Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Strange Addiction: Qualitative Research

Akiv Dawson
Georgia Southern University

        Hello, my name is Akiv Dawson. I am a second year student in the Master of Arts in Social Science program at Georgia Southern University and I am an avid qualitative researcher. I mean I am actually hooked on the stuff. My preference for qualitative research stems from the story telling element of this research style.  My time in the MASS program has given me multiple opportunities to expand my skill set as a qualitative researcher. I was first introduced to qualitative research through my graduate assistantship in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. I was fortunate enough to work for two professors, Dr. April Schueths and Dr. Adrienne Cohen, who are primarily qualitative researchers. They encouraged my interest in conducting research and offered me opportunities to work on projects that could be potential publications.

        In the Fall of 2014 I began working on two qualitative research projects. The first project focused on the racial interactions of college students at a predominantly white university. For this project, I conducted in-depth interviews, transcribed the interviews, and completed a thematic analysis. The most important skill that I learned while doing this project was how to be a part of a research team. This skill will allow me to work with others on qualitative projects in future. The second project that I worked on focused on the aging experiences of older women gerontologists. This project also utilized a research team. Although I did conduct one in-depth interview for this project as well, my primary capacity was organizing materials and transcripts and completing the data analysis. The most important skill that I learned from this experience was how to operate NVIVO software. This is a very important skill for qualitative researchers because it allows for an efficient and organized means of data analysis.
      
       These projects also gave me an opportunity to attend and present at academic conferences. I presented the preliminary findings of the study on racial interactions at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Southern Sociological Society in New Orleans. This was the first time that I’d ever presented research at an academic conference. I was able to get valuable critiques and insight about going forward with the project. In November of 2015 I, along with other members of the research team, was given a symposium to present the findings from the study on older women gerontologists at the Annual Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. It was a great opportunity.                                 
        
        I am so thankful for these experiences. I have been able to apply the skills that I learned on these projects to my own qualitative Master’s thesis. My research uses elements of ethnographic content analysis and constructionist thematic analysis to focus on the way opinion editorialists construct reality in regards to police use of lethal force against African American males. Although there have been quantitative attempts at examining this issue, these attempts cannot adequately express the passion of the person who’s writing or speaking. However, a qualitative approach has allowed me to focus on the actual narrative that is created when the issue is discussed in the public sphere.

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