Tuesday, February 9, 2016

It’s A Qualitative World Out There

Ticely Sanders, Master of Arts in Social Science Graduate Student
Georgia Southern University

As I entered the classroom to my sociology Qualitative Research Methods course, my heart and mind were filled with uncertainty. Being that this was the first qualitative class I had ever taken, I literally had no clue what to expect. I assumed I would not enjoy it as much as I did quantitative research, but I was immediately proven wrong. As the semester progressed, and I worked on my own research project, I realized that everything that I do on a day-to-day basis can relate to qualitative research.

What is Qualitative Research?
Researchers have many definitions. For example, in Martyn Hammersley’s book, “What is Qualitative Research?” he gives Margarete Sandelowski’s (2004: 893) example:  “An umbrella term for any array of attitudes towards and strategies for strategies conducting inquiry that are aimed at discovering how human beings understand, experience, and interpret, and produce the social world.” This is a broad description that makes sense to me.

College Athletes’ Perceptions of Transgender Athletes
During the semester I completed an original research project with two other graduate students. Our title was, “College Athletes’ Perceptions of Transgender Athletes."  Transgender is, "An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth.  Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation.  Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc." [Link to hyyp://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-terminology-and-definitions] 

For more information on transgender issues, check out this video from ESPN and Frequently Asked Questions: 
 We conducted qualitative interviews with cisgender athletes or “people whose gender identity or expression aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth,” [Link to http://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-terminology-and-definitions] and explored their views on participating in college sports with athletes who are transgender. Overall, my group found that both cisgender men and women felt that it was acceptable for transgender athletes to participate in college sports, and that they would be able to adjust in a respectful way. Athletes appeared much more open than we thought they would be.

I learned a lot about conducting qualitative research. I now know how to develop an interview protocol and how to conduct one on one interviews. I realized how important it is to be specific and concise with your interview questions and that sometimes you need to modify your questions because they just don’t work. I definitely appreciate how difficult transcribing interviews and analyzing data really is. Thankfully I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Eagle QuaRC Fall Symposium  [link to previous post by Dr. Trena Paulus:  http://eaglequarc.blogspot.com/2015/09/digital-tools-for-qualitative-research_13.html] at Georgia Southern where I learned more about analyzing data using digital tools, such a NVivo.
            Overall, my group research project was insightful, intriguing, and taught me that you never know the answer to your questions unless you ask for it. Even though you may think you have an answer to your research question or already have a conclusion, you might be completely wrong.
Qualitative research ended up being my favorite class last semester. I learned skills that will not only help me with future research, but help me better understand things in everyday life. If anyone has the opportunity to take qualitative research, TAKE IT. It is educational, fun, and meaningful!

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