Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What Constitutes Creativity in Qualitative Research Teaching?

Here is a set of related sentences:

What constitutes creativity in teaching?

What constitutes creativity in research teaching?

What constitutes creativity in qualitative research teaching?

Like stair steps, each one brings me closer to the thing that is at the heart of what I do--teach qualitative research in as creative of a manner as possible.  But, what is that? 

There is creativity in teaching and research teaching, both of which are necessary and related, but then there is creativity in qualitative research teaching. 

Before we get too much further into this conversation, I should probably mention that I love teaching qualitative research.  Maybe it is not coincidental that generally when I am teaching qualitative research, I feel I am deep in the flow of creativity.  So, it would stand to reason if I looked more closely at what feels like flow, I might gain some insight into the elusive notion of creativity in qualitative research teaching. 

When I thought about digging deeper, however, I worried that there would be nothing there specific to qualitative research.  In other words, was I simply being a creative teacher and/or a creative research teacher?  Is that really the sum total of what is needed?  But I persisted and here is a list of things I can identity as part of my practice:

1.  I like my students.
2.  I like my subject:  qualitative research. 
3.  I have been reading about it for quite some time.
4.  I like the mundane parts of my craft as well as the elevated parts, that is, the tedium of organization is as likely to get my attention as the theory, and I consider them to be related.  You can't have one without the other.
5.  I like to find new ways to put my students in charge of the doing and thinking, so I can sit back and watch them make meaning. 
6.  I don't mind trying out new or risky instructional activities.
7.  I never seem to get tired of the excitement that comes when I see students making new discoveries and shifting their understanding of what research is or could be. 
8.  I love it when students go out and find new methodology resources. 
9.  I love it when students identify and develop new efficiencies with digital tools or other items that support their research?
10.  I like teaching students how to write up qualitative research.

Looking over this list of ten items, I am hard put to see how creativity in qualitative research teaching is different than creativity in teaching.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or bad. 

To another academic year of qualitative research students, I say, "Thank You!"  It gets better year by year. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wikipedia: Why should female academic qualitative researchers care?

I have been slow to come to the Wikipedia party.  I knew people who edited.  I had heard other academics complain, “never use Wikipedia as a reference in a professional paper!”  I used it regularly myself.   I realized it wasn’t perfect, and I took the information with a grain of salt, glancing over the references to see where the stuff came from.  Sometimes I quoted Wikipedia because I wanted to reference the information most people had access to at any given time.  But by and large, Wikipedia was backgrounded for me. 

That was until recently, when, thanks to my Library colleague, Sara Marks, I began to pay attention.  For over a decade, Sara has been editing Wikipedia, leading wikihackathons, and attending Wikimania, the international conference of Wikipedians.  She is deeply into it. 

So, when I went to her recently and said I would like to see if I could use Wikipedia editing as a practical means of using the information my advanced qualitative research class would glean from writing papers on methodological topics…her eyes begin to glow with a strange light.  It could be done, she promised me.  I should have realized she was choking back a smile, pleased to think she might be adding more Wikipedians to the institution. 

In anticipation of getting started planning a project, I began, on my own, to dip into Wikipedia and see what was already available on my topic.  The article on qualitative research was one of the first places I visited.  

It’s not a very inviting place.  There is a banner across the top warning the reader that the article has multiple problems—related to writing and references.  The topic seems to be “owned” by sociology, as it is linked to that project.  Based on some of the text near the beginning, I had the feeling it might have been written by a student of Robert Bicklin (of Bogden and Bicklin fame!)  At least, I thought, there is lots to do here.  Definitely room for growth as an editor. 

Interesting, but I wasn’t getting close to my key concerns which I would express like this:

  • Why does anyone care about Wikipedia?  Why is it such a phenomenon?
  • Why should I, as an academic, care about Wikipedia?  [Many academics hate it with a passion, so why am I hanging around here looking at it?]
  • Why should I, as a qualitative researcher, care about Wikipedia?  [If the generic article possesses warnings, what is the state of the other articles related to this topic?]
  • Why should I, as a teacher, care about Wikipedia? [Do I want students to struggle with poorly formed text and mis-information?  Is that learning?  Shouldn’t they be given the right information and the best models?]
  • Why should I, as a woman, care about Wikipedia? [I was already aware that there was a dearth of women represented on Wikipedia, but poking around I found that only 10% of the editors are female.]

Here are some reasons that I have come up with to answer my questions:

Wikipedia is one of the top Internet sites in the world.  It has more unique visitors visit it every day than multiple of the world’s top newspapers and other communication sites.  It is developing repositories of information in languages from across the world. 

Wikipedia is a unique experiment in community knowledge creation, primarily driven by volunteers.  The information on Wikipedia is getting better and better.  It grows, changes, and is revised with great rapidity (in certain areas).  Some disciplines or organizations are taking on the task of vetting the information in their area of expertise.  As this happens, Wikipedia takes on a greater and greater role as a central source of information. 

Wikipedia is widely accessible, unlike many kinds of journals or books in specific disciplinary areas.  For many people in different corners of the world, Wikipedia may be a primary text.  If qualitative researchers want to make their topics known to the world, they probably need to care about the kind and quality of information that is represented about qualitative research in Wikipedia.  As with many things technological, however, I would bet that Wikipedia has not yet caused the hearts of too many qualitative researchers to beat faster. 

As I searched for resources about how to teach with Wikipedia, I realized that it was a phenomenal tool.  Higher education classrooms around the globe have begun to make Wikipedia editing a component of a dynamic class.  I was excited to see that I would not be alone if I undertook this effort.  Moreover, there were good resources available to help me hone my skills. 

This last week, Michelle Obama was featured on a documentary about the ways girls are losing out in the educational arena.  To be blunt, millions of girls around the world are not even enrolled in school.  If they were in school, maybe they would be asked to turn to Wikipedia to find information—where women are under-represented, and few women are participating in the development of what has become a universal text.  That’s not good.  Wikipedia clearly needs women’s participation.  I find it thrilling to think that I could be developing texts that could become part of the curricula for these unknown girls and women who may be about to begin their education. 

I realize that it might be a slow path, but I think I see Wikipedia in the future of this female, academic, qualitative researcher.  Tune in for more…

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Doing Qualitative Research Online by Janet Salmons

This semester I am teaching a class called "Advanced Topics in Qualitative Research".  This is the first time we have offered this class in our new Ph.D. in Research Methods and Program Evaluation in Education in the UMass Lowell Graduate School of education. 

In the first part of the semester, I am mixing topics I have selected with the development of students' methodological topics (which they will be presenting later in the semester).  I identified topics that I thought were cutting edge, of interest to students, or I thought hadn't been fleshed out in the first qualitative research course they had taken with me. 

Our first text in the "selected by me" category was Janet Salmons book Doing Qualitative Research Online (Sage Publications, 2016).  I selected this because I felt the first semester of qualitative research had used the traditional approach focusing on face-to-face interactions, which doesn't really represent reality for anyone in today's digital world.  We read the text over two weeks, giving us time to digest the points. 

Most important thing to report first:  Everyone in the class liked the text.  It is well organized, informative, and clearly written.  There are great charts and tables throughout that illustrate the points being made, and students appreciated this component.  No one mentioned going to the online resources that are also available (I think they were more concerned with developing their own topics.)  Figure 2.1 was our all time favorite table:  Designing studies to generate new knowledge--I think I will see a lot more tables like this out of our group in the future. 

As  I mentioned in an earlier blog posting, I love Salmons formulation of data as "extant, elicited, and enacted".  I think that moves us up a level of generalization to create categories that are very useful for organizing ideas about types of data. 

Personally, I liked it that she didn't belabor the discussion of kinds of research.  I also like the "Discussion Questions and Exercises" at the conclusion of each chapter, where she gave students suggestions for looking at the products of research, comparing the end results and how people describe their methodological approach. 

One thing I noted that surprised me was that sampling was discussed in Part III, as if this would be considered after you have done the design and received institutional permission to move forward.  At my institution that discussion would have to occur prior to IRB approval.  I wondered if the difference is that located/geographical studies in a fixed place are sampled or approached differently than many online populations.  This may need more discussion in methodological circles. 

As a QDAS nerd, I was disappointed that there wasn't stronger discussion of the integration of these tools. Her references to further resources in this area could have been stronger. 

Don't let me forget to mention that I particularly liked the way she set up her appendix in the "Do you want to learn more about..." form.  Very effective and much less distanced than the usual annotated bibliography. 

Although the title of the book has the term "online" in it, I think this text would make a good cross-over text, that is, it could be used to teach qualitative research in its emerging hybrid form that intersects hybrid and online. 

So:  Thumbs up!  from the Fall 2016 course in Advanced Topics in Qualitative Research. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry: Call for Proposals

It is that time of year again.  The International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry is getting ready for Year 13--2017.  The Digital Tools Special Interest Group needs your submission.  I have posted the call for applications below.  Or, you can go to our web page for more information, and to see what we have been up to.  The submissions are due at the beginning of December, and the conference is in mid-May.  Join me on the University of Illinois-Champaign campus for another exciting year discussing qualitative research with fellow hard core aficionados!

The Digital Tools track at ICQI 2017
The theme of the 2017 Congress is “Qualitative Inquiry in the Public Sphere,” and the Digital Tools for Qualitative Research SIG will once again host a special track during the conference. Please note that the emphasis of this SIG is on the intersection of digital tools and qualitative researchers rather than the findings of qualitative studies that address questions of technology use. See prior programs for examples and consider submitting sessions on distance learning, computers in the schools, etc. to other tracks or to the general Congress.
You may submit poster, paper or panel proposals related to the conference theme and/or to one of the following themes:
  • Digital Tools for Qualitative Research:  What are they (old and new; hybrid or repurposed)?  What are the various and intersecting sub-groups of tools that comprise qualitative research technology? How are they being used?  What constitutes good use?  How do we know?
  • Methodological Quandaries:  How are qualitative researchers making sense of the methodological issues raised by the use of digital tools? What methodological tasks are served by the use of new tools?  How do digital tools impact the use of different interpretive frameworks?
  • Ethics and Social Justice:  What ethical issues do these tools raise?  Whom do they help?  Whom do they hurt?  How is justice or injustice occurring through the use of digital tools in qualitative research?
  • The Literature of and Theoretical Perspectives on Digital Tools in Qualitative Research:  How are we theorizing and contextualizing these tools? How do researchers’ affiliation with or critique of these tools shape our communities of practice?
  • Other: A topic of your choice that addresses our focus on the intersection of digital tools and qualitative researchers (or digital tools and qualitative methodologies).
Submitting a poster, paper or panel proposal
Please submit your abstracts to the Digital Tools for Qualitative Research SIG through the conference website:
  • Abstracts must be 150 words or less.
  • Each submission should clearly specify its category: poster, paper or panel.
  • Choose the Digital Tools for Qualitative Research track during the submission process.
  • To assist in the grouping of papers, you might also identify one of the themes described above (Digital Tools for Qualitative Research, Methodological Quandaries, Ethics and Social Justice, The Literature of and Theoretical Perspectives on Digital Tools, and/or the Congress theme – “Qualitative Inquiry in the Public Sphere”).
  • Submission Deadline: December 1, 2016.
  • Proposals that are not accepted by the SIG will be considered for inclusion in the general Congress.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Diana Eck: India: A Sacred Geography—Writing at the Intersection of Anthropology and Religion

Lotus; courtesy of Creative Commons
Recently shopping for some light reading for a short vacation, I came across Diana Eck’s India: A Sacred Geography on Amazon.  I was surprised to see Eck's name associated with a book on India, because my knowledge of her was related to work on diversity in the American religious scene.  In fact, at first I thought the odd last name was only a coincidence; but not so!!  Eck's decades long work with Indian religious issues is actually the catalyst for her current work with pluralism and American religious change. 

India: A Sacred Geography is a rich treat.  A book that has been gestating in its author for many, many years.  This long process of production started with her earliest work on Benaras (her dissertation I would presume), and includes many years of visiting India, going to numerous places of pilgrimage, and thinking about landscape, architecture, literature, language—how it all fits together. 

The underlying premise is that India was India long before the latest colonial invasions.  India created itself by foot and pilgrimage, endowing the landscape with a sense of meaning and story that is re-enacted again and again by the constant visiting that crosses various territories.  More powerful than any boundary drawn by British or other parties, India’s sense of consolidation is written on the landscape through the circulation of pilgrims. 

“Many Indian scholars have noted the significance of the network of pilgrimage places in constructing a sense of Indian “nationhood” not as a nation-state in the modern usage of the term, but as a shared, living landscape, with all this cultural and regional complexity,” says Eck (location 365) 
 A landscape that is created in this way is mythic, historical, and contemporary.  It is both natural and contrived.  Of the natural—rivers play a huge role, of which there are many, many crossing the geography of the country.   Of the contrived, temples, buildings, and cities are significant.  Tirthas, dhams, lingas—I began to lose count of the many kinds of constructions that could be linked to weave together this landscape. 

The anthropologic piece, for me, is the way Eck understands this landscape of vast proportions from a kind of participant-observation perspective.  She has walked the ways of the pilgrims…and yet she has also read and constructed a theoretical understanding of the ways goddess bodies are distributed across landscape, the way cities are connected through myth and pilgrimage, and the role that rivers play throughout it all. 

Studying the Indian sense of India as constructed through a religious landscape that has been evolving for centuries is a different kind of anthropologic feat than sitting in “x” village for a year and trying to figure out water rights (although there is nothing wrong with that).  And I am not at all sure that Eck would describe herself as an anthropologist.  But there is something here that is highly anthropologic and deserves to be thought about as a form of qualitative research.  As such it provides insights about how to study things that seem irregular, large, diffuse—not a village, school, or business department.  We need, I think, to make use of qualitative research tools to study the irregular as well as the regular and confined (made strange).  I would assume she has some items that count for traditional data, but I would also assume that much of her thinking is not data-driven in the traditional way we are using it right now—time bound and scientific—but incorporated in embodied memories of visits and time spent watching and thinking.  I think her method required lived experience, and, as she says, it was gestating for a long time. 

As I page through my digitally highlighted notes of the book it’s hard to know what to stop and share—there is so much that I felt was significant.  It is definitely a good read for a qualitative researcher in search of new models. 

 Diana Eck.  2012.  India: A Sacred Geography.  Published by Harmony Books, a division of Random House.  New York. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Making Sense of Obrist and Ways of Curating

Hans Ulrich Obrist’s book, Ways of Curating, is a marvel for many reasons.  He is so widely read and so deeply intertwined with artists and curators through his decades long interviewing activities that he is able to make amazing connections between the history of curation and the current trends.  There are many lessons and overlap with qualitative research. 
Below is a curated collection of quotations drawn from my highlights in the Obrist text.  Taken from various parts of the text, they began to form a new narrative about the bringing together of the arts and science, which was one, but certainly not the whole of Obrist’s discussions. 
As he has done in many sphere’s, Obrist suggests ways of creating connections, making sparks fly through juxtapositions, miming, and reorganization.  My question to the world of qualitative research is:  How might we change the way we bring things together—people, ideas, conferences—to “allow different elements to touch”?  What would happen if we did? 
Page 1 · Location 33
There is a fundamental similarity to the act of curating, which at its most basic is simply about connecting cultures, bringing their elements into proximity with each other –the task of curating is to make junctions, to allow different elements to touch. You might describe it as the attempted pollination of culture, or a form of map-making that opens new routes through a city, a people or a world.
Page 20 · Location 264
Zones of contact was my working phrase for what Boltanski, Lavier and I were trying to create. I took it from the anthropologist James Clifford, who had written about a new model for ethnographic museums, in which the peoples whose culture was being ‘represented’ by the museum proposed their own alternate forms of exhibiting and collecting. They were taking it upon themselves to recollect their own story and create their history from the inside. This changed the whole historical narrative of the ethnographic museum, which has mostly been a place for one culture to tell the story of another.
Page 23 · Location 305
The current vogue for the idea of curating stems from a feature of modern life that is impossible to ignore: the proliferation and reproduction of ideas, raw data, processed information, images, disciplinary knowledge and material products that we are witnessing today.
Collecting Knowledge
Highlight(orange) - Page 39 · Location 526
Though the aim of amassing evidence may sound like a rather scientific way to think about collecting, it is necessary to remember that the hard distinction between science and art which marks more recent centuries was not evident as late as the sixteenth century. The separation of art and the humanities on the one hand, and science on the other, is a fundamental feature of modern life, but it also constitutes a loss.
Highlight(orange) - Page 40 · Location 534
To study the Renaissance is to gain a model for reconnecting art and science, sundered by history.
Curating (Non-)Conferences
Highlight(yellow) - Page 152 · Location 1921
Having suddenly been introduced to such an interdisciplinary mixture of people was like a revelation to me. So I thought more about how to connect the arts and the sciences within my own curatorial work.
Highlight(yellow) - Page 153 · Location 1932
So I thought it would be interesting to apply the idea of changing the rules of the game for a discursive event like a conference, similar to what I had done in exhibitions. A mischievous idea occurred to me. What if one had all the accoutrements of a conference: the schedule, hotel accommodation, participants with their badges, but dispensed with the ‘official’ elements of panels,
Highlight(yellow) - Page 153 · Location 1937
The idea was to create a contact zone where something could happen but nothing had to happen. And so the ‘conference’ we organized at the research centre, ‘Art and Brain’, had all the constituents of a colloquium except the colloquium. There were coffee breaks, a bus trip, meals, tours of the facilities, but no colloquium.
Highlight(yellow) - Page 154 · Location 1943
the role of the curator is to create free space, not occupy existing space. In my practice, the curator has to bridge gaps and build bridges between artists, the public, institutions and other types of communities. The crux of this work is to build temporary communities, by connecting different people and practices, and creating the conditions for triggering sparks between them.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sharlene Hesse-Biber Does It Again! The Oxford Handbook of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research

I consider Sharlene Hesse-Biber to be the absolute queen of handbooks about qualitative research (and related subjects).  When some people get to the "handbook stage" of their career, the reading gets dull.  But this is not the case with Dr. Hesse-Biber.  Recently I found myself sitting at a desk with multiple handbooks assembled by Hesse-Biber...and they were all good and worthwhile!  Her latest volume is not a disappointment. 

I selected a couple of articles from it for my "Advanced Topics in Qualitative Research" course for this fall.  I wanted to provide students with cutting edge topics in qualitative research, and mixed methods definitely counts as one of those.  The two we reviewed were:

"Introduction: Navigating a Turbulent Research Landscape: Working the Boundaries, Tensions, Diversity, and Contradictions of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Inquiry" by Sharlene Hesse-Biber


"A Qualitatively Driven Approach to Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research" by Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Deborah Rodriguez, and Nollaig Frost. 

I was particularly pleased to see interdisciplinary and team research issues discussed at length in Hesse-Biber's introduction.  This emphasis is contrary to what one sees in the majority of textbooks on qualitative research up to now, which describe research methodology as primarily an act performed by individuals.   The inclusion of these issues here illustrates the way Hesse-Biber stays current with developments in research. 

She does not shy away from the difficulties present in trying to mix methodological approaches. 
Important in fostering a robust mixed methods analytical and interpretative process as well is the development of a profound appreciation for the potential contributions a given methodological perspective can bring to a mixed methods project. (xli)
Border tensions thread throughout the Introduction from the qual/quant divide to disciplinary differences to the colonial divide of the global North and South, to technology divides.  Not surprisingly Hesse-Biber is also the editor of the excellent "Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research."  She speaks with authority when she says:
The MMMR community is witnessing a shift from a 'one data set' study structure toward multiple data sets aggregated from a range of structure levels (micro/meso/macro/emanating from a variety of sources (online/offline/mobile/hybrid). (xliv)
 The notion of multiple data sets and structure levels was part of the class conversation about the second article as we considered the different models the authors offered of qualitative driven research that was also mixed method and/or multi-level.  My students grappled with the idea of a qualitative research study with multiple levels of qualitative research data--what that might look like, why you might do it, what the pitfalls could be, and how you would manage it. 

In thinking about these issues, the case studies included were invaluable.  There are three.  The first about rape culture.  The second about enhancing the validity of clinical trials with Asian-American patients.  The third case study took up gender inequality in the workplace. 

Throughout the chapter, the authors used simple visuals (squares inside of or relationship to other squares)--so simple, but very effective. 

I appreciated the caveats or cautions the authors offered.  Here is one that stood out:
In addition, pursuing a qualitatively driven MMMR design also requires new research skills and resources, and here it behooves researchers to being to question the extent to which they may need to retool their research skills or approach their project with a team of differently skilled researchers (18) [the emphasis is the authors]
 I can't wait to see how the concerns we encountered in the discussion of these articles translate into the future dissertations that will come out of this group. 

The full reference is:

Hesse-Biber, S. & Burke Johnson, R. (Eds.) (2015).  The Oxford Handbook of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research Inquiry.  Oxford University Press. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Reading Deeply: Kindle, Obrist, and Ways of Curating

I have been experimenting, slowly over many months, with the notes function of Kindle.  I wasn’t quite sure how it would work for me to read full books digitally, to highlight as my form of taking notes, and to import into other forms.  It was all fuzzy for me.  I tried out different aspects, moving carefully, and, interestingly, without reverting to “Google It!” to solve the problem or give me an overview. 

Reading digitally in the kindle is important to me because the time is already upon us when there may not be a paper form.  I was also concerned about the 10% limit on highlighted sections for export rule.  Would I capture enough for my purposes?  A third concern was, how was I going to keep a sense of the whole, the chapter structure in which the quotes were embedded? 

Obrist’s Ways of Curating was the first text where I really went to town with the highlighter and have now imported the notes.  Here are some things I learned.

1.       Go ahead and save in the html format, because there is an option for editing in Word 2016.  It works.

2.      The highlights will be in embedded in the chapter format—the chapter headings will be there.

3.      You can also highlight the table of contents and it will save at the beginning (but in a long line of text like a single sentence). 

4.      In the digital version you can see the top places others have highlighted—I, therefore, didn’t highlight there, but if it is something you want, go ahead and do it also so you can bring it into your notes. 

5.      Reading the captured highlights is similar and different to reading the larger text.  It’s like an out-of-body experience.  Reminds me of how people quote/place quotes everywhere today.  We are “quote crazy”. 

My next possibilities for using this text was to import to NVivo if I were going to use it in a particular study…and eventually export to Endnote with the reference.  This is overkill until I have a specific use for it.   

In my next blog post I will share selected quotes from the Obrist reading to give you a sense of what all the quoteness feels like. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Label and Shame: Donald Trump Illustrates a Common American Trait

[This was an op-ed piece that was not accepted, which I wrote during the Presidential Primaries shortly after Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly of Fox News had a well-publicized encounter during a primary debate.  I was connecting the dots between the research I had done that appeared in Sexting:  Gender and Teens (Sense Publications 2016) and the Donald Trump’s behavior towards women.  My thanks to June Lemon of the Center for Women and Work at UMass Lowell for her editing and suggestions.]

At the first Republican debate, news reporter Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump about the names he had called women in the past, including “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”  His response to Kelly’s question about negative labels was to  shoot back hard at her, claiming the questions were inappropriate, blaming political correctness, and later referring to the blood coming out of her eyes and her wherever.” 

I was not surprised by “the Donald’s” use of what I would term the “label and shame technique” for controlling women.   In a recent study on teen sexting in which I took part, I discovered that “label and shame” is alive and well across the United States.   If anything, when Donald Trump labels women with negative and hurtful names and then tries to shame them into the behavior he wants from them, he is behaving more, rather than less, like most Americans.   

In Sexting: Gender and Teens (2014), I describe both how fear of negative labels and shaming are integral to the way girls navigate friends and intimates during high school and how other people  — boys and adults — use these techniques to manipulate them. 

In hundreds of pages of transcribed interviews with teens, caregivers, and educators and others who work with teens in three different regions of the United States, we found broad evidence of the application of  negative and demeaning terms like whore, slut, easy, tramp, bus, and flip to describe a girl who would engage in sexting: the digital exchange of textual or visual material with sexual content. 

On the other hand, there are no negative terms applied to boys who engage in sexting.  Instead boys were considered hapless or victims of circumstance, perhaps even gaining stature and bragging rights through involvement in sexting.  As Abraham, a young man, pointed out:  “It’s like a competition with guys.” 

Bethany, a high school age teen in Ohio explained the difference in this way:  “I feel …it’s another one of those things where it’s a …double standard, like if girls have sex with a bunch of dudes, they’re a ho [whore], but if guys have sex with a bunch of girls, like oh, I got it in with this girl…then you’re cool, like oh, man, you’re a pimp.” 

The shaming of a girl, according to youth,  is done not only by those closest to her (parental anger and peer rejection and humiliation), but will also be perpetrated by adults, such as teachers at her school or the parents of friends who will look down on her and no longer allow her to continue friendship with their child.  Carolyn (another teenager quoted in the study) stated, “They’re going to have like a reputation from all the adults that they’re not going to want their kids hanging out around them because of it.”

Youth attitudes about gender and sexting are contextualized by adult attitudes.  Adults in our study, whether consciously or unconsciously, consistently pointed to or blamed girls for sexual changes in our society.  Often the rush to blame girls for social changes are attached to a nostalgic notion of a golden age when girls knew how to behave.  This quote from a parent sums it up:

It used to be that the boys were kind of potty mouths, and the girls always needed to appear prim and proper.  Now, what I’ve seen on Facebook, the girls could make some of those guys blush.

It is galling to think that despite the many political, legal, and economic changes that have taken place in regard to women’s rights, women continue to be constrained by the shaping practices of labelling and shaming.  These negative discourses apply labels such as whore, slut, dog, or fat pig to women who misbehave.  These negative discourses surround young people with talk about the way girls or women bear considerable responsibility for the negative changes that have led toward a more sexual and less moral society. 

So as troublesome as some may find “the Donald’s” label and shame tactics, we may need to look more closely at our own behavior and at the ways we discuss and discipline boys and girls in regard to gendered differences.  We also need to show that labelling and shaming has consequences: the disinvitation of Mr. Trump from a conservative activist conference was a step in the right direction.

For more information on the book: 








Saturday, September 24, 2016

Adding Qualitative Research to the Classic Research Design Course

This week I had so much fun at my institution, UMass Lowell!  I got to teach the qualitative research component of our classic research design course in the Graduate School of education.  I had 10 so-called research newbies in front of me, and it was my job to give them their first real taste of my passion--qualitative research. 

Why is this such a big deal, you ask?  Well, let me explain.  At my institution and at many others around the world, there is an introduction to research course that anchors all the other social science research training, which is supposed to give students a taste of all the possible flavors of research coming up in their doctoral program.  Most of these classes, however, are taught by people with deep roots in positivist perspectives, using textbooks that emphasize positive perspectives.  I am sorry if this sounds like over simplification to some, but that's what my experience has been.  Their interaction with qualitative research has been limited--and they tend to see it as affirming or instrumental, but not as a creative component in and of it own right, nor do they usually have a very complex view of the paradigmatic issues that burden methodological approaches. 

However, having launched the Research Methods and Program Evaluation in Education Ph.D. program, our little faculty has been meeting and discussing these issues with real openness...and the result was that my colleague who teaches our Introductory Research Course invited me in to teach the two weeks devoted specifically to qualitative research.  Last week was the first week of the two-week experiment.  

Selfishly I used it to introduce materials I am developing about the historical beginnings of qualitative research, the chronologies we use to describe its beginnings, and the plethora of research kinds that we now face about a century and a half since those first anthropologists and sociologists were beginning to take lay out the foundations of the field.  An interesting exercise I shared was this table of kinds of research taken from the indexes of four qualitative research textbooks on my shelf. 

Research Kinds In Qualitative Research:  J. Davidson    Derived from the Indexes of these texts. 

Patton, M. (2015).  Qualitative research and evaluation methods: Integrating theory and practice (4th ed.).  Sage Publications.
Savin-Baden, M. & Major, C. (2013).  Qualitative research: The essential guide to theory and practice.  Routledge:  New York. 
Hays, D. & Singh, A. (2012).  Qualitative inquiry in clinical and educational settings.  The Guildford Press:  New York. 
Punch, K. & Oancea, A. (2014) Introduction to Research methods in Education.  (2nd ed.) Sage Publications. 
Action Research
Embodied Ethnography
Case Studies
Collaborative/Participatory Research
Education action research
Empowerment Evaluation
Ethnographic futures research
Applied Ethnography (anthropology)
Narrative Ethnography
Organizational Ethnography
Public Ethnography
Virtual Ethnography
Grounded Theory
Indigeneous Research
Interactive Inquiry
Mixed Methods
Narrative Inquiry
Pragmatic qualitative inquiry
Qualitative inquiry
Symbolic Interactionism
Action research
Critical/emancipatory action research
Pragmatic action research
Participatory action research
Arts-based case studies
Arts-informed inquiry
Case study
Discourse analysis
Feminist theory
Democratic evaluation
Grounded theory
Life course research
Narrative research
Naturalistic inquiry
Participatory Action Research
Pragmatic qualitative research
Symbolic interactionism
Action Research
Participatory Action Research
Applied Research
Autobiographical case study
Biographical case study
Case study                       
Life Histories
Collective case study
Critical theory
Dialectical hermeneutics
Discourse analysis
Femininst research
Grounded theory
Mixed methods
Narrative analysis
Symbolic Interaction
Action research
Critical action research
Participatory action research
Case studies
Critical discourse analysis
Discourse analysis
Grounded theory
Constructivist grounded theory
Mixed methids research
Narrative analysis
Naturalistic research
Phenomenological Analysis
Qualitative research
Symbolic interactionism

Looks pretty daunting, right?  And this is not the sum total of kinds of research one could list--there are many more out there. 

My cry to the field is--isn't it about time that we started talking about the principles of qualitative research and started looking at these kinds of research as talking points in an ongoing conversation about those principles? 

Onward and upward--I can't wait for next week's class:  data collection and analysis and QDAS!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dear David Sedaris: A Fan Letter With Some Advice about Qualitative Data Analysis Software

Dear David Sedaris:  I am a longtime fan of your writing.  I love the way you can zip together a non-fiction essay.  You keep me laughing about those all too human failings we all have. 

On a recent couple of days out of town, I picked up a hard copy of your book—Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.  I guess it’s not important that it’s hard copy, but I so seldom read anything in that form anymore that it seems important to me, but not to get off-track with needless details. 

It was interesting to read about your early experiences with speed.  I am glad to hear you and Hugh have found a great place outside of London.  I don’t envy you all the travel you have to do to promote your books—book tours sound like an awful lot of work.  Luckily, none of my books have been that popular, and I haven’t had to grapple with this challenge nor do I anticipate such will be in my future. 

The essay that really struck my fancy was “Day In Day Out” (pg 225-237), where you describe how you keep your writer’s journal.  I loved it!!  Now, this may be in part due to the fact that I am a bit of a nerdy qualitative researcher.  As a group, we are kind of stuck on journals, memos, observations, recording daily life in small villages, things like that, and I seem to have a quite a bad obsession with this.

Be that as it may, you just made me tingle when you wrote about the notebooks you’ve been writing in since 1977.  I sighed when you described how they had evolved over the years—yes, I am sure they improved when you were not on speed.  But the part that really had me drooling was when you talked about INDEXING the volumes of the journal.  My heart began to beat faster, and I couldn’t put the book down.  Here is a great passage.

“Over a given three-month period, there may be fifty bits worth noting, and six that, with a little work, I might consider reading out loud.  Leafing through the index, which now numbers 280 pages, I note how my entries have changed over the years…”  (pg 232)

When I finished the whole thing, I said to myself, “WOW!!  He is doing all of this without Qualitative Data Analysis Software.  This is all by hand, so to speak.  He could do so much if he would shift to QDAS”. 

Yes, QDAS—pronounced like “Cute Ass”.  You got it. 

QDAS is a class of software created by and for qualitative researchers that allows you to create your own indexes for your texts.  You can search, extract, and compare those texts just willy-nilly using the codes you assign to the bits and pieces of your text. 

I even tried something like this myself with my personal journals (see blog entries related to “The Journal Project”).  Using a tool like this would make you so much more efficient in looking for and using those great memories you are storing away—like this wonderful item on page 231--“Volume 87, 5/15: Lisa puts a used Kotex through the wash, and her husband mistakes it for a shoulder pad.”  You could code this under “Lisa” and/or “husband”.  I might make a code for “Kotex”, with a sub-code for “used”….  Then later I could search for all the possible combinations.  As you can see, limitless opportunity awaits you.

If you want to go further with these ideas, please feel free to contact me.  I am ready, able, and willing to help you get your data into good shape using QDAS.  In the meantime, good luck with your manual methods. 

And, again, thank you for all the great essays.


P.S.  If there are any other authors out there who work like Mr. Sedaris—see me for a good time.  QDAS awaits you! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Blogging about Teaching Qualitative Research

[Back in my archives of things I meant to upload to the blog, I found these two entries about teaching qualitative research.  I’ve mashed them together here for simplicity’s sake.  Surprise, surprise, they are now two years old…and I’ve switched from the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 assignment strategy to something called Specifications Grading that I will have to describe at another time.]

Teaching Qualitative Research

I have been teaching Qualitative Research to doctoral students, officially since 1998.  I teach it unofficially to everyone else, whatever I am doing. 

If qualitative research is supporting people to inquire with whatever is available, where ever you are, then I am your woman.  I wallow in the data they bring to me; I chortle at the theoretical quandaries that one can spin within this paradigm; and I laugh heartily at the storms that come with the use of qualitative research software.  Give me your best, your worst, I am ready for it! 

This semester my qualitative research class is on Tuesdays, and I look forward to the full day.  I am teaching across the day from preparation and grading to developing assignments and, finally, teaching. 

Teaching qualitative research is so much fun that I hesitate to call it teaching.  It’s been well over a decade, but it still is not old.  But yes, it has been changing all along.  Qualitative research has changed as the world changes.  Tonight we will be discussing some of those changes—the dilemma of research strategies or frameworks.  My students will grapple with the meaning of those tried and true categories that everyone thinks doctoral students should know—case study, ethnography, grounded theory, and phenomenology—but they will also learn about others that may not be so much in the news (arts-based research, narrative analysis, or action research). 

Today is a big paper day, for part of the session, which means we will get out big pieces of chart paper and markers—and students will work visually to create ways to share what they have learned about these kinds of research.  Working visually is a powerful way to create mnemonics that the entire class can refer to as the discussion moves forward.  

At the end of today’s class, a group of my students are going to go off with some articles about new ways of looking at the dilemma of how to say what kind of qualitative research one is using and will report back to us next week on what they learn.  The problem of qualitative research frameworks (what to call what and why) has been bugging me for some time, and I hope their upcoming discussion gives me new ideas on the problem. 

I’m experimenting with a new kind of assignment in both of my classes; 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.  Assignments are given out each week to 1/3 of the class.  Assignments are different every week as the class pushes forward in to new topics.  The assignments come back in a week, which means I am grading 1/3 of the group at a time—much more manageable.  We use the assignments as review and extenders for the beginning of the next session.  In this way, more students get more attention from me, have more experience presenting to the group and reviewing their ideas, and I think I really like how this is evolving. 

Last week’s assignment turned out to be an excellent one—I won’t forget this one—interview someone who finished or is about to finish a doctoral dissertation in qualitative research; ask them a set of questions about the process (which I provided), and report back to us in a short paper.  The papers have been very interesting, and I will bet the interviewee also enjoyed the conversation.  It was a good way for doctoral students to get an introduction to the process of the qualitative research dissertation.  Nothing is ever as good as hearing it from someone who has done it. 

Off to teach! 

[10/2014—I continue to think with issues related to the class.]

Blasting Qualitative Research Kinds Out of the Water

Today in my qualitative research class, several students will be reporting on articles that take up the topsy-turvey world of what is called:  research kinds, research strategies, research frameworks—and probably a number of other names.  This is a follow-up to last week’s class where we looked at a number of these from grounded theory and case study to ethnography, narrative analysis, pragmatic qualitative research, and a couple dozen more. 

If you haven’t noticed—in the last two decades, qualitative research textbooks have been getting heavier and heavier around the middle.  They have been adding pages and pages every edition in the section on research kinds.  It’s not pretty.  Indeed, I think is distorting the picture of qualitative research for beginners—its key issues and concerns. 

I had gathered a number of articles on this issue...and then Norman Denzin put out his most recent edition of Qualitative Inquiry (20, 6) with a number of papers making powerful critiques of this same issue.  So, today is a kind of festival of articles on the contradictions that are emerging regarding research kinds in qualitative research. 

There are five papers being discussed today, and each paper has a paper written about it by a student in the class.  These five represent 1/3 of the class...the other 2/3’s get to listen and enjoy this week.  I’ll share some of the highlights the students raise in these short and pithy papers. 

Lauren read Paul Atkinson’s 2005 paper—Qualitative Research:  Unity and Diversity—in FQS 6(3), Art 26.  Atkinson is one of the earlier voices being raised on this issue.  She says he “identifies several limitations both on how qualitative data is collected and how it is analyzed.”  In particular, she noted his concerns about the overuse of the interview, and the need across many forms of qualitative research study to attend to the issue of context.  Lauren picks up on the critique in Atkinson’s work of the American dominated theoretical arguments that may not reflect the European concerns or other world regions. 

Jeanne selected the introduction to the Qualitative Inquiry issue mentioned above, an article by E. St. Pierre and her colleague A. Jackson.  Jeanne provides a cogent description of the St. Pierre/Jackson critique of coding, as it has been presented for many years, as a kind of pseudo-scientific algorhythm that will make qualitative research more trustworthy in the eyes of a quantitative establishment.  She points to some of the very challenging questions these two authors (and other authors in the special edition) are raising:  Should all interview data be judged equally worthy?  Can you analyze data without coding?  Should theory or question be required to step up and take a more dominant role?

Douglas, Kathleen, and Danielle dove into the special issue and read pieces by the contributing authors.  Their papers help to put flesh on the overviews described above. 

Douglas investigated Holbrook and Pourchier’s “Collage as Analysis: Remixing in the crisis”—sharing those three fascinating characteristics of the approach—hoarding, mustering, and folding/unfolding/refolding. Kathleen takes us into Murphy’s “Living in a post-Coding World: Analysis as Assemblage”and the notion of rhizomatic where “concept/data interrelationships are considered horizontal in nature, heterogeneous, and resistant to hierarchical categorizations” (Kathleen—that is heavy!)...Danielle’s review of Brinkman’s “Doing without data” is bringing us into new thinking about abduction and the pragmatic notion of ‘the situation’ as a way to get our heads out of the old research framework notions. 

Thank you all for the articles on the articles.  As I look across the different authors and their arguments, I can say that I really think there is a there...there.  In other words, they are on to something important.  There is a shaking and shuddering going on out there within the qualitative research community.  We are not happy with these muffin-top textbooks with their gigantic inflated center sections on research kinds—it’s gone too far! 

The critique of research kinds emerges from a variety of corners of the qualitative research world—we notice we are focusing on words (interviews) at the expense of context; we notice that one small part of the world is dominating the discussion; we notice that the ways we actually conduct interpretation differ considerably from the descriptions we were taught...and that we continue to teach others.  It all screams for a new kind of congruence.  I think this is the challenge ahead of us in the field.

Thanks to my great students who have begun the discussion, and I hope will continue to engage with it.