Using digital tools thoughtfully in qualitative research

There is no question that digital tools have revolutionized our work as researchers in numerous ways. For example, rather than writing down as much as I can recall from an interview after the event as Hortense Powdermaker (1966) describes in her tales of anthropological fieldwork completed over 50 years ago, all I need do is press “record” on my digital device to hear exactly what was said after the event. I don’t even have to connect my recording device to my computer to download the file – I can simply press a link in the recording app I use to upload the audio file to a cloud storage service. Yet, with all that digital devices add to my work, I still find it useful to consider some of the ways in which I need to be thoughtful in how I incorporate these in our research. Continue reading “Using digital tools thoughtfully in qualitative research”

Research integrity and the qualitative researcher

Kathryn Roulston

Trust is a crucial component of the enterprise of scientific research. That is because scholars trust others to

  • conduct research ethically with human subjects,
  • accurately report the methods that they used in research project,
  • fairly review manuscripts for publication, and
  • represent findings honestly.

Nevertheless, researchers do not always behave in honest and trustworthy ways. Continue reading “Research integrity and the qualitative researcher”

What to do when research interviews go awry…

Research interviews do not always proceed as anticipated. For example, the anthropologist, Evans-Pritchard (1972 [1940], pp. 12-13) reports on the difficulties he encountered with the Nuer people, with whom he conducted an ethnography in the 1930s. He comments that the “Nuer are expert at sabotaging an inquiry”, and provides the opening of a conversation with a member of the Nuer to illustrate Continue reading “What to do when research interviews go awry…”

Make haste slowly…the value of pausing in doing qualitative research

“Make haste slowly” were words of advice given to me by the principal in the first school that I taught in many years ago. Terry, as he was known to teachers and staff, had many years of teaching and administration experience. His office appeared somewhat disorganized, with stacks of papers piled on his desk. Yet, rather than sitting in his office, Terry could often be seen walking around the school grounds, talking to children, teachers, and parents. He frequently dropped by my classroom to see what was going on. These were friendly, supportive and encouraging visits, and Terry allotted specific time for me to gain mentorship from a more experienced teacher.  As a young teacher I was enthusiastic to try out new ideas, although I did not always consider these within a broader context. Terry’s advice to me still lingers:  “Make haste slowly.” At the time, I did not fully realize what he was getting at, but with the years, I’ve come to appreciate this advice. In particular, I’ve come to understand that to do qualitative research of quality, slow work might be needed. What is the value of completing tasks slowly in a world in which we are continually pressed to do more, faster, in shorter time frames? Continue reading “Make haste slowly…the value of pausing in doing qualitative research”

Qualitative Research for Social Justice

Some have argued that research for social justice compromises the scientific process. For example, Hammersley and Gomm, in their article, “Bias in social research” argue that research that aims to promote “some practical or political cause” is a threat to the scientific community. Others have argued that research is always and already part of the political research process – that there is no impartial stance that researchers can take when studying the social world (e.g., see Haraway, 1988 on the “god trick”). The third edition of the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, edited by Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln (2005) takes an explicitly critical perspective to research. Scholars who have taken up Denzin’s call to arms (2010) assert that qualitative research must be used to change the world in positive ways. How might qualitative researchers approach this task? Where might one begin? Below I discuss several texts that discuss approaches that forefront issues of social justice. Continue reading “Qualitative Research for Social Justice”

Examining the archives

This year I have been involved in a program that introduces faculty to archival collections at my institution, the University of Georgia (UGA). I have been learning about how archival collections are organized and catalogued, how to locate information that is useful for research purposes, and what to do next. I have a lot to learn! Continue reading “Examining the archives”

Tips on transcribing qualitative interviews and naturally-occurring interaction

After interviews have been conducted or events have been recorded, the task of transcription begins. For those who have not transcribed before, it is easy to under-estimate the amount of time needed to transcribe interviews and interaction. What does transcription entail? Continue reading “Tips on transcribing qualitative interviews and naturally-occurring interaction”

Tips on conducting qualitative interviews

The ubiquity of the “interview” in contemporary society can mask what Harold Garfinkel (1967) termed the “seen-but-unnoticed” work that goes into everyday activity. For researchers, an important routine activity is the conduct of a “good” interview. In qualitative research, interviewing is one of the most popular and widely-used methods to generate data. For novices to research, it may come as a surprise that conducting an interview with a stranger is not quite as easily accomplished as one might anticipate. What strategies help with generating the kinds of data in qualitative interviews that might be used to examine research questions? Here are some tips… Continue reading “Tips on conducting qualitative interviews”