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MSwygart-Hobaugh's blog

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] 
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