Conference Essay: Is There a "Legitimation Crisis" in Qualitative Methods?

Shalva Weil


This report describes the European Scientific Foundation (ESF) workshop on improving the quality of qualitative research, which took place in Kristiansand, Norway in June 2007. It convened different European scholars from different disciplines who use different qualitative methodologies to discuss the state of the art and the quality of qualitative research in their respective disciplines. The focus was on a possible credibility gap and criticism of qualitative research by quantitative colleagues and others. The participants debated improving qualitative methodology, what better methodologies one can employ, which techniques one can use, which research designs are preferable, how one can enhance credibility and, finally, how one can overcome the "legitimation crisis" in qualitative studies. They had several suggestions, ranging from providing better guidelines (MAEDER) to improving research designs (GOBO, SILVERMAN). KONECKI debated the merits of triangulation. Several participants thought that utilising different techniques would avert a credibility gap e.g. putting reflexivity to better use (BUSCATTO), or employing life-histories to better advantage (BERTAUX). Some suggested innovative methods, such as applied theatre (HUNDT), or the use of audio-technological techniques (HEATH). PRIOR thought that the repositioning of documents would improve research studies; DREW thought that the emphasis in research should be on conversation analysis (CA). It was pointed out that varying numbers of informants are involved in different types of research: RYEN relied upon a main informant; WEIL reported upon the advantages and pitfalls of collaborative research. KVALE impressed upon his audience the importance of treating qualitative research as a craft. Younger researchers also attended the workshop and some practical suggestions were made as to how to continue the debate and improve quality.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs080264


qualitative methods; credibility gap; quality; techniques

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