By ECooper | August 7, 2017
Last week Mandy shared ideas about how librarians and other data-support professionals can act as connectors, crusaders and collaborators on campus in order to better provide and develop qualitative research teaching resources. This week we want to build on Mandy’s suggestions by looking a bit more broadly at how librarians and other data-support professionals can help build community around qualitative research at their institutions.
As qualitative research methods are often not the dominant methodologies used in departments and institutions, qualitative researchers may not have a strong support network and may lack colleagues to consult with or learn from. I have regularly heard from graduate students embarking on a qualitative project that they are struggling to learn about qualitative methods on their own because their advisor doesn’t know much about qualitative research or because their department does not offer a course in qualitative research methods. I have also heard from the lone qualitative research faculty member in a department about how isolating that can be. So building a community where qualitative researchers can support, connect with and learn from each other can be very important. Libraries, often seen as neutral ground on campus, have an opportunity to play a unique role as facilitators building this community by connecting people and leveraging resources from across campus.
Some activities that librarians and data support professionals may want to consider to help build a qualitative research community on their campus include:
- Conduct an environmental scan. Each campus has a different research support environment, so it may help to first do an environmental scan of your campus to learn who is already doing what to support qualitative research. Document what you learn! Think about how the library can bring together existing resources and build on them.
- Then, act as a clearinghouse around qualitative methods and support. As you investigate what is going on across your campus related to qualitative research, compile and publicize what you find. For example, you may create:
- lists of campus resources, including labs and software/support tools available,
- lists of qualitative methods courses offered in departments across campus,
- a directory of faculty members with strengths in qualitative research who agree to act as a resource for others.
As Jill mentioned in our second blogpost, Libguides/research guides are often a great way to capture and share this type of information with the university community and with library colleagues. Additionally, sharing this information through other campus organizations, such as a graduate resource center, might be a good way to reach an audience with related needs.
- Establish/host/contribute to a campus listserv for those with questions or who need help working with qualitative methods and tools.
- Partner with faculty/graduate students/other campus departments to establish/host a qualitative research support group on your campus. These could be informal brown bags, reading groups, or a place for attendees to meet others and ask questions of those interested in similar issues.
- Consider helping to establish a mentor program partnering those new to qualitative research with more experienced researchers.
- Host/organize/co-sponsor a qualitative research event/symposium - this not only fosters building a vibrant qualitative research community but can help demonstrate the library’s commitment to serving this community.
- Offer library spaces and resources to support qualitative groups, events, etc.
I hope these suggestions get you started thinking about ways to build a community on your campus. We’d love to hear what you are already doing and 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.
This is the last of our 4-part blog series, “How Do I Do Qualitative Research? Bridging the Gap between Qualitative Researchers and Methods Training Resources." QSSHDIG would love to get more conversations going on the IASSIST blog - there’s a section at the bottom of our “Blog Conversations” doc for suggesting future QSSDHIG posts - please do!