Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Building Interdisciplinary Qualitative Research Networks: Reflections on Qualitative Research Group (QRG) at the University of Manitoba

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Building Interdisciplinary Qualitative Research Networks: Reflections on Qualitative Research Group (QRG) at the University of Manitoba

Article excerpt

Students of qualitative research have often questioned the "how-to" of qualitative inquiry and tend to rely on experiential learning processes to guide their qualitative research endeavors. However as qualitative research methodologies continue to evolve and develop, both students and experienced researchers may be showing greater interest in learning about and developing new approaches. Within the academic setting, we are likely to find untapped resources--from the experiences of established qualitative researchers or from the novel approaches being explored by a new generation of qualitative researchers. Yet, how often do we seize the opportunity to network with others and make the most of such rich learning opportunities? Furthermore, how are these learning networks and relationships nurtured?

The purpose of this paper is to document and describe the development of a "community of practice" (Lave & Wenger, 1991) in the example of the University of Manitoba Qualitative Research Group (QRG; Home Page: Through a needs assessment of its members, we were able to create a foundation based on learner input and examine the strengths and weaknesses of QRG's initial development. We will reflect upon and discuss its development within the context of qualitative research as a continuously developing and growing methodology. While many such networks may exist, little has been published related to the early development of qualitative networks or communities of practice or the process of building and sustaining such networks. This paper will share the steps taken to develop a qualitative research network with the intent to inform future development and support of qualitative research at our institution as well as others.


The historical development of qualitative research can be described by referring to developmental periods. These reflect at a time when researchers were beginning to be more vocal about the assumptions that were being made about persons and their subjective experiences relative to their individual contexts, especially when they were described primarily in statistical and numerical terms within a positivist framework. The idea that statistical analysis could provide an unbiased and objective view was increasingly being questioned (Kirby & McKenna, 1989).

The Chicago School (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005) emphasized that social processes were open ended and emergent and they studied action and addressed temporality. They imparted new meaning upon otherwise positivist objectives where research was defined through objectivity and a presupposed rationality. Qualitative inquiry was then further developed by subsequent researchers and became known as a method which afforded opportunities to hear those whose voices had not yet been heard in a research context (Glaser & Strauss, 2008; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Glaser and Strauss wrote Awareness of Dying in 1965 and then developed a widely used textbook on grounded theory in 1967. In this evolution beyond the Chicago School, it has become clear that qualitative research is a refined set of approaches including diverse methodological opportunities such as symbolic interaction, ethnography, narrative theory, and participatory action research. A body of other qualitative references evolved including Berg (2003), Kirby and McKenna (1989), Bogdan and Biklen (1992) which are now in wide use.

Denzin and Lincoln (2005) would say we are currently in the fractured future and the eighth moment. Similarly, Polkinghorne (2006) wrote a seminal article in which he discussed two generations of qualitative researchers. The first generation deepened our understanding of human and social phenomena beyond the physical realm. It is the second generation of qualitative researchers who focus their attention on the development of a human science that is the processes and methods for actively engaging in qualitative inquiry. …

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