Creating a new playbook: Making qualitative research more accessible to newcomers

Ray Poynter

Introduction

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to the future of qualitative research is that more and more people who do not understand the qualitative paradigm are able to conduct projects, using sophisticated tools, without the knowledge of how to conduct qualitative research, or of how to analyse qualitative material. The risk to the standing and commercial position of qualitative research is that mistakes made by well meaning, but inadequately prepared, people will devalue the role of qualitative research.

Innovation, technology, and commercial imperatives have created a growing number of DIY options for qualitative research. For example, there are many options for online discussions, chat groups, social media monitoring, and smartphone ethnography. Whilst some people (e.g. Terhanian 2011) have talked about the benefits of democratising the qualitative research process, the risk is that these new tools do not necessarily give people the ability to conduct meaningful research. These innovations put inexpensive and powerful tools in the hands of the many, but they do not necessarily impart any level of understanding or training.