Beyond Description: A Workshop on Moving from Description to Analysis in Qualitative Social Work Research

Thursday, January 15, 2015: 1:30 PM-3:15 PM
Iberville, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Aditi Das, MSW, University of Chicago, Amanda Michelle Jones, MS, AM, University of Chicago, Charity Hoffman, MSW, MA, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Karen Staller, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Deborah K. Padgett, PhD, New York University, Jane F. Gilgun, PhD, LICSW, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Tina Sacks, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Overview and Purpose: Qualitative social work scholars have a tendency to provide good descriptions and recommendations for policy and practice, but often struggle to move beyond description of their data to a deeper analysis and interpretation of key findings. This workshop builds on conversations started at SSWR 2014, drawing from questions raised during the roundtable on qualitative dissertation research and the advice provided by journal editors during the workshop on publishing qualitative findings. In the latter, panelists urged scholars to be sure to “do the heavy lifting” in their work; that is, to go beyond describing findings to interpretation in the light of the particular qualitative mode of inquiry. In this workshop, we will bring together experienced faculty and current graduate students for a conversation about implementing that advice – how to take qualitative data and mold it into a rigorous and constructive analytic framework. The importance of this workshop to social work practice, policy, and research lies not only in helping students deepen their analytical and interpretive skills, but also in training and cultivating a cross-campus community of scholars engaged in similar methods and analytical techniques that contribute to social work’s knowledge base.

Format: After a brief introduction by student questioners, a distinguished panel of current social work faculty, including Karen Staller (University of Michigan), Deborah Padgett (NYU), Jane Gilgun (University of Minnesota), and Tina Sacks (Berkeley), will respond to queries covering three domains of qualitative analysis (discussed below). Panelists will describe the analytical processes used in their own research to answer the questions posed under each domain. Student questioners will also help facilitate discussion and incorporate audience questions and comments throughout the domains. After each domain is addressed, the current editor of Qualitative Social Work will offer guidance regarding expectations for the findings and discussion sections in qualitative publications.  

Content: Panelists will present cases of their own research, covering a broad range of expertise in qualitative methods, including in-depth interviews, ethnography, and historical/archival research, in addition to grounded theory methodology. These studies will lay the foundation for a didactic conversation amongst panelists, student questioners, and attendees, with a focus on working through some of the roadblocks in moving from qualitative description to data analysis.

Panelists will discuss the following domains: (1) relationship between purpose of research, choice of method, and epistemologies underlying qualitative research; (2) specific analytical techniques employed by the panelists in their own work and their relationship to the qualitative methods employed; and (3) linking findings back to research questions, theoretical background, and conceptual framing, as well as thinking about the (sometimes contentious) political implications of findings in social work scholarship.

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