Volume 5, No. 3, Art. 11 – September 2004

"The Future Is Here; It Is Just Not Widely Distributed Yet"—Adapted from William Gibson

Ron Chenail in Conversation With Marilyn Lichtman

Abstract: CHENAIL and LICHTMAN explore how the field of qualitative research has developed in the United States since the early 1990s. CHENAIL characterizes himself as a generic qualitative researcher rather than a designer qualitative researcher. We reminisce about how qualitative research has become an accepted form of conducting research in many disciplines, including family therapy, education, nursing, and business; we talk about how we were barely heard in those early days. CHENAIL discusses some of the new ideas in qualitative research such as ZALTMAN's metaphor elicitation technique, MISHLER's exemplars, and a combination industrial--amusement research park. As the Editor and driving force of The Qualitative Report, CHENAIL's contributions are substantial and far-reaching.

Key words: The Qualitative Report, generic qualitative researcher, designer qualitative researcher, changing influences

Table of Contents

About the Interview


1. The Early Days of Qualitative Research

2. What is Qualitative Research for You and for Others

3. Being and Becoming a Qualitative Researcher

4. The Qualitative Report—and Then Some

5. Qualitative, Quality, and Questioning

6. Challenges: Now and for the Future







About the Interview

This telephone interview was conducted on the morning of December 22, 2003. It lasted for more than an hour. I had previously contacted Ron and asked if he would agree to be interviewed. He did so willingly. We discussed FQS and its interest in interviewing prominent founders of qualitative traditions. Ron was interested and very willing to provide whatever I needed. I should mention I have known Ron since the early 1990s and we share a common interest in qualitative methods and family therapy. Ron reviewed this manuscript and approved it. [1]


Ron CHENAIL received his master's degree from the University of Houston in the mid 1980s in counseling. In 1986 he went to Texas Tech to study family therapy. At that time he learned about the ethnographic interview. He conducted a visual ethnography on how kids in a child development school structured their time. He was asked to teach advanced qualitative classes. He became interested in discourse analysis and recursive frame analysis, and for his dissertation studied how families talk with cardiologists. CHENAIL followed Brad KEENEY to Ft. Lauderdale and Nova Southeastern University in 1989 where he is currently Professor of Family Therapy and Assistant to the President for Academic Affairs at Nova Southeastern University. He has just accepted a position as the editor-elect of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. He continues to teach, direct dissertations, and contribute to the qualitative research field. CHENAIL is the founder, editor, and driving force behind The Qualitative Report, an online journal originally established in 1990. You can access The Qualitative Report at http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/ and reach CHENAIL at ron@nova.edu. [2]

1. The Early Days of Qualitative Research

CHENAIL and I were on several committees in the early 1990s connected with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). We begin our discussion about those early days. CHENAIL recalls a meeting that he characterized as a "qualitative research summit". CHENAIL remembers: We met with both US and European editors and talked about philosophical differences. Americans prided themselves on how many (articles) they could reject and Europeans prided themselves on how many they could accept. Presentations at this conference were given as "stealth qualitative presentations," to use CHENAIL's words. Also, AAMFT sponsored a qualitative research institute in 1992 in Florida. They decided that family therapists needed qualitative research training and decided to take a proactive stance. I presented with Linda WARK a discussion of case study methodology. I see this time as the beginnings of qualitative research in family therapy. Since my discipline crossed the lines into education, I took these ideas back to my other home institution (Virginia Tech) as well. What changes we have seen in the last dozen years. Now CHENAIL is taking over the leadership of one of the premier journals of family therapy. How ironic—the outsider becomes an insider. [3]

2. What is Qualitative Research for You and for Others

Before our conversation progresses too far, I want to know how he defines qualitative research. I caution my students not to make assumptions about what people mean when they use the term. And although Ron and I have talked over the years about the topic, I am interested to learn what he thinks now. "I guess I would define qualitative research as a rigorous approach to the study of psychological or social phenomenon in which the researcher examines qualitative differences in phenomenon and also studies him or herself in the process. I have a tendency to approach (qualitative research) from a very generic perspective." He contrasts this view with something he calls a designer approach. What is that, I inquire? A designer approach would have a designer label such as phenomenology, he answered me (see CAELLI, RAY & MILL 2003 for additional information on generic qualitative research). [4]

He characterizes some tension as the field moves forward. He sees two groups. One favors calling "all this" qualitative research or qualitative inquiry and the other group is very specific. They get into issues about the differences between phenomenology and ethnography, for example. "If someone is going to put a flag in the ground and say they are doing phenomenology; hold them to that." He comments that in either case standards of quality are important. His view is that the method should make sense given the study at hand. And whether generic or designer, the "challenge is that you have to be a very good writer." [5]

CHENAIL speaks about personal responsibility, being efficient, and being ethical. He emphasizes that a qualitative researcher needs to describe things in plain language and not hide behind fancy terms. Consistent with his earlier comments about the self, he suggests that the researcher needs to explain to him or herself. As an aside, I was sorry we did not get to pursue this topic more fully as it is a special interest of mine. [6]

As we continue our conversation, I find CHENAIL's fertile mind roaming freely—something I recall about him at various conference presentations. His depth and breadth of knowledge is quite something. Here are some of his thoughts. He suggests that there is more cutting edge work in education and nursing than in other fields. I will let you be the judge of that, but in my experience that is not entirely true. He speaks of how medicine was hooked (on qualitative research) through COCHRANE (2000), POPAY (1998), DIXON-WOODS (2004), and other physician researchers from England. He jumps then to metaethnography on treatment and how researchers are looking for best practices of reporting. He suggests that there is a ratcheting up of reporting. I feel somewhat like being in a freefall when next he jumps to business and education. He quickly cites an article by CAELLI, RAY and MILL (2003). He speaks a little about the future. He stresses multiple languages, collaborative relationships, and free online access. Before my time is up, I decide to move the conversation in another direction. [7]

3. Being and Becoming a Qualitative Researcher

These are some terms he uses when he talks about being a qualitative researcher: embracing, access, lower level of self actualizing, and connecting. He suggests that it is good not to lose one's identity, but that it is important to learn better ways of connecting with the overall research enterprise. He says: "Over time, being (a qualitative researcher) means that you have to become more interested and eager to connect ... and that some are always trying to maintain the little turf they have." [8]

He speaks again about the early influences on him when he was a graduate student. He recalls that qualitative research made more sense given what they were trying to do in a clinical situation. Therapeutic discourse was especially interesting to him. He liked that he was exposed at an early age and that family therapy people were doing the teaching. On a personal note: In the late 80s and early 90s I was teaching research methods at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. I also became involved in taking classes in marriage and family therapy. Many of the students in my research classes where I was the professor were also students in the family therapy classes where I was a student. I found traditional research methods and principles of family therapy to be somewhat inconsistent. Although my own research department was very traditional, I began to teach courses in qualitative research. It seems almost inconceivable to me, but then there were no texts, few journal articles, no online journals, and almost no colleagues who embraced or even understood what qualitative research methods were. I recall my first set of instructional materials was gleaned from journal articles and conference papers I could locate. When our paths crossed, I saw his views as a breath of fresh air. [9]

4. The Qualitative Report—and Then Some

Even though I am on the editorial board of The Qualitative Report, and have been so since its inception, I did not really know its history. The Qualitative Report is one of the first online qualitative research journals. So I took advantage of this time with CHENAIL to learn about the early days. You might be surprised to learn, as I was, that it was initially created because CHENAIL had made a proposal to Sage for a qualitative journal. According to him the people at Sage were "not all that enamored" and they were just launching a qualitative health journal. They said it was too costly to market. You will recall that this was pre-Internet. He produced the first few issues on paper and received good administrative support at Nova Southeastern. This is what he remembers from the summer of 1990. He was "being very aggressive, trying to carve a world out there for people to learn about qualitative research, to submit papers, to be emancipatory, and to change the world." Now, admittedly the world began as the world of marriage and family therapy. But once it was online and more people had access to it through the Internet, open access became much more feasible. Some of you may not know that at about this same time the Qualitative Interest Group (QUIG) began at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. This became another outlet for those folks conducting qualitative research. They also developed a mailing list that can be reached at listserv@listserv.uga.edu (see also the interview with Judith PREISSLE in this issue). [10]

This online journal has become increasingly larger and now publishes 10 articles per issue. They try, CHENAIL says, to publish exemplary papers. He comments that the management side has improved as well. He sees new challenges. He suggests that when you look at what's being published in different disciplines, there is still a rather narrow range of styles being published. He is particularly challenged by critical and artistic theory and mentions DENZIN's (2003) new book on performative aspects of qualitative research. He is also trying to coax more papers and contributions from other areas and continues to look for exemplars. He resists becoming too narrow and scientific. We discussed other avenues for rapid and open communication. Ron is very much in favor of such ideas and would see FQS as an excellent opportunity for cross fertilization and for rapid exchange of novel and non-traditional ideas. [11]

He recognizes that graduate programs have just so many hours in them and what to teach becomes a problem. He sees technology as going beyond computer technology such as NUD*IST or NVivo and asks whether Photoshop or something beyond word processing ought to be required. I share with Ron my experiences with NVivo (LICHTMAN 2002a, 2002b, 2002c). While I find the computer technology challenging and intriguing, at times the learning curve is somewhat steep and may be difficult for some users. See my comments on BAZELEY and RICHARDS' book. (BAZELEY & RICHARDS 2000; LICHTMAN 2001). He suggests that students need to become familiar with data based programs to manage technology. He also says that those who are more artistic are held back because they don't know the technology to embed a sound file or a movie. As our time begins to run out, I again shift the conversation. I ask him about the most important developments in the field of qualitative research. [12]

5. Qualitative, Quality, and Questioning

CHENAIL raises the issue of quality in qualitative research as his first thoughts on the subject. This reminds me of our early days in talking with journal editors who said they did not know how to judge quality and of traditionalists who saw quality as equated with principles associated with positivist and post-positivist research. How could one judge if the criteria for judging were inappropriate. CHENAIL suggests that we should follow MISHLER (1990) as he talks about the role of exemplars. He is also supportive of an audit trail. [13]

I think CHENAIL would agree with me and many others that we can't talk about changes without mentioning the importance of the Internet. He suggests that it is easier to move around and get access to online journals. He also likes electronic libraries, easier access to full texts, saving of time, information literacy, and in general managing and publishing. He suggests that the international is now local. [14]

6. Challenges: Now and for the Future

He speaks of the challenge of inclusiveness. And while qualitative research has become successful, he worries that we might end up with a very narrow range. He sees a tendency to be more scientific. He speaks of those voices I have heard so often: it is interesting, but is it really research. He worries about other approaches such as feminist and critical theory and how they answer the "is it really research" question. And he argues that the more you answer the question about "is it really research" there may be a hardening of the categories. My own voice asks: are we moving backwards instead of ahead? [15]

You might find this story interesting. CHENAIL mentions some work done by ZALTMAN (2003) from business and psychology. He does something called the metaphor elicitation technique. He takes pictures and then gives them to people he meets in is travels. They talked to people about what the picture meant. This idea was then adapted to market research. He sees this as creating a collage of images. Here is another example of CHENAIL's divergent and creative mind. [16]

We ended our discussion by making some predictions for the future. He talks about fiberoptics on the Internet that permit transfer and dissemination of all kinds of information. This then results in easier collaboration, collection and storage of data. This will lead to standards for storing qualitative data that others can access and review. He suggests that this enables collaboration in multiple sites. In a related area, he sees improvement in voice recognition software that will make transcription easier. He anticipates that the next generation will be able to transcribe dialogues. Finally, he sees improvement in software that will allow the handling of images and videos. [17]

You have to think outside the box when you talk with Ron. He proposes a research park online (CHENAIL 2004) that will be a combination industrial research park and amusement park. It will look like Epcot Center where villages represent the world—academic programs will be connected. Access will come in many forms. We will need guides and rangers in the park. Right now a course is a stream or journey; people can blaze their own trail, navigate, and get help when they need it. There will be an entertainment director of events coordination. From an educational perspective, work will need to be done on how knowledge will be contributed to the park. He continues. The software is there—management software, hooked into a library, hooked into course creation and databases. Someone can go in and take an exercise from your class that can be used by others. [18]

We ended our conversation on this note. Our time had run out. I needed time to process what I learned and, more importantly, what it meant. I knew CHENAIL was a visionary when I met him in 1990 (CHENAIL in press). Almost fifteen years later he has lost none of that vision. I am not always sure I know where he is going. In fact, I am not always sure he knows where he is going. But that perhaps is the most important part of the message. It is all right not to know precisely where you are going, or even how or if you will get there. But not to try is a loss for us all. [19]

Appendix: Transcript of the Interview Conducted December 22, 2003

This interview was conducted on the telephone. Tape equipment was connected and working properly. I was using my computer as a backup. After a very short time the tape machine failed to function. I was thus unable to have an audio version of the tape. I was fortunate to be able to type rapidly. I have edited this transcript only superficially for the sake of clarity. I have also chosen to leave it somewhat "rough" so that the reader can see how questions were posed and responses provided.


My purpose: Forum Qualitative Social Research (FQS) (peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, 1999) is conducting interviews with researchers who are prominent founders of qualitative traditions. Its aim is to interview individuals from different cultures, disciplines and nationalities, all of whom have in common an interest and contribution to qualitative research.

The plan: A number of people are conducting interviews and, while we are following a somewhat similar schedule of questions, I plan to embellish, enlarge, and extend the conversation beyond these. Publication date is estimated as May 2004 with submissions due in February. It might be possible to include some tapes from our interviews. With that in mind, is it okay if I tape record our interview? Permission granted.

Why you: I decided that you would be an excellent person to interview. Over the last dozen or more years we have had a number of contacts and I am familiar with your writing.

The next hour or so: I plan our conversation to be about an hour. Should we need to run over that time, we can either schedule an additional discussion or continue. It will be up to you.

Openings and beginnings

LICHTMAN: Tell me about yourself, the kind of work you are now doing, and what you have done in the past.

CHENAIL: Editing of The Qualitative Report. Lot of spare time. Staff of editorial board. Developmental mission. Not a lot of formal training. Rogerian, initial acceptance of the author. Something about what the author has done, but they don't have the sounding board, colleague, doing in isolation. Review for Qualitative Research in Psychology—in England—papers there compare fairly well with what we have here. One needed a lot of work. Other one was great paper. Takes up a lot of time.

Teach primarily in family therapy and conflict resolution, although more work with graduate education school and all teach qualitative work in doctoral curriculum.

Chapter in new book—handbook of family therapy research—Doug SPRENKLE. Just accepted American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy offer as next editor of the journal. Research theory and practice, omnibus and family. Mostly teaches in research classes.

Phenomenology in a class. Still active on dissertations. Chairing a couple of them. One study ethnographic, grounded theory, conflict resolution. Reasonable accommodations in learning disability. Another one of role and trust and relationship building. Another one on open adoption interviews about how that's going. What does therapist do when they need help themselves.

LICHTMAN: What is your research training and education?

CHENAIL: Masters at University of Houston in middle 80s in counseling and had usual consumption of research, basic stat and design class. Put application in for family therapy program at Texas Tech in 1986. Neal NEUFIELD taught. Anthropologist and social worker. MADELINE and SPRADLEY—ethnographic interview. Did visual ethnography. Kids in child development school; focused on unstructured time. How kids structured their time. Brad KEENEY there, Harv joined us. Brought in people from program at Wright, post-modern ethnography work. Brad and Monte asked him to teach advanced qualitative class. Jerry GALE ... Brad KEENEY recursive frame analysis. Took classes on discourse analysis. Dissertation on discourse analysis, families talk on cardiologist. Midway through KEENEY left for Nova. Drove to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (US). Finished in 1989. Hired in July 1989. Also had usual sequence of design, multivariate, ANOVA, regression, had usual stuff. Qualitative alternative track. Now family therapy required to have both qualitative and quantitative. Comp exams—had alternative, present research problem, challenge and could address both ways.

I'd like to go back to the early days. I recall that we were in a meeting of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (I think in Florida) in the early '90s and we found we had a mutual interest in qualitative research, but were facing a number of challenges and frustrations.

LICHTMAN: What do you remember about these very early times?

CHENAIL: Two meetings—one in Washington, (1990) Wednesday, qualitative research summit, meeting of family therapy editors, time with editors, both US and European editors. Talking about philosophical differences. Basic difference between German and American journals. American's prided themselves on how many they could reject, and European's prided themselves on how many they could accept. Association of Marriage and Family Therapy had research committee. Consider Institute for Qualitative Research. Qualitative Research Institute. About 1992 in Florida. If we were making commitment to qualitative research training in family therapy if no future, then we were not doing very well. Decided to take proactive stance. Washington meeting in 1990, family therapy conference. Stealth qualitative presentations. Emphasized what they were studying.

LICHTMAN: Now, before we go too far, I want to get your own take on qualitative research. How do you define the term? How do you think your definition compares/contrasts with that of others?

CHENAIL: I guess I would define qualitative research as a rigorous approach to the study of psychological or social phenomenon in which the researcher examines qualitative differences in phenomenon and also studies him or herself in process. I have the tendency to approach from very generic perspective. (A designer would have a designer label such as phenomenology.) One of tensions in going forward—certainly a group that favors calling all this qualitative research or inquiry and then have the group that do like designer approach and be very specific, what makes phenomenology distinct from ethnography. If someone is going to put a flag in the ground and say they are doing phenomenology, hold them to that. In either case, be open about standards for quality is in seeing. Depends on field that you are in. If in anthropology, you see more designer approaches. In more cases: Will see mixing, mention phenomenology, but it will be that phenomenology is epistemological, but doing more generic. Not necessarily going all the way. Consistent if they understand the world in a particular way. See that they did what they said they did. Don't go all the way to doing a theory, not really doing a grounded theory. The method should make sense given the study at hand ascribes what it is that they do. Nowadays more interesting in personal responsibility, most efficient and ethical. Describe in plain language than hide behind fancy terms. Need to explain to self. Makes it easier for someone to judge quality if described in plain language. Challenge is that you have to be a very good writer.

Looks across all different fields, more cutting edge in education and nursing, folks in medicine hooked through COCHRAN, POPAY, DIXON-WOODS, physician researchers from England. Meta-ethnography on treatment. Looking to get qualitative research papers included. What is evidence regarding treatment of x on y. Best practices of reporting. Ratcheting up quality in terms of reporting. All about doing review of literature. See part of data bases. What is good treatment. Seeing in family therapy—Doug SPRENKLE recently edited book on that. A lot of room. Big interest in clinical area. Looks at business and education. In business usually means focus groups. Especially when it comes to prescriptive, what constitutes quality, keep tabs to see what is happening. CAELLI, RAY and MILL, 2003. Clear as mud: toward greater clarity in Qualitative Research, Vol. 2, No. 2. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, tendency to be nursing. University of Alberta. She is the editor Janice MORSE, do 2 conferences, qualitative health, generic qualitative method. Multiple languages, collaborative relationships with other training. Online, free access.

Influences on you

LICHTMAN: Being and becoming a qualitative researcher. I am interested in these two aspects: the being and the becoming. How do you see yourself vis-à-vis these two ideas?

CHENAIL: How does one embrace? Personally. See as professional identity, regardless of program I teach in, people email me around the world. Accessing me from the qualitative side. Over time being means—today—having to become more interested and eager to connect. Puts you at lower level of actualizing. Always trying to maintain the little turf you have. Look at connecting. Do in variety of ways. Qualitative researchers a have tendency to think about the project as a research program. Really it's an ongoing developmental model. Qualitative researchers have one project—good to think of overall program. The question to consider should be what do we know about the phenomenon and how do we know it. Maybe experimental, qualitative, and critical. Situating your program in larger context. How will that advance what we know. We don't hear the voice of the patient or the parent. This is what we thought we knew. This connects well. This is something new, contrasting. Don't lose identity, learn better ways of connecting with overall research enterprise and good way to go.

If qualitative researchers are looking to funding, when talking to people in Washington, they say it's not an issue anymore and can see many monographs. Challenge is to improve quality of work and the other challenge is to (answer not recorded). How is the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) organized. Interested in improving our treatment. What do we know so far about the problem and about the treatment. Moments when we go from initial approach. Create manual, grounded theory, manual, field work, study this, when going from one population to another. Qualitative is great, all the way through, more scientific. If you understand the overall thinking about how research is done, the challenge is how to fit in overall. Like combining, it's a challenge. How will you contribute? How will your program be funded?

LICHTMAN: What were the influences on you as you became a qualitative researcher? Can you remember a personal story that led you down this pathway? How did you find yourself shifting your own thinking about research as you developed?

CHENAIL: Two things come to mind. Often weakness in family therapy programs. Family therapy programs not usual ones. They will tell stories from their area. Qualitative research had double advantage. Taught by marriage and family therapy (MFT) faculty, class that afternoon and then in the evening could try things out. Seemed to make more sense given what we were trying to do in the clinic. Made more sense in addressing the questions I was interested in. Therapeutic discourse interesting to me. Those kinds of combinations—feet in both things. Exposed at an early age, the MFT people teaching it.

Your own contributions

LICHTMAN: I want to talk first about The Qualitative Report. What is it, what role did/does it play in the field?

CHENAIL: Evolving a bit. Initially created. Came out of proposal not accepted at Sage; had proposed a journal at Sage, people at Sage not all that enamored, just launching qualitative health journal. Pre-Internet stuff. Too costly to market it. From accounting perspective. Newsletter to send to family therapy programs. First few issues on paper. Good support at Nova, administration being very supportive. Summer of 1990. Impetus was to be very aggressive, trying to carve a world out there for people to learn about qualitative research, submit papers, emancipatory, change the world. Primarily in MFT world, once online and more people got onto Internet, Georgia, QUALRS-L discussion group, more international in terms of open access. Course hour crunch. Qualitative research still gets short shrift. A lot of people submit papers who are assistant professors. Try to publish exemplary papers. Nuts and bolts behind the theme. Now each month, each month more than previous years. Now 10 articles per issue. Improve management side of it. New challenge, when look at what's being published in different disciplinary journals, still rather narrow range of styles being published these days. Scientific area. Challenged by the critical and artistic theory. Used to be called post-modern, DENZIN's new book on performative aspects. Trying to coax some papers and contributions in other areas. Other ones that are a bit more experimental and creative, not enough exemplars. Just talking with some colleagues about auto-ethnography. Need to have some basic steps to follow. How did you get to that point? Does not want it to become very narrow, scientific only kind of approach. If going to get any technology, usually nudist or NVIVO. Have to take a step back. Do they need to know Photoshop, something beyond word processing? Only so many credit hours in program. How to better manage library system? Get students to use data base program to manage data. Some more artistic ones held back because they don't know to embed sound file or a movie. I do a lecture in intro to research. 4 in 1 study: study proposed, conducted, evaluated, produced. Requisite technology or software good to know about. Project management software. Working with teams or managing yourself. What is deliverable project. Something more artistic, start at beginning, tape recorder on disc, digital camera, fit into machine. As faculty. In first class had Mac, had ethnographic, showing how to do on Macintosh, all still in DOS world. Had never seen hyperlinking, very new for us. We don't think about when we are teaching. Drills and exercises and things to try. Student I mentioned before using trust and relationship. First student I have who is using Nudist, see how it helps to shape her thinking in her study.

Another way to market. The way I start 4 studies in one. Qualitative research in terms of knowledge management. In 5 chapters. Ultimate goal is either knowledge or wisdom. Ch. 1 is wisdom—what do you plan to do? Ch. 2—what do you know? What do authors say they know? Ch 3. Ch 4. qualitative analysis of data. What do you know from work in field? Going from data.

Important developments in qualitative research in your field

LICHTMAN: What do you see as the most important developments in general? In your own field in particular?

CHENAIL: In last few years, making overt what people think is quality in qualitative research. People are looking across method and approaches. Some people argue can you really do that. I like discussion. As writer or practitioner. MISHLER talked about role of exemplars. In past can cite what had done—audit trail. Little steps, shows how to do it, authoritative perspective and things you can cite. Very good to cite.

The Internet has been good to make a lot easier to jump around. Even better are electronic libraries, so much easier to access full text, cuts down on time, from technology, information literacy, how to manage all that is published. Tied into Endnote, helps qualitative researchers to, ... just reviewing paper another night ... in my little area this is what it means. A handful of books. Here's how to do postmodern research. Online journals online and free. Do more good by creating access. Be part of a university. Did library with county, can use 200+.

LICHTMAN: Do you see interdisciplinary influences? And what kind of international perspectives do you see?

CHENAIL: International is local now at least through the Internet, in the past someone traveled over from a conference. In the old days, less of a blurring of that. Journals that we all read. Weird. Will not see. There still may be the prejudice. German and Canadian one. Both ... wish they had the resources. For most it is the English. Has its own currency. Limitation of projects. Certainly will broaden the matter of resources.

Challenges necessary to the development of the discipline of qualitative research in your field: From the past, now, and in the future

CHENAIL: Challenge of inclusiveness, big challenge is our success, as we connect with others, assimilation, accommodation kind of thing. May end up with a very narrow range. Tendency more to the scientific side. Those kinds of qualitative researchers who say that is interesting, but is it really research. Worries about the other approaches—critical, feminist. Is this really research, all the same kinds of questions. The way you answer that question, can shape the variability, there will be a right answer. The right answer can be a winnowing down. May be hardening of the categories. Same tight methods written about.

A really good visual, one I just love. Business and psychology. ZALTMAN. He does metaphor elicitation technique. First read about him in New York Times. Take pictures. Give them to people we meet along the way. When got the picture back talked to people about what they meant. Adapted to marketing research. Ask customers what product means to you. Tell you about Coca Cola. Coca Cola only marketing half of the product. Usually marketed as social drink. Half people talk about it when they are by themselves and meditating and reflecting. Buddhist monk in stadium. For marketing customers give you image you can use in your ads. Create collage of images. In therapy start with client, if you use software, create collage collectively with the family. Looking for people in clinical areas to work with him. Ripe for qualitative research.

LICHTMAN: Go back to the early days? What kind of challenges do you recall? How were they handled? Are the challenges now different in scope, intensity, content, or other aspects from those in the past? Can you provide some specific examples of negotiations, fights, or other avenues in which you were involved?

CHENAIL: Have had some discussions with Fred PIERCY at Virginia Tech. Just known as research, not qualitative research. Why clarify it, why point it out, always seen as something less than. A suggestion because we have these identities as qualitative researchers. Just talking about being researchers. We are the ones creating that separation.

By drawing distinctions, we help the quantitative researchers define themselves too. At the University of Houston they talked about here is how research is done. There is different kind of research, we have helped.

Other thoughts

LICHTMAN: What else can you add about the field? What predictions can you make for the future? How can leaders continue to mold, modify, and move ahead? What special interdisciplinary aspects do you see?

CHENAIL: My favorite quote: William GIBSON—cyberpunks. The future is here; it is just not widely distributed yet. I try to see some of the things that are emerging.

Some things already in place

Internet 3 based upon fiberoptics. AT&T made deal with Southeastern Research Association. Creates big pipes, all kinds of information through. A lot easier to collaborate, collect and store data. Standards for storing qualitative data, others can review and access. Technology overcomes some of the problem. Wonderful with person you are interviewing. Free or cheaper to do that. Something that will really make it easier to collect that kind of data. Work collaboratively in multiple sites.

See improvement in voice recognition software that will make transcription easier. Next generation will be able to transcribe dialogues. Right now transcription turns people off so quickly. Rich way to generate data.

Improvements in software that allow us to handle images and videos.

Research Park online. Something that is combination industrial research park and amusement park. State park. Will look like Epcot where villages are the world—academic programs connected. Methodology pavilions, writing technology, will have structured. All access it in different ways. Goes beyond. Need guides and rangers in the park. Right now a course is a stream or a journey, people can blaze their own trail, navigate, need help with that. Entertainment director or events coordination. From education perspective. Work on what they will contribute to knowledge in the park. Material for other.

Software is there. Management software, hook into library, hook into course creation, more in databases. Someone can go in, exercise from your class can be used by others. She is available, can create that, part can be recorded. Wouldn't all have to be you in the park, how one uses this exercise that you have. Helps you in your teaching. Someone came up with new wrinkle. Paper presented at the qualitative conference in Georgia. Have to work up an accounting system.

When look at terms we use. Getting a degree. Or a higher degree. All distinctions help to limit interdisciplinary, semester hour.

LICHTMAN: Thanks so much.


Bazeley, Pat & Richards, Lyn (2000). The NVivo qualitative project book. London: Sage.

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Marilyn LICHTMAN has worked as a professor of research at Virginia Tech for many years where she has taught qualitative and quantitative courses. She serves on the editorial board of The Qualitative Report and FQS. She has given several presentations about the use of NVivo at the Third International Conference in London in 2002.


Brian Roberts

Marilyn Lichtman
5809 Nicholson Lane, #511
Rockville, MD

E-mail: mlichtma@vt.edu


Lichtman, Marilyn (2004). "The Future Is Here; It Is Just Not Widely Distributed Yet"—Adapted from William Gibson. Ron Chenail in Conversation With Marilyn Lichtman [19 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 5(3), Art. 11, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0403113.

Revised 6/2008

Copyright (c) 2004 Marilyn Lichtman

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