Monday, January 31, 2011

Unstructured and Semistructured Interviewing

I found the articles that we read on interviewing practices to be very interesting and helpful in general. As a student who has done very little research and/or interviewing I can use all the help I can get. Mostly throughout these articles I was wondering if their advice would work in another country and another culture where the norms are completely different than that of our own. Obviously not all cultures have the same communication/body language signals and I think that that would be a big factor in conducting an interview.
For example, one of the suggestions was to probe in order to get more information out of the person you are interviewing without making them feel uncomfortable. One of the specific probes used was the "uh-huh" probe. However, not all cultures have that filler. In the US "uh-huh" means that you understand,for us it is implied that you are encouraged to continue because the listener understands. However, in other countries (even English-speaking countries) that might not be so. Now of course if you are conducting the interview in another language you shouldn't expect to be able to use this same phrase and get the same result; however, it is interesting to think that something like the word "uh-huh" generally is not found in a translation dictionary, yet it is something that has a lot of meaning and is used in daily language. So a big part of interviewing is figuring out communication cues and words/phrases that may not be taught in class or found in a dictionary. This kind of feels like a daunting task for someone who doesn't know a lot about where they are going. And this isn't exactly something that can be found in literature, it has to be experienced. Or especially the non-verbal responses, those are things that have great significance, but that you normally would not know had you never been to the country where you are going.
However, I did like the suggestions about helping people know that the information you are asking about will be kept confidential, earning their trust, etc. that can be used cross-culturally and is very good advice.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Women in India

As I am furthering my research on women in India, especially relating to HIV, the more complex the problem seems to become. I know that suppression and violence against women is not just singular to India; however, what does make India unique is that it seems to be contributing to its high infection rate of HIV. I am also learning that many officials feel that it is this mentality (specifically trafficking) that is causing this epidemic in India.
For example, India has a high trafficking and sex worker problem. In studies done the percentages of HIV-positive sex workers has been as high as 50% (of those interviewed). So what happens is that the workers transmit the disease to their "clients" who then infect their partners who are faithful. In most cases these are the women who are in a monogamous relationship. This continues until either the male or female experience signs and symptoms. If it is the female, she is generally either beaten or kicked out of her house and forced to live with her parents (if they will take her) for being HIV positive. Or if it is the male who experiences the symptoms first the woman is still blamed for giving the male HIV. Now obviously this is not the case in all situations; however, it is the most common result of being HIV positive in the studies performed.
The problem not only arises in the cultural treatment of women, but also the fact that the women are not able to protect themselves. They cannot force a male to wear a condom, yet nothing is available for them to use one themselves. HIV prevention programs in India as a whole are not very efficient yet there doesn't seem to be an option to improve. The most common response to lower HIV infection rate is to stop sex workers and human trafficking; however that is a legislative process that can take years. So until that can be accomplished, something needs to happen now to educate and help the women in India, and everywhere else this is a problem.

Monday, January 24, 2011

1/24/2011-Culture Blends

I think that the topics of culture and language are very interesting and important in any field. Yet is surprises me that so many people are apathetic when it comes to understanding another culture or language. I could really relate when the author spoke about being "number one", I have seen it not only in American culture but other cultures as well. It seems easier to assume that there is only "one" correct way of doing things and of course it is "my way". While reading the article about culture and language I remembered a specific experience I had with a person at a crepe party. Someone had asked me how to translate "What's up" into spanish and I replied "Que onda", now if translated literally it means "that wave", which of course doesn't make much sense in English. This person became very flustered at the fact that it didn't translate directly from Spanish into English and wanted to know why "they" would say something so "stupid" that doesn't make any sense. I tried to explain that it was because it was an entirely different language from English and although directly it didn't make any sense in English the meaning was still the same. Just becuase it wasn't English didn't make it "stupid". Unfortunately he was determined to think that in Latin America they should make their words and phrases just like American words and phrases and couldn't understand why it wouldn't happen that way. Although this is more of an extreme case I have seen a lot of people view different cultures and languages under this light. They can't understand why it isn't done "the right way".
Since I am going to a country where I don't know a lot about the language or the culture, i imagine I am going to have some difficult times with these barriers. I am trying to learn more about them;however, I have found that even though I am aware that they are completely different from my own and that just having good vocabulary doesn't mean that I will be able to communicate effectively, it is still difficult to keep an open mind when in the middle of a problem. It takes time to learn and understand how to communicate in a culture, and unfortunately there is no substitute.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Annotated Sources

1) Rebecca de Souzaa
a University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota, United States
Women’s studies international forum [0277-5395] de Souza yr:2010 vol:33 iss:3 pg. 244-252

This article discusses the dilemma that many women in India find themselves in; mainly they are loyal, married women who are infected by their husbands. Two women were interviewed and gave their stories of how they became infected. Other topics in this article include: patriarchal societies, the stigma of HIV, NGOs, cultural attitudes that lead to the spread of HIV.

2)Jayati Ghosh, Vandana Wadhwa, Ezekiel Kalpeni.The Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS among women of reproductive age in the slums of Delhi and Hyerabad, India. Social Science & Medicine. Vol. 68, Iss:4 Feb 2009, pgs 638-642

This article discusses how the cultural and economic status of women make them more prone to HIV attraction. In addition to the level of education in order to prevent further HIV spread. It was found that women tend to place more emphasis on motherly education instead of school education and as a result do not have a sufficient knowledge of HIV contraction. Also discuses the lack of empowerment among Indian women, freedom of communication, and economic autonomy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


As I was doing my research over the weekend I was getting more excited about my research project and the information that I was finding; however, I was also discovering possible problems within my question. In almost all my articles it talked about how it was difficult to find women to interview becuase HIV is a very taboo subject due to religious views and myths about the disease (eg. that you can get it just by touching the person or being near them). Unfortunately that is a common problem that occurs when trying to teach (or study) about a disease. Many people "hear" certain "facts" about a disease and then presume it to be true. Combating these myths is often a major public health concern. And it will also be a major concern with my research. However, I do still think that I will be able to research HIV because I will hopefully be able to work through Shanti Ashram, which is an organization that specifically deals with HIV in one of their programs. I am still exploring possible other options; however, I do think that I would still like to continue forward with my current research question.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reading and Writing Social Research

At the beginning of Babbie's text he talks about how generally research articles are anti-climatic on purpose. He's right, I generally find research articles to be anti-climatic and boring. I sometimes wish they did purposely leave the best for last in order to have a climatic ending (though I suppose that defeats the purpose of communicating everything clearly so that others can read and understand the text). Even if the subject matter is interesting I have never been a fan of journal articles; however, as a student I have had to read and analyze many research many research articles. And although it may not be very entertaining at first, I do enjoy being able to read and understand how the research was conducted and be able to find out for myself that it is a sound research project and that the findings are statistically sound.
As I was reading I couldn't help but think about how much the internet has changed research. Before the internet was so popular most research findings were in printed journals and it took a long time to find and sift through thousands of articles. However, thanks to modern technology we can have thousands of articles at our finger tips (assuming you don't use an engine that only allows you to look at half the article and expects you to pay for the rest...). Now the fact that it is easier to find journals quickly is great; however, as the author stated it is important to make sure it comes from a reputable source. As a public health student I personally like using pubmed and biomed search engines. They are very useful, easy to manage and free. As I have been trying to do the initial research for my topic it has been a bit difficult to find exactly what I need. I can find many topics on HIV in India, however, I am trying to limit my initial research to southern India.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Research Question

As of lately the hardest problem for me is trying to come up with a good research question that is interesting enough to dedicate multiple months to but is simple enough for me to do within a "short" amount of time. I am interested in so many different topics that I find it difficult to pick just one topic and then narrow that topic down. Something that has helped me the most in this process has been the research proposal we were given, specifically the sub-section of the "qualifications". Since I am at the end of my undergrad career as a public health student i've been thinking of the qualifications that i have. My qualifications are important mostly for the ability to perform a good project. Initially when I think about my qualifications I realize how little I am qualified. However, I think that part of being qualified is my ability to improve my skills and find out more information about my topic. As a student and as someone who enjoys traveling and experiencing different situations I am qualified in those areas. I also have good resources as a student so I am able to learn more and make myself more qualified. For example, I am well experienced in using different specific public health search engines to be able to do primary research. I have also taken many classes where I made a mock program or research project, specifically in foreign countries and with foreign cultures. These experiences have been very valuable to me so far. So I have not just been thinking about my acutal qualifications, but my ability to improve my qualifications as well.
I am mainly interested in the topic of HIV among women in India. I feel comfortable with this topic becuase it is and will continue to be a topic of interest among the Public Health educators around the world. I also find the cultural dynamic of HIV prevention and control to be very intersting. For example, we tend to believe that if a person has contracted HIV it is their own fault. After all, it is an STD that can be "100%" avoidable. However, what happens if a woman lives in a culture where she has very little say who she has sex with or even if it is protected or not? Or what happens if she is loyal; however, she lives in a culture where it is acceptable for her partner to be promiscuous? According to all of the suggestions to stay HIV free she is doing everything within her power not to contract the disease, unfortunately she is not able to control what her partner does and it is not socially acceptable for her to take her own sexual health into her own hands.
I am interested in the prevention program aspect of this situation. What are public health officials doing to help prevent HIV transmission in a different culture? Are they using the same methods that are used here in the US? Are these methods working? How do the target audience feel about these methods? I don't think that I will have the time or resources to find ways that they can improve what is being done; however, I do feel that I can research what is being done and why it is being done in that way. So although I may change my research question when more research is done, my project question is: What is currently being done in India to prevent HIV transmission and do the target audience feel that it is effective?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Qualitative Field Research and Research Design

One of the most interesting parts of this reading was when the author discussed the differences between what people say that they do and what people actually do. He used the example of picking up litter and how even though the majority of people said it was a good idea to help keep a clean environment most did not do it. Not only did they not do it but they thought negatively about those who actually picked up litter or cleaned up graffiti. There was a big difference in this instance between what the people said and what they did. While this is not always the case (sometimes people do what they say) it definitely interesting when considering how to conduct a research project. Is your data sufficient by just conducting a survey? Are people telling you the truth? Or are they telling you what they think is the truth but in reality is not? And how does this effect the reliability of your study? Obviously it is not always possible to conduct an experiment, or even to watch what is happening to your subjects (for example you cannot live the life of an HIV infected person) but if the researcher is aware of this possible problem she/he can either try to avoid it. In what I plan to research as of now it would be difficult to conduct it in any other way aside from an interview or survey, but I am thinking about about if there is any other way I could study HIV among women in India. I am also trying to decide on if I want my study to be a study of the description of HIV or if I want an explanation. I think that describing the prevention methods and if they work or not may be better at this point of my research as opposed to trying to explain why it is or is not effective.

25 Questions

25 Questions
1) What do I want to accomplish?
2) Who do I want to be the subject of the research?
3) What aspects of this population interest me?
4) What health topics interest me?
5) Which topic interests me the most?
6) What are some of the most damaging aspects of the topics that interest me?
7) Which of all the topics can be realistically explored?
8) Why is this topic better than the rest?
9) What resources can you use to accomplish researching this topic?
10) Would this be a qualitative or quantitative research?
11) What cultural barrier could prevent you from researching this topic?
12) What can be used to overcome these barriers?
13) What aspect of HIV would be easiest to research?
14) What aspect of HIV would be most interesting to research?
15) What would be a research question/thesis you could ask about this topic?
16) How could you potentially research this question/thesis?
17) Would it be more effective to research the control of HIV once it is contracted?
18) Will this subject change depending on location? (e.g. City vs. country)
19) Would this be a topic that could pass the IRB?
20) Would you be able to research this topic while still respecting the cultural and religious beliefs of the people?
21) Would it be more effective to pick a population outside or within the clinic?
22) Would you need to hire a translator?
23) Would it be more effective to have a survey or to interview the people?
24) What else would you have to do to make sure this is possible?
25) Is this accomplishing your initial goal?

Friday, January 7, 2011

1/7/10 Readings

Context and Meaning

I found there to be a lot of truth in this article about context and meaning. I started thinking about how many words or phrases there are in the English language that are dependent on the context of the conversation, not necessarily the linguistic code. For example, a phrase that can be meant several different ways is "Shut up". It can either be meant as a joke or as a command, but you can't tell unless you know the context in which it's said. This also got me thinking about how inefficient something like texting can be (yet we use it so often in US society) because it is hard to understand the context in which it the text is written. Another interesting part of this reading was how the author suggests that culture designates what we pay attention to and what we ignore. This can be very important in trying to communicate with someone from India. We both have different cultures and therefore pay attention to different details, different things are important to us therefore coming together and understanding each other will be more difficult. Also, part of preparing for India would include figuring out if they are a High context society or a Low context society. I would suppose that India would have more of a complex, high context communication system as opposed to the US's low context system. However, even though the author stated that the US has a low context system, I feel that we do have aspects that are high context. For example, within a family I would imagine children tend to have a high context, whereas in the workplace in order to be "efficient" you are expected to have a low communication system so that nothing is misinterpreted. So although we may be more comfortable, I think that most people have experience in both styles and are able to transfer between the two.