Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Sense and Sensibility of Qualitative Research

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Sense and Sensibility of Qualitative Research

Article excerpt

David Silverman's new edition of Qualitative Research addresses how to engage in qualitative research with increased sensibility. The book is divided into seven sections with 23 chapters written by premier researchers. The chapters are written for students rather than the writers' peers, and while every chapter makes extensive use of the authors' fieldwork and data, John Heritage's chapter on conversational analysis (CA) stands out because he demonstrates to the reader how he made sense of a recurring piece of talk he calls an "oh-prefaced response." The papers are clearly written with helpful summaries and suggested further readings and online resources. Less helpful are the questions posed at the end of each chapter. Key Words: Qualitative Research, Practices, Ethics, Theory, and Methods.

David Silverman's (2011) third edition of Qualitative Research is not a "how to." It is not a methodological cookbook. It is not a collection of solutions or answers to questions that might be posed by neophyte or more seasoned students of qualitative research. The authors of these 23 chapters are not talking about how many interviews are needed for an understanding of end of life experiences, for example, or how to reduce the number of codes being used in a grounded theory study of pathologists and their discovery (construction) of medical errors, or how to move between findings and data when one is writing up conversational analytical research. What Qualitative Research provides is some real insight into qualitative practices-the "whys" and the "what," enabling one to become a more sensitive and thoughtful research practitioner.

Silverman's (2011) Qualitative Research book offers the reader seven distinct themes: observation (with a focus on ethnography); texts; interviews and focus groups; talk; visual data; qualitative data analysis; and the wider community (with chapters on ethics and policy implications). Each chapter has been written by first class researchers-Paul Atkinson and Amanda Coffey, James Holstein and Jaber Gubrium, Christian Heath, John Heritage, Kathy Charmaz and Antony Bryant, Tim Rapley, Mick Bloor, Ansi Perakyla, to name just a few-for and to an audience of novices. For students to have the opportunity to listen to rather than engage in the far more common practice of "eavesdropping" on such scholars as they write to and for their peers is priceless.

Perhaps the one word that best encapsulates this collection of papers is "sensibility." This is the term that Eberle and Maeder (2011) use in their chapter, "Organizational Ethnography". They write that sensibilities "provide information and background, questions and a range of answers and the tricks of the trade available for ethnographic consideration" (p. 55). What Silverman and the contributors to this third edition have done is to provide readers-the graduate students, researchers, teachers and perhaps those involved in funding qualitative research-with ideas that develop and enrich our sensibilities about the nature and practice of qualitative research.

In his introduction, Silverman (2011) states that Qualitative Research was grounded on six assumptions that include "(t)he centrality of the relationship between analytic perspectives and methodological issues and the consequent requirement to go beyond a purely "cookbook" version of research methods" (p. 4). So, Jody Miller and Barry Glassner (2011) in their chapter on interviewing entitled "The 'Inside' and the 'Outside:' Finding Realities in the Interview," explore the relationship between the story and the teller. If you are looking for help in teaching or in thinking about interviewing as a practical matter or in thinking about how to develop a semi-structured set of questions, you may not find this text helpful. But if you are thinking about what in fact we do when we do qualitative research then this book is excellent.

As Silverman (2011) concludes his brief yet adequate introduction, he offers the reader a suggested itinerary-the "not to miss" places to visit first, his Tower of London, his Mona Lisa. …

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