This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By Jane Gilgun
Qualitative research requires strong conceptual skills coupled with creativity and imagination. Qualitative researchers require these skills because qualitative approaches represent ways of thinking about what it means to be human beings. As Strauss (1991) wrote about grounded theory, “This is a general way of thinking about analysis and we said so in the discovery book (p. 2).” The “discovery book is The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Bogdan (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007) said something similar about how Blanche Geer (Becker & Geer, 1957; Becker, Geer, & Hughes, 1968; Becker, Geer, Hughes, & Strauss, 1961) taught field research. We were required to do an observation and a corresponding set of notes each week. It was a lot of work. Part of the enjoyment was feeling my mind working in a way it had never worked before. I liked what the process produced. I arranged my week so I could do the work for the seminar. Blanche modeled how to think conceptually. What I got out of her seminar was not the content. She was teaching a way of thinking. I felt right at home….(Gilgun, 1992c, p. 9). Thinking conceptually means to be able understand the complex dimensions of human experiences and to identify concepts that help organize the complexity. The Significance of the Experiences of Others What happened to Bogdan has happened to many qualitative researchers: we become less self-referential and more drawn into the experiences of others. The change does not stop there. We cannot lose our analytic stances even when we participate vicariously in other people’s experiences. We make sense out of the experiences of others in their own terms and our own. We often go through a prolonged period of not knowing as we attempt to understand others.
We position ourselves to think deeply about other persons’ accounts of their experiences if we are to come up with concepts that might organize those experiences and render them communicable to others. Qualitative research is inherently theory-driven because researchers require theoretical concepts in order to understand research material, organize it, and then communicate findings. Not Knowing “Not knowing” means that we wait for evidence to come in before we draw conclusions and, more practically, before we decide upon the concepts that we believe help organize the raw materials of accounts of experience. In addition, we continually look for evidence that adds to, contradicts, and undermines our evolving thinking. This is a multi-layered process that involves shifts in perspectives that happens when try to understand the worlds of others as well as shifts in thinking as we attempt to represent and then interpret our understandings, while all the time being aware of the differences between our experiences and interpretations and those of research participants. As we conduct research in these ways, our worldviews may change. Mine did as I interviewed perpetrators of family and community violence. While committed to social justice and care before I began, I am even more deeply committed in response to what I experienced through this research (Gilgun, 2008; 2010). Other researchers, such as LePlay in the nineteenth century, Wax (1971) and Stack (1974) more than 100 years later reported similar experiences. They were concerned about social injustice before they did their research and took on roles of advocates in response to their research (Gilgun, 1999, in press). An Informed Public Some, while committed to social justice, believed an informed public would take on roles of social change agents, and researchers should not. For instance, Park, an early developer of the principles on which this present paper held this position during his years as a university professor. He railed against women reformists, but he wanted research to contribute to the social good (Bulmer, 1984; Deegan, 1990; 1996). Earlier in his life, he said he had been a muckraking journalist intent on social reform (Park, 1974). Qualitative research, therefore, appeals to researchers who have the conceptual skills that enable them to do credible representations and interpretations of other people’s experiences, and who want to contribute to the social good. Researchers who do other kinds of work may have some of these qualities, but the combination of the four characterizes persons drawn to qualitative research. Ogburn, for example, a leader in moving early social research toward what he thought was objective science, certainly had strong conceptual skills and believed in the power of research, in particular technology and mathematics, to transform society, but his commitment to what he defined as objective science contributed to his rejection of the principles of immersion, vicarious participation in the lives of others, and understanding of complex experiences from informants’ points of view (See Laslett, 1991).
Many of today’s researchers share Ogburn’s ideas about science, objectivity, and quantification, stemming back at least to the ideas Descartes explicated more than 300 years ago (Christians, 2010; Hamilton, 1994). Not For Everyone Not everyone trained in qualitative methods, however, takes to them. O’Connor (2001), in a brief written account of her experiences as a Ph.D. student of Bogdan’s and Biklen’s research methods courses (Bogdan & Biklen, 2008), reported on the six weeks of qualitative methods training in the required first-year methods sequence that Biklen taught at Syracuse University The most striking memory I have from that class was how we as students separated ourselves out. There were those students who just didn’t connect with the process. It was too unclear. Those unknowns, I began learning, was what I loved…I liked and understood the ambiguity, the inquiry, the discovery. The handful of us who went on with the qualitative process began to sit on the same side of the room talking among ourselves and feeling very engaged in the process. Other classmates were frustrated. O’Connor meant by “those of us who went on with the qualitative process” that these were the students who took the optional one-year course of study on qualitative methods that Bogdan taught the following year. O’Connor’s account of her classmates and herself fit well with Dewey’s (1958) observations of other philosophers who rejected the pragmatist emphasis on experience because of its instability and precariousness and the difficulty of understanding it. Perhaps a bit crankily, he wrote that some have abandoned the study of experience and substituted “theoretical security and certainty” (p. xi) (emphasis in original). They prefer, said Dewey, to craft universals, laws of nature, and systems that emphasize unity among entities. They back away from particulars, pluralism, and processes of change. Products of Qualitative Research Qualitative research is worth doing because of the amazing range of products that can result. These products include theories and/or typologies grounded in personal, contextualized interpretations of experience. In addition, qualitative methods yield rich descriptive material that researchers sometimes let stand on its own because of its value in fostering deeper understandings and its capacities to illuminate other similar situations. This descriptive material can also be re-crafted to become items in various types of instruments such as surveys, clinical rating scales, and practice guidelines. Qualitative methods can also be used in concert with experiments and research on direct practice, such as social work, nursing, therapy, counseling, and education, in order to understand how participants experience the interventions. Some qualitative researchers create performances and write songs and poetry that use the words of informants so that audience members can understand other people’s experiences and participate in them imaginatively.
Discussion Over the many years that I have conducted qualitative research, I have been continually taken up with the experience of listening and perhaps understanding how other people experience their own lives. I have been enlightened, delighted, awestruck, and assaulted by the meanings of the narratives they share with me. In the process, I have learned a great deal about myself, my own limitations and possibilities. Above all perhaps, the experience of participating in the lives of others has given to me the desire to share what I have learned not only through scholarly articles and books, but also in essays, poetry, children’s stories, and many other media. I began my career as a qualitative research in the late 1970s because I wanted to understand. I had no idea what I was in for. It has been more wonderful than I could have imagined. I hope that the numbers of qualitative researchers continue to grow. Numbers and surveys are important but if we are to bring about the ideals of democracy that so many people want and have even died for, then qualitative approaches that focus on understanding how human beings actually live their lives have important contributions to make. About the Author Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, is a professor, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA. See Professor Gilgun’s other articles, books, and children’s stories on scribd.com, Amazon Kindle, and iBooks for a variety of e-readers and mobile devices. References Becker, H. S., & Geer, B. (1960). Participant observation and interviewing: A comparison. Human Organization, 16, 28-32. Becker, H. S., Geer, B., & Hughes, E. (1968). Making the grade. New York: Wiley. Becker, H. S., Geer, B., Hughes, E. & Strauss, E. (1961). Boys in white: Student culture in medical school. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S.K. (2007). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theories and methods (5th ed). Boston: Pearson. Bulmer, M. (1984). The Chicago School of Sociology: Institutionalization, diversity, and the rise of sociological research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Christians, C. G. (2010). Theories for a global ethics. In Norman K. Denzin & Michael D. Giardina (Eds.), Qualitative inquiry and human rights (pp. 45 -‐65). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Deegan, M.J. (1990). Jane Addams and the men of the Chicago School, 1892-1918. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction. Deegan, M. J. (2006). The human drama behind the study of people as potato bugs: The curious marriage of Robert E. Park & Clara Cahill. Journal of Classical Sociology, 6(1), 101–122. Dewey, J. (1958). Experience and nature. New York: Dover. Gilgun, J. F. (1992a). Chicago days: Handel, Lopata, & Strauss tell stories of their lives as students at Chicago. Qualitative Family Research 6(2), 3-‐6. Gilgun, J. F. (1992b). Definitions, methods, and methodologies in qualitative family research. In J. F. Gilgun, Kerry Daly, and Gerald Handel (Eds.), Qualitative methods in family research (pp. 22-‐41). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Gilgun, J. F. (1992c). Field methods training in the Chicago School Tradition: The early career of Bob Bogdan. Qualitative Family Research, 6(1), 8-‐11. Gilgun, J. F. (1999). Methodological pluralism and qualitative family research. In Suzanne K. Steinmetz, Marvin B. Sussman, and Gary W. Peterson (Eds.), Handbook of Marriage and the Family (2nd ed.) (pp. 219-‐261). New York: Plenum. Gilgun, J. F. (2001, November). Case study research, analytic induction, and theory development: The future and the past, paper presented at the 31st Preconference Workshop on Theory Development and Research Methodology, National Conference on Family Relations, Rochester, NY. Gilgun, J. F. (2005). Qualitative research and family psychology. Journal of Family Psychology, 19(1), 40-‐50. Gilgun, J. F. (2007, November). The legacy of the Chicago School of Sociology for family theory-‐building,” paper presented at the Pre-‐Conference Workshop on Theory Construction and Research Methodology, National Council on Family Relation, Pittsburgh, PA. Gilgun, J. F. (2008). Lived experience, reflexivity, and research on perpetrators of interpersonal violence. Qualitative Social Work, 7(2), 181-‐197. Gilgun, J. F. (2010). Violence actual and imagined: Reflections on more than 20 years of research. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 16(4), 50-‐59. Gilgun, J. F. (in press). Qualitative family research: Enduring themes and contemporary variations. In Gary F. Peterson & Kevin Bush (Eds.), Handbook of Marriage and the Family (3rd ed.). New York: Plenum.
Gilgun, J. F., Kerry Daly, & Gerald Handel (Eds.) (1992). Qualitative methods in family research Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Hamilton, D. (l994). Traditions, preferences, and postures in applied qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 60-‐69). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Laslett, B. (1991). Biography as historical sociology: The case of William Fielding Ogburn. Theory and Society, 20, 511-‐538. O’Connor, Susan (2001). Becoming a qualitative researcher. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg College. Park, R. E. (1974). Life history. American Journal of Sociology, 79 (2), 251-‐260. Stack, C. B. (l974). All our kin: Strategies for survival in a black community. New York: Harper. Strauss, Anselm (1991). A personal history of the development of grounded theory. Qualitative Family Research, 5(2), 1-‐2. Available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/44659994/Anselm-‐Strauss-‐Writes-‐A-‐Personal-‐ History-‐of-‐Grounded-‐Theory-‐Other-‐Articles Strauss, A. (l987). Qualitative analysis for social scientists. New York: Cambridge University. Warren, Elizabeth (2007). Unsafe at any rate. Democracy: A journal of ideas (5), Summer. http://www.democracyjournal.org/article.php?ID=6528 Warren, Elizabeth & Amelia Warren Tyagi (2004). The two-income trap: Why middle-class mothers and fathers are going broke. New York: Basic. Wax, R. H. (l971). Doing fieldwork: Warnings and advice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Lo hemos llevado donde lee en su other device.
Obtenga el título completo para seguir escuchando desde donde terminó, o reinicie la previsualización.