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July 2017

But How Do I *Do* Qualitative Research? Bridging the Gap between Qualitative Researchers and Methods Resources--PART 2

Mandy kicked off our 4-part blog series last week with an inaugural post that provided background and context for this project, which centers around a specific challenge faced by many qualitative researchers: lack of qualitative methods training.  This post offers some concrete ideas to data-support professionals on how to leverage library collections and other information sources that direct researchers to secondary and tertiary sources on qualitative methods to address this issue.

Possibly the most basic yet high-impact way to bridge the gap between researchers and qualitative methods is to create a LibGuide—or any other online research guide or pathfinder—dedicated to qualitative research resources.  It can be embedded within an existing resource, such as a library’s Data Services page or a course-specific guide, or it can exist as an independent guide unto itself.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: when faced with an instructional or research need, a librarian’s knee-jerk reaction is often, “Let’s make a LibGuide!”  While research guides aren’t necessarily appropriate for every topic or service we provide as information and data specialists (i.e., LibGuides aren’t a panacea, per se), they can be a useful didactic medium for culling and delivering information and resources specific to qualitative research methods.   

Online research guides, like LibGuides, allow researchers to benefit from the guidance and expertise of a data-support professional in an autonomous, self-paced manner.  This type of learning object is well-suited for researchers who fit the profile Mandy described in her introductory post for this series: those who aren’t getting formal qualitative methods training and need to get up to speed quickly on their own, and/or researchers with varying degrees of qualitative methods knowledge and experience who would like a set of materials, sources, and resources to which they can refer back periodically.  The portability of a LibGuide also makes it convenient for use by data-support professionals in mediated settings, such as consultations or instruction sessions.  And at institutions where demand for research methods and tools training outstrips an individual or staff’s capacity to provide one-on-one or even course-embedded support, a LibGuide can solve the scalability problem for a large and diverse set of needs (although, obviously, not all of them).  Lastly, LibGuides aren’t just for researchers; they also serve to assist colleagues and fellow information and data specialists in providing reference and research services at an institution (and beyond) and are an effective tool for cross-training.  This last point is relevant especially for fairly specialized, niche areas of expertise, like qualitative research methods.

 A number of qualitative research guides already exist and are worth checking out (e.g., Duke University Libraries’ guide on Qualitative Research by Linda Daniel, UCSF Library’s Qualitative Research Guide by Evans Whitaker).  Below are some suggestions for content to include—with a focus on resources related to learning about qualitative methods—if one were to consider creating anew or building on an existing qualitative research guide.

Select bibliography of relevant literature

A centralized bibliography, or simply citations/links dispersed throughout a guide, can be useful in directing users to relevant secondary and tertiary sources to learn more about qualitative research methods.  Citations to the following literature types may be appropriate to include:  

As a companion, it may be useful to link to relevant catalogs and social-sciences databases to search for additional literature and research.  However, not all catalogs and bibliographic databases index research methods, and even those that do often don’t index qualitative methods with appropriate granularity.  Thus, it may be necessary to provide tips on how best to search for studies that employ qualitative methods (e.g., NYU Libraries’ guide on Locating Qualitative Research by Susan Jacobs).  This way, a guide delivers select sources but also teaches users how to find additional methods-related sources themselves.

Links to subscription-based resources

There are a number of specialized library databases designed for quick reference and/or in-depth, self-guided learning, and these serve as rich fonts of information about qualitative methods.  Three possible resources that fit this bill are:   

  • Credo Reference
    While not specific to research methods, Credo is a multidisciplinary, searchable collection of digitized reference works (e.g., dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks) that provide helpful background information on a topic but also act as springboards to connect users to further readings and cross-references.  Credo can serve as a good starting point for researchers looking to learn more about qualitative methods in general or about a particular methodology.   
  • Sage Research Methods Online (SRM)
    SRM is an online multimedia collection devoted to research methods (qualitative and quantitative), with a special emphasis on research skills training.  It includes e-versions of SAGE’s Little Blue Books, an instructional series on qualitative research methods, as well as many other searchable, full-text interdisciplinary SAGE reference and journal sources that allow users to deep-dive into a particular method at each stage of the research lifecycle.  SRM also provides resources for teaching qualitative methods, including case studies, sample datasets, and instructional videos.

  • Oxford Bibliographies Online (OBO)
    OBO offers access to online, peer-reviewed, annotated bibliographies that are organized by discipline and are written by experts in their fields.  One can find entire bibliographies or portions of a bibliography dedicated to qualitative methods in a given field of social science (e.g., sociology, political science) or to a particular qualitative methodology (e.g., anthropology, education).  This makes OBO a good source of information for discipline-specific qualitative research methods.  

In addition to researchers, these resources can be indispensible to data-support professionals who are asked to consult on research projects using qualitative methods outside their own specializations, or who are asked to consult with researchers who sit in (or between) disciplines with which they are less familiar or comfortable.

List of professional development and ongoing learning opportunities

Researchers who are new to a qualitative research method may want to learn more about it in an interactive manner beyond (or in lieu of) the classroom.  Opportunities to do so are plentiful and varied, and may take the following forms:

I hope you have enjoyed my suggestions in this post!  They are by no means exhaustive.  I would love to here what you think, what you would add, or what you’re already using on your guides to address the qualitative methods gap discussed in this series of blog posts.  

We welcome comments here, emails to the IASSIST listserv, the QSSHDIG google group, or directly to the authors, and/or comments in this “Blog Conversations” doc embedded in the QSSHDIG website. Also, there's a section at the bottom of the "Blog Conversations" doc for suggesting future QSSDHIG posts - please do!

Stayed tuned for Part 3 of our blog series next week when Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh will share ideas for developing and providing training resources in collaboration with faculty and academic departments that are mindful of the qualitative methods gap.

But How Do I *Do* Qualitative Research? Bridging the Gap between Qualitative Researchers and Methods Resources

The IASSIST Qualitative Social Science & Humanities Data Interest Group (QSSHDIG) was created in October 2016, its central purpose: to foster conversations regarding the needs of researchers who generate qualitative data, and what types of services librarians and other information professionals can develop to support these researchers in managing their data/source materials throughout the research lifecycle.

This four-post blog series engages in one particular conversation: challenges researchers face in terms of a lack of qualitative methods training, and strategies for how data-support professionals can address these challenges. The following QSSHDIG members are the series authors:

  • Jill Conte, Social Sciences Librarian at New York University
  • Liz Cooper, Social Sciences Librarian at the University of New Mexico
  • Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh, Social Sciences Librarian at Georgia State University

To foster conversation, we welcome comments here, emails to the IASSIST listserv, the QSSHDIG google group, or directly to the authors, and/or comments in this “Blog Conversations” doc embedded in the QSSHDIG website. Also, there's a section at the bottom of the "Blog Conversations" doc for suggesting future QSSDHIG posts - please do!

Why have this conversation?

Many social science researchers (students and faculty alike) are increasingly conducting qualitative research while lacking formal training in qualitative methods. This may be due to various factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • their particular discipline does not widely embrace qualitative research,
  • their discipline just recently began emphasizing mixed methods (using qualitative and quantitative methods) when previously it was predominantly quantitative-based,
  • they are in an interdisciplinary academic program without a strong research methods training component.

Those of us who offer training sessions on qualitative data analysis software (such as NVivo, Atlas.ti, Quirkos, or Dedoose) often experience researchers coming to these sessions without the methodological background to *do* qualitative research or understand what the software can/cannot do for them - sometimes hoping that the software will have the “magic button” to solve their lack of training. Similarly, as social science liaison librarians we often witness this qualitative methods gap during our research consultations. Although this dilemma of lack of methods training is not unique to qualitative research (i.e., researchers lacking quantitative research training are known to attend statistical software training sessions), when compared to their quantitative counterparts, qualitative researchers often have less resources for support and for building necessary skills.

The three posts in the remainder of this blog series will offer concrete strategies for how data-support professionals can act as bridges between social science researchers and the resources they need to strengthen their qualitative research and methodologies skills:

  • Jill Conte’s post will offer suggestions for connecting researchers with secondary and tertiary sources for qualitative research training. [to be posted Monday, July 24] 
  • Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh’s post will share ideas for developing and providing training resources in collaboration with faculty and academic departments that are mindful of this methods gap. [to be posted Monday, July 31] 
  • Liz Cooper’s post will address how librarians and other data-support professionals can help build community at their institutions around qualitative research. [to be posted Monday, August 7] 

IQ Volume 40 Issue 3 now available

Issue 40(3) is now online at http://www.iassistdata.org/iq/issue/40/3.

Editor’s Notes

Being international - and proud of it!

IASSIST is proud of being international. These days some us of find it important to emphasize how international collaboration has improved and made our lives more efficient. In the small but around-the-globe-reaching world of IASSIST, many national data archives have come into existence as well as continuing their development, through friendly international support and spreading of knowledge and good practices among IASSISTers. So let us cherish the 'International' in IASSIST. We are proud of the lead 'I' for 'International' in the IASSIST acronym and have no intention of changing that to 'N' for 'National'. It is also my impression that data archives all over the world simply don't have the facilities for storing 'alternative facts' as they are shy of all kinds of documentation.

Welcome to the third issue of Volume 40 of the IASSIST Quarterly (IQ 40:3, 2016). Four papers with authors from three continents are presented in this issue. The paper 'Demonstrating Repository Trustworthiness through the Data Seal of Approval' is a summary of a panel session at the IASSIST 2015 conference in Minneapolis with panel members Stuart Macdonald, Ingrid Dillo, Sophia Lafferty-Hess, Lynn Woolfrey, and Mary Vardigan. The paper has an introduction from DANS in the Netherlands where the Data Seal of Approval (DSA) originated. Cases from the US and South Africa are presented and the future of the DSA including possible harmonization with other systems is discussed. DSA certifications are basically consumer guidance, clearly assisting all the involved parties. Depositors and funding bodies will be assured that data are reliably stored, researchers can reliably access the data repositories, and repositories are supported in their work of archiving and distribution of data.

The second article brings us to the actual use of data. From the UK Data Service, Rebecca Parsons and Scott Summers in 'The Role of Case Studies in Effective Data Sharing, Reuse and Impact' take us into positive narratives around secondary data. The background is that although the publishing of data is now recognised by funders, the authors find that ‘showcasing’ brings motivation for data sharing and reuse as well as improving the quality of data and documentation. The impact of case studies is all-sided and research, depositing data, and the brand recognition of the UK Data Service are among the areas investigated. The future is likely to include new case studies developed for use in teaching in schools, with easy linking to datasets, as well as for researchers being assisted to build their own portfolios. The appendix presents case studies on research and impact.

In the third article, we are situated in data creation. Muhammad F. Bhuiyan and Paula Lackie from Carleton College in Minnesota write on 'Mitigating Survey Fraud and Human Error: Lessons Learned from A Low Budget Village Census in Bangladesh'. As the 'fraud' term implies, they are looking into the problem of data creators being too creative, but more importantly they are investigating the essential area of data quality. The authors explain how selected technological assets like the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and audio-capturing smart pens improved data quality. The use of these tools is exemplified through many scenarios described in the paper. Furthermore, a procedure of daily monitoring and fast transcription lead to quick surveyor re-training and dismissal of others, thus minimising data errors. For those interested in false data and its detection, the introduction in particular has valuable references to literature.

In the last paper the difficult task of handling images is addressed in 'Image Management as a Data Service' by Berenica Vejvoda, K. Jane Burpee, and Paula Lackie. Vejvoda and Burpee work at McGill University in Montreal. You have already met Lackie from Carleton College in relation to the third paper above. The 'images' in the article are digital images, and the authors suggest that the knowledge of digital data services across the 'research data lifecycle' also benefits the management of digital images. Digital images are numerical data, and the article compares the data, metadata, and paradata of a survey respondent to the information on a digital image. Considerations from normal data concerning system formats and storage space also apply to management of images. In the last section the paper introduces copyright issues that are complicated, to say the least. Just as reuse of normal data can have ethical angles, it is even more apparent that images can have complicated issues of privacy and confidentiality.

Papers for the IASSIST Quarterly are always very welcome. We welcome input from IASSIST conferences or other conferences and workshops, from local presentations or papers especially written for the IQ. When you are preparing a presentation, give a thought to turning your one-time presentation into a lasting contribution. We permit authors 'deep links' into the IQ as well as deposition of the paper in your local repository. Chairing a conference session with the purpose of aggregating and integrating papers for a special issue IQ is also much appreciated as the information reaches many more people than the session participants, and will be readily available on the IASSIST website at http://www.iassistd ata.org.

Authors are very welcome to take a look at the instructions and layout: http://iassistdata.org/iq/instructions-authors

Authors can also contact me via e-mail: kbr@sam.sdu.dk. Should you be interested in compiling a special issue for the IQ as guest editor(s) I will also be delighted to hear from you.

Karsten Boye Rasmussen

January 2017

Editor

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