Katherine Olsson

SIS Olson Scholars

Research Portfolio Post #7: Qualitative Data Sources

One of the qualitative data sources I would like to use for my dependent variable: economic development, is a presentation given on global and regional outlook during a regional conference for Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic that was given by the IMF.[1] This presentation, in combination with other related sources such as transcripts of the conference or reports on what was said (including newspaper coverage), would provide me with information on the current state of Latin American countries.

In analyzing this presentation, I would examine not only the numbers, but also the sections focused on explaining the risks of taking certain actions or maintaining the current trajectory. This, if combined with information about the subsequent action of the leaders would provide me with information about the current state of affairs as well as that in the immediate past. In order to operationalize it, I could categorize the actions into: riskier action taken, less risky action taken or no action taken. This categorization would be done by looking at the presentation slides. There are sections which show the “balance of risks”; whether a particular decision would be more or less risky, as well as others which show recommended actions. By then looking at the subsequent decisions of the leaders given that knowledge and seeing which category it falls into, it would be possible to operationalize this data.

Examining the levels of optimism events can also be done through the presentation by looking at the language and information within it. For instance, in the section comparing the region to the world as well as the particular countries, it is possible to see which countries the presenter believes are in a better current state of affairs. In order to operationalize this, I would also use a 5-point scale of pessimism and optimism ranging from very pessimistic, moderately pessimistic, neutral, moderately optimistic to very optimistic. It would be based on the method of presentation from the author.  I would examine the word choice in the presentation to do this as well as the visuals and graphics. This is because they also show the speaker’s perspective and create a visual image on the issue.

I do currently have some existing information about this data, for instance, I would argue that the speaker feels more optimistic about Panama as opposed to Honduras. This can be seen throughout a number of places in the presentation, but particularly when looking at a graphic where he clearly shows that the IMF believes Panama has more production potential given their current conditions. This would put his perspective on Panama at very optimistic when compared to other countries, as opposed to Honduras which would be categorized as moderately pessimistic. In relation to the more or less risky course of action, the Dominican Republic would be seen as riskier. This is because the recommendation for action was to increase their arm of fiscal policy, while the action that was taken only moved interests as opposed to actually increasing investment according to the OECD.[2]

[1] Alleyne, Trevor. Presentation on Global and Regional Outlook. July 26, 2018. IMF Conference for Central America, Panama and Dominican Republic, Tegucigalpa.

[2] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. “Fiscal Policy for Development in the Dominican Republic.” News release, 2013. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Accessed October 2018. https://www.oecd.org/dev/americas/Fiscal policy for development in the Dominican Republic.E-Book.pdf.


  • Hey Katherine, I like how you established two different scales for operationalization. What is your dependent variable though? Why are did you choose to operationalize variables in scales of the degree of risk and level of optimism? Additionally, in order to strengthen the reliability of your risky actions operationalization, it would be more clear for the reader if you had a definition attached to risky. The addition of a definition would make your research design easier for future researchers to replicate. Lastly, you convey that have already started to fill in some of the categories that you have proposed in this post which will aid in the construction of your research design and potentially lead to more avenues for creative analysis.

  • Katherine — you have a good data source here and some good thoughts on how you might use this data to operationalize your DV. As Hannah notes, though, it is not entirely clear here (a) what the DV is in the end, (b) what the potential values for the DV could be in any given case, and (c) what the values actually are in the case(s) you have identified for analysis. Make sure to keep working on these things as you continue your research.

    As you consider data sources themselves, what other sources could you use to triangulate information on your DV? You mention in your post that the IMF presentation provides the perspective of a particular speaker. That information may be useful, but what other data sources would you use to make sure that you are not relying on a skewed or biased data source? Relying on a “perspective” rather than a direct measurement of the phenomenon that you are trying to capture for your variable might mean that you are not using the most valid measure for that concept.


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