Creating a Doctoral Student Peer Debriefing Safe Space for Qualitative Research Data Analysis
Peer debriefing can be used throughout the research design, through analysis, and final write-up. Considering size of the debriefing group is important so that each person has a voice. We differ from Lincoln and Guba’s definition and incorporate “interested” peers given the richness of debriefing that can occur within the safe and protected space of ongoing relationships. The group is a primary vehicle for connectedness and well-being.
The purpose of this workshop is to address the development and sustainability of a qualitative peer group within one doctoral program and to advocate for its usefulness for incorporation by other doctoral programs. This monthly peer debriefing group was created by doctoral students in 2011 for students who wished to use qualitative methodology (alone or as a mixed methods approach). Four students from the group have successfully defended complex qualitative projects. The purpose of the group is to: 1) provide peer learning, problem solving, and debriefing opportunities, and 2) to discuss research results and seek feedback and alternate points of view. This peer group sought expert faculty assistance. However, the maintenance of the group (scheduling, topics, etc.) remains student-based.
In a doctoral program a fair amount of research is conceived of and conducted individually and in isolation from others. This group serves as an opportunity to discuss new research ideas, especially for students beginning the doctoral education process, as well as an important conduit for practical issues, such as locating a potential research sample. For students who are coding and developing themes, the group is a place to present initial themes and to check with others on serendipitous findings. The debriefing process allows for catharsis around research with vulnerable populations. Peer debriefing is incorporated into dissertation proposals as an important element in the vetting of rigor in doctoral research. .
Our workshop goal is to meet with social work doctoral students and faculty to share our experience and encourage the development of peer debriefing groups. Given that peer debriefing is an essential element of rigorous qualitative methodology (Padgett, 2008), it is essential for social work doctoral programs to facilitate a mechanism for peer debriefing among students engaged in qualitative dissertations.