants were selected.

      How did the researchers collect data from the participants?

      Did the researchers mention bracketing, epoché, or reflexivity?

      What coding and analysis procedures were used to analyze the data?

      What efforts were made to ensure trustworthiness, credibility, and/or dependability?

      Summary of Findings

      What themes or other findings were presented in the study?

      Was sufficient evidence provided to support the conclusions drawn by the researchers? If so, what is the nature of the evidence? If not, what is missing?

      Ethical Aspects

      Did the researchers explicitly address ethical issues in the article? If not, was there evidence in the report that the participants’ wellbeing and confidentiality were protected?

      Was an approval process by an Institutional Review Board or similar ethics review committee mentioned?

      Were any of the practices ethically questionable? If so, what could have been done to resolve these issues?

      Evaluation of Study

      Referring to a source about the research design and methods used in this study to support your evaluation, do you feel the researchers used these methods appropriately to investigate the research question?

      What do you see as the strengths of how this study was done?

      What limitations or weaknesses were mentioned by the authors?

      What limitations do you see (if any) that they did not mention?

      What suggestions did the authors make for future research on the topic?

      Do you think another approach might be better for the research question than the research design and methods that were used in this study? If so, what other methods would you consider?


      Briefly review the main points of your summary and evaluation of the study.

      What would you recommend for a research question and methods for a follow-up study on this topic?


      [Note: List references here in alphabetical order by the first author’s last name, in APA format with a hanging indent. Include all sources cited in the body of the paper. Do not list any that are not cited in the paper. At a minimum, you should use the article being critiqued, one article about the research design from the Research Methods research guide in the Ashford Library, and the course textbook. An example citation featuring the textbook follows this note.]

      Newman, M. (2016). Research methods in psychology. (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education.

      PSY 326 Research Methods Week 3 Guidance

      Welcome to Week 3 of Research Methods! This week, you will learn about a few of the most popular qualitative research designs. Required resources are sections 3.1, 3.2, and the parts of section 3.4 about “Pros and Cons of Observational Research” and “Types of Observational Research” in the Newman (2016) textbook, an ebook chapter by Levitt (2016), and two videos about qualitative research. The videos are linked in the Course Materials and the discussion prompt.

      Assignments for the week include a discussion, an interactive learning activity and quiz, and a written assignment. To see how your assignments will be graded, look at the rubrics accessible through a link on the screen for each discussion or assignment.

      The Week 3 discussion is Pros and Cons of Qualitative Research. Your initial post is due by Day 3, and all replies are due by Day 7. To prepare for the discussion, read the sections of the Newman (2016) textbook listed above, the Levitt (2016) book chapter, and the lecture portion of this instructor guidance. Also, view the videos  Different Qualitative Approaches  (Kawulich, 2013) and  When to Use a Qualitative Research Design: Four Things to Consider  (Zhang, 2017), which are linked in the Course Materials and the discussion prompt.

      This week’s discussion assignment is a jigsaw puzzle. Instead of having the entire class read and report on four different qualitative research designs, each person will research and report on one specific design. Designs are assigned based on the first letter of your last name. When you determine your assigned design, use the Research Methods research guide and the databases in the Ashford University Library to find at least one scholarly/peer-reviewed article about the research design AND at least one published research study that used the design. Then, explain the characteristics and features of the research design and what kinds of topics it can be used for, describe the data collection and data analysis methods used in the design, and discuss the published study you found. Document your sources in APA style.

      At least three replies to the initial posts of classmates will be required for this discussion, because you must read and respond to at least one post about each of the other three qualitative research designs. As the expert on your assigned design, you will also be expected to respond to some of the questions posted on your thread by others. See the discussion prompt for complete details.

      After you have learned about qualitative research from the assigned readings and participating in the discussion, you will be ready to do the interactive activity and take the quiz called Qualitative Research Fundamentals, due by Day 6. In the first part of the learning activity, match terms related to qualitative research with their definitions. In the scenarios presented in the second part of the activity, you must select the most appropriate qualitative research design for the situation. After mastering the interactive activity, take the graded quiz. As with all quizzes in this course, you may retake it as many times as you wish until the end of the course to improve your score. Your highest score will be retained.

      The written assignment is a Qualitative Research Critique paper, which is due on Day 7. Review the assigned readings, videos, and discussion forum posts. The assignment prompt also provides links to Writing Center and Library resources on how to read a scholarly article and write a critique, which will be helpful to view before starting the assignment. Your instructor will post an announcement with the reference for the assigned article to be critiqued. Retrieve the article from the Ashford University Library, and also download the Qualitative Research Critique Template provided in the Course Materials and the assignment prompt. The template is set up in APA format with a series of questions to answer about the assigned study. Submit your completed template form to Waypoint.

      After completing this instructional unit, you will be able to:

      · Explain the distinguishing features of qualitative research.

      · Identify the key features, pros, and cons of selected qualitative research designs.

      · Critique a qualitative research study.

      Keep these objectives in mind as you go through this week’s learning activities.

      Qualitative research is not an experiment. It does not involve manipulating anything or controlling extraneous variables in a laboratory setting. Qualitative research is holistic. You may have heard the centuries-old story about a group of blind men trying to describe an elephant. They all felt different parts of the elephant. The one who felt the elephant’s trunk concluded that an elephant was like a thick snake. Another, who felt the elephant’s side, said that an elephant was like a wall. A man who felt the elephant’s ear was sure that an elephant was like a fan. One who felt the tusk stated that the elephant was like a spear, and so on.

      Each of the blind men only perceived one part or aspect of the elephant, and they argued about which one of them was right. They were all partially correct, but none of them really understood what an elephant was because they did not have the whole picture. In a way, this piecemeal approach is like quantitative research, which parses information about thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and objects into segments called variables. If all the relevant variables are not included in a quantitative study, the results might not present the whole truth. In contrast, qualitative research tries to consider the whole phenomenon in its context.

      Qualitative research focuses on “what” and “how” types of questions. It is not about finding out the right answer, but about understanding the perceptions and perspectives of other people, as individuals or in groups. One of the features of the qualitative approach is that researchers acknowledge that they see the world from behind a lens composed of their upbringing, culture, language, and experiences. Because everyone has such a lens, yet every individual’s lens is unique, it is important for researchers to be aware of how their lenses color their perception and understanding of what they see and hear from the participants. The effort to recognize one’s own lens and biases is referred to as reflexivity (Levitt, 2016; Roberts, 2009; Tickle, 2017). Making an effort to identify and set aside potential biases is called bracketing (Levitt, 2016). A person’s worldview, which includes the cultural lens, beliefs about the nature of reality, and beliefs about the nature of knowledge, is called a paradigm. Certain paradigms are associated with particular qualitative research approaches. For more information about paradigms, see the article by Ponterotto (2013) or other sources about the philosophy behind qualitative research.

      Sampling in qualitative research tends to be purposive instead of random or by convenience. Participants are selected because they have knowledge or personal experience with the topic of the study, and are willing and able to communicate in depth about it. Sample sizes are smaller than in quantitative studies. It is common not to set a desired sample size ahead of time in qualitative research. Often, researchers rely on data saturation to determine when the sample is large enough. Data saturation is the point at which no new information or insight is added from additional interviews or observations. One sampling strategy used when the topic is sensitive and locating qualified participants may be difficult, is called snowball sampling. This involves asking each participant to refer someone they know who is qualified and might be interested in participating.


      A qualitative researcher’s goal is to describe observed phenomena, behaviors, or situations in rich detail in words or pictures. This is called thick description. While quantitative research uses deductive reasoning, qualitative research typically uses inductive reasoning, which goes from the specific to the general. In induction, the researcher starts with pieces of data, then finds how they are connected in patterns. Another feature of qualitative data analysis is constant comparison. Instead of collecting all of the data before beginning analysis (as must be done in quantitative research), data from each individual source is analyzed as soon as possible after collection, and the findings are compared with and added to findings from the other sources in the study. The process of data analysis involves at least three steps: coding, categorizing, and generating themes. Codes are labels for significant statements or observations found in the raw data. Categories are clusters of related codes. Themes are meanings or insights that go across codes and categories.

      In some qualitative studies, the researcher may send the analysis or findings to participants to get their feedback on the accuracy of the researcher’s understanding of the data. This is called member checking or respondent validation. Trustworthiness is a term usually used in qualitative research instead of the quantitative terms validity and reliability. The qualitative concept of trustworthiness includes the components of credibility (comparable to internal validity), transferability (comparable to external validity), and dependability (comparable to reliability). Trustworthiness is supported by thick description, reflexivity, bracketing, and member checking. Four of the most popular qualitative research approaches are ethnography, grounded theory, narrative research, and phenomenology.

      Ethnography focuses on a culture-sharing group and how the group works, including core values and beliefs. The researcher collects data over an extended period of time, with a combination of observation, interviews, and document analysis. There are different types of observation, including non-participant and participant observation (Roberts, 2009). Non-participant observation is unobtrusive observation without interaction between the research and the people being observed. Participant observation is when the researcher not only observes the behavior and activities of participants, but also joins in the activities as part of the group. Data analysis for ethnography includes description of what was observed; analysis of the observations, documents, and interviews with key informants to determine the rules and patterns of the culture; and interpretation to form a word picture of the culture as a whole.

      Grounded theory is a qualitative approach that aims to generate a theory based on data collected (Levitt, 2016). It is usually used to study a process or the way in which something happens. Qualitative research studies do not start with a hypothesis, but a grounded theory study might formulate a hypothesis as its final product, to be tested later in a quantitative study. Grounded theory uses multiple forms of data collection (Marjan, 2017), including interviews with individuals, focus groups, observation, and content analysis of documents. Data analysis usually uses at least three kinds of coding: open coding (codes, categories, and themes), axial coding (causal conditions, strategies, intervening conditions, and/or consequences), and selective coding (developing hypotheses).

      Narrative research focuses on the story of one individual. Most data collection is from in-depth interviews, but observation can also be added. The researcher gets the participant’s life story or the participant’s experiences related to a specific topic, directly from the participant (Levitt, 2016). During data analysis, one or more epiphanies are identified and situated in context.

      Phenomenology is similar to narrative research, except that it involves more than one individual participant. In phenomenology, a small number of people who have experience with the topic of the study are interviewed individually. The aim of phenomenological research is to get the insider’s perspective, the lived experience, or the worldview of a person in the situation of interest (Levitt, 2016). Bracketing is essential, as the researcher must consciously set aside his or her own perspective to be able to see and understand the perspective of the participant.

      If you have any questions about this week’s readings or assignments, email your instructor or post your question on the “Ask Your Instructor” forum. Remember, use the forum only for questions that may concern the whole class. For personal issues, use email.


      Kawulich, B. (2013).  Different qualitative approaches (Links to an external site.). Retrieved from

      Levitt, H. M. (2016). Chapter 12: Qualitative methods (Links to an external site.). In Norcross, J. C., VandenBos, G. R., Freedheim, D. K., & Olatunji, B. O. (Eds.). APA Handbook of Clinical Psychology: Vol. 2 Theory and Research. American Psychological Association. DOI:

      Marjan, M. (2017). A comparative analysis of two qualitative methods: Deciding between grounded theory and phenomenology for your research (Links to an external site.)Vocational Training: Research & Realities, 28(1), 23-40. DOI:

      Newman, M. (2016). Research methods in psychology (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

      Ponterotto, J. G. (2013). Qualitative research in multicultural psychology: Philosophical underpinnings, popular approaches, and ethical considerations. Qualitative Psychology, 1(S), 19-32. doi:10.1037/2326-3598.1.S.19.

      Roberts, T. (2009). Understanding ethnography. British Journal of Midwifery, 17(5), 291-294.

      Tickle, S. (2017). Ethnographic research with young people: Methods and rapport. Qualitative Research Journal, 17(2), 66-76.

      Zhang, R. [Ranywayz Random]. (2017, March 31).  When to use a qualitative research design? 4 things to consider (Links to an external site.). [Video File]. Retrieved from

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