By JConte | July 23, 2017
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:
- canonical works and textbooks on qualitative research design and methods more generally (e.g. Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach, Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists)
- authoritative background information on major methods (e.g., Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data) and possibly those that are less common, more highly specified (e.g., “The Extended Case Method”), or mixed methods (e.g., Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research)
- journals that focus on publishing about qualitative methods (e.g., Qualitative Research) or publishing research using qualitative methods (e.g., Qualitative Sociology)
- empirical research articles (or books) that illustratively employ a particular method (since researchers who are new to a method often ask for examples of qualitative studies to see both how they are conducted as well as how they are written up) (e.g., "‘We’d Be Free’: Narratives of Life Without Homophobia, Racism, or Sexism”)
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:
- webinars (e.g., “Successful Qualitative Research: Don’t Get Too Comfortable!" by Kristi Jackson)
- workshops (e.g., courses offered atResearchTalk’s Qualitative Research Summer Intensive)
- local communities of practice (e.g., CIRA’s IRM Core Qualitative Research Workgroup, which is open to the Yale University community)
- professional associations, which may be stand-alone (e.g., Association for Qualitative Research) or nestled within a larger discipline-specific association (e.g., Society for Qualitative Inquiry in Psychology)
- conferences (e.g., Ethnographic & Qualitative Research Conference)
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.