"Stretching" Exercises for Qualitative Researchers
Janesick, Valerie J.
Sage Publications, London
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This is the second edition of Valerie Janesick's Stretching Exercises for Qualitative Researchers' and, as she points out in the preface, 'this text is about writing. Observations must be understood through writing … It is a work in progress' (p.ix). Certainly the book has a dynamic feel to it: as the title tells us, it is about doing and provides a large number of exercises for the reader/researcher to do, accruing skills and confidence as they go along. This second edition includes expanded information on interviews; and new sections, for example, about review boards and online resources. Janesick notes that she originally wrote the book for her students, particularly doctoral students, and for faculty staff who would be qualitative researchers. However, since the first edition she found out that the book has been used extensively by teacher educators who found the sections on case studies helpful as well as by others in a wide variety of fields within and outside the education and research communities (p.xii).
The book is divided into five sections: 1, Introduction; 2, the observation cycle; 3, the interview cycle; 4, personal development and the role of the researcher; 5, the analysis cycle: making sense of data, intuition ethics, and other issues.
In the Introduction Janesick points out that the questions asked by her doctoral students always remain the same (p.1). They are:
1. How can I become a better qualitative researcher?
So the book sets out to answer these questions and, without wishing to reveal the punchline too early, it does achieve its aim. The author uses the concept of 'stretching' exercises to imply 'you are moving from a static point to an active one' (p.2) to make the reader 'a stronger, more flexible and more fluid researcher' (p.14). She is also a dancer and yoga teacher and throughout the book refers to different stages of learning that a dancer goes through. If you can accept this metaphor you can embrace the book much more easily than if you want a more formal, traditional methods book. The Introduction is perfect for the new researcher in that, for example, it provides definitions of qualitative research and discusses theoretical frameworks and research design. Janesick knows that the devil is in the detail. Later, she explains types of interview questions (p.72) and preparing questions (p.73) alongside exercises for the reader to hone their observation and listening skills. It is written in an accessible style and throughout uses numbered or bulleted lists, examples, and exercises. The many appendices give practical examples such as a sample letter to participants. The book thus also functions as a workbook.
2. How can I improve observation skills?
3. How can I improve interview skills?
4. What can I do with these skills?
And more recently:
5. Can I get a job as a qualitative researcher?
One of the book's main strengths is Janesick's emphasis on reflection; the book contains continual reminders for the reader to consider the research process and their place in it. For example, exercise 4.3 is 'my role as a researcher' (p. 93) and elsewhere she writes about the importance of keeping a reflective journal (p.149). I was a little anxious that ethics doesn't get much of a dedicated discussion (see pages 109 – 111), but overall her approach is that ethics are integral to the research design.
I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to doctoral students and current and potential research active staff from any discipline. Additionally, it would be particularly useful to those who teach research methods at any level.
Leeds Metropolitan University