Session: One Size Does Not Fit All: Diversity and Specifity in Three Qualitative Traditions (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

68 One Size Does Not Fit All: Diversity and Specifity in Three Qualitative Traditions

Cluster: Research Design and Measurement

Marie L. McCormick, PhD, Marywood University , Roberta Rehner Iversen, PhD, University of Pennsylvania and Julianne S. Oktay, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Friday, January 15, 2010: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Seacliff B (Hyatt Regency)
Qualitative research, sometimes characterized as an amorphous amalgam of methods whose epistemological roots are vague and whose rigor is questionable, represents a way of knowing that could well be characterized as 'a world of possibilities'. Thus, this workshop speaks directly to the theme of the SSWR 14th Annual Conference. It also responds directly to the expressed needs and interests of the SSWR members of the Qualitative Research Interest Group for workshops that clearly and cogently describe and define the multiple epistemologies, data collection and data analysis methods that represent the scope of qualitative research. This workshop makes this information readily accessible to the beginning qualitative researcher, and engages those with more experience by addressing three of the better known qualitative epistemologies—Grounded Theory, Ethnography, and Phenomenological Human Science Research. Three panelists, who have conducted original research in one of these traditions, provide a clear conceptual framework, and identify and describe data collection and analysis methods and protocols that are embedded in each epistemology. Panelists will include the significance of the social work context that informs each qualitative project independent of the epistemological roots. The first presentation, by Julianne Oktay, discusses the history and evolution of Grounded Theory--its roots in Symbolic Interactionism; the development of epistemology and method at the University of Chicago Sociology Department inter-twining with the early development of social work; the influences of 'positivism'; and the current place of constructivism. Second, framed by a five-year, five-city grant funded ethnography of low-income families and economic mobility Roberta Iversen will consider the consonance between the epistemology of ethnographic research and social constructionist theory; that multiple realities, standpoints, perspectives, and reciprocities constitute the philosophical orientation to data collection and analytic processes. This conversation emphasizes the rigor and relevance of ethnographic research based on the use of multiple sites, researchers, analysts, and participants. In the third presentation, Marie McCormick will discuss Phenomenology as first a philosophy. This presentation begins by integrating its key constructs--intentionality, consciousness and embodiment—with the essential components of the research method that derives from it--description, reduction, reflection and imaginative variation. It considers the emergence of interpretive phenomenology, an approach that diverges from Husserl's emphasis on pure description as the essential condition for the discovery of meaning. Interpretive phenomenology posits that interpretation with reflection makes visible what is otherwise invisible. The presentation's conclusion emphasizes that understanding distinctions and differences within as well as between qualitative epistemologies and methods is critical to conducting research that is internally consistent and methodologically strong. The presentations end with a discussion of the 'goodness of fit' between researcher and epistemology—that one size does not fit all in terms of research question or the person of the researcher. This workshop encourages dialogue about the philosophical, conceptual and technical aspects of qualitative research, and questions about attendees' research projects and plans. Members of the Qualitative Research Interest Group will be available to speak with attendees after the presentation for the purpose of strengthening the network of qualitative social work researchers and exploring mentoring relationships.
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