Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Qualitative Research Play Day: Mission Accomplished!

In Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, Mole, an earth dweller who is fleeing from his own spring cleaning, meets Rat, a river dweller, who is only too happy to wax lengthily and eagerly about the joys of messing around the river—on the river, in the river, anything to do with the river. 

Well, today was a day like that for a couple of us qualitative researchers on the UMass Lowell campus.  Like Ratty, we were only too happy to be messing around with our qualitative research data and tools, talking about it, reminiscing about projects and design.  Oh the glory of having such a wonderful, relaxing Play Day with Qualitative Research. 

The occasion was the workshop titled:  Help!!  I’ve got a boatload of qualitative research data—and don’t know what to do with it.  My compliments for the great title, which was supplied by fellow UMass Lowell faculty member Doreen Arcus of the Psychology Department.  It speaks to the circumstances so many of us face, whether you are a full-time qualitative researcher, part-time or accidentally-backed-into-it-unexpectedly qualitative researcher.  So little time, so much good qualitative data all around! 

Our day had some structure, but a lot of open-endedness.  As the leader of the day, I wasn’t sure what kind of qualitative research needs would land on my doorstep.  For that reason, I always plan to spend a lot of time up-front—listening to participants.  The questions I have for them are about:  the data, their knowledge of QR, their knowledge of QDAS and other digital tools, and what do they want to accomplish?  We create our goals from our answers to these questions.

Today, we spent a good amount of time thinking about QDAS (Qualitative Data Analysis Software—namely NVivo) and how it would help to organize a study and the different data that could be used with the tool.  A particular interest that emerged was the ways Endnote and NVivo could be worked together to make life easier for any researcher.

One of the participants has spent many years developing a professional literature database organized in Excel.  We realized it could be imported into NVivo and used productively there with qualitative research projects to be developed.  It could also be exported from NVivo into Endnote for use as part of a shared library.  Thank you Sarah Marks of the UMass Lowell Library for helping us with the Endnote ideas.  This is just one example of the kind of problem-solving for which Play Days are good. 

Thanks also to Shanna Thompson, administrator for the Center for Program Evaluation, who joined us and shared with us, as well as the Faculty Development Center people who also supported the workshop. 

For the full text of the Wind in the Willows—I just discovered Wikisource!! 


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