10 Suggestions for Summer-time things to do in qualitative inquiry

For those in the northern hemisphere it is summer time, and some qualitative researchers have extra time to do things that are difficult to squeeze into a regular semester. Here are suggestions for 10 fun things to do…

  1. Visit an archives to look at the documentation left by other researchers

I recently spent some time looking at a bulky box of interview transcripts from a large research study on centenarians. It was fascinating both to look at the transcripts from this study, as well as the methodological analyses included in the administrative files that had been completed by researchers working on this project. These reports provided lots of ideas for other researchers to do with recruitment of this special population, as well as how data might be most effectively generated. Examining the records from another research study gave me lots to think about. Some researchers use archival data sets for their own research. For example, Catherine Stewart’s book (2016) reports findings from her examination of the records from the Ex-Slave Narratives study conducted as part of the Federal Writer’s Project in the 1930s. Lampropoulou and Myers (2013; 2012) have published secondary analyses from their examination of interview transcripts in the Qualidata Archive in the UK. What’s in your local archive?

  1. Read a book on writing.

There’s so many books, articles and chapters on writing that are fun to read, especially if you don’t feel like writing! Perhaps find a novelist who has written about writing (e.g., Dillard, 1989; Lamott, 1994; LeGuin, 1998); consider the intricacies of editing (Truss, 2003); or learn about therapeutic approaches to writing (Klauser, 2003). Or you could try the work of an ethnographer (Goodall, 2008), or a sociologist (Richardson, 1990; Van Maanen, 2011). Of course there are also books that take up specific topics, such as writing literature reviews, articles, or dissertations. If you have some favorites, add them in the suggestion box at the bottom of this page.

  1. Review the wonderful list of “Sixty genres of life narrative” by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson

Smith and Watson (2010) include an appendix in their book, Reading autobiography: A guide for interpreting life narratives which lists no less than 60 forms of life writing. This list might inspire you to write your own narrative – whether that is an autoethnography, a confession, a diary, collaborative life writing, or an ecobiography. If you’ve never heard of an ecobiography, Smith and Watson (2010, p. 268) describe this as the “story of a protagonist with the story of the fortunes, conditions, geography, and ecology of a region.” Popular books in this genre include Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And I’ve mentioned just five of the longer list.

  1. Try out one or more of those 60 forms of life writing.

It’s your turn now. Set the timer, and start writing. Five minutes will get you started.

  1. Take a moment to read an account of doing research from an ethnographer

How do other researchers practice the craft of ethnography? Again, there’s many to choose from – whether written decades ago; such as those by Clifford Geertz (1973), Hortense Powdermaker (1966); or more recently, for example, Bud Goodall (2000).

  1. Read a classic study.

You may have seen these texts cited. Find out what others are talking about by reading the original. Again, there are numerous books to select from, including… William Foote Whyte’s Street Corner Society (Whyte, 1993 [1943]), Margaret Mead’s Coming of age in Samoa: A pscyhological study of primitive youth for Western civilization (Mead, 1961 [1928]), Bronislaw Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific (Malinowski, 2014 [1922]), Hortense Powdermaker’s Hollywood the dream factory (Powdermaker, 1951) or Dan Lortie’s Schoolteacher (Lortie, 2002 [1975]).

  1. Read a recent ethnography.

Again, there’s plenty to choose from. For starters, try the much talked about ethnography by sociologist Alice Goffman, On the Run: Fugitive life in an American City (Goffman, 2014); or Matthew Desmond’s acclaimed Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American City (Desmond, 2016). Dip into Laurence Ralph’s ethnography of gangland Chicago (Ralph, 2014); Khiara Bridges’ (2011) study of a pregnancy and birth in a New York hospital, or Robin Boylorn’s (2013) award-winning autoethnography which chronicles growing up in a southern town that she names Sweetwater.

  1. Take moment to write a poem from your data set

If you haven’t done this before, Laurel Richardson, Corinne Glesne and Misha Cahnmann-Taylor provide some ideas (Cahnmann, 2003; Glesne, 2006; Richardson, 2002).

  1. Read a poem written by a qualitative researcher

If you have not come across this form of representation, you could start by reading poems by Sandra Faulkner (2005), or Prendergast, Gouzouasis, Leggo, and Irwin (2009). Recent issues of Qualitative Inquiry are a great source for poetic representation.

  1. Check out a new journal.

Journals that publish qualitative inquiry are being added every year. One recent addition is Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal


Kathy Roulston


Boylorn, R. M. (2013). Sweetwater: Black women and narratives of resilience Peter Lang.

Bridges, K. M. (2011). Reproducing race: An ethnography of pregnancy as a site of racialization. Berekeley: University of California Press.

Cahnmann, M. (2003). The craft, practice, and possibility of poetry in educational research. Educational Researcher, 32(3), 29-36.

Desmond, M. (2016). Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city. New York: Crown Publishers.

Dillard, A. (1989). The writing life. New York: Harper & Row.

Faulkner, S. L. (2005). Method: Six Poems. Qualitative Inquiry, 11(6), 941-949. doi:10.1177/1077800405276813

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books.

Glesne, C. (2006). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction (3rd ed.). Pearson Education.

Goffman, A. (2014). On the run: Fugitive life in an American city. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Goodall, H. L. (2000). Writing the new ethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.

Goodall, H. L. (2008). Writing qualitative inquiry: Self, stories, and academic life. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Klauser, H. A. (2003). With pen in hand: The healing power of writing. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.

Lamott, A. (1994). Bird by bird: Some instructions on writing and life. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Lampropoulou, S., & Myers, G. (2013). Stance-taking in interviews from Qualidata Archive. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(1), Art. 12.

LeGuin, U. K. (1998). Steering the craft: Exercises and discussions on story writing for the lone navigator or the mutinous crew. Portland OR: The Eighth Mountain Press.

Lortie, D. C. (2002 [1975]). Schoolteacher: A sociological study (2nd ed.). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Malinowski, B. (2014 [1922]). Argonauts of the western Pacific: An account of native enterprise and adventure in the archivpealos of Melanesian New Guinea. New York, NY: Routledge.

Mead, M. (1961 [1928]). Coming of age in Samoa: A pscyhological study of primitive youth for Western civilization. New York: Morrow Quill Paperbacks.

Myers, G., & Lampropoulou, S. (2012). Impersonal you and stance-taking in social research interviews. Journal of Pragmatics, 44(10), 1206-1218. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2012.05.005

Powdermaker, H. (1951). Hollywood the dream factory. London: Secker & Warburg.

Powdermaker, H. (1966). Stranger and friend: The way of an anthropologist. New York: Norton.

Prendergast, M., Gouzouasis, P., Leggo, C., & Irwin, R. L. (2009). A haiku suite: the importance of music making in the lives of secondary school students. Music Education Research, 11(3), 303-317. doi:10.1080/14613800903144262

Ralph, L. (2014). Renegade dreams: Living through injury in gangland Chicago. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.

Richardson, L. (1990). Writing strategies: Reaching diverse audiences (Vol. 21). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Richardson, L. (2002). Poetic representation of interviews. In J. Gubrium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context and method (pp. 877-892). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Smith, S., & Watson, J. (2010). Reading autobiography: A guide for interpreting life narratives (2nd ed.). Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press.

Stewart, C. A. (2016). Long past slavery: Representing race in the Federal Writers’ Project. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Truss, L. (2003). Eats, shoots & leaves: The zero tolerance approach to punctuation. New York, NY: Gotham books.

Van Maanen, J. (2011). Tales of the field: On writing ethnography (2nd ed.). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Whyte, W. F. (1993 [1943]). Street corner society: The social structure of an Italian slum (4th ed.). Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.


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