Earlier this year I decided I wanted to organise a student-led group to discuss qualitative research in my department that could provide peer support. After some deliberation about how to best lead it, in March I started the QUDDLE group, QUalitative Data Discussions Led by Experience (pronounced “cuddle”). Yes, I know, it’s a cheesy name – but sometimes when you do research and you are drowning in data (which seems to be always the case in qual research) you want a supportive virtual hug.
Why did I start this?
I’ve always found it very useful to discuss ideas, findings, themes, narratives about my qualitative research – in fact, it’s part of the process! But sometimes it can be hard to find someone to talk to. Fellow PhD students might be too busy with their own work and faculty members may seem too intimidating.
As much as I had read books and papers on analysing data, I had constant doubts – was I doing it right? What tools do other people use? What worked for them? These are the kinds of things I was hoping to get out of a discussion group and that you don’t necessarily find in a text book. You know how designers have a portfolio of messy desks with sketches and notes? I wanted to know what a qualitative researcher’s “portfolio” looked like.
There were already several self-proclaimed clubs within UCLIC, including Write Club, Book Club, Film Club, TIPPS (Thursday’s Interactive Pizza Skill Series), so it seemed only fit to add another one on Qual research.
What happens in the sessions?
We meet every fortnight for an hour during lunch time and have a semi-structured conversation about whatever topic we picked for that week. We then decide what should be discussed in the following session. The sessions are open to anyone, from MSc students working on their summer projects to PhD students, post-docs, and faculty members. In our very first meeting, we discussed how to make the most of these sessions. One strong point that was made was the importance of being free to discuss how we do qualitative research, without fear of saying something wrong or ‘stupid’.
Some example sessions include:
- How to run a workshop/focus group?
- Feedback session on pilot study
- How do you code?
- From Data to Findings: how to make sense of data
- Finding a story for your paper
What do people get out of it?
I recently sent out a short feedback survey to find out what was useful and what could be improved. The responses were very positive: people appreciated being able to learn from others, getting support in preparing a study, and feeling part of a wider group in the department.
I would definitely encourage anyone to start a discussion group within their department. It can be about a specific research approach, such as qual research, quant research, stats, interdisciplinary research, or anything really.
I’ve set up documents, calendars, and material in a shared folder, so anyone can continue these sessions once I’ve left. Example resources include relevant literature, a list of resources and tools for qualitative data collection, quiet places where to interview in London, how to write up findings, and finding a story for your paper.
All the material also becomes a valuable resource that can be used for teaching a research methods course or when supervising students. If you would like access, please get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to share the material.
HOW to set up your own group
- Choose the type of discussion group you want to start.
- Pick a name (this is more for the fun of it).
- Set the first meeting to gauge interest and agree on how to set up the group. You want to make sure it’s a bottom up set-up that can help as many people as possible.
- Ask for topic suggestions, and collect them on a shared spreadsheet.
- Book a room.
- Create a calendar – lunch time meetings can make it feel like less of a commitment.
- Set up a mailing list.
- Take notes during the meetings and share any advice.
- Send out email reminders before meetings.