Significance of the Study
This study can be discussed as significant because it is aimed at investigating whether African American women experience certain barriers while obtaining their higher education, what types of barriers these females can face, and what measures to prevent these obstacles can be used by these women of color. From this point, there are three types of signs that are related to this study. The first type can be viewed as associated with theoretical significance. From this perspective, it is important to conduct this study because its findings will have the theoretical significance as this research will add the new knowledge to the field of studies regarding the higher education that are also associated with African American women’s experiences in community colleges (Walpole, Chambers, & Goss, 2014). The reason is that the existing knowledge regarding African American women’s experiences in higher educational institutions and possible barriers to obtaining degrees is limited.
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The research significance of the study is associated with the fact that it is an extension study. This aspect means that the prior research on African American women’s higher education and possible barriers on this path is extended to address the population of those African American women who study in community colleges in contrast to predominantly white institutions (Hannon, Woodside, Pollard, & Roman, 2016; Walpole et al., 2014). This study is important to be conducted because it will provide additional insights regarding African American female students’ experiences and obstacles to obtaining their degrees with the focus on a specific set of a community college.
The study findings will also have practical significance because the research will provide key data regarding African American women’s experiences associated with obtaining higher education that can be used to improve policies in educational institutions to avoid and prevent possible barriers for women of color. Thus, examples in the literature indicate that African American females can face various barriers to obtaining a degree, and the focus is not only on institutional obstacles but also on personal and social challenges (Alexander & Hermann, 2016; Walpole et al., 2014). From this point, this study is significant to identify what particular barriers can influence access to women of color to higher education to develop and formulate effective policies and practices for authorities to address the problem.
There are certain gaps in the existing literature on African American women’s experiences associated with the period when they obtain or plan to receive the higher education because not all important aspects are covered in previous studies (Alexander & Hermann, 2016; Hannon et al., 2016; Walpole et al., 2014). From this point, it is critical to research African American female students’ perceptions, visions, and barriers in this field in more detail. This study will contribute to identifying how the process of receiving higher education can depend on personal, social, economic, and institutional factors among other ones. Furthermore, the significance of the study is in the fact that its focus is not only on the individual experiences of African American women but also on their interactions with other women of color in an educational institution, who can be both peers and representatives of the faculty (Walpole et al., 2014). Therefore, the significance of this study can be viewed as threefold, and this research will contribute to theory, the knowledge in the field, and practice with the focus on a set of community colleges.
Limitations and Assumptions
In this section, limitations and assumptions associated with the study on educational paradigms and experiences of those African American women who are oriented toward obtaining the higher education are discussed. The first assumption to focus on is that African American females often experience certain problems or face obstacles when they plan to obtain higher education or when they study in higher educational institutions. These barriers can be of a cultural, social, or economic nature, and they can also be associated with race and gender biases among other factors (Alexander & Hermann, 2016; Hannon et al., 2016). It is also assumed that these barriers can be related to African American females’ individual qualities, attributes, behaviors, personal choices, and situations in their family or community (Hannon et al., 2016; Walpole et al., 2014). This assumption is the key one, and it determines the focus of the study.
The second assumption is that those African American women who participate in the study will provide honest answers to questions, and they will share their experiences, visions, and perceptions openly during interview sessions. It is possible to expect that the nature of a phenomenological interview will help participants feel comfortable and provide true and fair answers to the probing questions with the help of which African American females will be involved in a conversation with the researcher (Alexander & Hermann, 2016; Hannon et al., 2016). This assumption explains the choice of the instrument for the data collection procedure in this study.
Therefore, the next assumption is that the used interview protocol, with the focus on its structure and probing questions, will contribute to creating a positive atmosphere for participants and making them feel comfortable while answering the interview questions. It is possible to assume that the used interview protocol is effective to address barriers during a conversation and establish a rapport with participants (Alexander & Hermann, 2016; Hannon et al., 2016). Thus, informal phenomenological interviews are viewed as more appropriate for collecting qualitative data on participants’ experiences than formal interviews (Alexander & Hermann, 2016). The researcher should realize that these assumptions can be unsupported concerning the study design and findings because of certain limitations that need to be discussed in detail.
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The researcher needs to acknowledge certain limitations of the study to guarantee that the study results are reliable and valid. According to researchers, the discussion of study limitations allows for determining any boundaries that are selected when researchers investigate certain subjects (Walpole et al., 2014). While focusing on the methodology of qualitative studies, it is necessary to note that limitations can be related to a sample, a data collection procedure, and a data analysis procedure. As a result, if limitations are not acknowledged, researchers cannot conclude about the credibility of the findings.
The first limitation to discuss is a possibility of bias associated with participants’ subjective interpretations of their experiences, as well as the researcher’s subjective analysis of the collected data concerning one’s own experience. It is possible to address this limitation while asking participants to provide only true information without making subjective comments. Furthermore, the researcher can address this limitation while applying the principle of epoché, according to which researchers put aside their “belief about the phenomenon under investigation or what one already knows about the subject before and throughout the phenomenological investigation” (Chan, Fung, & Chien, 2013, p. 1). Much attention should be paid to the procedures of collecting information and conducting data analysis to address this limitation.
The second limitation of the study is restricted access to interviewees that requires the use of such a non-probability sampling technique as a snowball sampling technique. Problems with having access to potential participants can affect the credibility of findings (Alexander & Hermann, 2016). This limitation can be addressed with the focus on a snowball sampling technique, which allows for extending a sample within a short period, overcoming problems with recruiting African American female participants.
One more limitation that needs to be addressed in this study is that phenomenological face-to-face interviews usually require a lot of time to be conducted and analyzed. The reason is that such interviews are informal and non-structured, and a conversation can last several hours. This limitation is addressed with the focus on scheduling interviews and planning the data collection and data analysis procedures. The time for these procedures should be set while taking into account the discussed limitation. The focus on assumptions and limitations of the study is important to be able to reduce the impact of the researcher’s bias on the study results, as well as the impact of problems with the availability of the sample related to the selected population. All the identified limitations will be successfully overcome to contribute to the validity of the study findings.
Alexander, Q. R., & Hermann, M. A. (2016). African-American women’s experiences in graduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education at a predominantly white university: A qualitative investigation. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 9(4), 307-314.
Chan, Z. C., Fung, Y. L., & Chien, W. T. (2013). Bracketing in phenomenology: Only undertaken in the data collection and analysis process. The Qualitative Report, 18(30), 1-9.
Hannon, C. R., Woodside, M., Pollard, B. L., & Roman, J. (2016). The meaning of African American college women’s experiences attending a predominantly white institution: A phenomenological study. Journal of College Student Development, 57(6), 652-666.
Walpole, M., Chambers, C. R., & Goss, K. (2014). Race, class, gender and community college persistence among African American women. NASPA Journal about Women in Higher Education, 7(2), 153-176.