Moving up how research and teaching will change with NVivo 7 Lyn Richards, Strategies Conference, University of Durham, September, 2005.
Thinking futures Up from where? To where? What needs to be done next?
Up from where? The methods story. A decade ago, dominant themes were: qualitative research as mystique and magic the cloak of “alchemy” unquestioningly admired (at least in the qualitative coven) students taught that meaning emerged from data dire dichotomy of qualitative and quantitative, with all the weak words on the qualitative side. What changes are now happening?
Up from where? The methods story. In some disciplines, at least, changes include: qualitative research moving from mystique and magic to method the cloak of “alchemy” is labelled as what it always was - something to hide under students are taught skills (sometimes, even, software skills) growing debate and practice around integrated, not just mixed, methods - serious attention to methods!
Up to where? The methods story. What is now possible? tough skepticism of “alchemy” messages data management not “housekeeping” but a necessary condition of creativity new ways in which data of many sorts can be combined in subtle analysis software skills required and taught in context of methodology - towards maturity of a method…
what a mad optimist! You can tell who’s retiring they’re always like that at a new release – it’s the euphoria When did you last teach in a real university, Lyn? Let’s just ask, what’s possible?
Up to where? What grounds for optimism? It’s partly a software story – I did say “partly”… Not of course claiming that software alone creates the change but software is both an indicator and an agent of change So let’s look at the software story.
Up from where? The software story. From manual methods, heaps of quotations, cut and paste… to code and retrieve software that remade data management and searching (N1-3)… to support for more qualitative tasks – iterative searching, coding-on (N4-6)… to software that put coding in its place, along-side linking, modeling (NVivo 1-2)… To NVivo 7… The software story is clearly related to the methods changes.
To where? NVivo 7 as a next step You’ve seen it and read about it – you know what’s coming… new look and feel new functions and new tools bringing together the NUD*IST and NVivo streams NVivo 7 won’t by itself change our research world No software will do that (we want no software alchemists) Researchers, teachers and writers effect the change. But this new software is a sign of change….. and will assist change.
To where? NVivo 7 as indicator and agent of change Two major stories here: Normalizing software use Dealing with dichotomies
To where? Normalizing software use NVivo 7 is designed to look and feel normal! The way things are for access and efficiency ever so Very Windows! folders and lists that show where you are sort everything, (lots of information to sort by) customizing to set it up the way you want dialogs that are familiar find, query tools look (deceptively!) like Outlook and Undo to dispose of your mistakes!
To where? Normalizing software use Moving up from NUD*IST and NVivo 1-2 NVivo 7 is designed to remove barriers to (reasonably!) efficient software use. make all tools accessible (not only to “advanced” users) show the whole project at once, for control of data and processes remove fear of losing project remove nervousness of big databases
A reflection on normalization… If software use becomes normal, it should be possible to leave behind many uncertainties that hobbled qualitative research. No more delays with debates about whether software will be used – of course it will be about whether software can cope with this large project – of course it can about whether software should be taught to students – of course it is their right to be taught methods they will need in jobs.
Another reflection on normalization… What would it be like, after all these decades, for software to be normal? I dream of a world in which qualitative software is provided of course by all universities and research sites since it is obviously a necessary condition for good research software skills are not the privilege of those with resources for private training collaboration between researchers is unimpeded by inadequate or unequal technical knowledge Impossible dreams at present – but normalization will help their realization
Another reflection on normalization… If software were normal there would be other less obvious consequences. Risks could include: dulling of curiosity about the methodological implications of software slowing of feed-back to developers distancing of development from methodological debate Don’t let the software providers lose touch with researcher purposes! Being normal may not be uncomplicated!
And my second wild prediction... Dealing with dichotomies Methodological advance is plagued by dualisms Two are of particular relevance here: The two faces of qualitative research – management or creativity? The age-old dichotomy of qualitative and quantitative
To where? Dealing with dichotomies Management or creativity? It took a terrible time for qualitative researchers to acknowledge that management of data is a necessary condition of creativity. The goal was always creativity – interpretative skill, insights, understanding But the challenge was always showing that the insights were justified by the data. Before software, that challenge could be dodged. Now, it must be confronted. For most.
Technological traps Many researchers fearing this creative demand aspect of grounded theory want an easy way out. Technologies, especially computers.. are an easy cop out on the full power of memoing. NUDIST seems a popular qualitative research software… I have talked with the creator of NUDIST whose imagery is that it is an aid not a hindrance to grounded theory… But she does not know the full requirements of the creative ideational skill of grounded theory… It hinders and cops out on the skill of doing grounded theory. It numbs and stultifies these processes as it legitimates non grounded theory production. Barney Glaser, Doing Grounded Theory 1998, p. 185. (self published)
Dealing with dichotomies: just make impossible demands! But I am open to computerization if I can be shown, how constant comparing, how delimiting from interchangibility of indices, how saturation, how other delimiting, how latent patterned relevance, how theoretical completeness, how theoretical coding every which-way, how theoretical sampling, how constant comparing, how denotification levels, and how full descriptive coverage can be stopped, how conceptual level can be maintained, how memo jots, bits, scribbles and paragraphs can be inputted and sorted flexibly with no waste of time, and so forth can be handled with no impediments all at once and one at a time. Barney Glaser, Doing Grounded Theory 1998, p. 185. (self published)
To where? Dealing with dichotomies Management or creativity? If software were normal, there would be easy answers to that protest: for each of those Grounded Theory tasks there is some assistance from software tools (for some tasks there is more assistance than for others) for none of them will there then be “no impediments at all” to success the researcher remains the agent for (and main impediment to) creativity. If this sounds boringly obvious, that’s great! We’re getting there!
This was a different challenge – but the same dichotomy-wielding applied. To combine qualitative and quantitative data you must use computers If computers numb and stultify, mixed methods must.
To where? Dealing with dichotomies When software is normal… When qualitative researchers of course use software, these chasms are simply bridged. tools for data management are used as the researcher requires tools for theory emergence and theory construction are used if these are the analytical goals combinations of qualitative and quantitative data are available and assessed according to research goals.
What needs to be done next? Write and teach the skills of handling data Handling data is less problematic and far more competent as software is normalized – and far more necessary, given new accessibility of data. The change will reach across research settings and disciplines Teaching of data handling skills That’s the prime goal of That Book! Tutorials in NVivo 7 will be on the Sage website in November: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/richards/
What needs to be done next? Advance the validity and reliability debate Asserting standards for what is adequate qualitative research – especially as these methods spread More emphasis on accurate access and responsible and thorough searching Revival of belief in, and development of tools for, qualitative validity and reliability All of which contributes to growing trust in qualitative studies spread of research across disciplines funding and structural support
What needs to be done next? Teach appropriate use of software tools Risks in advanced tools if methods don’t advance! e.g. misusing tools for validity and reliability coder reliability testing – what is it proving? tables that show a ‘qualitative’ pattern – what should be done with those cells? Claims of software-derived evidence must be supported by qualitative analysis and logs that account for conclusions.
Conclusion? See and use NVivo 7 as both an indicator and an agent of change NVivo 7 won’t change our research world. Researchers, teachers and writers do that. But central to the design of this new software are two important goals: to normalize software use to deal with dualisms
Looking forward: what’s to be done? Rapid building of literature, web resources and pedagogy to support the normalization of qualitative computing examplary moves by CAQDAS and the new QDA Online project Determined maturity of discussion and debate. Critical input from conferences Madison conference on teaching of qualitative computing this one, whose future is now up there for all to contribute…
This conference is growing up – and of course, it too is an indicator and an agent of change. We have a website – Clare will tell us about…
And we have a next conference, with a new focus, new emphasis on the preconference workshop stream, plans already in place for sessions – see you there!
What will we be seeing next year? My top predictions: A new stage of writing and teaching to develop new ways of working with data A new emphasis on reliability and validity: since they will now be expected goals A very new and vibrant debate about technology and methods - beyond “should I use software?” or “which should I use?” to the big issues of management and creativity. Yes, I’m an optimist!
Moving on - a personal message We’ve come a long way since the last conference!
Moving on - a personal message My thanks to all those @ QSR who contributed their energy and imagination to these changes; and to all of you here, and the hundreds of thousands of researchers worldwide, who changed and are changing the way we do research – unquestionably for the better; and to the amazing network of trainers and valued friends, who have helped other researchers and driven us; including the untiring organizing committee of this splendid conference, with special thanks to Lydia as our organizer. See you next year