This workshop aims to introduce participants to qualitative research and its uses across the social and human sciences in the widest sense (including in interdisciplinary fields where qualitative research is quite new). The focus will be on qualitative-interpretive methods that emphasise social processes of construction of meaning (and related struggles over interpretive hegemony), whether at the individual, organisational or cultural level. However, the workshop is open to all interested participants, regardless of their epistemological or theoretical orientation.
Participants with little or no prior knowledge of qualitative research methods should, by the end of the workshop, have a fair idea of whether qualitative research is of interest to them, and if yes, how to go about thinking about their own qualitative research. Participants who already have some background in qualitative research will have an opportunity to expand their methodological horizon by thinking beyond the most widely used qualitative methods (such as qualitative interviewing), and also beyond research "techniques": indeed, the focus in this workshop will not be on the technical aspects of methodology (important as they are to ensure good quality data), but on understanding the "spirit" and logic of qualitative research, including in its ethical and practical complexities.
The workshop starts with a general introduction to the field of qualitative(-interpretive) research (its specificities, theoretical bases, typical types of research questions and research designs), before zooming in more specificially on the main types of data that qualitative researchers engage with ('natural' vs generated data; primary vs secondary data) and the specific challenges related to each of them, whether practical, epistemological or ethical. In this context, we will discuss a number of approaches to data collection, namely approaches based on questioning people in some way (such as semi-structured or biographic interviewing, open questions in questionnaires, focus group interviewing, etc.); observing people and settings (whether as a participant or a non participant observer (ethnography, shadowing, etc.), or as an indirect observer (diary research etc.); or collecting documentary data (through archives, on-line data etc.). Our general aim will be to grasp how we can make meaningful choices of data collection strategies and instruments (cf. Rich/Ginsburg 1999, McDonald/Simpson 2014 and Welch 2000, required readings).
In this context, we will also discuss issues of research design and process in qualitative research – in particular the iterative nature of the research process and how this impacts on the practicalities of research, and the efficient and context-sensitive use of "theory" in this kind of research. We will also need to address issues of power at various levels (such as the relationship between the researcher and the researched; issues of overresearch, participatory research, etc.). (cf. Clark 2008, Kriesi 1992, required readings).