Exciting futures – whither qualitative research?

This week my colleague, Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen will present a new workshop on using NVivo with non-conventional forms of qualitative data. Earlier this week I consulted with a series of PhD students and was disappointed to find that most of them were using face to face interviews as their primary method to collect data. It’s time to move on, people! Although Jenine has entitled her workshop ‘non-conventional’ data, this is merely in response to this fixation with face to face interviews!  When recording, transcribing, videoing and note taking were the only resources we could use to collect and manage our qualitative data, there was some excuse for resorting to the most convenient methods. But now we can import so many different types of data– social media, sound recordings, photos and other image media - straight into our data management software, and view or listen to them in the same state as when we collected them.

An additional benefit of using NVivo etc means we do not need to waste valuable time transcribing these data sources into some other more abstract and diluted form. We can listen to the voices, watch the images and accurately tag and code all the associated data – non verbal, environmental, etc. And we can easily go back to the context of the data – without this, the data is meaningless or even worse, misleading.

Qualitative research is about understanding. Using these ‘unconventional’ (but not so new) forms of data collection means that we are more likely to get access to the way  understanding  is being constructed and developed, especially amongst the younger generations.  Ignoring them will leave us floundering in the past.

by Dr Sue Nielsen