Image by Ian Schneider

Final Project Essay

Qualitative research encompasses studying human nature through the lived experience, rather than quantifying through numbers and analytics. Qualitative research thrives in the fields of social sciences, mass communication, and anthropology. Unlike quantitative research, qualitative concerns the researcher as an integral part of the research process. Whether that be through ethnography, interviews, focus groups, or visual/textual analysis, the researcher practices self-reflexivity, questioning their own biases and lived experiences as it relates to their research. Mass communication is a newer phenomena of research, especially with the advent of social media research. Qualitative research can increase the researcher's depth of understanding of mass communication, as well as delve into the natural human experience. 

I entered JMS 619 with only quantitative experience. In the Fall 2021 semester, our cohort took a class that discussed quantitative research in length. Prior, I took a research methods class at my undergraduate. My interests always veered towards qualitative research, but I had never taken a class on qualitative research or even knew which methods were employed. Through the video lectures and mini qualitative assignments, this class has provided real-world experiences and practicality for using the information for my thesis project. 

Of the available qualitative research methods, ethnography and interviews resonated with me the most. Maybe it is because I am an extrovert at heart, or because it interests me that the researcher is involved in the process as their own entity. For my thesis, I am researching the motivations behind self-disclosing information on Finstas, or fake Instagram accounts. I chose interviews as my method due to the personal nature of Finstas. Typically, Finstas contain private information not readily disclosed for a Rinsta, or real Instagram account. I am looking forward to the data collection process and to interview young people for my thesis. 

The mini qualitative assignments were a quick and efficient way to get a basic understanding of the qualitative research methods. My favorite mini qualitative assignment was in the textual/visual analysis unit. I chose to analyze a dating profile on Tinder. While I did not choose visual or textual analysis for my research paper and my thesis project, it was fun to have the ability to choose what to analyze for the assignment. I became more familiar with how researchers would craft their research methods in the field and how they are implemented. 

The research paper was challenging when it came to maintaining focus and structure. I often get distracted on the main goals of a large paper and can get easily overwhelmed. However, in my paper, I believe I did a sufficient job of integrating existing Finsta research into my analysis. This paper gave me a catalyst to begin reviewing Finsta literature and how I can implement interviewing into my thesis.

I enjoyed watching the guest lecture videos and the mini qualitative assignments. Personally, asynchronous classes are difficult for me to maintain engaged, but this class made it easy to pace myself throughout the semester. I felt challenged to a healthy extent. This class made me feel more comfortable if I were to ever take another asynchronous class again. I am looking forward to moving onto my thesis journey equipped with the knowledge I gained from JMS 619. Thank you Dr. Schmitz-Weiss for a great semester and for your continued support.