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Is Qualitative Research also Quality Research? Debating the limits of Critical Scholarship

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Abstract:

Scholars engaged in the field of 'empowerment' research-that is, research that has an overriding commitment to improve conditions of marginalized groups-will agree that, in the past decade or so, there has been a perceptible shift towards heuristic and interpretative frameworks that use both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The gains of this paradigmatic shift are well acknowledged: through use of methods such as narrative analysis, in-depth interviews and reflexive writing, the voices of the disadvantaged, their experiences and needs, and their solutions to their own situations have a better opportunity to be articulated. In reality, however, the conduct and outcomes of qualitative research is anything but uniform across institutional settings, and tends to satisfy a range of agendas, some of which reify rather than destabilize power relations. This paper is an attempt to reflect on the author's own experiences and observed use of qualitative research, and seeks to ask the questions: When does qualitative research become interpretative or critical? And, realistically, when does critical research become empowering? These questions highlight some of the tensions in doing 'relevant' research, that which has policy applications as against a loyalty to post-modern and critical approaches. Researchers often are confronted with the need to compromise between process and end-outcome of the work they do, and in doing so, reframe empowerment from within the interests of their institutions. The author will draw on her experiences in academic and government-sponsored research in the fields of (a) gender and development and (b) evaluation policy research in New Zealand.
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Name: International Studies Association
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http://www.isanet.org


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MLA Citation:

Simon-Kumar, Rachel. "Is Qualitative Research also Quality Research? Debating the limits of Critical Scholarship" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Hawaii, Mar 05, 2005 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p72159_index.html>

APA Citation:

Simon-Kumar, R. , 2005-03-05 "Is Qualitative Research also Quality Research? Debating the limits of Critical Scholarship" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Hawaii <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p72159_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Scholars engaged in the field of 'empowerment' research-that is, research that has an overriding commitment to improve conditions of marginalized groups-will agree that, in the past decade or so, there has been a perceptible shift towards heuristic and interpretative frameworks that use both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The gains of this paradigmatic shift are well acknowledged: through use of methods such as narrative analysis, in-depth interviews and reflexive writing, the voices of the disadvantaged, their experiences and needs, and their solutions to their own situations have a better opportunity to be articulated. In reality, however, the conduct and outcomes of qualitative research is anything but uniform across institutional settings, and tends to satisfy a range of agendas, some of which reify rather than destabilize power relations. This paper is an attempt to reflect on the author's own experiences and observed use of qualitative research, and seeks to ask the questions: When does qualitative research become interpretative or critical? And, realistically, when does critical research become empowering? These questions highlight some of the tensions in doing 'relevant' research, that which has policy applications as against a loyalty to post-modern and critical approaches. Researchers often are confronted with the need to compromise between process and end-outcome of the work they do, and in doing so, reframe empowerment from within the interests of their institutions. The author will draw on her experiences in academic and government-sponsored research in the fields of (a) gender and development and (b) evaluation policy research in New Zealand.

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