Thursday, November 24, 2011

Qualitative Research Network at UMass-Lowell: NVivo Tasters

A Pile of The Real McCoy's Potato ChipsImage via WikipediaThe Qualitative Research Network(QRN) at UMass-Lowell has revived the "NVivo Tasters". 

We did this several years ago when we had a bumper crop of doctoral students in the Graduate School of Education who were NVivo savvy.  Our site license was new and we wanted to get professional development out to the many people on campus who had been using the product on their own, sometimes unsuccessfully.  We offered a  1 hour session with an NVivo expert to all takers.  Your expert would help you where ever you were--if was project set up, project reshaping--whatever, you had 1 hour.  Well, it was like potato chips--most people couldn't stop at one. 

That group graduated, and things moved on, but with the shift of QRN to the Center for Women and Work, and new NVivo savvy grad students, we decided to try it again.  We are offering 12 one-hour slots to any takers on campus.  Myself and two doctoral students from the Graduate School of Education are the staff for this. Once the word tricked out, the response was immediate. 

I did my first taster last week with two faculty members from the School of Nursing, and WOW!!  did I have fun.  It's dangerous to loose a data hog like myself on other faculty members.  I so love to wander in the halls of data as they are available to one through qualitative data analysis software.  I twitch and slobber thinking about the thrills that are opening to me.  I don't care what the topic is, I just want at their data. 

These sessions start out with a description of the project from the person who has requested the taster.  As I listened I found my eye continually drawn to the computer where I could see the data set up.  Usually I start by looking at sources--but the real piece de la resistance--is always the node section.  I can't wait to get in there.  In this case there were lots of a priori nodes...that had an implicit connection to the protocols...but needed a push to make that explicit connection.  Piece of cake. 

But this let me talk about node trees, shaping and pruning your tree.  I remind myself of my mother's TV repairman who was possessed by model trains.  I have the same intensity about node trees--mine and every other one I can get my hands on. 

The hour flew by.  I was so disappointed to realize it was over (though my faculty friend may have been glad to be released to process the whole thing).

NVivo Tasters have been great for introducing faculty and graduate students to each other's work.  As you are discussing the set up of the project, you inevitably open up many other issues--from the problems with recruiting, hilarious stories about conducting research, and the struggles with interpretation. Sitting together looking at the project that is visible to both of you (thanks to the qualities of qualitative data analysis software) is like sitting around a campfire staring into the flames.  You are warm, relaxed, and available to sharing about something that is important to both of you. 

Long live the NVivo Taster!  And Happy Thanksgiving! 

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