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. 

1 comment:

trena paulus said...

I love her book, and she was kind enough to be a guest speaker in my digital tools class! (p.s. I found your blog! : )