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A tale of two societies: The doing of qualitative comparative research in Hong Kong and Britain

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JournalMethodological Innovations
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Jan 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2017
DatePublished (current) - 14 Dec 2017
Issue number2
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)1-12
Early online date14/12/17
Original languageEnglish


This article explores the challenges and opportunities for methodological innovation arising from an exploratory, cross-national, qualitative study of women’s lives in Hong Kong and Britain. We begin by briefly outlining the aims of our study and its original research design, based on life history interviews with young adult women and their mothers in each location.We then turn to a discussion of how this was modified as we recruited participants and conducted the interviews, including the use of vignettes. We aim to be transparent about some of the problems of implementing a symmetrical approach to generating qualitative data in very different socio-cultural settings compounded by the practical difficulties of geographical distance between team members. We argue for a flexible approach that takes account of local cultural sensibilities rather than
trying to follow rigidly identical procedures, recognising also that, in any qualitative research team, there will be differences in approach that affect the data produced. We highlight some of the insights yielded by the problems we encountered and, in particular, an accidental innovation that occurred through an ad hoc decision to conduct focus groups with the young women, which we call ‘cross-cultural data feedback’. This innovation involved our participants in contributing to cross cultural comparison and also brought taken-for-granted assumptions in each setting into sharp relief, as well as sensitising us to issues that proved important in analysing our data. This leads us to raise issues of interpreting and analysing data from differing socio-cultural locations and translating between cultures. We conclude with some recommendations including the potential for the future development of our method of cross-cultural data feedback.

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