Community College Eateries

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Running Head: COMMUNITY COLLEGE EATERIES

Group Project Qualitative Research:
Community College Eateries

Quentin Hart, Heidi Peterson, Jennifer Terry Boyenga

Res Ev 580: Qualitative Methodology
Dr. Monica Bruning
June 11, 2006
Introduction
Community colleges are filled with a myriad of eating possibilities. Vending machines and soda machines line the halls, dispensing non-nutritional sugar and caffeine alternatives to keep the student going. Another alternative is to leave campus to obtain nourishment, but on some campuses the scheduling is so tight that this is impossible for most students to leave between classes. And, students never want to risk losing a good parking place near the building to obtain a snack or meal. Community colleges have responded to the needs of students seeking nourishment by providing facilities for food. These facilities also provide a place for social interaction and entertainment. A qualitative review of three facilities on two different community college campuses indicates similarities exist across community college eateries. Methodology

Qualitative researchers for this study are all full time employees of community colleges and regularly spend time in the eateries of their respective campuses which provides them with ample access to the dining options available to students at each institution. The three researchers are employed at two different community colleges: Hawkeye Community College (HCC) is an urban community college without on-campus housing and Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) is a rural community college with on-campus housing in the form of dormitories available to students. The campuses are both located in Iowa, one on the northern side of I-80 and one on the southern side of the I-80 line that bisects the state. One of the qualitative research methods used in this study was participant observation of three facilities and their occupants: the IHCC cafeteria, the IHCC student union, and HCC’s combined union/cafeteria. The data was gathered in the form of participant observation and detailed field notes (Merriam, 2002) (Appendix E). The observation period was for one hour during lunch at each facility, followed by an hour of personal reflection on the experience (Appendix F). The observations each occurred in an open public facility and the participants, primarily students, faculty, and staff, were unaware the observation was taking place. The researchers employed the complete observer technique advocated by Merriam (2002) to gain a fresh perspective on campus eateries. The second method of qualitative research utilized to compare campus eateries involved a collection of photographs of the eating facilities and the patrons of the facilities (Appendixes A-D). After completing participant observations, researchers took a variety of photos depicting their campus eateries, personnel, and participants. The photographs were used for inductive analysis to compare campus eateries across the state and to provide evidence for descriptive data (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003). The third and final method of qualitative research utilized in the study of campus eateries was a review of an essential document critical to student nourishment in each eatery: the menu. Menu documents that exist in each facility contained “insights and clues into the phenomenon” (Merriam, 2002, p.13) of student nourishment in each facility. Menus were highly visible and prominently displayed near the entrances to each facility (Appendix B, pictures 1-3). Analysis

To analyze the research findings, the researchers worked collaboratively with their field notes to code them for commonalities present in each facility. The photographs and menu documents were analyzed to find comparisons between each eatery. Common themes which resulted from the comparison include similarities in environment, food, entertainment, and social interaction. Although, each...
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