2015 Important Dates for IIQM

Thank you for all of your support during the 2014 year!

Don’t miss these important IIQM Events coming up in 2015!

IIQM Qualitative Book Sale
Dates: January 13-16, 2015
Time: Daily 9AM-3PM
Location: Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405 87 Avenue, 5th Floor, Faculty of Nursing, Edmonton, AB, Canada

TQ2U: UK & Ireland
Glascow: March 16-17, 2015
Dublin: March 18-19, 2015
Manchester: March 23-24, 2015

Qualitative Methods (QM) Conference
Pre-Conference Workshops: April 26-27, 2015
Conference Dates: April 28-30, 2015
Location: Melbourne, Crown Conference Center, Australia

Thinking Qualitatively (TQ) Workshops
Dates: June 15-19, 2015
Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada

Qualitative Health Research (QHR) Conference
Pre-Conference Workshops: October 17-18, 2015
Conference Dates: October 19-21, 2015
Location: Toronto, Sheraton Centre, ON, Canada

Qualitative Software Workshops (QSW)
June 13-14, 2015: Edmonton, AB (ATLAS.ti & MAXQDA)
*Additional QSW events to be announced soon, featuring: NVivo, ATLAS.ti, MAXDA, Dedoose, and more!

Hope to see you in the New Year!  Wishing you a year of happiness, health, and great success in 2015!

-IIQM Team


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Review our 2014 Qualitative Methods Master Class Webinar Series in Partnership with Atlas.ti

Review our 2014 Qualitative Methods Master Class Webinar Series in Partnership with Atlas.ti which covers a range of topics and resources for qualitative research!

Video Playlist on IIQM YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCexSuWcPpxhZdLO2T7FC7Vw

More information: http://iiqm.ualberta.ca/ResearchTraining/WebinarSeries/WebinarSchedule2014

Hope you enjoy!

-IIQM Team

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“Networking your Journal Article to Publication”


Mitch Allen, Publisher, Left Coast Press, Inc.




The instructions are right there on the journal website. Second tab on the left. Click a couple of buttons, upload your abstract, your article, type in all that annoying contact information then wait for the confirmation to show up in your inbox. “Your article has been received, we will respond as soon as the editorial team has a chance to review it.”

And then you wait.

And wait.

A month. Sometimes two. Sometimes more. Eventually, the answer comes back in an impersonal email from the editor:

Yes!!… No… Or, most commonly “revise and resubmit,” along with three sets of obtuse comments that suggest conflicting strategies for you to improve the article before resubmitting it. No wonder the journal submission process [note the term used to describe it] is so offensive to most young scholars. Yet you can’t avoid the game and succeed in the academy. Nor do you want to, you want your colleagues to read about the research that has you so excited. There must be a better way.

There is.

It’s a way that every qualitative researcher will understand instantly. It stems from a single insight: the decision to accept or reject an article is usually made by a person, a human, a single individual. A journal editor. One journal editor I know sings with her civic choir. Another is fanatical about Rottweilers. Pants go on one leg at a time. Good days, bad days. In short, they’re human. Same as you.

With this understanding, you the qualitative researcher are suddenly put in a position of strength. Who knows better how to elicit what someone is thinking (about your article, in this case) than a good qualitative researcher? All those networking, interactive, and sociability skills you learned in grad school and honed in the field can be brought to play in the service of advancing your career.

The Journal editor is almost always the final decisionmaker on which articles to publish. I have this on good authority, having launched several dozens journals for three publishers. The editor is where the buck stops. Those peer reviews? Usually just advisory. Why not make the journal submission gauntlet process interactive, collaborative, and mutually educative? In short, qualitative.

Start the process not with a finished journal article seeking a home, but with a title, an abstract, and a conversation. Rather than dashing off the first two just before pushing the Submit button, take some time and polish them. Then start the conversation with the journal editor. How? At a professional conference, via an email inquiry, or simply pick up the phone. If that’s too intimidating, use an intermediary: ask a member of the editorial board whom you know, a colleague in the editor’s department, or one of your mentors to introduce you.

“Would you be your reaction to submission of an article based on this title and abstract? What would make the idea more attractive to your journal’s readers?” Ask her to help you shape the piece so it best fits her vision of her journal. Turn the editor into your collaborator, not your judge. In partnership with the editor, you’re more likely to craft a piece that will be looked upon favorably.

You still need to write a good article, but your buddy the editor is more likely to give you useful answers to questions as you develop the piece. When you get those contradictory peer reviews back, she is more likely to give you guidance on which of the comments is important for revising the piece. And, when it’s time for a final decision, she’s more likely to send the email that says “Yes!!”

Pretty Machiavellian of you, isn’t it? Not so fast. A relationship usually involves mutual assistance. You’re much more likely to get help if you’ve already provided services to the overburdened journal editor. Send her your resume and ask to review articles for the journal. When the inevitable article comes, do thorough, helpful reviews. Repost Tables of Contents on your own social media pages when each issue comes out. And practice simple acts of kindness. If you read an article in the publication that has an impact on you and your work, send a brief note to the editor telling her so. Journal editors get lots of complaints, but rarely get fan letters.

It’s a social process. Use those skills you’ve developed as qualitative researchers to help build your publications record.

© Mitch Allen, 2014

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Introduction to Hermeneutic Phenomenology: A research methodology best learned by doing it

Introduction to Hermeneutic Phenomenology: A research methodology best learned by doing it

Written by:
Erika Goble, PhD Candidate, University of Alberta & NorQuest College
Yin Yin, PhD Candidate, University of Alberta

Hermeneutic phenomenology is a qualitative research methodology that arose out of and remains closely tied to phenomenological philosophy, a strand of continental philosophy. Although phenomenology’s roots can be traced back centuries, it became a distinct philosophical project in the mid-1890s with the work of Edmund Husserl. Husserl argued that we are always already in the world and that our only certainty is our experience of our world, thus to understand the structure of consciousness can serve as the foundation for all knowledge (Husserl, 1970). Husserl’s project has been extended, contested, and modified by countless philosophers, including Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Lévinas, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Jean-Luc Marion, creating a vibrant and eclectic philosophical tradition. In the mid-1950s, however, the phenomenological “method” was also taken up by a group of non-philosophers in the Netherlands. They were not interested in phenomenology as a philosophy but as a unique way to understand human existence (van Manen, 2014). Retrospectively, this group, comprised of pedagogues, physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists, were called the “Utrecht School.” They were the first to adopt phenomenology as a distinct research methodology and greatly influenced contemporary articulations of the methodology including Max van Manen’s Phenomenology of Practice and Amadeo Giorgi’s descriptive phenomenological psychology.

The basic tenet of hermeneutic phenomenology is that our most fundamental and basic experience of the world is already full of meaning (Merleau-Ponty, 1962/ 2006; van Manen, 2014). We are enmeshed in our world and immediately experience our world as meaningful because our world—with its other people, its histories and cultures, and its events—precedes any attempt on our part to understand it or explain it. The purpose of hermeneutic phenomenological research is to bring to light and reflect upon the lived meaning of this basic experience. Researchers attempts to describe phenomena as they appear in everyday life before they have been theorized, interpreted, explained, and otherwise abstracted, while knowing that any attempt to do this is always tentative, contingent, and never complete. Phenomenology as a methodology is open to nearly any human experience, such as learning online (Adams, Yin, Vargas Madriz, & Mullen, 2014), trying to lose weight (Glenn, 2013), or of seeing ugliness (Goble, 2011).

While having a relatively simple objective, doing hermeneutic phenomenological research poses many challenges. First, the object of our interest is experience before it is put into language and yet that experience cannot be accessed other than through descriptive account. We are always “too late” (Adams, 2014), unable to directly access the object of our interest. Second, what do we do with the accounts once we have them? Unlike some other qualitative methodologies, hermeneutic phenomenology has not set method (van Manen, 1990/1997, 2014). While there are a range of activities that may be used, including as line-by-line reading, thematic analysis, and existential analysis (see: van Manen, 2014), none of these are guaranteed to result in a phenomenological reflection. The “how” must be found anew with each study (van Manen 2014), making phenomenological researchers “perpetual beginners” (Merleau-Ponty, 2006). This is not to say, however, that phenomenology is not a rigorous or specific approach. Instead, it acknowledges that no one approach is suitable to all phenomena. What is common to all phenomenological research, however, is its sensibility (Henriksson & Saevi, 2009) and a very specific kind of engagement with the world (Merleau-Ponty, 1962/2006; van Manen, 2014). For any study to be successful, researchers must develop a “phenomenological eye” through which they can see the uniqueness of the phenomenon in all of its complexity and strangeness, as well as a strong “phenomenological pen” through which they can re-evoke and illuminate the phenomenon in their text.

Learning phenomenology, then, becomes an issue not of “how” to do it but of developing a particular orientation to the world. The Chinese philosopher Confucius famously wrote: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” This is an apt adage for learning hermeneutic phenomenology. As much as we might read about and study texts, we cannot truly begin to understand hermeneutic phenomenology until we practically engage in its activities. This involves formulating phenomenological questions, identifying and collecting experiential material, and reflecting on concrete experiences. Through grappling with the challenges of doing phenomenology, we begin to develop a sense of what movements bring us closer to the phenomenon as it is lived through and which lead us astray into theory or explanation. For this reason, the most effective phenomenological workshop and courses are laden with activities that challenge its participants to move beyond thinking about the methodology and towards embodying it.


Adams, C. (2014). What’s in a name? The experience of the other in online classrooms. Phenomenology & Practice, 7(2), 51-67.

Adams, C., Yin, Y., Vargas Madriz, F. L., Mullen, C. S. (2014). A phenomenology of learning large: the tutorial sphere of xMOOC video lectures. Distance Education, 35(2). doi:10.1080/01587919.2014.917701

Glenn, N. (2013). Weight-ing: The Experience of Waiting on Weight Loss. Qualitative Health Research, 23 (2), 348-360.

Goble, E. (2011). Facing the Ugly Face. Phenomenology & Practice, 5(2), 6-19.

Henriksson, C., & Saevi, T. (2009). “An event in sound” Considerations on the ethical-aesthetic traits of the hermeneutic phenomenological text. Phenomenology & Practice, 3(1), 35-58.

Husserl, E. (1970). The crisis of the European sciences and transcendental phenomenology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962, 2006). Phenomenology of perception. New York, NY: Routledge.

Van Manen, M. (1990, 2007). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. London, ON: Althouse Press

Van Manen, M. (2014). Phenomenology of practice: Meaning-giving methods in phenomenological research and writing. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

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An Introduction to Discourse Analysis

Written By:

Dr. Tami Oliphant, Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), University of Alberta

 Discourse analysis is a domain of scholarly practice concerned with how language generates, constitutes, and constructs identities, reality, and social relations; how language is used to perform social action; and how power is reproduced, construed, perpetuated, and legitimated in society through talk and texts (Fairclough 2003; Foucault, 1972; Keller, 2013; Potter, 1996; van Dijk, 2008). James Paul Gee (2005) makes a useful distinction between two types of discourse—capital “D” Discourse and lowercase “d” discourse. Lowercase discourses are concerned with discourses used in localized settings and localized contexts whereas capital “D” Discourse is concerned with discourses that are integral to a culture or society and can be found across texts (Discourse analysis, 2008). Wetherell, Taylor and Yates (2001) suggest that the study of discourse can be divided into three domains: the study of social interaction, the study of minds, selves, and sense-making, and the study of culture and social relations (p. 5). Discourse analysis focus on how representations of reality are created and constructed through people’s use of language and discourse analysts study the meanings and actions people ascribe to language when it is used in a social context (Gee & Handford, 2014).

Underlying discourse analytic studies are certain epistemological and ontological claims. Discourse analyses are not concerned with uncovering objective “truth.” Foucault, for example, avoided epistemological questions about the correctness, veracity, or adequacy of knowledge claims and instead focused on how institutions such as psychiatry and criminology produce knowledge. In addition, discursive psychologists such as Potter (1996) and Wetherell (2001) explain that discursive psychology does not focus on the accuracy or veracity of claims but rather on how cases and descriptions are constructed to appear authoritative and accomplish social action. Researchers using discourse analytic approaches do not typically aim or claim to capture a truth of reality but instead they offer an interpretation or version that is inevitably situated and partial (Wetherell, 2001, p. 11).

Discourse analyses concentrate on the empirical investigation of discourses. The term “discourse analysis” does not refer to any specific method, but rather to a research perspective on particular research objects that are understood as discourses. Discourse analysis is a cross-discipline field of study that is distributed throughout the humanities and social sciences in linguistics, psychology, cultural studies, political theory, and sociology, to name but a few disciplines. Consequently, heterogeneous research goals, research questions, methodologies, methods, theoretical frameworks, and disciplinary backgrounds inform discourse analytic studies. Many discourse analysis practitioners, and in particular critical discourse analysis practitioners, prefer methodologies that are consistent with the interests of the social groups in which they engage and with methods that do not infringe upon the rights of the people they study. Methods are often chosen so as to contribute to the social empowerment of dominated groups (Keller, 2013).

The object of research with discourse analysis is the talk itself. Researchers are not concerned with why someone believes or says what they do, but rather, they are concerned with talk as the site for research. Language is not merely a reflection of mental processes; it is constructed. Materials used in discourse analytic research can be just about anything spoken or written such as online discourse, interview and group discussion transcripts, texts produced by institutions, policy, governments, and other media; discourse can be commercial or non-commercial, historical, and aimed at adults or children. However, this material is not data. Material becomes data through the process of selecting and sampling, based upon the research question. Discourse analysis offers a rigorous and fruitful approach for qualitative researchers to examine social relations, social issues and problems, domination, power, and related phenomena, contextually situated discourse, and how people use language to construct reality and perform social action.


Discourse analysis. (2008). Foundations of Qualitative Research in Education. Harvard Graduate Schoolof Education. http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=qualitative&pageid=icb.page340345

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. New York:Routledge.

Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books.

Gee, J.P. (2005). An introduction to discourse analysis: Theory and method. New York and London:Routledge.

Gee, J. P. & Handford, M. (2014). Introduction. In (J. Gee & M. Handford) (Eds.), Routledge

Handbook of Discourse Analysis (pp.1-6). New York: Routledge.

Keller, R. (2013). Doing Discourse Research: An Introduction for Social Scientists. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Potter, J. (1996). Representing reality: Discourse, rhetoric and social construction. Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage Publications.

Van Dijk, T. (2008). Discourse & Power. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.

Wetherell, M., Taylor, S., & Yates, S. (Eds.) (2001). Discourse Theory and Practice: A Reader. London: Sage.

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Introduction to Phenomenography

Written By: 
Jane Costello, PhD, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Professor Marguerite Koole, PhD, University of Saskatchewan
Kari Ramussen, M.A., PhD Candidate,  University of Alberta  

Phenomenography seeks to answer questions such as ‘What are the different ways of experiencing a phenomenon?’ Largely popular in education research in Europe and Australia, phenomenography is little known here in North America. It originally was developed by a research group in the Department of Education, University of Gothenburg, in Sweden; the word phenomenography was coined in 1979 and appeared in print for the first time two years later (Marton, 1981). Since this time, it has evolved into several approaches, each of which focuses on the variation of human experience relating to a phenomenon.

Although sometimes mistakenly referred to as a lesser sibling to phenomenology, phenomenography is rooted in a different underlying philosophy. Based upon variation theory, it is used to explore the qualitatively different ways others experience a given phenomenon. Researchers are concerned with the nature of awareness and discernment. Using a second-order perspective wherein the experience as described by the participant is relayed it focuses on “constituting a structure of meaning” (Ǻkerlind, 2005).

Phenomenography employs method-specific approaches to data gathering, analysis, and portrayal of results. Interviews are the primary method of data collection wherein an understanding of the participants’ experience is constructed through dialogic interviews with the researcher. Analysis involves an iterative process of reading, coding, memoing, sorting, and identification of categories of description. During this activity, the researcher attempts to bracket, or put aside, her assumptions about the phenomenon to focus on what the participants’ are saying. Phenomenographic studies typically result in an outcome space mapping these conceptions across a population; they do not define an individual. This outcome space attempts to relay an understanding of how the participants’ conceptions are related to each other structurally and referentially and are often presented in a hierarchical structure. The results of this type of qualitative research are viewed as categories of conceptions of phenomena.

Phenomenography is useful for summarizing a collective experience of a group of individuals who all shared the same experience. For some, it is a precursor to further research or decisions making.

Ǻkerlind, G. (2005). Learning about phenomenography: Interviewing, data analysis and the qualitative research paradigm. In J. Bowden & P. Green (Eds.), Qualitative research methods series (Melbourne). Doing developmental phenomenography (pp. 63-74). Melbourne: RMIT University Press.
Marton, F. (1981). Phenomenography- describing conceptions of the world around us. Instructional Science, 10, 177-200.

Phenomenography Resources
-Bowden, J. A., & Walsh, E. (2000). Phenomenography (p. 154). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.informit.com.au/products/ProductDetails.aspx?id=PHENOMENOGRAPHY_ERIN&container=humanities
-Dortins, E. (2002). Reflections on phenomenographic process: Interview, transcription and analysis. In Higher Education Research & Development Society of Australasia Conference 10 February, 2002 (pp. 207–213). Perth, Western Australia.
-Entwistle, N. (1997). Introduction: Phenomenography in Higher Education. Higher Education Research & Development, 16(2), 127–134. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0729436970160202
-Marton, F., & Säljö, R. (1976). On qualitative differences in learning: I–outcome and process. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 4–11.
-Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and Awareness (p. 240). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
-Marton, F., & Pong, W. Y. (2005). On the unit of description in phenomenography. Higher Education Research & Development, 24(4), 335–348. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07294360500284706
-Sandbergh, J. (1997). Are phenomenographic results reliable? Higher Education Research & Development, 16(2), 203–212.
-Sin, S. (2010). Considerations of quality in phenomenographic research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9(4), 305–319.
-Svensson, L. (1997). Theoretical foundations of phenomenography. Higher Education Research and Development, 16(2), 159–171. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ554079&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ554079
-Walsh, E. (2000). Phenomenographic analysis of interview transcripts. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 19–33). Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Publishing.

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AQM 2014 – Advances in Qualitative Methods Conference: Pecha Kucha Highlights

Editor’s note: Throughout the TQ Workshop June 16-20, U of A writing studies instructor, longtime journalist, and Education PhD student Christina Grant blogged about her experiences in “The Lived Experience: A PhD student’s journey through the TQ Workshop.”  See:  https://iiqm.wordpress.com/

The following is a final feature story on the 13th Annual Advances in Qualitative Methods (AQM) Conference June 23-25 in which she incorporates information and observations from several conference events and speakers—including keynote presenter Dr. Rosaline Barbour.

Ending in a Blaze: 7-Minute Pecha Kucha presentations and Final Words

One of the final sets of activities of the AQM were Pecha Kucha presentations, a challenging presentation design that has people talk to the audience while slides containing only their selected visuals run steadily in the background—out of their control in timing. They simply must keep pace and end when the slides end. Stepping up to the plate on Tuesday were Sarah Wall, Jude Spiers, Rosaline Barbour, and Alex Clark, and the audience enjoyed a rollicking, informative, and entertaining ride through their lives, motivations, and philosophies as qualitative researchers.

Afterwards, Alex thanked everyone for sharing their “amazing transformational stories” and challenged audience members to ask themselves, as they prepared to depart the conference, “Where are you on your scholarly journey? What questions is life asking you as researchers?” Also, “What scares you most, and how can we help?” He noted that as qualitative researchers we have much to learn and gain from each other. He urged us to remember, as we conduct our research “towards a better world,” the deeply inter-relational nature of our work: “Be empathetic. And to think you can affect other peoples’ stories is important, too.”

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AQM 2014 – Advances in Qualitative Research: Choreographed Debate with Dr. Sally Thorne & Dr. Sarah Wall

Editor’s note: Throughout the TQ Workshop June 16-20, U of A writing studies instructor, longtime journalist, and Education PhD student Christina Grant blogged about her experiences in “The Lived Experience: A PhD student’s journey through the TQ Workshop.”  See:  https://iiqm.wordpress.com/

The following is a final feature story on the 13th Annual Advances in Qualitative Methods (AQM) Conference June 23-25 in which she incorporates information and observations from several conference events and speakers—including keynote presenter Dr. Rosaline Barbour.

Playful Exploration: Roleplaying with the Audience on the Role of Theory in Applied Qualitative Research, led by Dr. Sally Thorne & Dr. Sarah Wall

On Tuesday at 8:30 am, a novel session got underway that involved dramatic props and audience participation. Billed as a “Choreographed Interactive Debate on the Role of Theory in Applied Qualitative Research,” it featured Dr. Sally Thorne and Dr. Sarah Wall assuming the hypothetical roles of “doc student Noh Way and “Professor ILove Theory” discussing whether or not theory should play a role in a study on how homeless people exert their right to refuse shelter.

Sarah started things off by sharing some “pro-theory” thoughts of her own and other experts: “People have lot of reactions” to theory,“ she noted, adding that “in practice disciplines (50% of the audience raised their hands to show they were in that category) tend to have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with theory.” Sarah made a case for including theory, which encompasses major findings on a topic that have come before, in all new qualitative research. “I tell students it “just an explanation,” a way to help us understand.” She skipped through a selection of quotes such as “theory is alive—something we create, produce, modify live with everyday in our lives,” and how it helpfully “guards against ‘obviousness,” and “makes research findings generalizable.” Indeed, she expounded, “publishing without it stunts the development of qualitative health research.”

Sally then came forward beneath an “anti-theory” banner and tore down everything Sarah had said, noting that despite good intentions, theory has become nothing less than “rigid, scientifically accepted explanations” and commits a plethora of sins   such as ensuring that research “fits rather than shapes conventional wisdom” and “solves problems by reducing their complexity.”

The theoretical flames in the room thus fanned, the drama began with Sally the ‘student’ donning a red baseball cap and Sarah ‘the prof’ a blue velvet PhD hat and perching on tall chairs, to face off.  Shortly into their opening salvos, an audience member rose up and came forward to loud applause, took the red hat and chair, and joined in. And thus the drama unfolded, a lively, often hilarious, and thought-provoking ad-lib bit of theatre that riveted everyone in the room for almost an hour. Finally it petered out, and a few final remarks wound down the session.

As people burst into animated cluster conversations immediately afterwards, Sally beamed: “We could have fallen on our faces,” she admitted, with the playful experiment which conference organizers had never tried before. That, of course, didn’t happen; half a dozen audience members strode to the front, one at a time, under enthusiastic applause to don one hat or the other and give their two cents’ worth. “I was thrilled with people’s willingness to engage in the silliness of the format to think about serious issues,” Sally said. “There’s something about pushing polar extremes to realize that we have trouble positioning ourselves on either side. Looking at two opposite views exposes different ways of thinking about it.”

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AQM – Advances in Qualitative Methods Conference: Micro Keynote Suraya Hudson, Naomi Krogman, & Mary Beckie: Quality Work in the Hills of India

Written By: Christina Grant

Editor’s note: Throughout the TQ Workshop June 16-20, U of A writing studies instructor, longtime journalist, and Education PhD student Christina Grant blogged about her experiences in “The Lived Experience: A PhD student’s journey through the TQ Workshop.”  See:  https://iiqm.wordpress.com/

The following is a final feature story on the 13th Annual Advances in Qualitative Methods (AQM) Conference June 23-25 in which she incorporates information and observations from several conference events and speakers—including keynote presenter Dr. Rosaline Barbour.

Micro Keynote Speaker in Participatory Research by Suraya Hudson, Naomi Krogman, and Mary Beckie: Quality Work in the Hills of India

Suraya Hudson is working on her Masters in International Development Policies with the Department of Rural Economy and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. She cares a lot about food insecurity—people who don’t know whether or not they’ll always have enough healthy food to eat.  Thus, as part of her Masters program, she found herself conducting qualitative research in the countryside of Nadu, India, which brought her to the AQM and her co-presentation with her supervisors entitled, “Mobilizing Knowledge for Sustainable Food Production: Nutrition Gardening and Fish Farming in the Kolli Hills, India.”

“Being so immersed for almost three months really in the middle of nowhere by myself was so rewarding,” said Suraya in an interview alongside co-supervisor Mary Beckie. “I’ve never felt so welcomed,” Suraya remarked, recalling her participatory work among people of the Malayalis Tribe who continually offered her tea and fruit and were eager to share their lives, concerns, and food with her. “At the end they said ‘thank you,’ but I said,  ‘No! Thank you for all your time talking to us.” The community lacked both electricity and contact with “the outside world,” and Suraya said that she “felt honoured” to be able to help them along the path to alleviate malnutrition and explore “alternate methods of income generation.” The region is beset by pressures from the cash crop cassava which is increasingly displacing the minor millets needed for basic nutrition.

Mary Beckie, who, together with Naomi Krogman supervised Suraya, said this project has had genuinely positive effects. “I had been quite skeptical of the notion of interventions in remote villages where they led isolated existences and researchers come in to ‘show them how to do things better,’” she said. But the organizers of the Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC)-funded project, she noted, “really understand the people and culture of the Kolli Hills; they’re very respectful of the culture knowledge the people hold.” She believed that the researchers’ qualitative methods of participatory rural appraisals “empowered” the residents by offering them “new methods” such as cellphones and computers to access information on nutrition gardening and fish farming.  “It was all about becoming more self-reliant and building more self-sustaining capacity,” she observed. “It was collaborative, working with the people not on them.”

The results of the study will be published in two journals, helping open eyes to the critical need to address food insecurity concerns of small scale farmers around the world which, Mary pointed out, “account for 80% of the world’s food supply.” The group’s presentation at the AQM generated considerable interest from participants: “There were some really great questions,” Suraya said, “and three people came up afterwards and asked for copies of the presentation” which she feels could lead to more exposure for, and attention to, both their work and the larger surrounding issues.

But connecting with the people might have been one of the best outcomes for the new qualitative researcher. Suraya smiled widely as she related how she’s “still in contact” with some of her study subjects, such as being “included in birth announcements. I’d love to go back,” she beamed.

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AQM 2014 – Advances in Qualitative Methods Conference: Micro Keynote Speaker Kimberly McKercher – Gardening for Life

Written By: Christina Grant

Editor’s note: Throughout the TQ Workshop June 16-20, U of A writing studies instructor, longtime journalist, and Education PhD student Christina Grant blogged about her experiences in “The Lived Experience: A PhD student’s journey through the TQ Workshop.”  See:  https://iiqm.wordpress.com/

The following is a final feature story on the 13th Annual Advances in Qualitative Methods (AQM) Conference June 23-25 in which she incorporates information and observations from several conference events and speakers—including keynote presenter Dr. Rosaline Barbour.

Micro Keynote Speaker in Participatory Research by Kimberly McKercher: Gardening for Life

(Kimberly is the winner of the 2014 ATLAS.ti IIQM Masters Dissertation Award)

Interested in healthy aging, Kimberly McKercher of the Department of Gerontology at Simon Fraser University set out to gain “a rich understanding of the community garden experience for older adults” through a qualitative research study involving 11 members of the Cottonwood Community Garden in Vancouver. She explained her study’s design and results in her micro keynote talk called “The Role Of Community Gardens In Supporting Quality Of Life In Urban Dwelling Older Adults.” While other research has demonstrated the value of gardening in reducing chronic disease and improving balance, cognitive functioning, and psychological well-being, in seniors,“very few studies have looked at the social aspects of community gardening participation in later life,” Kimberley said.

Since older adults in urban settings “are at a greater risk of social exclusion,” she wanted to explore in-depth these research questions: “How does participation in community gardening influence the quality of life in older adults?” and “In what ways does participation in community gardening projects facilitate social engagement among older adults?” She conducted a series of 45-minute semi-structured interviews with each study participant who ranged in age from 61 to 70, and she carried out both active participant and non-participant ethnographic observations.

Displaying a slide that showed her Themes and Codes, Kimberly identified dominant elements to discuss, including staying active, connecting with nature, continual learning, awareness of limitations, real work, quality of social relationships, sense of community and engaging with the community.

“One of my most favourite things was that I really got to see their sense of pride in their garden plots,” Kimberly said. “Also, connecting with nature was a profoundly positive experience for all the participants; their gardens were an oasis, an escape from the urban environment.” She found that the gardeners were “very invested. Not being able to participate would be detrimental to them.” Recalling her own connections to nature growing up on an acreage, Kimberly mused, “there’s a human draw to getting your hands dirty.”

“I’ve always been drawn to qualitative research,” Kimberly said, “because of the interaction with the participants. It’s a way to get a deep understanding of an experience as opposed to surveys that don’t have open-ended questions.”

Like other qualitative researchers, Kimberly wants her study to have meaningful impact. “I would like to play a role in saving this garden,” she said, noting that due to urban expansion the 4-acre Cottonwood site is in danger of being radically altered by a roadway. “I’ve shared my research and written a letter to the local government.” On a wider scale, she says her study could encourage city planners here and elsewhere to incorporate accessible community gardeners into their guidelines, foster partnerships between communities and health programs to engage more older gardeners, and forge relationships between community gardens and farmer’s markets and food co-ops to create employment and encourage people to eat locally. “The garden is a lot about community building, not just about the garden… it’s about quality of life.”

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