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Hegarty and Taft on Inquiry of Partner Abuse Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Oct 13th, 2021

The research article “Overcoming the barriers to disclosure and inquiry of partner abuse for women attending general practice” by K.L. Hegarty, & A.J. Taft, (2001) depicts sexual and psychical abuse problems that affected many women. The researchers follow the phenomenological perspective determining the main barriers and rates of disclosure of partner abuse. The advantage of the phenomenological perspective is that multiple realities exist and multiple interpretations are available from different individuals that are all equally valid.

Reality is a social construct. If one functions from this perspective, how one conducts a study and what conclusions a researcher draws from a study are considerably different from those of a researcher coming from a quantitative or positivist position, which assumes a common objective reality across individuals. The aim of the article is “to present complementary information from qualitative and quantitative studies on barriers and rates of disclosure” ().

The advantage of the research structure is that it uses information and data from both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The debate between qualitative and quantitative researchers is based upon the differences in assumptions about what reality is and whether or not it is measurable. The debate further rests on differences of opinion about how we can best understand what we “know,” whether through objective or subjective methods. To relate it to quantitative research philosophy, this operation is a way of accounting for the researcher’s prior knowledge, subjective biases, and expectations.

The sample size consists of 16 randomly selected women. The population covers women from Brisbane inner south general practices. the research was conducted during August and September 1996. Four criteria were selected from practices: “more than 50% of the population did not speak English, it opened less than 30 hours a week, the doctor had retired” (Hegarty & Taft 2001, p. 433). The main limitation of the research is that because human experience is unique, one cannot detach and reduce external data; further, it is this inability to abstract that forms the existential nature of psychology.

That is, general laws and theories cannot be applied to a specific individual in a unique set of circumstances. Others, however, argue that emerging sets of themes from many subjects may, in fact, form the essence of a generalization applicable to those in similar states of life. It is possible to say that the study is based on an appropriate framework that helps the researchers to collect the data and test the hypothesis. Generalization is consistent neither with the purpose of the study nor with the underlying assumptions of the specific research methods. If one were to generalize, the generalization would be criticized as inappropriate and in violation of the assumptions.

Taped interviews and observations were transcribed, lending reduced personal bias to the data as they were analyzed. But the researcher who collected the data also analyzed the data, rendering personal bias not completely eliminated. There is insufficient information to assess the extent to which the context limits the generalizability (Atkinson and Heritage 1984).

In the analysis, the transcription is carefully reviewed while attempting to maintain maximum openness. Following the first reading of the responses, the central meaning units expressed by the subjects are explicated. Then they are related to the whole to get at their central themes, their essence. The researchers admit that: “in interviews, women subjects reported abuse continents with the women from the qualitative survey who experienced combined abuse” (Hegarty & Taft 2001, p. 433) ” Admittedly, though, the examples they provide do not meet the standard for generalizability that quantitative assumptions would require.

The extent to which four factors-selection effects, setting effects, history effects, and construct effects–are present reflects the increased validity of the study. Selection effects simply force the ethnographer to compare only constructs among groups where they occur. The first issue for the researcher is to match the phenomena under study with the nature of the groups. If not carefully done, one might begin a study under inaccurate assumptions regarding the nature of the groups at the various sites. Setting effects, too, can be diminished.

An example given by the writers is that using teachers as observers in classrooms resulted in a teacher-classroom interaction that made their data characteristically different from the classroom observation data of nonteachers. Setting effects also occur when groups are frequently under study (such as happens when schools are near universities), which can be counteracted by choosing nonresearched groups. History effects, when counteracted, will increase validity (Alvesson and Sköldberg 2000).

The main limitation is that the researchers do not give identification of concepts and variables. To measure the results, the researchers use Ethno4 software. When using more than one site in an ethnography, the various historical foundations of those sites need to be acknowledged. Three nursery schools may be studied in detail using ethnographic methods but the development of each may have evolved from extremely different roots. Construct effects occur under several conditions.

First, when constructs under study are idiosyncratic to groups under study, appropriate comparisons to the other groups diminish. That is, the ability to make appropriate comparisons to other groups is lessened. Second, to the extent that the use of any observational instruments is not common across groups, there are likely to construct effects. Third, the meaning of phenomena might vary across groups, creating construct effects (Bochner and Ellis 2002).

In order to meet ethical issues, the researchers obtained approval from the University of Queensland Ethics Committee and Monarch University standing Committee. The results were cleanly and objectively explained in the study. The more evidence of design validity a study can show, the more truth value we can presume. Similarly, these concerns are revealed in quantitative studies by the application of concepts of internal and external validity. With a predominantly quantitative study, the more internal and external validity a study has, the more confident we are in the truth value of the study (Burgess, 1994).

It was found that language and communication barriers were the main causes of fear and passivity among women. They did not address social services or other institutions supposing that: “they own the problem and should manage it themselves” (Hegarty & Taft 2001, p. 436).

A good researcher needs to be familiar with a variety of methods. Multiple methods may enhance the quality of a research study. The use of multiple methods can increase the quality of her research. In her case, however, all of the methods she uses tend to be qualitative: interviews, member checks, and critical incident techniques. The researchers made objective conclusions and gave a recommendation for social workers and women who experienced abuse (Alvesson and Sköldberg 2000).

The report presentation is clear and easy to follow. The researchers follow the traditional structure and research design. They use tables to present the main results and data collected during interviews and other studies. One may then critique the study under consideration and suggest future qualitative or quantitative research. This critique demonstrates one asset of our model–it has heuristic value: any particular study can lead to other questions and other research. They do not use diagrams but include a lot of figures and data to explain the main findings and results. The authors cite relevant literature and theoretical materials used in the research study.


  1. Atkinson, J.M. and Heritage J.(eds) 1984, Structures of Social Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Alvesson, M. and Sköldberg, K. 2000, Reflexive Methodology, London: Sage.
  3. Bochner, A. P. and Ellis, C. 2002, Ethnographically Speaking, Walnut Creek CA: Altamira.
  4. Burgess, R.G. 1994, In the Field: An Introduction to Field Research, London: Allen and Unwin.
  5. Hegarty, K.L. & Taft, A.J. 2001, Overcoming the barriers to disclosure and inquiry of partner abuse for women attending general practice. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol. 25, No.5, pp.433-437.
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