Mixed-Methods Data Analysis

concentric circles slide 2Following my post last month about using concentric circles for gathering research data, I had a question from a reader. Nieky van Veggel asked me, “How would I analyse the outcomes of this method?” This is a good question and, like many good questions, it has more than one answer.

First, you can do quantitative analysis: counting and measuring. If you have the participant at the centre, you can count the number of people, agencies, or whatever it is that they have drawn or placed around the concentric circles. Then in either system you can measure the distance, or distances, between the fixed central point and the drawn or placed point(s) chosen by the participant. Once you have the raw numerical data from your counting and/or measurement, you can use statistical calculations as appropriate to your sample size and sampling technique.

Second, you can do qualitative analysis. You can look at the types of relationships depicted and sort those into categories and themes. You can cross-tabulate relationships with other participant attributes, e.g. age or gender. You can also cross-tabulate with any other data you have collected to see if there is a relationship.

Third, you can do both. Then you can synthesize your qualitative and quantitative analyses – or, at least, you can try. There are too many ways of synthesizing data to give full details in a blog post, but you can find more information, references, and examples on pages 106-109 of my book on creative research methods. This post is designed to give you an overview of the subject.

Data synthesis, or data integration as it is also known, can be useful in a number of ways. For example, it can be used to triangulate your data, or to enrich your analysis, and it can yield results which could not be obtained through the analysis of any single dataset. The findings of each single dataset will help to answer your research questions up to a point, but bringing those findings together may give a fuller explanatory narrative. However, integrating findings from different datasets can be one of the most challenging aspects of mixed-methods data analysis. Therefore, it makes sense to have a rationale for doing this, rather than trying to do it for its own sake.

Broadly, when you try to integrate your data, one of three things can happen:

  1. The findings from the different datasets agree. Sadly this is not as common as you might think.
  2. The findings from the different datasets agree in some respects but not in others. This is probably the most common outcome, and requires hard thinking and more analysis to try to resolve the disagreements as far as possible, with further research required where resolution cannot be reached.
  3. The findings from the different datasets do not agree at all. This almost certainly indicates a need for further research – which is not always a palatable message for research managers, commissioners, or funders.

When you write up your data integration process and findings, you need to show how each element relates to the others. The danger with this is it can make your article or report rather ‘methods-heavy’, so be concise where you can.

Australian researchers Reesa Sorin, Tamara Brooks and Ute Haring did some research into children’s understandings of their physical environment. In the process, they developed an analytical procedure using three different methods to analyse a dataset made up of children’s artworks and stories. They began with a quantitative technique: content analysis. This involved identifying the main features of children’s drawings and putting them into categories such as animals, houses and trees. Then they counted the number and frequency of items in each category, reasoning that the more frequently something appeared, the more meaningful it was to children. The other two methods were qualitative. One was interpretive analysis, in which they identified more categories, this time based on the presentation of each drawing, its mood, and the messages in the story the child had told about their drawing. The other qualitative method was developmental analysis, which suggests that stages in the development of children’s artworks can be correlated with their ages. So the content analysis outlined the features of the drawings, the interpretive analysis added depth by showing multiple meanings, and the developmental analysis added ages and stages. The researchers concluded that this combination of analytic methods can ‘provide deep insights into young children’s understandings’ (Sorin, Brooks and Haring 2012: 29).

Data analysis is at the core of our interpretive work as researchers, yet it is rarely discussed and often misunderstood. You can’t learn how to analyse data from a blog post, but it may help you to figure out what some of your current questions are. And I hope, Nieky van Veggel, that this post will provide a step on the way to ticking off another item on your impossible list. Good luck!

Social Media: Is It Just A Numbers Game?

jumbled numbersGoodness me, such a busy week, I almost forgot to blog. This time of year is often very pressured for independents and non-academics with 31 March being a crucial end-of-financial-year deadline by which many projects must be finished and invoices paid. So much so that I haven’t been around on social media anywhere near as much as usual.

Nevertheless, in the last couple of weeks, I have passed the 3,000 follower mark on Twitter, hit 200 followers on Instagram, and reached the magic 500+ on LinkedIn. Ding!

I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and Instagram since 2014, so these figures aren’t particularly impressive. Publishers, for example, don’t start taking notice till you reach 10,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram. Part of the reason is I’ve never tried to attract followers, other than by being around and talking to people, and following those I feel a connection with. Others take very different approaches. I know a fiction writer on Instagram, someone I’ve met IRL a couple of times, who reached 10,000 followers in less than a year and is now coaching other writers on how to attract followers like honeysuckle attracts bees. She wrote a blog post with a few pointers, such as: choose, and stick to, a colour palette, so that when someone looks at your Instagram profile and sees your last nine photos, they give a coherent message. There were other tips, like how to schedule posts for maximum impact, all of which seemed entirely feasible to implement.

So, I thought, I could do that.

I’d probably sell more books that way.

But.

I can’t do that.

I simply can’t bring myself to be so contrived. It’s not me at all. The thought of choosing a colour palette, and scheduling my posts for maximum impact, makes me feel queasy.

One of the things I love about social media is the randomness. Yesterday I mislaid my landline handset, wailed on Twitter, and a woman from Brisbane told me how to find it. On Instagram I seek out interesting academics and I talk to a Romanian woman studying for a PhD in Japan, a Dutch academic in America, an Australian academic in America, and so on. The glimpses of their lives are fascinating to me; I hope mine are to them.

I should take the ‘colour palette’ approach; it’s sensible marketing. I should create and nurture a brand for myself. To an extent, this blog has a colour palette. The designer friend who made it for me asked what my favourite colours were; I told her; she liked and used those colours. But I don’t pick photos in those colours for my blog posts (though I did for this post, because I came across one on freeimages.com and it amused me), and I certainly can’t Instagram everything in purple, turquoise, and hot pink. It would be exhausting even to try.

I was musing about all this to a friend who is quite the social media expert.

“I just like, y’know, hanging out with people online,” I said. “I don’t want to do this ‘brand’ thing. I want the weird, the random, the serendipitous. I like making friends.”

“That,” he said, “that IS your brand.”

I guess he’s right. It’s not much of a brand, though, in marketing terms. It’s just me, bimbling around online like I do offline, forgetting things sometimes, doing my best. I could change; I could do this whole thing differently. Maybe, sometime in the future, I will. But, for now… I don’t want to put myself under the pressure of trying to present myself as something I’m not, something polished and shiny. It would be too much like having a proper job. So I shall carry on dropping in and out of social media as I please, chatting when I have something to say, and otherwise lurking or taking time out. That makes me happy. And while my approach may not sell as many books as the ‘colour palette’ system, it has made me some great friends and taken me all around the world. So, in my terms, it works just fine.

New Directions in Qualitative Research Ethics

TSRMcover 1..2I have co-edited a special issue of the International Journal of Social Research Methodology with my friend and colleague Dr Lucy Pickering from the University of Glasgow. It is online today – International Women’s Day, how timely! – and it’s called New Directions in Qualitative Research Ethics.

I am the ethics lead for the UK and Ireland Social Research Association, and Lucy is the ethics lead for the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth. Lucy and I both help our respective associations’ members with real-life ethical dilemmas (and trilemmas, and quadrilemmas). We have both found that the emphasis of the ethical review process on data gathering and participant well-being leaves researchers ill-equipped to cope with ethical difficulties at other stages of the research process. Overall, the ethics literature is similarly skewed, with most articles and chapters focusing on data gathering and participant well-being. Our aim was to produce a special issue that would help to shift this balance. We wrote one of the articles, on the ethics of presentation and representation, and of course the editorial. Other articles cover the teaching of research ethics, the ethics of recruitment and sampling, working ethically with participants who have profound intellectual disabilities, what to do when ethics committees’ stipulations prove irrelevant in the field, and some of the ethical issues raised by cross-cultural research. There is also a useful review essay of three recent books on research and social justice.

We are proud that our authors are truly international, hailing from New Zealand, Australia, Finland, America and Thailand as well as the UK. The journal is paywalled, but there are 50 free downloads of every article, so get in quick if you don’t have access.

 

How To Become An Indie Ally

cat-and-dogCalling academics! Do you want to be a useful ally to independent researchers? Then here’s how you can. No, wait, let’s start with why it’s a good idea. Independent researchers can add considerable value to academic research and teaching projects. We bring a fresh perspective, which can be useful to help disentangle problems that seem entrenched, or simply to provide a new view of a situation. We have time to think, because we don’t have to tangle with time-consuming internal meetings and university bureaucracy. And we are not limited in what we work on by managerial directives or departmental policy. Also, we are flexible and can sometimes help out at short notice, such as when a colleague has an unexpected leave of absence at a crucial stage in a project. One potential downside is that an indie researcher is unlikely to have the depth of knowledge in any one subject of a professor who has spent decades studying a single area. On the other other hand, indie researchers often bring a breadth of knowledge across several related areas, and are skilled in bringing themselves up-to-date fast in any area they haven’t worked on for a while.

Another reason it might be a good idea to support independent researchers is that, as the options for tenure in academia decrease, the likelihood of any academic ending up as an indie increases. So supporting indie researchers and scholars may prove to be an investment in your own future. An academic of my acquaintance told me recently that she wonders why staff at her post-92 university are regularly asked to give free support to universities in the much richer Russell Group (another structural faultline of academic inequality). She has decided to stop offering free training to other universities, whatever their grouping, because it affects the market for independent workers. Be like her!

So those are some reasons why it’s a good idea to use indie researchers; now let’s look at how they can be used. The three main ways academic departments use indie researchers are: as part of a team on a funded research project; to augment a teaching programme; or to fill gaps in capacity. Of course there are many other ways, from delivering a single class or seminar to providing years of doctoral supervision.

Here’s how to help make that happen.

  1. Get to know your local indie researchers and/or the indie researchers who work in your field. This way, when you need some help in a hurry, you’ll have an existing relationship as a springboard.
  1. Be mindful that indie researchers don’t receive a salary; nobody is paying for their time. Any decent indie researcher should be willing to come to an exploratory meeting without expecting to be paid. However, it will be helpful if you can acknowledge the imbalance: you are drawing a salary for your time at that meeting; they are not. It will be even more helpful if you can at least reimburse their travel expenses, and maybe give them lunch. Please do not expect an indie researcher to come to more than one meeting without recompense. Some academics still think it’s OK to ask an indie to run a workshop, speak at a conference, and write a chapter for an edited collection. A salaried academic could say ‘yes’ to all of those without pausing for breath, even though the tasks probably require 2-3 weeks of full-time work to complete. If you’re not paying an indie, you’re asking them to do that in their own time. That’s equivalent to asking a salaried academic to work on a dozen consecutive Sundays. If the latter would give you pause, so should the former.
  1. Understand how independent researchers’ day rates work. These day rates look high, but at times we go for weeks or months with no paid work, and we have none of the benefits of employment such as holiday pay or sick pay or conference budgets. For example, I charge universities £800 per day and in 2015-16 I was able to pay myself £17,000 – around one-third of what I would be taking home if I’d spent the last 17 years in academia. In the last five years, I’ve had two good years and three lean years. There are other compensations to the indie lifestyle so this is not intended as a sob story. But it’s surprising how many intelligent people still think ‘high day rate’ equals ‘rich person’.
  1. If you really can’t pay an independent researcher, but you want them to work with you, think about what you can offer them in exchange for their skills and labour. They might be glad to have use of your library, an honorary position with access to paywalled journals, or a free place on a professional training course. Most indie researchers are open to barter as long as you can offer something that is of value to them. What won’t be of value is ‘exposure’, because in these days of social media we can all expose ourselves.

 

  1. Where appropriate, allocate time and costs in your funding bids for input from one or more independent researchers. This sends a positive message to funders: it shows that you are thinking beyond the walls of the academy and taking a creative approach to your bid and your project design. Any credible independent researcher who you plan to include should be willing to put in some unpaid desk work up front, perhaps to write a section of the bid or to give feedback on a draft.
  1. Raise awareness among your colleagues of the value, and support needs, of independent researchers. If you have the contacts, and want to earn serious brownie points from the indies in your networks and beyond, lobby for indie researchers to have access to research funding.

One caveat: it is important to perform due diligence. Ask for a CV, with references; follow up the references, and spot-check a couple of items from the CV. If the independent researcher hasn’t been independent for long, it would be worth quizzing them about their intentions. Due to the economic climate and the casualisation of academic work, some people are setting up as independent researchers in the hope of earning a few quid while they’re searching for salaried employment. It won’t help your research plan if, by the time you secure funding for your three-year project, your nominated indie researcher is now a full-time lecturer at the other end of the country.

I hosted a lively Twitterchat about independent research for #ecrchat on 24 February, and was hoping to link to the resulting Storify from this post but technical problems have intervened. If we are able to storify the chat in future I’ll include the link here. I was also hoping to refer to the Storify for any points I may have missed, as I’m not at all sure the above list is exhaustive, so if you have any points to add, please include them in the comments below.

Concentric Circles for Gathering Research Data

concentric-circlesMost people, when they think about gathering primary data for research, think of the ‘Big Three’ methods: questionnaire surveys, interviews, and focus groups. This is rather limiting when there are so many other methods that can help to answer research questions. One example is concentric circles. They are used quite frequently in market research, and have also been used in social research for several decades, yet I am frequently surprised to come across people who have no knowledge of this approach.

Concentric circles are generally used to investigate people’s relationships with other people, objects, or phenomena. There are two main ways to use concentric circles. One way is to put something at the centre – in market research, usually a product or brand – and ask the participant to make a cross, or drag-and-drop a digital image, to a point within the circles that they feel represents their closeness to that product or brand. So, for me, if the brand was Nestlé I’d put myself right on the outer edge, whereas with a product such as the Co-op’s fairly traded wine, I’d be close to the centre.

The other option is to put the participant at the centre, and ask them to use the concentric circles to map relationships such as the people or agencies who support them, with those they feel closest to placed nearest to the centre and vice versa. This can be done in evaluation research as part of a pre-post design to document changes. For example, if part of the point of a service is to act as a gateway or signpost to other relevant agencies, it might be useful to ask users of that service to map their relationship with other agencies at the first point of contact, and again after a suitable period of time. That would help to assess the impact of the service in increasing users’ links with other agencies.

The concept of this is easy for participants to grasp, perhaps because the circles provide a recognisable structure but are not prescriptive. They are appealing because they give the participant a lot of choice and flexibility in how they respond. This avoids difficulties that can be raised by a standard type of research question such as, ‘How supportive is your spouse or partner?’ Some participants would find a question like this difficult to answer, say if their spouse or partner was unsupportive, or abusive, or recently deceased. If such a participant met this question in a survey, interview, or focus group, at best they would provide no or inaccurate data, and they could suffer serious embarrassment or upset. However, with the concentric circles, a participant can choose which of the people in their lives they include in the discussion.

Perhaps because of their ease and sensitivity, concentric circles have been used effectively in research with children, the elderly, and people with learning disabilities, among other groups. They are rarely the only method used, but they add an interesting and useful dimension to an investigation. In fact, the potential applications of concentric circles are many and varied. For example, they could be used in:

  • Nutritional research to explore people’s relationships with different foodstuffs
  • Tourism research to investigate people’s relationships with different modes of travel
  • Sports research to assess people’s relationships with different types of exercise

And that’s just off the top of my head.

Completed concentric circles can provide powerful illustrations for research reports and presentations, although care should be taken to ensure that participants and others who may be mentioned cannot be identified as a result. One option here is for a researcher to recreate a participant’s concentric circles with different names and/or with changes to other identifying details.

I’ve just put in a proposal to a potential client including concentric circles. I hope they like the idea. Do you use concentric circles? Or do you think you might use them in the future?

Getting Creative with your Thesis or Dissertation #2

treasure-1357460__340I wrote the first post in this series last summer, not knowing then that there would be another. In that post I highlighted work by doctoral students who have presented their theses or dissertations in various creative ways such as graphic novels or a combination of video and text. I’m grateful to MzOpera for commenting on that post and pointing me to the work of Rebecca Zak from America, who created the first ever entirely web-based PhD dissertation, made up of YouTube videos and blog posts.

Rebecca Zak had a close predecessor in Saliha Bava, whose web-based dissertation was produced as long ago as 2001. She describes it, in her dissertation abstract, as ‘a montage of a postmodern inquiry… within the discourses of postmodern, dissertation, academia, experimental and cyberspace innovations among others.’ Sadly, a lot of the links in Bava’s online dissertation are no longer functioning, but there are still pdfs to download and read, and videos to view. I wanted to check whether Zak had referenced Bava, and thought of searching Zak’s blog, but the site where her blog lives, at http://www.davezak.com/questioneducation/, has been reported as an attack page and blocked by my anti-virus software. These demonstrate some of the downsides of web-based dissertations or theses: they are only publicly available, to those with internet access, for as long as the technology permits.

MzOpera, via Rebecca Zak, also led me to Spencer Harrison from Canada. He is an artist and gay rights activist who painted his PhD on the outside of a circus tent; it seems almost redundant to add that he was the first Canadian academic to do so. I also discovered the work of Daria Loi, who did her PhD in Melbourne, Australia, and presented her thesis as a suitcase containing written text and a variety of interactive artefacts.

Rebecca Zak makes the point that to present your thesis or dissertation in such a creative way, your university needs to have (or develop) an ‘alternative format’ policy. I’ve had a look at several of these and they are very varied. Some only allow for the inclusion of published or publishable written material, such as a book chapter or journal article. Others are much more flexible. For example, the University of Exeter, in the UK, has a particularly comprehensive policy which says:

  • Regardless of whether they are on a named programme, which has specific submission requirements, which may differ from the norm, students are permitted to make representations to submit a thesis/dissertation in an alternative format, requests to do so must normally be made at the application stage.
  • An alternative format may include either:
    a) the presentation of part or all of the thesis in an alternative format e.g. it may be a multimedia document (e.g. an element or the thesis in its entirety, which is presented in a format appropriate perhaps for presentation at a conference);
    b) A constructed text such as a piece of art, or a record of professional practice in the form of a series of case-studies, which must be accompanied by a commentary.
  • The formats listed here are not exclusive and candidates should first discuss the matter with their supervisor should they consider there to be potential to present their thesis/dissertation differently, who will be able to offer advice on the appropriateness of different formats within the context of that discipline, and with regard specifically to how they relate to the candidate’s research project.
  • Permission to do so may be given provided that by virtue of the subject:
    a) the intellectual quality of the thesis/dissertation would be enhanced;
    b) that a qualified supervisor and appropriate examiners can be appointed;
    c) the format is appropriate to the thesis/dissertation;
    d) that the format will allow the student to demonstrate their ability to meet the award criteria;
    e) or, that the alternative format is an appropriate specific arrangement to make to ensure the consistent equitable assessment of a student with disabilities.

The commentary referred to has to be 30-40,000 words long. This differs from the experience of Daria Loi, who had to write the same amount of words as for a conventional thesis to put into her suitcase with the other artefacts she prepared.

We’ll end with a supervisor’s view. This is recorded on p. 46 of Playing with Purpose: Adventures in Performative Social Science by American psychologists Kenneth and Mary Gergen. They describe ‘…one of the most audacious performance pieces we know: Zoë Fitzgerald Pool’s PhD dissertation (in 2008) from the University of Bournemouth. The dissertation arrived for Mary’s review in a wooden box inscribed with a brass nameplate. In the box were placed two books, each page illustrated in colorful graphics, describing the outcomes of interviews conducted during the research. Also included were DVDs with visual and auditory expositions of this material. As appreciative gifts to the reader, there were an assortment of treasures: music, a mermaid doll, a large doll representing a stuffy old-fashioned professor, chocolates, and hundreds of tiny scrolls, each with a quote from the interviewees written in elegant calligraphy. Included as well was a map to describe how to “read” the ensemble, which was secreted into various sections of the box. There was no single way to “read” the dissertation. It was a cornucopia of possible experiences, rich and exciting.’

So there are some positive voices in academia – but not yet enough. Getting creative with your thesis or dissertation may take even longer than the conventional method because, as Daria Loi points out, you may need time for making as well as writing. Yet these creative approaches offer new ways to articulate, communicate, and understand research. All universities need to get to grips with facilitating these kinds of creative approaches within doctoral research to allow some doctoral students to reach their full potential.

University bureaucracy needs to sort itself out

bureaucracy

Photo credit: Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

Now and again, I come across an academic bureaucrat who wants to help people find ways to solve problems. More often, sad to say, I encounter jobsworths for whom ‘the system’ seems to be all-important. I know my colleagues in academia expend a lot of time, effort, and frustration on their interactions with academic bureaucracy. This can often get in the way of what should be simple, straightforward transactions, such as paying people for work that a university department needs – or paying people for work they have already done.

 

I was recently asked, by a Professor of my acquaintance, to teach a research methods module for his doctoral students. The Prof explained that this would involve one day of teaching per month for six months. I agreed to do this, and to accept the university’s sessional teaching rate rather than charging my usual, considerably higher, day rate, because his budget was limited. I figured the work would be interesting, something new on my CV, and I knew he really needed my help. But then, when we’d already had a planning meeting, the bureaucrats said I had to join the payroll, to become a part-time employee of the university, rather than invoicing for my work in the usual way. One day per month is nowhere near even a 0.1 post, and the work this would have caused my accountant – and the resulting costs to me – made it completely uneconomic to take the job. The really bizarre part is that I had worked for this university before; I was set up on their system as a supplier; and I had done tasks of longer duration for which I had invoiced and they had paid quite happily. There seemed no sense in their refusal, and I know the Professor pleaded – it made his life particularly difficult as the refusal came so late in the day. But they were obdurate. So he had a more demanding and stressful semester, and his students didn’t get the benefit of a different teacher.

Some months ago, an academic I had never heard of contacted me out of the blue to ask me to take up a Fellowship at her department. This was a comparatively new department, set up with millions of pounds of funding from a research council, at a university that is in excellent financial health. They are doing interesting work, but I said a polite ‘no, thank you’ because they were looking for a significant time commitment and I don’t do unpaid work for wealthy organisations. She had a chat with the head of department, and emailed to say they could pay me: not my usual day rate, but an amount worth getting out of bed for. If I was still interested, she said, I should seek a sponsor from among the department’s staff, all of whom were aware of the sponsorship scheme for the department’s Fellowships and would understand that their primary role was to help with the bureaucracy. The first person I approached said they had never heard of the sponsorship scheme, which was embarrassing, and – when he realised about the bureaucratic requirements – decided he didn’t want to sponsor me. The second person didn’t reply to my email; the third replied enthusiastically saying ‘yes of course, carry on’, so I emailed again explaining about the bureaucracy, and heard no more. With the fourth person – someone I knew slightly from other arenas – I struck lucky: being fairly senior in the department, they actually did know about the sponsorship scheme and what it entailed, and they were enthusiastic about working with me. However, after a few days, that person emailed me and said oops, sorry, actually we can’t pay you after all, there’s been a problem with the bureaucracy. So that was several months of effort down the drain.

It’s not only independent researchers who are at the sharp end of this kind of bureaucratically induced misery, but also casual staff. An academic who I met online recently had a problem with a post-doc who was working for him and had employed a research assistant. The RA started work very late in the contract, which was partly due to bureaucratic difficulties, and ended up working more hours after the end of the grant period so they were owed money. In the meantime, the post-doc had moved to a second university, with another grant which included funds to pay the RA. However, the second university would not issue a contract because the amount of money concerned was too small, while the original university would not raise an invoice without a contract. So the RA ended up having to invoice the second university themselves. That meant the RA had to declare those earnings as self-employment for that tax year, with all the attendant hassle of completing a self-assessment form: a classic example of bureaucracy generating bureaucracy.

These are just three sad and sorry cases of bureaucracy impeding effective academic work. I am sure most, if not all, of my readers will have their own examples to share. I know it doesn’t have to be this way, from work I have done with universities where bureaucratic systems have supported and enabled, rather than obstructing, academic work. Perhaps that’s why I, and others I know, find bureaucratic impediments so very frustrating. We know they don’t have to be there – but they are there, and at times, for unfathomable reasons, they’re insurmountable.

Creative Research Methods Summer School 6-8 July 2017

casic-logofinalPhD students and Early Career Researchers are welcome at this event organised by the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre (CASIC) at Keele University.

The Summer School will be held in central England at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme (6-7 July) and Keele University campus (8 July), where you will experience the KAVE and our Makerspace facilities.

The facilitator will be Dr Helen Kara, author of Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. Speakers will include:

  • borderlinesProfessor Mihaela Kelemen – CASIC Director
  • Dr Lindsay Hamilton – Keele Management School, Keele University
  • Véronique Jochum – Research Manager, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
  • Dr Emma Surman – Keele Management School, Keele University
  • Dr Ceri Morgan – School of Humanities, Keele University
  • Professor Rajmil Fischman – School of Music, Keele University
  • Sue Moffat – Director of New Vic Borderlines, New Vic Theatre

keele-logo-2The Summer School will enlighten, inspire and guide ECRs and students at all stages of scholarly or professional doctorates. Each day will be packed with interactive hands-on sessions addressing six broad topics:

  • Arts-based research
  • Transformative research frameworks
  • Mixed-methods research
  • Knowledge co-production
  • Research using technology
  • Writing creatively for research

We are offering an “early bird” price of £230 for bookings received and paid by 21 April. After that date the price will be £270. The cost includes refreshments and lunches and a complimentary copy of Dr Kara’s book on creative research methods.

There will be a dinner and performance of ‘Around the world in 80 Days’ at the New Vic Theatre on July 6th, at an extra cost of £20.

For more information click here.

Please follow #CRMSS17 on Twitter for pre-event updates.

Open Access Research Methods Journals

oaThis post was inspired by a recent post on the Global Social Change Research Project site, which lists a lot of free resources for social research and evaluation. Having taken the Open Access Pledge, and given my specialism, I was particularly interested in OA journals on research and evaluation methods. So I have compiled all those I could find, through gsocialchange and elsewhere, that focus primarily on methods, are peer reviewed, and publish in English. (Some also publish in other languages, but I only speak and read English – a limitation – so, sadly, I am unable to include non-English journals.) Almost all are exclusively digital.

I was interested to find that many of these journals have quick publication timescales, sometimes only a few weeks from submission to publication. I was also very relieved to find that few ask for financial contributions from authors. When OA came in, I was broadly in favour – I do believe that research funded by public money should be publicly available – but I was worried that article processing charges (APCs) levied on authors would exclude many scholarly writers from publishing their work. I’m delighted to discover that this is not the case (at least, not in my field) and I’m grateful to all the universities and others that sponsor these journals. Also, where APCs are levied by these journals, they are only charged on acceptance for publication, not on submission, and waivers are sometimes available in exceptional circumstances.

As far as I can tell, only one of these journals, the African Evaluation Journal, is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics. Some other journals have their own ethical statements, or follow a specified code of ethics from an institution or association. But most make no mention of ethics, which in the current climate seems a little lax at best.

So here they are, in alphabetical order, with brief details.

African Evaluation Journal

Funded and published by the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA); no APCs.

Publishes high quality peer-reviewed articles of merit on any subject related to evaluation, and provides targeted information of professional interest to members of AfrEA and its national associations and evaluators across the globe. Aims:

  • To build a high quality, useful body of evaluation knowledge for development.
  • To develop a culture of peer-reviewed publication in African evaluation.
  • To stimulate Africa-oriented knowledge networks and collaborative efforts.
  • To strengthen the African voice in evaluation.

Art/Research International

Sponsored by the University of Alberta. No APCs.

A transdisciplinary journal dedicated to exploring and advancing art as research, and/or within the research process, across disciplines and internationally. It offers a space for art/research practitioners: to draw on working examples to discuss challenges, best practices, ethical quandaries, and new directions  for the practice of bringing art and research together; to explore the methodological ambitions and theoretical or philosophical underpinnings and issues of art/research practices; and to provide insights and critiques of art/research projects of other art/research practitioners.

Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis across Disciplines

Published by CADAAD, which seems to be run voluntarily by academics from various universities. No APCs.

Publishes articles which investigate, from a ‘critical’ perspective, contemporary discourse and genres in social, political, public and professional communication.  Especially interested in articles which highlight, develop and apply new theoretical and methodological frameworks for critical discourse research or which assess established methods and assumptions.

Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Published by Academic Publishing Limited. APC of £250 (inc. VAT) on acceptance for publication – no submission fee.

Publishes articles and provides perspectives on topics relevant to research in the field of business and management. Aims to contribute to the development of theory and practice.

Forum: Qualitative Social Research

Supported by the Institute for Qualitative Research and the Center for Digital Systems, Freie Universität Berlin. No APCs.

Interested in empirical studies conducted using qualitative methods, and in contributions that deal with the theory, methodology and application of qualitative research. Innovative ways of thinking, writing, researching and presenting are especially welcome. They favour contributions with an inter-disciplinary and/or multinational perspective which was already manifest at the conceptualization stage, for example through co-authorship.

International Journal of Qualitative Methods

Published by Sage on behalf of the International Institute of Qualitative Methodology

APCs of $1,000-$1,750 on acceptance for publication – this funds the journal. Part payment and waivers possible in exceptional circumstances.

Publishes articles that report methodological advances, innovations, and insights in qualitative or mixed-methods studies. Also publishes funded full studies using qualitative or mixed-methods.

Journal of Methods and Measurement in the Social Sciences

Funded by the University of Arizona Library – no APCs.

An online scholarly publication focusing on methodology and research design, measurement, and data analysis – providing a new venue for unique and interesting contributions in these study areas which frequently overlap.

Journal of Modern Applied Statistical Methods

Published in partnership by JMASM Inc and Wayne State University Library System. No APCs.

Designed to provide an outlet for the scholarly works of applied nonparametric or parametric statisticians, data analysts, researchers, classical or modern psychometricians, and quantitative or qualitative methodologists/evaluators.

Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation

Published by Western Michigan University. No APCs.

Publishes work that contributes to the development of evaluation theory, methods, and practice.

Journal of Research Practice

Published by AU Press, Athabasca University. Funded by sponsorship. No APCs.

Aims to develop understanding of research as a type of practice, and to assist both research practitioners and research theorists to share their experiences with and ideas about research, so as to extend and enhance that practice in multiple domains.

methods, data, analyses

Published by Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences. No APCs.

Publishes research on all questions important to quantitative methods, with a special emphasis on survey methodology. In spite of this focus they welcome contributions on other methodological aspects.

Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation

Funded by sponsorship. No APCs. Despite being a professional researcher and skilled internet sleuth, I was unable to find out who publishes this journal.

Publishes scholarly syntheses of research and ideas about methodological issues and practices, designed to help members of the community keep up-to-date with effective methods, trends, and research developments from a variety of settings.

Qualitative Sociology Review

Published by Lodz University, Poland. No APCs.

Qualitative Sociology Review publishes empirical, theoretical and methodological articles applicable to all fields and specializations within sociology.

Social Research Practice

Funded and published by the UK and Ireland Social Research Association; no APCs.

They welcome articles from anyone working in social research or social policy, whether as a producer or a user of research. Aims: to encourage and promote high standards of social research for public benefit, and to encourage methodological development.

Survey Methods: Insights from the Field

Published jointly by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences and Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences. No APCs.

Aim: to promote professional exchange on practical survey research issues and discussion on new and promising paths in survey research. Focus is on practical aspects of the daily work of surveying, including questionnaire design, sampling, interviewer training, fieldwork administration, data preparation, documentation and dissemination.

Survey Practice

Published by the American Association for Public Opinion Research. No APCs.

 Aim: to emphasize useful and practical information designed to enhance survey quality by providing a forum to share advances in practical survey methods, current information on conditions affecting survey research, and interesting features about surveys and people who work in survey research.

Survey Research Methods

Published by the European Survey Research Association with the Communication, Information, Media Centre of the University of Konstanz.No APCs.

Topics of particular interest include survey design, sample design, question and questionnaire design, data collection, nonresponse, data capture, data processing, coding and editing, measurement errors, imputation, weighting and survey data analysis methods.

Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry

Published by DergiPark. No APCs.

Publishes high quality and original research conducted with qualitative, mixed or action research methodology in educational sciences. Manuscripts required in both English and Turkish.

The Qualitative Report

Published by Nova Southeastern University. No APCs.

Methods may be qualitative, comparative, mixed, collaborative, action-oriented, appreciative, and/or critical in nature. Articles may be qualitative research studies, commentaries about the conduct of qualitative research, prescriptive pieces on carrying out qualitative research, “back stage” essays in which authors give a perspective on how they created and crafted a particular project, presentations on technological innovations relevant to qualitative researchers and their inquiries, and any other issues which would be important for practitioners, teachers, and learners of qualitative research. Scientific, artistic, critical and clinical approaches are all welcome.

And that’s the lot! If anyone knows of another OA methods journal I’ve missed, please leave a comment, with a link to the journal, and I’ll update the post.

How ethical is it to write a book?

indigenous-research-meth-cover_Three bloggers and tweeters had an online conversation in December and this post is a response to that discussion, which  began when Naomi Barnes, aka @DrNomyn, posted her thoughts on qualitative research. She wrote of the politics and power of research and knowledge, and her realisation that there are ethical implications to every decision she makes as a researcher. Naomi describes that as ‘a huge and sobering responsibility’.

Naomi tweeted the link to her blog post, which was picked up by Ian Guest, aka @IanInSheffield. He responded, first on Twitter and then on his blog. Ian’s concern is with southern-theory-cover_the ethics of representation, and in particular what and who is missing from accounts of research and communication. This leads to his interest in where knowledge shared online may go, and what impact it may have, beyond that which is visible in tweets and blog posts.

Then Deborah Netolicky, aka @debsnet, joined in. She problematises the ethics of writing: how to represent the messiness of research (and life) within the inevitable neatness of writing, and how much – or how little – of the author’s self is, and/or should explicitly be, expressed in their academic writing.

research-as-ceremony-cover_Each of these points links to my current writing project: the book on research ethics which I have spent the last two years talking about and researching, and which, this year, I will actually write. Like Naomi, I’m aware that there are ethical implications to every decision I make as I work on this book. What I choose to read; what I choose to take from that reading; who I speak to; what I decide is significant from those conversations; how I select and place each word in the text; how I acknowledge my reading and conversations within that process; what I leave out, and why – Naomi is right, it is a ‘huge and sobering responsibility’.

decolonising-meth-cover_One of my proposal reviewers said, ” There is a considerable international literature on research ethics with which the author may not (yet) be familiar: Mertens and Ginsberg; Hammersley and Trianou; Tolich and Sieber; Posel and Ross; Iphofen; Israel; vd Hoonaard; Denzin, Lincoln and Smith; and even Stark; Schrag…” This was not a lack of familiarity – most of these are on my bookshelves or in my electronic folders – simply a lack of reference. But I am interested in the reviewer’s view of ‘international’ and – like Ian – in what, and who, is missing from that view.

Most of the work cited by this reviewer is written from Euro-Western locations. The chilisa-mertens-cram-cover_exceptions are Posel and Ross (South Africa) and Sieber and Tolich (New Zealand). Yet I would argue that these authors, too, turn a predominantly Euro-Western gaze on the topic of research ethics. For example, neither text addresses the impact of colonization on research worldwide, nor mentions the work to decolonize research methods or the Indigenous research being done in their country of origin. I am currently reading a different body of work which highlights this as a huge lacuna at best, and imperial epistemological violence at worst. Books on Indigenous research and decolonizing methods are opening my eyes to the value, power, and ethics of non-Euro-Western research practices.

decolonising-solidarity-coverSo of course I will include this body of work in my forthcoming book. To do that was an easy ethical decision: as soon as I knew the work existed, it was obvious that I should read and incorporate it into my own work. The hard part is how to do that. I guess I’ll figure it out as I write, but one thing’s for sure: it won’t be a tokenistic chapter or mentions in passing with a few footnotes.

Like Deb, I also need to figure out where and how to put myself into this writing. I am white, British, a descendant of some of the most predatory imperialists the world has yet seen. I benefit daily, hugely, from the legacy of colonization. I live in a country made rich on the profits of oppression, invasion, exploitation and slavery. I only speak English, because I only need to speak English, because my ancestors invaded so much of the land on this planet that now English is the most commonly spoken language worldwide. One thing I’m learning, in reading about Indigenous research, is that in many cultures worldwide, people value their ancestors as highly as their living relatives. For me, the dead are dead; if I was ever to have a relationship with my own ancestors, I would probably need to start by shouting at them for several years.

Sometimes I wonder whether I have any right to even write about this body of work. But then I think that the risk of perpetrating epistemic imperialism by leaving it out is worse than the risk of perpetrating epistemic violence through inept inclusion. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s even ethical to write books at all. I have discovered, since I began to write professionally, that being an author is a way of claiming authority. Is that ethical? I guess it depends on how you do it. My aim is not only to write about ethics but also to do so ethically. As Deb says, there will be ‘moments of awkwardness, uncertainty, openness, weakness, resistance, emotion’, and I want to reveal as many of these as I can. That, too, seems like an ethical approach. Yet I wonder how ethically I can write, given that I write with enormous privilege: access to structures such as universities and publishers, and social capital that is denied to most Indigenous researchers. I’m not arrogant enough to think I can write a book which will change that situation. But at least, perhaps, I can move the goalposts by acknowledging and including work on Indigenous research and decolonizing methods alongside Euro-Western methods and ethics. Also, I want to acknowledge the Euro-Western location of Euro-Western research methods and ethics, rather than maintaining the common assumption that these are the only methods and ethics on the planet.

fork-in-the-roadIt’s a tough and daunting task. I’m not even sure whether I’m going in the right direction – or whether there is a “right direction” at all. But I aim to consider all the ethical implications of each decision I have to make and, at each fork in the road, to choose the most ethical path. I think that’s the best I can do.