This is the first of many article reviews that I’m going to be posting on my blog. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I have to write reflections on the different articles I read as part of a masters program. Instead of keeping these reflections to myself, I have decided to share one article reflection per week. This week’s reflection is from a chapter on qualitative research.
When I realized that the first reading was one dealing with research, I thought to myself, “Oh great. The first one has to be the most boring.” I’m guessing that if you’re anything like me, the word ‘research’ falls into the ‘four letter word’ category. When I think about doing research, I think about sitting in a room in the library, florescent bulb buzzing just loud enough to be annoying, with an arsenal of boring books that my eyes seem to want to protect my brain from because they keep on closing every time I try to read them.
When I read this chapter from a book about qualitative research (sounds like the ultimate torture right? Doing research on research…yikes) – surprisingly, my views on research started to change. The introduction from The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research by Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln was a surprisingly engaging and inspirational read.
The authors describe qualitative research as:
A situated activity that locates the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible. These practices transform the world…Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials – case study; personal experience; introspection; life story; interview; artifacts; cultural texts and productions; observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts – that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives” (p.36,37).
This makes sense to me, and more, this is what I want to do. I want to transform the world. If doing research is one of the ways I can do this, then maybe this is something I need to consider more seriously.
In this chapter there are two metaphors describing researching that really stood out to me: researching as filmmaking and researching as montage. Both of these images have important things to say about researching. The process of creating films or a montage requires many different shots, perspectives, and sounds that are edited and then put together in a way that makes sense. In the same way, qualitative research takes many different forms of information gathering and then, through the process of analysis and interpretation, pieces them together to create a deeper understanding about the topic, question, or inquiry that was the focus of the research. Although the idea of research seems cold and dispassionate, the aesthetic of putting together a film or montage is something that appeals to me.
The process of using many different forms of data collection to inform your research is called triangulation which “reflects an attempt to secure an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon in question” (p.5). It is the “simultaneous display of multiple, refracted realities” (p.6). Although qualitative research is at it’s heart a subjective process (which is why it is often scoffed at by those engaged in quantitative research), triangulation allows for a greater degree of accuracy and objectivity. However, this being said, “qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of reality, the intimate relationship between the researcher and what is studied, and the situational constraints that shape inquiry” (p.10). I appreciate that the authors don’t try to make amends for the subjective nature of qualitative research but see it as offering a deeper, perhaps more honest reflection of reality.
Although this chapter has much more to say about qualitative research, the above mentioned ideas had the greatest impact on me. I personally connect with the idea of research as art; realizing that research is subjective and open to different interpretations breathes life into the process for me. It makes the whole process more authentic. That’s not to say that I won’t strive for objectivity, but it recognizes that my subjective being and perspective is part in parcel in the act of researching. After reading this chapter I felt much more excited about gathering data and starting my inquiry research. I also look forward to sharing this information with you!
Denzin, N.K., and Y.S. Lincoln. ‘Introduction’.
The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research.
US: Sage, 2005 ISBN: 9780761927570, pp. 1 to 32, 32 of 1232 pages.
Copyright: Sage, 2005