Volume 9, No. 3, Art. 28 – September 2008

Between Reflexivity and Consolidation—Qualitative Research in the Mirror of Handbooks

Shalva Weil, Thomas S. Eberle & Uwe Flick

Book Review Symposium:

Uwe Flick (2006). An Introduction to Qualitative Research (3rd ed.). London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage, 448 pages, ISSN 9781412911467, £25.99

Uwe Flick (2007). Designing Qualitative Research (Book one of the SAGE Qualitative Research Kit). London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage, 120 pages, ISSN 9780761949763, £18.99

Uwe Flick (2007). Managing Quality in Qualitative Research (Book eight of the SAGE Qualitative Research Kit). London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage, 160 pages, ISBN 9780761949824, £18.99

Uwe Flick (Ed.) (2007). The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage, 1320 pages, ISBN 9780761949749, £135.00

Abstract: The increasing number of textbooks and handbooks on qualitative research reflects developments in qualitative research as a field. In this book review symposium—based on a "Meet the Author" Session at the European Sociological Association Conference in Glasgow in 2007—several recent examples of handbooks written or edited by Uwe FLICK are discussed by two commentators. The author of the books then adds his own comments and responses. The discussion covers four main issues. First, tensions between intensifying the reflexivity of qualitative research and consolidating it as a competitor on the market of research, research training and funding are discussed. A second issue is how handbooks contribute to bridging the gaps between different local or language-specific traditions of qualitative research. A third issue is how to integrate more strongly the idea of research design into the methodological discussion (and practice) of qualitative research more strongly. A fourth issue is how to promote and assess the quality of qualitative research and overcome a "legitimation crisis". These issues are discussed by the authors of this book review symposium from different perspectives with a focus on teaching qualitative methodology and on the progress of qualitative research.

Key words: textbooks; handbooks; legitimation; acceptability; research design; national diversity; quality

Table of Contents

1. FLICK's Introduction to Qualitative Methods and His Special Touch (Shalva WEIL)

1.1 Handbooks on qualitative research

1.2 Overcoming a "legitimation crisis" in qualitative methodology

1.3 The acceptability of qualitative methods

1.3.1 Versatility

1.3.2 Sensitivity

1.3.3 Authenticity

1.4 FLICK's special touch

1.5 Conclusion

2. FLICK's Qualitative Research Kit (Thomas S. EBERLE)

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Bridging different national traditions of qualitative research

2.3 "The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit"

2.4 Designing qualitative research

2.5 Managing quality in qualitative research

3. Reflexivity and Consolidation as Major Goals for Further Developments in Qualitative Research: Responses to WEIL and EBERLE (Uwe FLICK)

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Qualitative research between methods and reflexivity—responses to WEIL

3.2.1 My special touch

3.2.2 Qualitative research between a quasi-scientific approach and reflexivity

3.2.3 Qualitative research in a legitimation crisis?

3.3 Qualitative research between proliferation and consolidation—responses to EBERLE

3.3.1 Background of "The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit"

3.3.2 Bridging different traditions in qualitative research

3.3.3 Designing qualitative research as an issue

3.3.4 Quality of qualitative research as an issue

3.3.5 Teaching qualitative research

3.3.6 Response to questions

3.4 Concluding remarks





This written symposium is based on a "Meet the Author" session held at the ESA (European Sociological Association) conference in Glasgow in September 2007. The Qualitative Methods RN (Research Network)—of which, at the time, Shalva WEIL was President and Thomas EBERLE past-President—nominated Uwe FLICK for this meeting and the session was well attended and lively. The format we chose was that Shalva WEIL and Thomas EBERLE examined, discussed and criticised recent books authored by Uwe FLICK from their own perspectives and Uwe FLICK then responded to their comments. The discussion generated great interest and we have chosen to replicate that session and publish it in FQS to make the lively dialogue accessible to a wider audience. [1]

1. FLICK's Introduction to Qualitative Methods and His Special Touch

Shalva Weil

1.1 Handbooks on qualitative research

Handbooks on qualitative research are springing up like mushrooms after the rain. They also appear to be "good business": viz. DENZIN and LINCOLN (3rd ed., 2005), SEALE, GOBO, GUBRIUM and SILVERMAN (2004); GUBRIUM and HOLSTEIN (2002); ATKINSON, COFFEY, DELAMONT, LOFLAND and LOFLAND (2001). SILVERMAN's Interpreting Qualitative Data (3rd ed., 2006) is a companion volume to Doing Qualitative Research: a Practical Handbook (2nd ed., 2005), a guide to conducting qualitative research, and the titles are constantly being updated. It sometimes appears that people cannot get enough of introductory books. Indeed, a recent addition is SILVERMAN's latest slim volume, engagingly entitled A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Qualitative Research (2007). [2]

Against this background of a plethora of textbooks about methods, it should be noted that Uwe FLICK's An Introduction to Qualitative Research, now in its third edition (2006), has been published in Spanish, Portuguese and some Asian languages as well as in English and German. [3]

The real winner appears to be Sage Publications, which has published hundreds of qualitative titles listed as textbooks, handbooks and subjects utilising qualitative methodology in the past five years. [4]

How can we explain the increasing popularity in qualitative methods in general, and the enormous public interest in handbooks of the kind that FLICK has produced? [5]

The first explanation lies in the "legitimation crisis" in qualitative methodology, which handbooks and textbooks are attempting to combat. The second relates to the growing acceptability of qualitative methods in the social sciences in general. The third is the special touch FLICK has given to the field. [6]

1.2 Overcoming a "legitimation crisis" in qualitative methodology

DENZIN and LINCOLN refer to a "legitimation crisis", which questions traditional criteria for evaluating and interpreting qualitative research (2000, p.17). This may confirm doubts raised by quantitative researchers, or other sociologists, who do not see qualitative analysis as scientific or systematic in any way. [7]

Qualitative methodology suffers from several identifiable lacunae: scarce attention has been given to theoretical considerations and there are few "breakthroughs" in methodology. Innovative methodological techniques that address public probity, theoretical inventiveness, high research standards, and what I call "research praxis" have not been discussed sufficiently. Furthermore, in the general social research practice, qualitative research sometimes is underestimated. Results, which often take a narrative form, may be overlooked, and qualitative researchers sometimes do not look credible, despite the plethora of methods they employ. Whilst we have advanced greatly in the use of methodological tools, the results we bring to agencies that commission qualitative research are often ambivalent, incomplete or unsatisfactory. [8]

1.3 The acceptability of qualitative methods

Despite these perceived problems, qualitative research is increasingly employed in a wide range of disciplines, and not just in sociology or anthropology. It is becoming the principal research methodology in education, and is being adopted in the business world and in other fields. In my opinion, this is due to its versatility, the sensitivity of its research tools, the variety of techniques that one can employ, and the so-called "authenticity" of the results that one can produce. [9]

1.3.1 Versatility

Today, qualitative methods are neither restricted to participant observation nor interviewing. Recent editions of FQS have included a "cyberethnographic study" (FAY, 2007) and an article on "Spatial Analysis in Discourse Research", illustrated by an example from an urban development project at the Hamburg waterfront (BAURIEDL, 2007). At the 2004 mid-term meeting of the ESA Qualitative Methods Research Network in St. Gallen, Switzerland, I reported on a collaborative study in which I was involved which used an innovative "mapping tool" to identify school violence among children. Students were requested to map out safe and dangerous places in their school and then reconstruct what happened in those protected or risky locations. We, as qualitative researchers, analysed the narratives we elicited. The versatility and ingenuity of methodological tools know no bounds. [10]

1.3.2 Sensitivity

Qualitative techniques can be more sensitive than quantitative methods. The interviewer can develop empathy with the interviewee; the researcher can listen as opposed to conducting an automatic and rigid survey. Quality is clearly taking over from quantity, particularly in sociology, an area that has traditionally been sensitive to social change. [11]

Moreover, in an increasingly globalised world, qualitative techniques can be culture-sensitive, aiming at understanding the migrant or the hybrid person, and speaking to him/her in a communication form that can incorporate cultural clues (cf. WEIL, 1995). Greater sensitivity in qualitative methodology should therefore incorporate more "thick description" (cf. GEERTZ, 1973), which, following ATKINSON, should include "… systematic reference to the multiple forms of cultural life, producing cultural descriptions that preserve those distinctive forms". This methodology thus takes "GEERTZ's 'textual' approach to cultural analysis seriously, by insisting that the 'texts' need to be analysed in terms of their material and conventional properties. It also transforms the emphasis on 'culture' into an equal stress on social action" (ATKINSON, 2005, paragraph 21). [12]

1.3.3 Authenticity

Authenticity is a tricky property but, relatively speaking, qualitative methodology can capture "authenticity" far better than quantitative methodologies. What do we mean by this? If someone expresses him/herself in a narrative, that story is "his" (or "hers"); it may have been recounted hundreds of times before and it may have been triggered off by a photograph or a television series, but the ways and the manner in which that narrative is recorded are unique and authentic for that person. Such passion, lethargy or indifference cannot be recorded in any quantitative study. That is why qualitative methodology is suitable for studying both aboriginals and Western managers of high-tech companies, and is being increasingly used in social science. [13]

1.4 FLICK's special touch

DENZIN writes on the back cover of the third edition of FLICK's An Introduction to Qualitative Research (2006) that it "… is quite simply the most important text on qualitative research methods in the world today. I continue to envy FLICK's command of the field and its ever-expanding literature, much of which he has managed to include in his new edition". After this rave commendation, there is little that one can add! [14]

Nevertheless, let me take up a few idiosyncratic issues. Let me point out, for example, that the third edition is more than a simple revision of the second edition. As FLICK mentions in his preface to the recent volume, many things have changed in the past few years: holistic approaches to data, which include quantitative and qualitative methodologies, have become fashionable; the internet has become a field of research; documents have become a type of data in their own right; and ethics has come to the fore as a primary forum of concern. For these reasons and more, FLICK not only updated previous best-selling editions but also added chapters on ethics, uses of literature in qualitative research, internet surveys, documents and research design. He was then forced to add an essential guide aimed at assisting the reader find his/her way round this 443-page book. Even so, I think several topics are missing: there is no mention of collaborative research projects, which are becoming the "bread and butter" of European qualitative projects; diaries are addressed in less than a single page; and participant observation, once the staple diet of anthropology, the only discipline that relied almost entirely on qualitative methods, has been moved to the sidelines. [15]

In 1965, Donald LEVINE published a book with University of Chicago Press entitled "Wax and Gold". It was a volume on the Ethiopian personality in which LEVINE explained for the first time to a Western audience the subtleties of the Amharic language in which Ethiopians can speak on two registers with dual meanings simultaneously. FLICK somehow manages to attain the same in English, addressing at one and the same time experienced researchers in the field, as well as students and novices. [16]

Another amazing feat is FLICK's ability to cover huge ground in concise language, moving gradually from the theoretical to the practical in one volume. The revamped section on Research Design suggests practical tips on how to proceed with qualitative research: how to enter the field and establish rapport with informants, how to select participants, and how to design the qualitative research. One part (4) of the book deals with the major strategies for collecting verbal data, through interviewing, focus groups and the like. Another part (5) deals for the first time with internet as an instrument for conducting research, while yet another part (6) discusses narratives, texts and computer software in the analysis of qualitative data. Each chapter is accompanied by boxes highlighting major issues or giving practical advice on how to pursue qualitative research. There are case studies to illustrate the text and checklists to enable the reader to follow the structured arguments. [17]

However, FLICK's An Introduction is not only a handbook. He takes issue with certain major subjects in qualitative methods today. The best example is the integration of qualitative and quantitative methods. Until recently, these methodologies existed side by side, in effect ignoring each other; some tried to launch mixed-method approaches. As FLICK shows, this can mean many things: a certain colonialism by one or other side, though usually on the side of quantitative methods, the "superior" method in the field; different locations of application; and the necessity for triangulation or integration of methods. In Chapter 29, FLICK surveys DENZIN's four types of triangulation by which different methods, study groups, local and temporal settings, and theoretical perspectives are combined or integrated when studying a single social phenomenon. He shows the development of the field in DENZIN's earlier and later writings, and reviews the progress in conceptualising triangulation. FLICK himself has had no small part in this, regarding triangulation less as a strategy for validating results and more as an alternative to validation, which increases scope and consistency in methodological procedures. [18]

FLICK's third edition continues to provide the reader with a solid base and understanding of numerous methodological considerations. Unfortunately, reflexivity is not really part of his systematic school, and probably would not really be appropriate in that FLICK is aiming at a quasi-scientific approach to qualitative methodology, which would place it fairly and squarely as an equal to quantitative methodology. That is why a small section of one page entitled "Reflexive Function or Writing" (pp.406-7) is relegated to the end of the book as an almost superfluous addendum, in a chapter in which he concludes "Perhaps qualitative research should be understood as art and method" (p.408). In his third edition, qualitative method is little analysed as an art form, even less as an artefact, but the innovation is that in his final chapter FLICK concedes that qualitative methods can indeed be art. He even concludes his book with a quotation from GEERTZ on the application of different methodological items in as many fields as possible. [19]

1.5 Conclusion

In my introduction, I asked how we can explain the increasing popularity in qualitative methods and the steady interest in qualitative handbooks. I showed how qualitative methodology may well be considered to be undergoing a "legitimation crisis", yet maintained that there were two explanations for the growth in methodology guides: one lies in the growing acceptability of the discipline, and the second lies in Uwe FLICK's gift in writing such books. After reviewing FLICK's third edition, I have concluded that the two explanations are inextricably intertwined: the discipline has indeed grown, due to the work of FLICK (and others); and FLICK's handbooks have become more popular because of the increasing legitimation of the discipline. I hesitate to ponder to how many pages FLICK's fourth edition will run! [20]

2. FLICK's Qualitative Research Kit

Thomas S. Eberle

2.1 Introduction

In German qualitative research, Uwe FLICK has been a big name for many years. In 1991, he edited a well-received Handbook of Qualitative Research together with v. KARDORFF, KEUPP, v. ROSENSTIEL and WOLFF (FLICK et al., 1991), which provided a valuable overview of what was going on in qualitative research. In 1995, he published An Introduction to Qualitative Research which received so much attention that it has had to be reprinted nearly every year. In 2000, FLICK published another Handbook of Qualitative Research, together with v. KARDORFF and STEINKE (FLICK et al., 2000), which attempted to present the state of the art in an interdisciplinary perspective after a decade of vivid developments. Two years later, he also published a new, revised and enlarged edition of his An Introduction and recently another one (FLICK, 2007c). FLICK has also received attention in relation to other books and many articles; furthermore, he acted as Chair of the German Sociological Association's Qualitative Methods section from 2002 to 2006. [21]

2.2 Bridging different national traditions of qualitative research

Comparing the handbooks of FLICK et al. (2000) and DENZIN and LINCOLN (2000), we can observe distinct national traditions. While major developments in qualitative research in the U.S. and the U.K. were usually noticed and discussed in Germany, specific German developments went predominantly unnoticed in the Anglo-Saxon world. Social-scientific hermeneutics (SOEFFNER, REICHERTZ), the analysis of genres (LUCKMANN, KNOBLAUCH), objective hermeneutics (OEVERMANN), the documentary interpretation in group discussions (MANGOLD, BOHNSACK), the narrative interview (SCHÜTZE), and the phenomenology and ethnography of life worlds (HITZLER, HONER, PFADENHAUER) are major developments which are prominent in Germany but not widely known elsewhere (for an overview in German see HITZLER & HONER, 1997 or SCHÜTZEICHEL, 2007). When SAGE decided to publish FLICK et al.'s Handbook (2000) in English, the publisher made an invaluable contribution to building a bridge between these different traditions: A Companion to Qualitative Research (FLICK et al., 2004) introduces the reader not only to the variety of paradigms and theories relevant to qualitative research and to its methodologies, methods and research practices, but also to those approaches and issues that make up the specifically German context of qualitative research. Since then, these have been available to the (English-speaking) international scientific community, too. [22]

The Companion makes clear that qualitative research is much more than techniques, procedures and practical questions, but is inextricably tied to epistemological, theoretical and methodological questions and to issues like assumptions about the constitution of nature and society, the researcher and the researched, the emergence of (new) knowledge, the research process, and others. Indeed, debates on interpretive and qualitative methods in Germany have often been held on a very fundamental level, and sometimes far away from the practical issues of doing empirical research. Anglo-Saxon researchers, by contrast, are known to be more pragmatic in this respect and ready to discuss methodological questions in a practical research context. The handbook Qualitative Research Practice edited by SEALE, GOBO, GUBRIUM and SILVERMAN (2004) is a perfect example in this respect. Upon closer inspection, though, FLICK's publications also deal with qualitative research in a fairly pragmatic way. In his An Introduction FLICK (1995, 2006) discusses qualitative methods in a hands-on way and he does this even more in his latest publication, The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit (FLICK, 2007d). [23]

2.3 "The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit"

The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit is an innovative product. It consists of eight attractive books of 110 to 160 pages, each in a different colour. The books are handy and well arranged. Each treats a different method or aspect of qualitative research. The Kit is presented as a unity, and for the first six months it could only be acquired as a whole. Since March 2008, the books have been available individually. The Kit is edited by FLICK and each book contains two introductions by him, one to the Kit as a whole and a second to the specific topic of the book. The goal of the Kit is to address the problems of qualitative research on a practical level. Each book focuses on a key method or on specific materials, and is written by a distinguished author with extensive experience in his/her field and in the practice of the presented method:

  • Two books by Uwe FLICK frame the Kit as the first and the last volumes: Designing Qualitative Research and Managing Quality in Qualitative Research.

  • Three Books are devoted to collecting and producing data:

    • Doing Interviews (by Steinar KVALE, 2007)

    • Doing Ethnographic and Observational Research (by Michael ANGROSINO, 2007)

    • Doing Focus Groups (by Rosaline BARBOUR, 2007)

  • Three further volumes are devoted to analysing specific types of qualitative data:

    • Using Visual Data in Qualitative Research (by Marcus BANKS, 2007)

    • Analysing Qualitative Data (by Graham R. GIBBS, 2007)

    • Doing Conversation, Discourse and Document Analysis (by Tim RAPLEY, 2007), which includes practical issues like generating an archive, transcribing video material, and others. [24]

All of the authors except FLICK and KVALE are native English-speakers, as are the members of the editorial board: Juliet CORBIN, Norman K. DENZIN, Peter FREEBODY, Ken GERGEN, Jennifer MASON, Michael MURRAY, Clive SEALE, Jonathan POTTER and Margaret WETHERELL. It is therefore no surprise that the references of the majority of the authors focus exclusively on English and American publications and remain therefore rather ethnocentric: none of the specifically German approaches and authors described above, for example (although published in FLICK et al.'s Companion), are alluded to or cited anywhere in the context of doing interviews, doing document analysis, doing ethnographic research or analysing qualitative data. Only in FLICK's two books, and to a minor degree KVALE's volume, are research approaches from Continental Europe reported. The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit is therefore, although still predominantly Anglo-Saxon, more international and intercultural in scope than many comparable publications. [25]

In this respect, I would like to ask Uwe FLICK a few questions. The first one is: What questions did you ask yourself as the editor of this Kit and which decisions did you take with respect to intercultural issues and different national traditions in qualitative research? As KNOBLAUCH, FLICK and MAEDER (in cooperation with LANG) have shown, as editors of the FQS volume "The State of the Art of Qualitative Research in Europe" (2005), which had more than 20 contributions, qualitative research means different things in different countries. Sociologists from Continental Europe are well aware of the problem that certain positions are silenced in the international discourse if they are not presented in the English language and go unnoticed in the English-speaking scientific community. In addition, I would like to enquire: How much did the publisher influence your decisions in this respect? [26]

Back to the Kit. As mentioned, each book can be read independently but together they form a whole with the Kit attempting to present an overview of the field. The books also form a unity concerning their form. Each begins with the general introduction by the editor who explains the goals of the Kit. This introduction also includes a brief definition of what qualitative research is—namely, explaining social phenomena from the inside by analysing experiences, interactions and communications as well as documents (e.g. texts, images, films, music). This is followed by a brief description of how qualitative research is conducted. In the second introduction the goal of the book at hand is outlined. Each chapter starts with a table of contents and the objectives of the chapter, and ends with a summary with key points. In addition, each book includes a list of references, an author index and a subject index, and a useful glossary. All these devices are helpful in order to ease the reader's orientation, to provide a quick overview, and to help find what one is searching for. Their didactic form makes these books very suitable for several target groups: 1. practitioners of qualitative research in different areas (social sciences, medical research, marketing research, etc.), 2. university teachers, and 3. undergraduate and graduate students. [27]

Let me ask Uwe FLICK, as the editor of the Kit, a second question: What is your approach to teaching qualitative research? Do you recommend first providing undergraduate students with an overview of the different methods of data collection and analysis and the underlying theoretical and methodological assumptions? Or would you recommend starting with a concrete, practical research project so that students develop some expertise in applying one method and dealing with one sort of data—and provide the overview later? [28]

2.4 Designing qualitative research

As this is a "Meet the Author" Session and not just a "Meet the Editor" Session, I am going to focus now on the two books of the Kit written by FLICK. The first is Designing Qualitative Research (FLICK, 2007a). As this book frames the whole Kit, I am going to discuss it in most depth. The basic rationale of this volume is that the issue of designing research has not been prominent in qualitative research so far but that it is important and should be planned. Sampling for an interview is different from putting together a group for focus group research, and selecting sites and people in ethnography is different from taking a sample from an archive of photos or documents, so each book of the Kit has to deal with the specific design issues of each method. This first volume therefore deals with design issues on a more general level. In Chapter 1 it starts out with the question "What is qualitative research?", a question already touched upon in the editor's introduction to the Kit. FLICK notes that qualitative research need no longer be defined in negative terms—as not quantitative or not standardised or the like—but can be characterised by several positive features. He quotes the "initial, generic definition" of DENZIN and LINCOLN (2005) and is quick to add that the continuous proliferation and differentiation of qualitative research on different levels make the formulation of a "generic" definition and common standards increasingly difficult. He emphasises the "principle of appropriateness as a guiding principle" and says "methods should be appropriate to the issue [under study] and be open enough to allow an understanding of a process of relation" (p.2). [29]

FLICK goes on to address two aspects of DENZIN and LINCOLN's (2005) position: firstly, qualitative research cannot be seen only as a "moral discourse" but must also be thought of pragmatically as a means for understanding the world and producing knowledge about it. Secondly, he dismisses the authors' rejection and omission of quantitative methods and discusses mixed methods combinations. FLICK also points out briefly some theoretical and epistemological assumptions which guide qualitative research—notably constructionism (or constructivism) as opposed to (some sort of) positivism—and distinguishes three major research perspectives: 1. approaches to subjective viewpoints, 2. description of the making of social situations, and 3. hermeneutic analysis of underlying structures. A table then presents the preferred methods of data collection and the preferred methods of interpretation for each research perspective. The author concludes with six tasks which he hopes to achieve, the plan of his book, and a description of the Kit as a whole. [30]

The times when qualitative research meant "just do it" are over. FLICK dismantles the myth which was spread by some writings of GLASER and STRAUSS (1967), namely, that qualitative research does not build on existing theories. On the contrary, he argues, the researcher has to take a research perspective and choose a theoretical approach from a number of alternatives, and he or she has to develop a research question. This means that planning and preparing a study are important. Chapter 2 describes, based on concrete research studies, how to get from an idea to a concrete research question. Chapter 3 deals with the logics of sampling in qualitative research, looking at sampling people, selecting sites and events, constructing groups, clarifying access to the field, and getting the necessary approval for doing research. Chapter 4 deals with "research designs", a term less common in qualitative research than in the quantitative realm but, as FLICK insists, not less important. Coming up with a research design not only involves choosing a research perspective, a theory and a method with the formulation of a research question. It also involves the management of resources and decisions on a number of "components" like intended comparison, intended generalisation, quality issues, targeted audiences and style of writing, as well as triangulation, which may suggest novel ways of comparisons, or the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. FLICK presents a basic design for qualitative research and presents concrete examples from his own research. He concludes that good research design has a clear focus, a clear research question, clear decisions about sampling and choice of methods, and is well linked to a theoretical background and based on the research perspective of the study. It also operates with realistic resources and reflects the aims of generalisation and comparisons as well as the expectations of its audiences. At the same time it remains sensitive, flexible, adaptive to conditions in the field, and open to new insights emerging in the research process (p.50). [31]

Chapter 5 deals with how to manage resources and deal with possible stepping-stones. It describes how to plan the time-scale for a project and how to identify the required technical resources and the necessary skills and experiences of the research team. Chapter 6 discusses quality issues, and Chapter 7 focuses on ethical issues in qualitative research. The next three chapters specify all of the above in the context of data collection and data analysis: Chapter 8 gives an orientation to the major methods of producing verbal data, like interviews and focus groups, and sketches out the specific issues concerning research designs in using these methods; it also offers advice about when to use which methods in qualitative research. Chapter 9 does the same for ethnographic and visual data, and Chapter 10 the same with respect to analysing qualitative data: how to code and categorise and how to analyse conversations, discourse and documents. Each of these chapters introduces the topics of two books in the Kit and thus provides a rough overview of the topics to be discussed in more depth later on. The final chapter draws some conclusions, including about how the topics in the Kit's different books fit into the suggested "basic designs" in qualitative research, which is based upon three distinctions: description of states or process analysis, retrospective or longitudinal study, and comparative or case study. A table presents all the treated design issues in relation to the main topics of the different books. In a further table the author presents a "model for a proposal structure" but emphasises that "there is no commonly accepted structure or format for a research proposal" (p.113). He further points out that design issues and proposal structures are not the same thing as each qualitative research endeavour has to reflect design issues and should strive to make them as explicit as possible. [32]

All in all, FLICK faced a difficult task: to tie everything together and demonstrate how to develop a research design. He has done this successfully, which comes as no surprise since he masterminded the whole Kit. The volume discussed here gives a good overview of the Kit but at the cost that it is often sketchy and superficial in its contents. In particular, the chapters about the topics of the other books look a little like tables of contents: there are many titles and just a few lines of text for each. This will make it difficult to sell it on its own. The main message is conveyed convincingly: that qualitative research requires a careful reflection and planning of design issues. [33]

In a "Meet the Author" session one would like to hear a little more about backstage experiences in the production process of this Kit: how did the collaboration between the Editor and the book authors work out? How much was the Editor involved in the conception of the particular books, which guidelines and specifications did he impose, which discussions and debates or even conflicts came up, which problems had to be solved? The Editor wrote a specific introduction to each book where he describes how the respective book and its topic(s) are linked to the other books and to the Kit as a whole. Was this the only task the Editor had, or was he involved in more depth? [34]

2.5 Managing quality in qualitative research

FLICK holds the Kit together almost symbolically, as he authors not only the first but also the last book, Managing Quality in Qualitative Research (FLICK, 2007b), which I shall now discuss. This is a current and difficult topic, as has recently been manifested in a broad debate in Germany (Erwägen-Wissen-Ethik, "Qualitative Sozialforschung", 2007) and in an ESF workshop on this very topic (WEIL, 2008). FLICK briefly dealt with this subject in the first volume where he discussed three interlinked aspects of quality: "in designing qualitative research on the level of planning research; in doing research on the level of field contacts and analysing qualitative data; and in disseminating qualitative research to audiences and participants" (p.62). The other books of the Kit have treated quality issues as well, each in regard to its specific approach or method. This last book takes a broader view and ponders how to manage quality and provide transparency in the research process as a whole. [35]

As qualitative research has come of age, the discussion of quality has shifted its focus from fundamental, epistemological and philosophical levels to concrete and practical levels of research. There are internal needs as well as external challenges. Internal needs arise from the proliferation of qualitative research as a field: "What is good grounded theory research [...]? What makes it different from bad examples? [...] What makes it more appropriate than a discourse analysis [...] about the same topic?" (p.2) External challenges arise when qualitative researchers want to publish in peer-reviewed journals, when they compete for funding, and when they are involved in teaching and curriculum planning decisions. But can there be standards for non-standardised methods? And can there be criteria appropriate to all qualitative methods and all different research perspectives? FLICK outlines the different reasons quality assessments in qualitative research are different in character from those in standardised (quantitative) research. In Chapter 2 on Standards, criteria, checklists and guidelines he describes why the classical criteria, like reliability, validity and objectivity, do not make sense in the same way for qualitative research, and how they have therefore been reformulated. He also provides a number of suggestions to replace them by alternative, method-appropriate criteria like trustworthiness, credibility, dependability, transferability, and confirmability but also originality, resonance and usefulness. The author then references a number of guidelines, checklists and catalogues of criteria which are in use in health research, qualitative evaluation, and management and organisation research. [36]

FLICK prefers a third alternative—beyond standards and criteria—which is "to develop and apply strategies for quality promotion for increasing the quality of data and findings. This extends the focus of the quality question from assessing a single step in the research process to addressing the process as a whole" (p.25). The first bundle is Strategies for managing diversity (Chapter 3). Theoretical sampling introduces diversity and variety in the data; analytical induction includes treating negative or deviant cases which challenge an interpretation; and searching for comments and consensus among the researched and among peers challenges it once more and promotes further reflection. A second bundle is Strategies of Triangulation, a topic to which FLICK has already dedicated several articles and a whole book (FLICK, 2008). After explaining the concept and the major lines of debate (Chapter 4), he discusses, in the context of concrete examples, methodological triangulation (Chapter 5), triangulation in ethnography (Chapter 6), and triangulation of qualitative and quantitative research (Chapter 7). Chapter 8 deals with practical issues of how to use triangulation for managing quality in qualitative research in the different phases of the research process, from the problems of access over design and sampling, collection and interpretation of data to the presentation of studies. Chapter 9 then shows how quality issues and ethical concerns are linked in several respects. [37]

Why does FLICK prefer "strategies" to "standards" or "criteria"? Upon closer inspection, many of the guidelines, checklists and catalogues of criteria (cf. also SEALE, 1999) often encompass the strategies mentioned here. To see them as "strategies" rather than "criteria" has, as the author points out, several advantages. It avoids the (false) impression that good and bad research can be distinguished and judged on the basis of standards, criteria and benchmarks. On the contrary, quality assessments require a process perspective, must relate to the research process as a whole rather than just to certain steps or single methods, and have to be adaptable to different research approaches. FLICK therefore suggests adopting the concept of "quality management", which has been used in the context of industrial production and services for quite some time (Chapter 10). Quality in qualitative research is the result of a decision process and needs to be defined and assessed in the context of a concrete research practice. Resuming the theme of the first volume, the author emphasises that a research design must be carefully planned ahead. Researchers should not use methods and research perspectives out of habit (as they often do) but instead ask which method or methods are "indicated" by which issue, population, research question, knowledge at hand of issue and population—using the term "indication" as an analogy to therapy and medical treatment. FLICK presents a table with "guiding questions for selecting a qualitative research method" (p.132), and another one with "rules of thumb and key questions for reflecting research steps and methods" (p.133). Quality management means all these decisions and their why's and how's must be documented and communicated for each step of the research process in order to ensure maximum transparency. [38]

FLICK's argumentation in this book is convincing. It provides a good overview of the problems of quality assessment in qualitative research and makes constructive suggestions about how to deal with them. I can easily accept speaking of "strategies to promote quality" rather than "standards" and "criteria", and viewing "quality management" as a process with many decisions, starting with the research design and ending up with the writing of a research report or publication. From the point of view of a practitioner the most relevant thing to do is probably to ask crucial questions along the way, and these can be summarised easily in guidelines, checklists, or catalogues of criteria and strategies. Indeed, FLICK's book can also be summarised in such a way. The most difficult question remains that of how to assess quality in the context of practical decision-making in a concrete research project, something that cannot be adequately conveyed by theoretical texts but must be acquired through practice. [39]

Let me close with a final question to Uwe FLICK: Holding your Introduction to Qualitative Research (FLICK, 1995, 2006) in one hand, and the SAGE Qualitative Research Kit in the other, for which user and which issues at hand would you recommend either one or the other? And coming back to the issue of teaching qualitative methods: would you recommend your students to read the whole Kit for an overview, or would you rather have them start with your book An Introduction and then have them read the Kit later, when they are actually involved in doing research and confronting practical issues? I know this is no easy question, but as the author and editor of the two books, you certainly must have an answer. [40]

3. Reflexivity and Consolidation as Major Goals for Further Developments in Qualitative Research: Responses to WEIL and EBERLE

Uwe Flick

3.1 Introduction

First of all I would like to thank Shalva WEIL and Thomas EBERLE and the Qualitative Methods Research Network of the European Sociological Association for making this "Meet the Author" session during their Conference in Glasgow in September 2007 happen, and for their most helpful comments. [41]

The subject matter of this session was two of my recent publications: WEIL comments on the third edition of "An Introduction to Qualitative Research" (FLICK, 2006). EBERLE refers to "The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit" (FLICK, 2007a) and in particular to the two books "Designing Qualitative Research" (FLICK, 2007b) and "Managing Quality in Qualitative Research" (FLICK, 2007c), which I contributed to the Kit. [42]

3.2 Qualitative research between methods and reflexivity—responses to WEIL

Shalva WEIL (par.2) gives some evidence of the growing acceptance of qualitative methods and qualitative research in the social sciences. One indicator to which she refers in this context is that the number of textbooks and handbooks is growing and she mentions several examples of successful books of this type. [43]

3.2.1 My special touch

In this context, Shalva WEIL (par.14) refers to my special touch in qualitative research, which she sees as the background of the An Introduction. I would like to add a few comments about this in order to make the plan for the book a bit more transparent. Over the years writing and rewriting An Introduction, I pursued several aims. [44]

The first aim was to structure the continuously diversifying variety of qualitative research, its theoretical approaches, methods, research programs, challenges and the discussions in the field. This approach takes into account the students who want to find their way into this field in order to understand it, to sit an exam, or to use qualitative research for a thesis. At the same time this approach also has the researcher in mind—for example, an epidemiologist who wants to understand what qualitative research is about, when it comes to collaboration, to doing a review of a qualitative paper, or to using this type of research for him- or herself. [45]

The second aim was to give the reader a hand and lead him or her through the process of qualitative research—from an idea to a research question, to using methods for collecting data, to setting up a sample and more generally a design, and finally to finding a way to present his or her findings. That may explain the specific structure of book—from theory to text and from text to theory. [46]

The third goal was to advance qualitative research from belief (e.g. "Qualitative research is good") and preferences (e.g. "I like Grounded Theory") to explicit reflection and decisions on what we do or what to do for the reader. This should enable both readers and researchers to take the position: "I know why I use this specific method and I can give reasons for this coming from the issue I am studying. My decision about the method is based upon looking at this method in the light of alternatives". [47]

That is the reason I gave a lot of space to developing criteria and questions for comparing alternatives within qualitative research—for example, different types of interview, different ways of observing, and so on. This should be the basis for answering the question of indication in qualitative research or in social research in general. Indication in this context means carefully deciding which methods to use—not in general so as to subscribe to a specific approach in qualitative research, but for the concrete research question, the field under study, and the participants (FLICK, 2006). [48]

The fourth goal was to get a foot in the door of different houses that have been barred to qualitative research so far. When I started teaching and writing qualitative research texts, I was working in psychology in which—at least in Germany—qualitative research met strong opposition. My research developed into public health and health sciences, fields, which were dominated in Germany by other research traditions, like epidemiology. Currently I propose and run research projects funded by the German research council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), which is again not an easy field for qualitative research. Finally, I do quite a lot of work reviewing research proposals for Ministries and similar organisations. [49]

Looking back on these attempts and experiences with qualitative research in rather "hostile" areas, I am even more convinced that we need to pay attention to issues of research planning and making qualitative research explicit. That is why we should focus on questions of research design, on the indication of qualitative methods, and on issues of quality in qualitative research. [50]

3.2.2 Qualitative research between a quasi-scientific approach and reflexivity

Shalva WEIL (par.19) suggests that I may be aiming "at a quasi-scientific approach to qualitative methodology, which would place it fairly and squarely as an equal to quantitative methodology", in which reflexivity plays a minor role (compared to other approaches to qualitative research and textbook writing). I would like to make two comments in response to this. [51]

First, my comments above may show there are two ways of dealing with reflexivity in qualitative research in a textbook. The author can either make it the explicit topic of an extra chapter or deal with reflexivity as an underlying issue throughout the whole book and the whole research process—in providing a ground to taking decisions in planning and conducting research in an explicit and reflective way. This is the approach underlying An Introduction. The whole book is planned as a "guided tour" through the research process in qualitative research with several stops along the way. At these stops, alternatives for each step in the research process are presented and compared. For example, the part on "Verbal Data" presents several alternative ways of interviewing, using narratives and focus groups. In the final chapter of this part (Chapter 16: Verbal Data: An Overview) the alternatives are compared in a table according to several criteria. The intention is to give readers an orientation to the decision between methodological alternatives. The major point of reference is whether the method is appropriate—to the subject to be studied, to the field, to the participants, the situation and the researcher. Other parts of the book referring to other steps in the research process (research design or how to analyse data) include similar chapters. As I decided to take this kind of reflexivity as an underlying orientation throughout the whole book, I decided not to include an extra chapter on reflexivity. [52]

Second, reflexivity has been a major topic in discussions about qualitative research and the crisis of science in recent years. This can be very clearly seen in the works of Norman DENZIN in particular and the contributions to the handbooks of DENZIN and LINCOLN over the years (1994, 2000, 2005) or in the journal Qualitative Inquiry. These discussions have focused more and more on reflections about research and less and less on suggestions of how to do research or on research itself. Despite that, in the latest edition of the handbook (DENZIN & LINCOLN, 2005), and in some special issues of Qualitative Inquiry, an interesting shift is evident. Now DENZIN and LINCOLN see qualitative research confronted with the turn to evidence in different fields of research—evidence-based practice in medicine, social work or education is one of the top issues in the general discussion. Interestingly enough, this issue is not only discussed by DENZIN and LINCOLN as something to criticise—though it is definitely open to criticism. They discuss it also as a trend and as a threat to qualitative research, and suggest that qualitative research might lose influence, reputation, funding and relevance due to this trend (see also MRUCK, ROTH & BREUER, 2002 and ROTH, BREUER & MRUCK, 2003). [53]

I think a response to such developments can be to build qualitative research on a more stable and solid ground than reflexivity—which means making research planning, and decisions linked to it, more explicit. This also means returning the selection, use and application of methods to a more prominent place in research practice. And this, finally, is the approach I try to advance with the books we are talking about today. [54]

3.2.3 Qualitative research in a legitimation crisis?

In DENZIN and LINCOLN's handbooks over the years (2000, 2005), the discussion about a crisis of legitimation has been advanced, in much the same way as WEIL (par.7) has expounded here. Of course, it is always important to reflect what we are doing when we do research—to our participants and to the issues we study. We should see that qualitative research is research, which can be judged for its quality and for its ethical soundness (FLICK, 2006, 2007a, 2007b). We should think about how to assess and communicate the quality of qualitative research, how to differentiate between good and bad research, and about what claims it is legitimate to make with our research. To put our research on solid ground—better developed and justified methods, better trained researchers, appropriate and reflected use of methods as ways of making the grounds more solid—can be a way to respond to crises of legitimation whether they are coming from within the field of qualitative research or from outside. At this point, an overemphasis on reflexivity might become an obstacle to doing research, and doing good research can be a good argument in debates about the legitimation of research. [55]

3.3 Qualitative research between proliferation and consolidation—responses to EBERLE

As mentioned in my introduction, Thomas EBERLE has agreed to comment on "The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit" as a whole as well as on the two books I contributed to this, and I now wish to respond to those comments. [56]

3.3.1 Background of "The Qualitative Research Kit"

The idea for the Kit came up in a conversation I had with Michael Carmichael from SAGE publications during a conference some years ago. There had been other Kits before (on focus groups—MORGAN, 1997; on survey research—FINK, 2003; and at that time going into production: qualitative market research—EREAUT, IMMS & CALLINGHAM, 2002). The idea for the Kit was to have a boxed set of several rather short books addressing the major methodological approaches in qualitative research on a "how-to-do" level. At the outset, the expected audience was researchers with some background in qualitative research who were looking for a guide to how to do this kind of research more professionally. Along the way the intended audience was extended to the student market, as the books focused on basic questions as well. The concept of the Kit and the books was very much driven by using didactic features like chapter objectives in the beginning, key points at the end of a chapter, and so on. The development of the Kit was supported by an international advisory board. The selection and contacting of authors involved close cooperation between the editor, the editorial board members and the publishing house (first represented by Michael CARMICHAEL and later by Patrick BRINDLE). The whole Kit as well as the single books were subject to review. Suggestions for the format and structure of the single books were made by the editor throughout the process from the proposals to the final manuscripts. [57]

As the titles of the single books (e.g. Doing Interviews—KVALE, 2007) may illustrate, the aim of the Kit was not so much to promote general epistemological, political and reflexive debates about qualitative research on a fundamental level as to give readers a hands-on orientation to how to do their research. This was based on epistemological and theoretical backgrounds but was not a cookbook with simple recipes. [58]

3.3.2 Bridging different traditions in qualitative research

The idea in the Kit was to have a strong interdisciplinary approach. This meant having authors and editorial-board members who came from a variety of disciplines and included experts in sociology, psychology, education, anthropology, medical sociology, nursing, ethnography, discourse studies, psychoanalysis, social constructionism and the like. This list shows that we tried to integrate not only traditional scientific disciplines (like psychology or sociology) but also researchers who take approaches relevant across those disciplines (like discourse or ethnography). A major intention was again to bridge different traditions in qualitative research, as demonstrated in some of my earlier publications and referred to by EBERLE (par.22). Another aim was to integrate experts from different parts of the world, including the US, the UK, Australia, North-West Europe (Denmark, Germany) and Canada (at the beginning of the process). The Kit as a project was less oriented towards integrating the variety of national traditions of qualitative research than other projects in which I was involved at the same time. The reason was that the translation of the German language Handbook of Qualitative Research (FLICK, v. KARDORFF & STEINKE, 2000), as the Companion to Qualitative Research (FLICK, et al., 2004), mentioned above by EBERLE (par.22), was planned and prepared at the same time as the Kit. One intended purpose of that project was to make the variety of German-speaking authors, publications and research traditions accessible to Anglo-Saxon audiences. The same was the case for the first versions of An Introduction to Qualitative Research (FLICK, 1998) which included a lot references to work in German. As this "bridge" had already been built by these two publications there was less need for the Kit to promote the integration of non-English-speaking authors and approaches. Another reason for focusing more on Anglo-Saxon authors and discussion this time was the observation that English-speaking students coming across references to German language publication often feel frustrated when they cannot actually read those works. [59]

3.3.3 Designing qualitative research as an issue

The more qualitative research develops beyond a good faith position like that suggested by GLASER: "Trust grounded theory, it works, just do it, use it and publish!" (1998, p.254), the more it will become necessary to plan qualitative research carefully. This is the background to writing a book about designing qualitative research and conceptualising it as a framework for the whole Kit. As EBERLE (par.33) mentions, this is a double task for a book: the first task is to outline and discuss planning issues of qualitative research from finding an interesting issue and a good research question to study. The aim then is to carefully reflect about resources and accessibility of the field and participants and to reflect about ethical issues in this context. Finally, one has to set up a design for one's own study and to think about how to plan and do the research and publish the results while meeting the challenges of quality in qualitative research. The second task is to construct a framework for selecting methods to address the research question. As this framework is constructed from the angle of research design, it should not go into great details about the individual method but include a number of reference points for selecting a method. In this context, I chose the following points as relevant design issues: research perspective; theory; research questions; sampling; comparison; generalisation; triangulation; quality; writing; basic design; resources; stepping stones; and ethics. [60]

Beyond the overview given in the book on Designing Qualitative Research and in particular the table in its last chapter, the details of such issues are spelled out not only in other books in the Kit but also (for example) in other books introducing readers to interviewing or ethnography. These design issues are not just simply a table of contents of the other books in the Kit as EBERLE (par.33) criticises. On the one hand, the books are not constructed around this list of issues. On the other hand, the issues are relevant beyond these books. I would agree with EBERLE that Designing Qualitative Research remains sketchy on some points but not that it is limited to an annotated table of contents. [61]

3.3.4 Quality of qualitative research as an issue

In his comments here, EBERLE (par.35-39) also refers to book 8 in the SAGE Qualitative Research Kit, the one on Managing Quality in Qualitative Research (FLICK, 2007c). He takes up my distinction between criteria, checklists and guidelines on the one hand, standards on the other hand, and strategies for promoting quality in qualitative research as a third alternative. Towards the end of his careful description of the problem and of the book, he ends up bringing the alternatives together again or mixing them up again, saying that this book can be summarised by setting up a checklist or a catalogue of criteria (par.39). The crucial point in the distinctions I made up in this book, however, is that checklists and criteria mostly come with a general claim—that they are appropriate to all kinds of (qualitative) research in a field. In the case of criteria, this claim is linked to defining cut-off points, benchmarks or the like, in order to distinguish generally good from bad research. This is at least the function of criteria in other areas like standardised research in the social sciences. As I tried to show in this book, this claim is a promise that is difficult to keep, as the benchmarks are not included in the formulation of criteria in most cases. If we take the criterion of "credibility" (LINCOLN & GUBA, 1985), how much credibility is necessary to say some research is good? This will remain a difficult question to answer. At the end of his comments to this book, EBERLE (par.39) emphasises that we need to look at "practical decision-making in a concrete research project" if we want to judge its quality. This is a notion with which I can fully agree. The intention in all three books referred to in this symposium is to develop a better ground for such decision-making and its assessment. [62]

3.3.5 Teaching qualitative research

As all three books are written and designed as textbooks, EBERLE (par.28) has raised some issues of teaching qualitative research (in relation to these books and in general). An Introduction has been written with the aim of giving a (more or less) comprehensive overview in a basic course, with the intention of giving an orientation to the field of qualitative research. The books in the Kit are more intended for specialised courses (on research design or on interviewing) or for those who want to go into more detail on some points. For example, the book by Steinar KVALE (2007) on interviewing is a perfect addition to, and extension and consolidation of, the parts on interviewing in An Introduction—and the same can be said for the other books in the Kit. Of course, the best combination would start with An Introduction and then continue to the Kit, though no doubt this would exceed the capacity of a normal course in qualitative research. The first combination would thus be more realistic—to take single books of the Kit as an addition to a more general introductory text. For this reason, the books in the Kit have now been published independently. [63]

3.3.6 Response to questions

Thomas EBERLE has asked some direct questions in his review and I would like to respond to those in this section.

  • Against the background of what I said in Section 3.2, the answer to Thomas EBERLE's (par.26) first question is that there was sensitivity in the decisions around the Kit relating to intercultural issues and differences in doing qualitative research in different contexts but representing these differences completely and comprehensively in the Kit was not a major aim. Decisions were taken together with the publishing house and the hope of reaching broader audiences in the Anglo-Saxon world by integrating some of the key figures in that discourse was a shared aspiration.

  • I now return to Thomas EBERLE's (par.28) questions about teaching in this context. My concept of teaching qualitative research is to give an overview of the field of qualitative research, of the major methods, and of the steps of the research process, in the process of a seminar. This overview is necessary for seeing practical issues and applications in context. If possible, such an overview should be complemented by working on a practical research issue with the students so that they have the chance to gain experience with at least one form of data collection in the field and with one way of analysing "real" data. The basic literature for this kind of teaching is An Introduction, partly because it is available in German and I do most of my teaching in German. In graduate courses, I have started to use books from the Kit for more extensive and deeper discussions of qualitative methods.

  • Thomas EBERLE (par.34) also raised questions about the collaboration between editor and authors. The concepts for the single books were discussed and revised in discussions with each author, after a general format for the books had been defined by the editor and the publisher (the size of the books and the didactic features, for example). The first drafts of the books were commented upon by members of the editorial board and by the editor and revised by the authors if necessary. In these respects the process was similar to the process of editing a book, with one major distinction: the contributions were much longer and more comprehensive than an average book chapter. This is also the reason for some of the major problems in the process, that of finding authors willing to accept an invitation to a book according to a framework not completely defined at the point at which they had to decide whether to join the project. I don't know how clear the ideas about the final format of the Kit were to everybody involved at the beginning. A second problem was time, because authors had to find the time for a whole book and finalising eight books at the same time was more difficult than I anticipated. Finally, we encountered the problem Thomas EBERLE (par.33) discussed in relation to the first book on Designing Qualitative Research, which was that the single books should be able to stand alone, so that each of them has to cover relevant issues (like ethics, quality etc.) that are covered in other books as well, without being redundant if someone reads the Kit as a whole. As these points may show, I was more involved in the development of several books than merely writing a short introduction to them.

  • In the final paragraph of his comments, EBERLE (par.40) again raises the question of the relation of the books mentioned in this review symposium. The ideal of all editors is that all readers, from students to advanced readers, will read the whole book they edited from the first to the last page. Of course I would prefer that readers make the same "progress" I did in starting to write An Introduction and arriving at the Kit as a whole. Being more realistic, it would be a good result if students of qualitative research read An Introduction from the beginning to the end and those who are more interested in a deepened and broad knowledge about qualitative research read the Kit as a whole. I think that the process Thomas EBERLE outlines is more realistic, that students read An Introduction and thus have a basic knowledge from which they can return to the Kit as a whole, or to single books in it, once they start to do their own research. I would repeat what I said above: that the books in the Kit can be used as a "further reading" in the context of an introductory seminar.

  • To come back to Shalva WEIL's (par.15) suggestions about diaries and collaborative research as issues to include or extend: these are more than welcome as suggestions for any future revision of the book. Her concluding question in this context—whether another edition then will end up being even longer—is difficult to answer at this point. [64]

3.4 Concluding remarks

The whole idea of this symposium and the session at the conference in Glasgow was a challenge for me and a fascinating experience. Both commentators raise very good points that have helped me to reflect upon my own work. Both hold the books in high esteem and this came across in the way they talked and write about the books that are the focus of the symposium. That the proposal for the "Meet the Author" session was accepted by the European Sociological Association may be another indication of the growing acceptance and importance of qualitative research in European sociology and maybe beyond. In this sense, I hope that this symposium and the discussion about the books—and more generally about how to write textbooks in qualitative research, how to teach qualitative research and how to deal with disciplinary and national diversity in doing qualitative research—will have some impact on the future progress of qualitative research. [65]


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Shalva WEIL is Senior Researcher in the Research Institute for Innovation in Education in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Among her research interests are Indian Jewry, Ethiopian Jewry, Diaspora and Immigration. She is immediate past President of the Qualitative Methods Research Network in the European Sociological Association (ESA), a member of the ESA's Executive Committee, and Editor of "European Sociologist". Recent publications include: David Shulman & Shalva Weil (2008). Karmic Passages: Israeli Scholarship on India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); Shalva Weil (2008). Is There a "Legitimation Crisis" in Qualitative Methods? Conference Essay: ESF Exploratory Workshop on Improving the Quality of Qualitative Research [31 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2), Art. 6, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs080264; Shalva Weil (2005). Qualitative Methods in Israel [22 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(3), Art. 46, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0503462; Shalva Weil (2006). Tadesse Yacob of Cairo and Addis Abeba. International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, 2(1&2), 233-243.


Dr. Shalva Weil

Research Institute for Innovation in Education
The Hebrew University
Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, 91905

Tel.: +972 2 5882100
Fax: +972 2 5882130

E-mail: msshalva@mscc.huji.ac.il


Thomas S. EBERLE is Professor and Co-Director of the Research Institute of Sociology at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland. He is a former chair of the Research Network Qualitative Methods of the European Sociological Association (ESA) and presently the chair of the Research Network Sociology of Culture, a member of the Executive Committee and a Vice President of ESA. His research interests are sociology of culture, social research methodology, phenomenological sociology, and qualitative methods. Recent publications are: Ethnomethodologie. In Renate Buber & Hartmut Holzmüller (Eds.), Qualitative Marktforschung. Konzepte—Methoden—Analysen. Gabler, 2007, pp.93-109.—Ethnomethodologie und Konversationsanalyse. In Rainer Schützeichel (Eds.), Handbuch Wissenssoziologie und Wissenschaftsforschung, Konstanz: UVK, 2007, pp.139-160.—Die Crux mit der Überprüfbarkeit sozialempirischer Forschung. Forschungspragmatik vs. elaborierte methodologische Gütestandards. Erwägen, Wissen, Ethik, 3: Qualitative Sozialforschung—Ansprüche, Prämissen, Probleme. Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius 2007, pp.217-220.—Unter Aborigines. Reflexionen über eine exotische Fremdheitserfahrung. In Jochen Dreher & Peter Stegmeier (Eds.), Zur Unüberwindbarkeit kultureller Differenz. Grundlagentheoretische Reflexionen. Bielefeld: transcript, 2007, pp. 235-268.—Auf den Spuren von Emil Walter-Busch: Transdisziplinäre Studien zur Sozial- und Formengeschichte der Organisationsforschung. In Thomas S. Eberle, Sabine Hoidn & Katarina Sikavica (Eds.), Fokus Organisation. Sozialwissenschaftliche Perspektiven und Analysen. Konstanz: UVK, 2007, pp.23-39.—Phänomenologie und Ethnomethodologie. In Jürgen Raab, Michaela Pfadenhauer, Peter Stegmeier, Jochen Dreher, Bernt Schnettler: Phänomenologie und Soziologie. Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, pp.151-161.


Prof. Dr. Thomas S. Eberle

Research Institute of Sociology University of St. Gallen
Tigerbergstrasse 2
CH-9000 St. Gallen

Tel.: +41 71 224 29 29
Fax: +41 71 224 29 28

E-mail: thomas.eberle@unisg.ch
URL: http://www.sfs.unisg.ch/


Uwe FLICK is Professor of Qualitative Research at Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, Germany. His main research interests are health concepts and behaviours in different social groups, the theory of social representation and the methodology of qualitative research.

Recent publications include: Uwe Flick, An Introduction to Qualitative Research (3rd ed.). London, Thousand Oaks: Sage 2006 (German ed.: 2007—Rowohlt; Spanish ed. 2004—Morata; Portuguese ed.: 2005—Monitor; Brazilian ed.: 2004—Artmed/Longman; Japanese ed. 2002:—Shunju-Sha; Farsi ed: 2004—Samae Ghalam Publisher; Chinese ed: 2006; Korean ed.: 2008). Uwe Flick, Ernst von Kardorff & Ines Steinke (Eds.). A Companion to Qualitative Research. London: Sage. 2004 (German ed.: 2000—Rowohlt). Uwe Flick (Ed.). The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit (8 vol.). London: Sage 2007. Uwe Flick. Managing Quality in Qualitative Research London: Sage 2007. Uwe Flick (Ed.). Health and Homelessness. Special Issue of the Journal of Health Psychology, 11(5). Uwe Flick. Designing Qualitative Research London: Sage 2007. Uwe Flick. Triangulation—eine Einführung (2nd ed. Triangulation—an Introduction). Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2008. Uwe Flick & Gundula Röhnsch. Gesundheit auf der Straße—Gesundheitsvorstellungen und Umgang mit Krankheit im Kontext von Jugendobdachlosigkeit (Health on the Street—Health Concepts and Practices of Illness in the Context of Juvenile Homelessness) Weinheim: Juventa 2008.


Prof. Dr. Uwe Flick

Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences
Alice-Salomon-Platz 5
D-12627 Berlin

Tel.: +49-30-99245411
Fax: +49-30-8112187

E-mail: Flick@ASFH-Berlin.de
URL: http://www.asfh-berlin.de/hsl/flick/


Weil, Shalva, Eberle, Thomas S. & Flick, Uwe (2008). Between Reflexivity and Consolidation—Qualitative Research in the Mirror of Handbooks. Book Review Symposium: Uwe Flick (2006). An Introduction to Qualitative Research (3rd ed.) / Uwe Flick (2007). Designing Qualitative Research (Book one of the SAGE Qualitative Research Kit) / Uwe Flick (2007). Managing Quality in Qualitative Research (Book eight of the SAGE Qualitative Research Kit) / Uwe Flick (Ed.) (2007). The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit [65 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(3), Art. 28, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0803280.

Copyright (c) 2008 Shalva Weil, Thomas S. Eberle, Uwe Flick

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