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The interviews ranged anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half in length. I also conducted follow-up interviews whenever necessary. All the interviews were tape recorded and fully transcribed.5 Informants were asked to choose the location of the interview and the majority of them opted to speak with me in their homes. Informant preference to be interviewed in the home proved advantageous: in addition to allowing them to be more candid than in other locations, in the privacy of their homes many informants felt comfortable demonstrating various therapeutic techniques involved in the alternative health care they use. I began each interview by asking informants variations of the general question: How did you first become involved in using alternative therapies? I then concentrated on listening, probing to explore issues informants raised and to seek clarification, and noting when there were pauses in the conversation. As Becker (1970^193) points out, statements volunteered by informants are "likely to reflect the observer's preoccupations and possible biases less than [those] made in response to" questions posed by the researcher. Thus, the use of unstructured interviews enhanced the validity of this analysis.

Validity in this research also rests on the richness of the data collected. The sheer amount of information provided by informants guards against researcher bias "by making it difficult for the observer to restrict ... observations so that he [or she] sees only what supports his [or her] prejudices and expectations" (Becker i97oa:52). The validity of this research was also confirmed by informant review of the findings ensuring that my analysis reflects their beliefs about, and experiences of participation in, alternative approaches to health and healing.

Also, when theory is "induced from diverse data," the researcher is less likely to impose his/her perceptions of reality on the phenomena at hand (Glaser and Strauss 1967:239). Thus the rigour of this study was enhanced through the use of a variety of sources of information in addition to the primary interview data. This information complements the interview data in a variety of ways (Shaffir and Stebbins 1991). For example, my own experiences as a user of alternative therapies provides me with insider awareness that reinforces the validity of this research (Douglas 1976). Further, the participant observation I conducted gave me a deeper familiarity with the various alternative therapies these informants used and practised, including acupuncture, aromatherapy, astrological healing, bagua, Chinese herbal medicine, chiropractic, Christian Science medicine, creative visualization, crystal healing, ear candling, Feldenkrais method, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, massage, meditation, midwifery, naturopathy, psychic healing, reflexology, reiki, the results system, therapeutic touch, vitamin therapy, and yoga—as well as fasting and a variety of other dietary regimes.

In the same way, participant observation made me aware of the alternative health care remedies and products that were locally available to informants. For instance, in the spring of 1995 I participated in a yoga session specially designed for people with multiple sclerosis. Later that year I attended an open house at the Wellness Centre, a holistic health centre providing several types of alternative therapies, including reiki, acupuncture, ear candling, reflexology, and aromatherapy, as well as shiatsu and Swedish massage. During this open-house I was able to speak with several of the alternative healers who practised out of the centre and to experience several therapies myself. During March of 1997 I attended a local healing fair that had exhibits on vitamins and minerals, ear candling, homeopathy, reflexology, reiki, crystal healing, and aromatherapy massage, among other products and therapeutic techniques. I also spent time exploring commercial venues that stocked many of the alternative healing books, products, and remedies used by people who participated in this research. In addition, I reviewed advertising material, popular books, and pamphlets describing the various alternative therapies used by informants, as well as a number of magazines devoted to alternative approaches to health and healing.

In contrast to the goal of most quantitative measures, which is to "continually yield an unvarying measurement" (Kirk and Miller 1986:41-42), the test of the reliability of qualitative methods is that they generate "similar observations within the same time period." In other words, although studying the same setting, different researchers will naturally observe different things at different times (Becker 1970a). It is important to note that it is that things have changed over time, not that the measure is unreliable. Furthermore, even observations that are collected within the same time period are "rarely identical ... but rather ... are consistent with respect to the particular features of interest to the observer" (Kirk and Miller 1986:42). For example, the words used by these informants often varied; however, they remained thematically and theoretically consistent. For instance, although one informant might have talked about the inner self, and another about the higher self, they were both describing how they tap into their spiritual power to heal themselves. The reliability of this study was also enhanced through the constant comparison of a series of interviews, where each interview served to validate or refine the conclusions drawn from data collected in the others (Trow 1970); as well as through the use of field notes and analytic notes which allowed me to track the emergence of themes and patterns in the data.

I take a grounded theory approach in this research, meaning that rather than beginning with theoretical assumptions and then seeking data that conform to them, theory emerges through the process of empirical research (Corbin and Strauss 1990; Glaser and Strauss 1967). In addition, grounded theory analysis assumes that data analysis is ongoing throughout the research process, from recruitment and data collection through to theoretical sampling of the literature and final writing-up of the findings (Strauss and Corbin 1990). I analysed the data for this research using the technique of open coding, which is "the process of breaking down, examining, comparing, conceptualizing, and categorizing data" (Strauss and Corbin 1990:61). By making comparisons within and asking questions about the data, emergent patterns are noted that in turn contribute to theory-building (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Strauss and Corbin 1990). For example, the alternative model of health these informants espouse rests on the notion of holism, which for them is the unity of body, mind, and spirit. Thus, holism emerged as an overarching theme in the analysis (see Figure 0.2).

Through the process of comparative coding, the categories of balance and control emerged within the theme of holism and were broken down into several concepts and sub-concepts. For instance, the analytic category of balance contains two concepts: balance in the body and balance in the self. These concepts were further broken down into several sub-concepts based on convergences and divergences between informants' beliefs about how unity of mind, body, and spirit is achieved through balance. Thus the concept of balance in the body expanded to include the sub-concepts of balancing physiological systems and balancing bodily energy, both of which are related to the sub-concept of listening to the body. Balance in the self includes the sub-concept of being grounded or centred. The concepts of balance in the body and balance in the self are inextricably connected to the category of control, which is itself composed of two distinct concepts: taking control and self-control, where taking control includes the sub-concepts of

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