"Stretching" Exercises for Qualitative Researchers
Janesick, Valerie J.
Sage Publications, London
Departing from textbooks written in a traditional way, this book offers advice with a detailed list of do's and don'ts to help initiate the novice researcher and develop essential skills with a set of exercises. Janesick takes a brave, bold yet innovative approach to introduce Qualitative Research to students in easy language but with a rich use of imagination to bring comparisons from the world of arts and performance for inculcating persistence, preparation and passion. Her overall approach is to teach students how to observe and reflect better in a manner that overtime will help develop a set of essential habits as researchers, by taking necessary preparations and undergoing specific practical work as "stretching exercises". Spread over six chapters containing 29 exercises besides a 71-page section consisting of 13 appendices, the book helps in making sense of qualitative data through developing analytical habits that include creating categories and themes as well as models. She emphasizes that researchers need to fine-tune their skills to observe, interview, narrate and articulate.
Janesick takes an out-of-the-box training approach aimed at those who find research an act of drudgery. The book aims to help researchers develop themselves into disciplined inquirers to pursue and practise research not as an intimidating, tedious, tiring or thankless exercise but as an attitude.
Janesick holds the novices' hands and provides them with a step by step induction into the world of research. She encourages researchers to see their work not as an occasional burden but as a passion, hence for researchers' self-awareness it is important to practise and refine techniques to develop their skills in observation, interviewing, writing and analysis. Such an approach is aimed to reduce a beginner's fear of the unfamiliar in a manner which is easy to follow and reader friendly.
The third edition brings a focus on developing good habits of mind, including the observation habit, keeping a researcher reflective journal, the creative habit, the analysis and interpretation of data habit, and the construction of poetry habit. The author encourages an integration of the habit of writing in multiple forms, such as narrative writing, poetry, and practice, with the researcher reflective journal as the data set.
Although there is no single way to learn how to be a qualitative researcher, Janesick sees researchers as research instruments in qualitative research projects. It is interesting to note how Janesick lists the characteristics of qualitative work as holistic, looks at relationships within a system, is focussed on understanding the social setting and incorporates a complete description of the role carried out by the researcher.
Among the caveats, one concerns Janesick's view that even creativity may be at risk if web-based activities distract from the development of the research instrument [p.9]. It takes persistence, determination, preparation, passion, diligence and above-average writing skills to create a work of knowledge. Janesick prefers to write in ordinary language to (1) bridge the distance between what is written and what the reader experiences, (2) engage the readers and (3) inspire them, (4) to deconstruct and demystify the process thus (5) contributing to a more democratic space for doing research [p.17].
No doubt editors could have improved the presentation and usability of this book by cutting down the details from lengthy observations, and by including tips on how examples of case studies in one discipline could be useful in another. Such approach could bring more value by showing the readers what they could learn by examples taken from contexts and settings different to their own. In any case, readers can pick those examples they find close to their needs.
Inculcating the essential habits includes focussing on formulating good questions as formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of skill, stresses Janesick and reminds: To raise new questions, new possibilities and to regard old questions from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science [p.14]. In this sense this book is helpful by providing enough input to spark lively discussions in a Qualitative Research classroom.
As a preparatory programme to introduce readers to Qualitative Research, the book offers well-thought out exercises that hopefully enable a beginner to prepare better for the research work on a more assured footing.
Institute of Ismaili Studies, London