In our teaching, we challenge the premise that qualitative research is a toolbox of methods or techniques. Since the topics taken on by qualitative researchers in the health field are typically social in character, we believe students need social theory to frame their studies, interpret data and to re-conceptualize research questions. To optimize the potential of qualitative research, we teach students the multiple paradigms of knowledge production, the need for epistemological and methodological congruence, and the ability to think critically and creatively.
In 2004, a national invitational workshop called Teaching Against the Grain: Qualitative Research in the Health Sciences was convened in Toronto in response to the teaching-related challenges associated with the increasing use of and demand for qualitative research methodology in the health sciences. Participants included 23 new and established scholars from across Canada, including two guests from Mexico and the UK, and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. A range of different issues were discussed, including the teaching of social theory, ethics, evaluation, and critical perspectives, and the structural and institutional challenges of teaching an approach to research that differs from the dominant form of science practiced in the field. Members of the workshop exchanged course syllabi and teaching materials, and the event co-ordinators, Joan Eakin and Eric Mykhalovskiy published an account and analysis of the workshop and of the issues. The report can be viewed here.
Writing up a qualitative methodology chapter
A good methodology chapter tells the story of the study – the key and decisive moments in the development of the study, which have influenced the production of the final study structure and results presented. The reader should be offered enough elements to be able to achieve a critical understanding of how the data was generated and interpreted. The researcher should also be critical of the study, pointing to its strengths and limitations. The goal is to describe the research process in its complexity, however keeping a clear and relatively concise style.