Title

Keynote: Exploring Social Worlds: The Promises and Pitfalls of Qualitative Research

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

This talk explores the possibilities and challenges of conducting ethnographic research on contemporary social issues. The talk draws upon my experience teaching a research/service-learning course about hunger and homelessness for the past four years. Students in this course volunteer at Missoula’s Poverello Center, receive training in qualitative research methods and conduct their own qualitative research into hunger and homelessness in Missoula. I start with a brief introduction to qualitative social research, with an emphasis on participant observation and in-depth interviewing. I then discuss several challenges of this sort of research, including the unpredictability of human subjects, the emotional impact of investigating charged social issues such as homelessness, and the assumptions and biases of researchers. Finally, I introduce some of the promises of qualitative social research, including its potential to give a voice to marginalized members of society, its attention to individual stories and life experiences and its capacity to capture students’ interest and enthusiasm. Throughout the talk I’ll share excerpts from students’ field notes as examples of each of these points.

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Apr 12th, 12:20 PM Apr 12th, 1:30 PM

Keynote: Exploring Social Worlds: The Promises and Pitfalls of Qualitative Research

UC Theater

This talk explores the possibilities and challenges of conducting ethnographic research on contemporary social issues. The talk draws upon my experience teaching a research/service-learning course about hunger and homelessness for the past four years. Students in this course volunteer at Missoula’s Poverello Center, receive training in qualitative research methods and conduct their own qualitative research into hunger and homelessness in Missoula. I start with a brief introduction to qualitative social research, with an emphasis on participant observation and in-depth interviewing. I then discuss several challenges of this sort of research, including the unpredictability of human subjects, the emotional impact of investigating charged social issues such as homelessness, and the assumptions and biases of researchers. Finally, I introduce some of the promises of qualitative social research, including its potential to give a voice to marginalized members of society, its attention to individual stories and life experiences and its capacity to capture students’ interest and enthusiasm. Throughout the talk I’ll share excerpts from students’ field notes as examples of each of these points.