Familiar in the UK, but not so much in North America, I’m in a ‘research’ programme toward a PhD rather than a ‘taught’ programme with formal courses. However, the absence of courses does not mean an absence of work and learning. A personal research plan is essential, and areas identified for further knowledge require it be obtained in some way. I certainly have a lot to learn. This means I have a choice, but I need to respond to learning opportunities. For one, the Centre for Labour Market Studies, under which the Beyond Distance Research Alliance is located, provides three modules to students. Each can be considered a self study course: Introduction to Ph.D. Research, Qualitative Methods and Analysis, and Quantitative Methods and Analysis. I still have to spend time with the latter two.
The Thinking Qualitatively Workshop Series came to my attention. It was being offered in my home city of Edmonton, Canada, where the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology is located at the University of Alberta, June 20–24, 2011. While I initially thought to wait until 2012 to attend, I was encouraged by a Ph.D. student colleague whom had attended before, and by a former professor. Reflecting on the week, I am thankful that I listened to their advice and registered. Three of the days were half-day workshops, and two days were full-day workshops, with choices of topics. I understand that a total of about 184 participants represented 14 different countries: Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Ghana, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Jamaica, The Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, UK, USA, and Canada.
I attended the following sessions:
- Introduction to principles of qualitative enquiry (Maria Mayan)
- An introduction to thinking about questions in qualitative research (Billy Strean)
- Approaches to qualitative analysis (Maria Mayan & Sarah Wall)
- Writing your dissertation (Linda Ogivlie)
- A critical lens as a qualitative method (Jane Sumner)
- Issues in observational research (Belinda Parke)
- Introduction to qualitative interviewing (Gina Higginbotttom & Jennifer Pillay)
- Panel discussion space–space rating proposals for qualitative research (Nick Holt, Kim Raine, Wendy Rodgers & Cam Wild)
My task now is to review my notes and the materials provided in each session, reflecting and determining how each fits with my future research. I know I now have a greater understanding of qualitative research, and I have potential avenues to explore while information is fresh in my mind. This is also a time to open the university research modules and read in greater depth, as I’ve started to do this week.
Unfortunately, the weather and resulting river conditions forced cancellation of our social event, the Edmonton Queen River Boat Dinner Cruise. Perhaps we can try this again, as I am sure to return. The time was right to attend, and next year will offer more including intermediate and advanced sessions.
A.E. (Tony) Ratcliffe
PhD Research Student, BDRA