I am looking forward to exploring the intersection of digital tools and qualitative research with you as part of the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology Master Class Webinar Series on February 11, 2016.
Technology, ever marching forward, has changed what it means not only to be human, but to engage in qualitative research more broadly. Whether described as “digital natives” or “Millennials”, researchers today need to know how to harness the power of their mobile devices, cloud computing and social media culture in their inquiries.
While most researchers have at least heard of qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) packages such as ATLAS.ti, NVivo and MAXQDA – tools that were developed by qualitative researchers, for qualitative researchers to help visualize and analyze data in powerful ways – fewer think about how digital tools are impacting every phase of the research process. From connecting with collaborators to reviewing the literature to generating data to representing findings, digital tools are, or should be, changing our practice. Blogs and social media, for example, can be used to share research updates with stakeholders and the participants themselves. Cloud-based note-taking devices, such as Evernote, can be used on smartphones to capture images, audio and video segments in the field and then synchronize them for analysis on more powerful desktop computers. Literature reviews no longer need to involve sifting through and highlighting piles of papers alone in a dark room. Instead, PDFs of articles can be stored in Dropbox, uploaded to an iPad and annotated with an app such as GoodReader, shared with collaborators on Mendeley, and synthesized using your favorite QDAS program. Interview transcripts, dry relics devoid of the emotion with which the words were spoken, can be given new life with programs such as Inqscribe which, with one click on a line of the transcript, re-plays the recorded conversation.
For those of us who came of age before personal computers and the Internet were even invented, these developments might be overwhelming. But, as inquirers into social life, and educators of the next generation of scholars, we can hardly afford to ignore them. The communities that we work with certainly aren’t.
I have been fortunate in the past couple of years to connect with like-minded folks to co-author a text on this topic, Digital Tools for Qualitative Research (link to: https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/digital-tools-for-qualitative-research/book239271), published by Sage, as well as create a special interest group as part of the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. For more information on digital tools, check out our Facebook page (link to: https://www.facebook.com/DigitalToolsforQualitativeResearch/) or follow us on Twitter at Digital_Qual.
Trena M. Paulus, Ph.D.
Professor, Qualitative Research Methods
University of Georgia