Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Qualitative Research Network at UMass-Lowell: Brown Bag on using NVivo as a tool for organization and analysis with undergraduates

Solvent Image and ink on tissue.Image by Imajica Amadoro via FlickrOK--the title is way too long, but the presentation was just right.

Today:  Tuesday, October 25, 2011 from 12:30-1:30 pm Ellen O'Brien, Graduate School of Education and instructor in the undergraduate Honors Program, did a brown bag presentation on using NVivo software to help students prepare to write their honors theses (or capstone projects).

Ellen described her goals and tasks for the class and the way it unfolded.  Her class is a cross-section of majors on campus, but without significant experience with literature reviews, development of a thesis or in-depth research.

In this course, NVivo is an organizational tool.   Identifying a topic and developing an understanding of its components included drawing or modelling a "web".  These were imported into NVivo and students coded the ways that each "webbed" their ideas, leading to a rich discussion of how they used thinking tools. 

Literature searches were conducted, articles identified, and uploaded into NVivo where students used the query tools to further refine their understanding of the topic.  [This is a great way, I thought, to teach about the query tools using a nice, relevant little data base of your own selection.]

It was interesting to hear how engineering students brought in computer models and coded them--adding a new tool to their arsenal.  It sounds like in her class she has been able to generate some cross-campus, inter-disciplinary thinking in just a few weeks.

Her talk led to thoughts about--how could NVivo be used to help undergraduates develop electronic portfolios?  How can we help faculty who are not qualitative researchers, per se, to use this tool for things that are appropriate for their area?  What would make it safe for them to listen and get the message?

An undergraduate was actually at the Brown Bag, one of our "Emerging Scholars" and she said that if she had learned this tool early on in her undergraduate career... "It would have made me a more rounded 21st century student."   She is now learning about it in her senior year and considering developing an electronic portfolio of her undergraduate work that could help her in her bid for a doctoral program.  She hopes that knowing this kind of technology will help to set her apart on her application for graduate school in the social sciences.  

The next Brown Bag will be Tuesday, November 8, 12:30-1:30 pm in 513 O'Leary Library and UMass-Lowell.  I will be presenting on the Sexting Project.  I have a special request to think/talk about:  How do you generate theory?  Join us--it's fun. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Discussion of NVivo Project with UMass-Lowell Center for Women and Work Research Associates

This morning I was privileged to be the object of attention of my fellow Center for Women and Work Research Associates at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.  We meet on a monthly basis to discuss our research projects and learn from the discussion of an interdisciplinary group of scholars.   This is my second tour of duty with this group.  [Meg Bond, CWW Founder to Right]

During the first tour (two years), I was working on my Journal Project.  Thanks to this internal research support, I was able to conduct some very risky and experimental research around the integration of arts-based research and qualitative computing...and that work is now being exhibited, published, discussed, etc.  Centers like this are critical on universities to provide encouragement for faculty to germinate new ideas, take those first steps, and work through a project--the in-kind support they offer is every bit as important as a financial award.

As I said, this is my second tour of duty, and in this period I am working on the sexting project, a three-state, interdisciplinary study of teens and sexting.  I am the official qualitative researcher on the project.  PI Andrew Harris from our Criminal Justice Department joined me.  We described the initiative, showed the NVivo Project, and shared our notion of the continuum of what sexting means in the teen mind.

As I explained to them in showing NVivo...leveraging the transparancy and portability of this tool--and showing you what the coding looks like--makes me vulnerable.  Most people don't publicly share their research in this way, but its a commitment we have that goes along with using the software.  [It is scarey...a project is like the inside of your brain, it's like letting people into your file cabinet, your closets.]

Then the group asked us questions--really good questions (as they always do).  The group ranged from psychology and sociology to economics; there were qualitative and quantitative researchers.  They were awestruck by the size and amount of materials--number of sites, focus groups, students involved (9 schools; 3 states; 123 students...and that's only part 1...I know we went "data heavy"...but when you are a data hog--it's hard to set boundaries!)  They were pleased with the way we were building up from the emic perspective.  That struck them as important.  And, they asked for some things we need to dig for in the data to better set the cultural context for understanding the responses:

1.  What are the opportunities at each school to hear messages about sexting?  Where do they occur?  Are they in separate places or integrated in any way? 
2.  What are the school's written policies about technology use?

They, like the students we interviewed, had a range of views about what sexting was--"Is it this?"  "Is it that?"  Everyone gets confused, whenever we start talking about the project...but they asked very astutely, what do these messages/photos actually look like?  That's not for this study--we are looking at views expressed in interviews (and I hate to think of the IRB issues related to procuring young people's sexting examples...), but it was an excellent thing to think about--because that is truly where the rubber meets the road! 

Thanks to CWW for providing opportunities for this kind of discussion! 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UMass Lowell Emerging Scholars and Qualitative Data Analysis Software NVivo

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to be present at an NVIVO training workshop for the Center for Women and Work's (CWW) Emerging Scholars Program (undergraduates working with faculty mentors).

My former doctoral student, Stuart Robertson, NVivo trainer par excellence, led the three hour event. It is so exciting to see our UMass-Lowell graduates taking on the qualitative research world as consultants, trainers, and leaders in the NVivo world (In addition to Stuart, Stacy Penna, and Cindi Jacobs are also NVivo experts working for QSR).

The software continues to grow and complexity but Stuart makes it seem so easy and natural. He calms all fears and answers all questions--but he was doing this even as a graduate student. What a gift.

I am excited to see undergraduates thrown into the NVivo soup pot and seeing what happens. It doesn't seem to hurt them to start their learning about qualitative research from this place--a software. One told me that he hadn't been formally been introduced to qualitative research before, but from figuring out the software he could extract the ideas about qualitative research. [This would be anathema to some researchers...but really do we need to have all that theory and philosophy before we start doing it?]

My two emerging scholars have been working for the last few weeks in the software...same way...here's what you need to do, here is how the tool works...and I wrap in comments about qualitative research as we go along. They don't seem to be the worse for it, and I feel like I am teaching in a very fluid and natural way. Focusing on the project (sexting) keeps us organized. It makes me wonder how could I move classes that are formally named "Qualitative Research" more toward this model of "do".

An exciting evening. But then any time spent with our Emerging Scholars is time well spent.

Qualitative Research Brown Bags on the UMass Lowell Campus

The Qualitative Research Network (QRN) on the UML campus is going to sponsor a series of brown bags across this year. For the Fall 2011 semester we are meeting the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month. For the first few sessions we are in Rm 513 O'Leary Library from 12:30-1:30 pm.

These are meant to be informal, not polished, opportunities to discuss research in the rough.

Our first presenter was Alan Williams from the music department. In addition to being a skilled musician and sound recording expert, he is also a darn good ethnomusicologist. We had a fascinating discussion with him about work he is doing to build an international group that will examine the dynamics of sound recording (something he looked at for his dissertation). It's so much fun to hear about qualitative research in other realms.

Coming up next week Tuesday 10/25/2011, Ellen O'Brien from the Graduate School of Education will be talking about how to use qualitative computing software (NVivo) to support undergraduate honor's students to learn to conduct a literature review and write academic papers based on that review.

On Tuesday November 8, I am going to be talking about the Sexting project I am working on and showing what an NVivo project can look like in a mature stage. I hope to be joined by some of my colleagues on the project...and our Emerging Scholars who have been working in the NVivo Data base.

We have two dates for the end of the semester 11/22/11 and 12/13/11 that I am looking to find presenters for.

Every time I attend one of these I get goosebumps again, to think of how many good and innovative qualitative researchers we have on campus. If you are in the area, come join us!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Qual/Quant Dilemma: Post 2

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05:  Leaves are stuc...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeI just deleted my last post, because as I continue to think about this issue I am beginning to create a more readable understanding of it.  What I am trying to do is understand how quantification is part of all thinking...from the most emic to the most etic perspective.  So here is my framework:

1.  Emic/Lived/Insider:  Embodied/Narrative quantification or logic

2.  Qualified Perspectives:  Semi-formalized quantification
-sits at the boundary between the emic/insider and the etic/outsider, meaning that it has privileged access to insider accounts AND to disciplinary and methodological discourses
-Semi-visible quantification or numerical accounts

3.  Quantified Perspectives:  Formal/Disembodied Logic
-this kind of research sits outside and at a distance from the naturalized account
-it focuses meaning within disciplinary and methodological accounts
-Fully visible quantification or numerical accounts

My notion of narrative or embodied logic/reasoning/theories is drawn from Lakoff and Johnson's work on the role of metaphor as the basis of thinking.  They demonstrate how metaphor is built from bodily experience of time, space, distance, speed--the very basics of being and organism moving in space...and this leads to metaphors and comparisons that undergird all thinking from the most mundane to the most complex.

My argument is that narrative or embodied reasoning is an act of quantification, meaning, thus, that all thinking is...we are identifying more and less, and from that forming patterns, describing size, shape, connection,  intersections--this is both algebraic and geometrical...underneath it all.  This ability to quantify (mathematicize) is in natural settings embodied, narrative, visual/observed...and is increasingly more formal, drawing upon resources of literature/methodologies/ and disciplines--what others have observed about what it is and how to understand it. 

An issue for qualitative researchers is that we are trying to distinguish ourselves from the pack--it's very clear what the difference is between the subject/participant...and the quantitative researcher, but we are sitting in the middle...with permeable margins on either side. 

Part of this difficulty is that on the margin/boundary between them (the participants/natives/subjects/objects of investigation) and ourselves...there may be very little difference.  People have always observed other people and commented upon their behavior.  People have studied social issues from the beginnings of time.  We are quite good at it...

Qualitative research formalizes this capacity with knowledge and tools related to a particular era.  It takes us a step away from the other, a slight bit of distance.  But in today's world, many people are serving as "lay" anthropologists and sociologists and doing a very good job of it.   They have access to the thinking/logic of qualitative research and they employ it, with or without a Ph.D. 

Rather than despairing about the fact that we may, as qualitative researchers, be actually indulging in a sport of quantification, I think we can exploit it to our benefit.  But it will require that we talk openly about our analytic processes.  Our tendency is to say--"It's a different paradigm."  "You couldn't possibly understand."  "It emerges."  "This is not quantifiable."  A lot of our arguments are recursive in nature.  I think we need to turn ourselves around and head back into the thicket where we think that lion is located...and see if it is really real? 

For instance, how do we locate patterns?  How do we translate text into code?  How do we move from emic understanding to the first 'qualified level' of distanced understanding?  What are we actually doing?

Critical to being able to do this is leveraging the new possibilities of transparancy that are available to us through digital tools.  Qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) offers us this opportunity, and so do other tools.  What would REAL transparancy look like in qualitative research?  

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, October 7, 2011

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: 2012 International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry

Technology Use, Southampton City CollegeImage by jisc_infonet via Flickr

Call for Proposals!!!

You are invited to submit a paper abstract for a proposed session at the 2012 International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry. 

The proposed panel is titled:

Gender Practices, Technology, and Teens:  New Perspectives from Qualitative Research

Co-chairs/Organizers are:  Judith Davidson, UMass-Lowell & Lois Scheidt, University of Indiana, Bloomington

Description of the Panel: 

Gender practices, that is, acts of definition, identification, and interaction with others in ways that demonstrate one’s gendered perspective, have been with us as long as we have been human.  Not surprisingly, in today’s digital world, gender is closely intertwined with emerging technologies.  Gendered images and assumptions are built into the presentation and uses of technologies, and technology users make use of digital modes to practice gender.  This is as true, for teens, as it is for other age groups.  Teens, who are in a gendered transition as they are leaving childhood and entering adulthood, can offer particular insights into issues of gender practice.  In this session, we present a collection of papers that employ qualitative research to look at the intersection of the teenage years and emerging technologies, using this focal point as a lens for examining gender practices.  Our goal is to enlarge our understanding of gender practices, technology, and teens through the presentation of research studies that provide intense and detailed insight into the ways teens are both shaped and shaping of individual and cultural gender possibilities through the new technologies in their lives. 

As a sample, here is the abstract for the paper, I plan to give as part of the panel:

What Teens Talk About Sexting Reveals about Gender Practices

In this paper, we will report on a three-state, mixed-method, interdisciplinary, and comparative study of teens and adults views of sexting, which was funded by the US Department of Justice.   Specifically, we will be discussing the findings regarding gendered practices that arose in the qualitative research data collected from 123 youth, who participated in a total of 20 focus groups in Massachusetts, Ohio, and South Carolina.   In talking with teens about their views regarding sexting, we found teens acting out powerful expectations and beliefs about males and females (our data did not include any youth who identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual or Transgendered).  The topic of sexting, which sits at the intersection between acceptable and unacceptable expressions of sexuality, was a powerful means of unearthing territories of ambivalence in teens’ gender practices.  This led us to the development of a model to describe the range of behaviors that fall under the heading of sexting.  Our model builds upon teens descriptions of gendered relationships to describe a continuum from non-aggressive to implied aggression to overt aggression.  In this presentation we will present the model and discuss the qualitative research evidence that undergirds it. 

For questions about the panel, please contact:  Judith_Davidson@uml.edu

Please submit your abstract by no later than November 1, 2011 to Judy Davidson at Judith_Davidson@uml.edu.  Decisions for the panel will be made by November 15, 2011.  The proposal will be submitted to ICQI by December 1, 2011. 

Thank you and look forward to compiling a very interesting group of papers and spurring a challenging discussion. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Truth about Qualitative Data Analysis Software

Victorian Toronto - stampsImage by yorkville via FlickrI am up to my eyeballs in two very large sets of data--both stored in NVivo 9:  1) the Journal Project; 2) the Sexting Project.

The Journal Project is large with journal entries and photos of art pieces as primary items.  The Journal Project was a one-woman show (me).

The Sexting Project is an effort of a whole team and includes focus group transcripts, a literature data base, and memos from many people.

It's unusual to have projects in Qualitative Data Analysis Software (QDAS) of relative size and complexity.  From what I can tell a lot of people give up before they get to this place.  We don't have many sizable examples to look at, poke around in.  Thank goodness for the doctoral students I have worked with--and the projects they have produced.  That's given me a lot of ways to 'look into' the shape these things take and the ways they look at various points.

I was thinking about this issue this morning as I had my tea, and I realized that qualitative researchers who don't use QDAS think (this is what I think they think) that QDAS organized projects are somehow neat, streamlined, efficient, like an industrial kitchen--approved and 'up-to-code' (get it...that's a joke...code?!).

But this is not so.  No matter how many standards are set they tend to become idiosyncratic, individualistic, unique (inefficient).   The labyrinth is a better metaphor than the industrial kitchen.  Or maybe they are like software packages that have developed over time and has old code in different corners...and then I stumbled on what really seemed like the right metaphor:  a Victorian home with backstairs, window seats, and closets that are surprisingly large.  I lived in such a house as a child and the metaphor suddenly connected to experience. 

In my QDAS projects I have certain ways of putting things for reference.  I have redundancies.  I have shelves and furniture that I hide away in some pretty expansive closets.  I keep things I don't need...just in case.  Basically it is like me.  Like my office.  Like my brain.  

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Integrating Numerical and Non-numerical Data: Qualitative Quandries

I have been struggling with the issue of getting out of the quantitative/qualitative conundrum...figuring out how qualitative research fits in a world of big data, micro-applications and new forms of data collection, etc., etc.  This morning I came up with a diagram that begin to help me 'see' what I have been thinking about. 

In this diagram:  above the mid-line represents Numerical Data, and below the mid-line represents Non-Numerical Data.

Both numerical and non-numerical data are divided by forms of data created by the researcher and forms of data created by others (the background/context/literature of a study). 

There are four inter-linked quandrants:
Numerical Arena
1.  Upper left:  Numerical data created by the research dominates.  The furthest point out to the left is "Big Data"  where millions of data points are generated by cell phones, telephone bills, tweets, etc.  As you move closer toward the middle you have larger surveys...scaling down into smaller surveys...At the center point as you cross over you have descriptive statistics created by simple counting of the researcher.

2.  Upper right:  This area represents numerical data created by others.  This is numerical data that serves as background or context for the work of non-numerical researchers.  Increasingly we have access to a broad range of statistics that we employ to describe the context of our work.  

Non-Numerical Arena

3.  Lower left:  This is non-numerical data created by others:  This is "THE LITERATURE".  It's not on the chart, but probably pure theoretical work is someplace to the left of meta-studies...coming down to studies on specific projects. Numerical and non-numerical researchers turn to literature in their field as a kind of data.  Using qualitative data analysis software has made me more and more aware that this is a living, breathing form of data on a par with an interview or an observation. 

4.  Lower Right:  This is non-numerical data created by a specific researcher.  This is where qualitative researchers and their studies live and breath.  Close to the mid-point are non-numerical studies that have structure and variables much akin to numerical studies...and one moves out to the right from there to places that draw more and more on emic/insiders perspectives.  Observations...take you outside of the words you have chosen in the organization 'they' have created.  Non-numerical studies range from those that are short-term and semi-embedded in the environment of 'the other'....to those that are totally embedded and long term in duration.

One critical question that this diagram raises for me (actually re-raises for me because I have been coming back to it a lot in my head) and that is--What does non-numerical analysis really consist of?  How are we making those patterns or theories we think are at the heart of it?  As I work with coding in the Sexting project in which I am now involved, to be perfectly honest, a lot of my pattern making deals with...what do I have the most of...what do I have the least of...what category is heavy/rich/saturated?  what tags/codes should be there but I don't see it?  Now, when you are asking questions about more and less/absent or present--doesn't that imply a numerical perspective? 

OK--now some of you qualitative researchers may be saying--I don't do it that way.  I make my patterns in other ways...OK--how?  Can you describe what you are doing?  I am going to venture that more/less-present/absent is a starting point in which we are employing simplistic numerical concepts to launch us into meaningful places where we can find useful theoretical work.  This is why I had to draw each of the quadrants as a line that is shading/decreasing into the area of the nearby quadrants.

Disclosure:  I have been working this out in my head without paying attention to the growing literature on mixed methods.  Maybe this has been all hashed out already, maybe it is irrelevant to the emerging arguments about this issue.  Mixed methods people, tend to be closer to numerical discussions than I am.  From what I know of the lower right hand quadrant...and those who inhabit it...this has not be widely discussed. 

The discussion I am having here with myself draws a lot on what I have learned through working with qualitative data analysis software.  It is also related to the issue of inclusive and exclusive research approaches that I blogged about in September 2011.  Challenges to my secure vision of qualitative research are raising up from all around me.  

Enhanced by Zemanta