Bridging gaps between people, places, and ideas- Reflections from the 2016 Annual Qualitative Methods Conference

By Alysha Owen, Editorial Assistant Research Methods, SAGE Publishing

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Earlier this month, hundreds of students, researchers, and lecturers descended upon the Hilton in Glasgow for a week of workshops, presentations, debates, and speeches about qualitative methods and methodology at the 15th Annual Qualitative Methods Conference. With a theme of collaboration, the conference—run by the International Journal of Qualitative Methods and the International Institute of Qualitative Methodology—focused on how qualitative research can work across communities and cultures to further research effectiveness, give voice to relevant stakeholders, and bridge gaps between people, places, and ideas.

The research methods landscape is, and continues to rapidly adapt and evolve, as researchers are presented with new challenges in terms of both engaging with and conducting research through different mediums, such as digital. In order to ensure that we as a community are best placed not just to engage with but support these changes and challenges. Conferences like the Annual QM Conference are pivotal in providing a platform for debate – not only for publishers to learn more about the needs of our researchers, but also for the academic and peer community to discuss and share challenges, tips and ideas around these key debates.

So, what were the main highlights from the conference?

Collaborative qualitative research

Through an emphasis on both the micro and macro processes involved in collaboration, the conference helped to demonstrate that a focus on more collaborative qualitative research could lead to better addressing the complexities of life and capturing different perspectives as authentically as possible.

Relational research methodology

A keynote address highlighted that relational research methodology will continue to provide an important foundation for qualitative studies, as qualitative researchers often need to negotiate the tendency to become a part of their participants’ lives.

Alternative and new media research

Talks on alternative and new media research—particularly photographs and art that can be crowdsourced or elicited—as well as interacting with participants of different ages and backgrounds reflected a growing methodological trend of drawing upon teamwork and public resources to give research both a wider reach and a wider relevance.

While the conference activities covered all existing themes and challenges of qualitative research—from choosing a method to participant interaction to data collection, analysis, and dissemination—they also further illustrated the benefits of collaborative research. Café Q sessions enabled delegates to choose groups and freely discuss the latest qualitative trends and methodological developments with each other on equal ground, and discovery spaces encouraged delegates to hear about, debate, and question the key issues surrounding various qualitative methods, like grounded theory, critical realism, meta-synthesis, or institutional ethnography. The Q-Talks (the qualitative research version of TED talks) also highlighted how qualitative research can inform public policy.

With this spotlight on collaboration not just between researchers and participants or researchers and organizations, but rather researchers and other researchers, the conference showed that promoting the translation and sharing of knowledge could help researchers learn to react and adapt to a sometimes rapidly shifting research environment and achieve more significant results. In terms of fostering change, it’s not just about how you do qualitative research, but what you can do with it to impact the world and the way we see it. Find out more about the conference here.

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