Qualitative Research Methods and Writing
During Fall quarter 2009 and Winter quarter 2010, COR’s visiting scholar Professor Monica Worline taught a graduate course on Qualitative Research Methods and Writing in the school of Social Ecology. Drawing students from the schools of Business, Education, Social Ecology, and Social Sciences, the course explored “the unique demands of research design and writing for qualitative researchers, where rich description often vies with journal length restrictions and where conveying the importance of research depends on the quality of argument rather than on reporting statistical findings.”
Student Comments on the Course
“Monica is an excellent professor. Her course and teachings allowed me the room to grow both creatively and constructively. Her comments on my work allowed me to slice away all the “extras” of my research design and really get to the heart of my dissertation research design. The two quarters I spent in her class were productive but also allowed me to figure out who I am as a scholar. I thank her for that.”~A.H.
“Monica’s class provided an invaluable forum in which to plan and get feedback on qualitative research design and analysis. It was truly a unique environment that both challenged and encouraged us to examine all aspects of the experience of doing research. Some of the discussions are things I will never forget and have really changed my perspective forever.”~K.P.
“I was not formally enrolled in Monica’s class because I was away conducting fieldwork for most of Winter and Spring Quarter, but the classes I managed to attend were very useful for advancing my dissertation research. Monica’s facilitation style generated engaging discussions about research content and methods. She welcomed diverse perspectives while challenging commonly held assumptions about the research process. Monica attended to the needs of students by creating a flexible curriculum geared towards topics raised in class. She struck a nice balance between broad research issues and specific research projects. Monica readily engaged with students inside and outside of class and invested substantial time into helping students shape their projects. Monica’s class brought together a cadre of scholars interested in similar research methods across a wide array of empirical topics. Her ability to advance each project through questioning students and offering astute insights amazed me. Like COR, Monica has been an incredible asset to scholars across the UCI community by improving student research and helping students forge connections across disciplines.” ~L.C.
“Monica’s course was my first systematic exposure to the variety of approaches available to qualitative researchers and the dilemmas of research design. She pointed us to practical and theoretical literature on case studies, organizational ethnography, action research, and so on, and cultivated a classroom environment in which I felt free to explore the ways in which I could connect these methods and perspectives to my more conceptual and quantitative work in informatics.” ~S.S.
“This class was a unique opportunity to truly workshop your ideas and work with students across disciplines and in different stages of graduate school. Personally I learned a variety of techniques to improve my writing practice. We also read material that helped me think about my research method approach as I am moving into my prospectus writing phase. One-on-one time with Professor Worline was extremely helpful; she helped me see the multiple research projects with my one. What this class offered that I think is priceless was a simultaneous emphasis scientific rigor and creativity in the research process.” ~V.L.
“Monica was excellent. She was helpful in two ways. First, she had a very good understanding of methods. She was not only well read in techniques, but also the epistemological and ontological underpinnings of research. Second, she understands the concerns of graduate students and researchers. She provided us with techniques, articles, and resources to inspire writing and productive work. I now feel much more confident in my abilities as a researcher. Her class transformed my understanding of the dissertation process. At the beginning of the class, I had no idea how to write my prospectus. By the end of the class, I had a finished the prospectus. I cannot express what an inspirational and intelligent professor Monica Worline is.” ~ L.C.
The Qualitative Research Design Class really expanded my previous notions about the boundaries and practice of research. The class provided a encouraging and stimulating environment, both inside and outside the classroom, to open myself to new ways of thinking and writing, but it also went a step beyond by helping to create a community of fellow scholars where it was safe to write, read, share, discuss and be okay with whatever tensions everyone’s individual projects presented. It helped me overcome several conceptual and methodological hurdles in my dissertation writing. Taking the class while writing my dissertation was probably the best thing I could have done in terms of moving me forward in my writing. ~E.K.
This course complemented others I had taken on qualitative data collection and analysis by focusing on the writing process. Writing is central to developing as well as communicating ideas in interpretive work, and it is frequently a daunting and isolating process. In the setting of this class, it was far less so. Monica created a stimulating and supportive workshop environment in which we could try out ideas and seek the intellectual and emotional support necessary to experiment and sustain our energies. Her choice of readings and leadership of discusions emphasized the creativity and positive aspects of the writing process. ~K.Q.
Being in an interdisciplinary area of research, I have taken many methods classes, but Monica’s class was the first to truly demystify methods and research design. We learned about research design and methods both in terms of writing about and communicating research to others – considering for example how methods can align with particular research questions or imply particular kinds of questions – and in terms of making decisions about research paths on an ongoing basis – in the sense that methods is not just something you think through once but throughout a research trajectory. The selected readings not only introduced us to a wide range of methods, but described these methods in very transparent ways, juxtaposing them with other methods and speaking to the kinds of trade-offs different methods entail. Monica also offered us many hands-on exercises that explored methods and research design choices, walking us through hypotheticals that were, in my opinion, very liberating. Once you realize you can take multiple paths through a particular research topic, and that no one path is complete, it becomes easier to see which path you want to take. In our invaluable half-hour (or more) workshops of each students’ work we often explored such multiple paths and discovered more about the choices we are making in our research as well as room for creativity in research design. Additionally we had selected readings and exercises on developing successful habits and practices for writing and getting over mental or writing blocks. I feel that this course was the first opportunity I have had in graduate school to just learn how to be a scholar, how to develop the habits that will allow me to be successful in research. We were given so many tools and tips to ch
oose from, it seemed that everyone found something that worked for them. The discussions were some of the most open I have experienced in graduate school – it was a completely safe space to explore tensions and roadblocks in research and to say when tools or exercises failed to work for you (instead of feeling that you failed them). This very open and encouraging space made research seem more doable because it made it clear how important it is to find what works for you to make and track your own progress. The course was realistic and practical as well as imaginative and creative. I feel like I received the lessons that will serve me now and throughout my career. ~ M.C.