Qualitative research aims to comprehend the meaning of human action and investigates phenomenon as it occurs in its natural context through subjective means of inquiry (Carter & Little, 2001 & Hoft, 2011). This paper sets out to identify four features of research as they apply to qualitative research: ontology, epistemology, methodology, and sampling, through the investigation of the article "The health-care environment on a locked psychiatric ward: An ethnographic study" (Johansson, Skarsater & Danielson, 2006).
Idealist ontology holds the belief that research knowledge is made up of subjective experiences obtained through observation that is consistently influenced by the researcher's interpretations (Giacomini, 2010). Qualitative research is intrinsically idealistic. In the study by Johansson, Skarsater, and Danielson (2006), the researchers utilized an ethnographic methodology which allowed the observer to view the phenomena "in the context in which it occurred" (p 243) in order to describe various aspects of the health-care environment in a locked psychiatric ward. In addition, the study acknowledges that findings were influenced by the researchers' interpretations and attempts to prevent this, as the study states, "the researcher tried to avoid becoming too familiar in order to minimize her influence on the course of events" (Johansson et al, 2006, p 245). With the idealist ontological view, the study acknowledges that information about the participants is gained through subjective observation, which is influenced by the researchers' presence and interpretation.
Interpretive epistemology, which stems from idealist ontology, asserts that the world is made up of ideas: about oneself, others, society, or nature (Giacomini, 2010). More specifically, and in relation to the study presented by Johansson, Skarsater, and Danielson (2006), interpretive epistemology is an interpretive means of gaining information which aligns with the exploration of social phenomena, such as discourse and socially shared meanings (Giacomini, 2010). The researchers used interpretive epistemology with an ethnographic methodology to produce knowledge about the meaning of control, or socially shared meaning of control, experienced by both staff and patients in the locked psychiatric ward.
Based on the previous theoretical foundations, methodology is chosen to guide the research process and justify methods (Giacomini, 2010; Carter & Little, 2007). Ethnography is a common methodology in qualitative research and was utilized by the researchers, with a participant observational approach, to become immersed in the culture of the locked psychiatric ward to seek an intimate interpretative understanding of the patients and staff within their environment (Giacomini, 2010). Ethnography has the ability to portray life inside the study experience, which allow researchers to discover what is significant from the viewpoints and actions of the participants and include the reader...