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Keith Richards IATEFL RESEARCH SIG NEWSLETTER Issue 18 August 2006 QUALITY IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCH Keith Richards Introduction When people describe qualitative research as ‘soft’, they have a point: its data sets have a plastic quality that yields to easy moulding. Far from making life easy for the researcher, this demands a particularly rigorous approach and constant vigilance in order to resist the seductive appeal of the superficial. At its worst, qualitative research does little more than state the obvious; at its best, it takes us close to the heart of things. It’s hardly surprising, then, that considerable effort has gone into developing procedures and criteria designed to promote quality research. Vernon Trafford and Shosh Lesnem (this issue) provide an excellent introduction to quality issues in the research process, and a number of helpful overviews are available (e.g. Seale 1999, Lazaraton 2003), so my focus here will be different: I shall argue that, valuable although such treatments are, the achievement of quality in qualitative research is possible only if the personal dimension is properly addressed. The challenge Another criticism of qualitative research is that it is ‘subjective’, as though there exists the possibility of purely ‘objective’ research. The response to this is not to deny subjectivity, but to approach projects with a proper understanding of its place in the research process. The challenge this represents is captured by Angrosino and de Pérez (2000: 689), writing from the perspective of ethnography: [T]he ethnographer may need to realize that what he or she observes is conditioned by who he or she is, and that different ethnographers — equally well trained and well versed in theory and method but of different gender, race or age — might well stimulate a very different set of interactions, and hence a different set of observations leading to a different set of conclusions. Any researcher adopting a qualitative orientation without building this understanding into the fabric of the research process is heading in the wrong direction. By seeking to understand and honestly represent our place in the process, we enable our readers to judge the relevance of our findings to their own situation. In practical terms this means that keeping a research diary is essential: it enables us to reflect on our decisions, make connections with ideas and concepts, and expose aspects of our thought processes. However, more than this is needed.
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  • Winter '18
  • Qualitative Research, researcher

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