Last year we advertised for a new post at Quirkos, billed as a Qualitative Evangelist to help us provide wider materials on qualitative methodologies and develop a community of researchers as we grow into new areas. Today we are excited to announce that the amazing Cathy Gibbons (Arc52.com / formerly University of Nottingham) will be joining us and developing exciting new training, guidance and community support for Quirkos users and the wider qualitative research community! She brings an amazing amount of experience in research training, both in higher education, post-graduate and consultancy settings. We'll be announcing some of her new offerings over the coming months, but she's already been working hard on helping us improve Quirkos (more to come on that too!). But let's let her introduce herself:
Tell us a little about your background in research:
I have a bit of a mixed background; I started out in humanities before switching to the natural sciences, working both as junior plant pathologist and a paramedic before becoming a science teacher. It was whilst doing my teacher training that I was first exposed to the social sciences and I realised just how interesting this area is. I progressed from a Masters Degree to a PhD in Human Relations at the University of Nottingham and then onto a Research Fellowship. Mostly I was researching with young people on themes of gender, and social marginalisation, but I missed teaching. After the Roberts’ Review on researcher skills in the UK, a government funded Researcher Development post was the perfect combination for me; teaching, yet remaining close to the intellectual challenge of research. I eventually became Head of Researcher Development at Exeter University, before returning to Nottingham to specialise in Qualitative Research Methods, Ethics and Integrity and Supervisor Development. I continue to advise and teach in these areas.
What appeals to you about teaching?
I really enjoy the direct experience of facilitating individuals in their intellectual and personal growth. It can be very satisfying seeing someone become less confused and more confident. Sometimes though you have to help them through the process of becoming more confused first! This is where the real growth occurs; research is not about reproducing what we think we already know.
What do you like to encourage in students?
The ability to independently think, reflect and voice their thoughts with respect. Research can change the world but rarely by a single individual. Therefore encouraging students to understand the context in which work takes place can help them, not just to see the opportunities available, but to be ready to make the most of them.
What do you think doctoral level students most need help with at the moment?
Doctoral students who are in cohorts need different kinds of help to those who are isolated. Students in funded cohorts need very flexible short offers to fit around the rigidity of mandatory programmes, and portals to reach out beyond what can be quite rarefied atmospheres. Students may be isolated because there are simply very few research students in their department. If a student is self-funding and/or studying part-time, money is often an issue. Training courses can be expensive and time-consuming. These students need an inexpensive (preferably free) space to learn research methods and reach out to other researchers in a similar position so that they can become encultured within a community of qualitative research.
What attracted you to the role at Quirkos?
Qualitative research methods! That, and the fact that it is a new role with the space to create new opportunities for me and Quirkos. There was something about the way Quirkos communicates the importance of qualitative methodology rather than just the tool that says something about the values of Quirkos as a company that I like. I really enjoy travelling and the international nature of research. Working with Quirkos means that I will continue to work with researchers from all over the world, and I can work from anywhere in the world too.
What do you hope to do in the Quirkos post?
I hope to create a connected community of qualitative and mixed method researchers. Through this I hope to improve the quality and rigour of qualitative research, especially in areas where its reputation it is poor. I hope to get researchers talking about their methodology – it’s so often hidden, or not discussed in research papers, especially in areas where it needs to be talked about. How do researchers know how to do credible qualitative research if it’s just described in terms of what they did, rather than how and why they did it?
What sectors do you think could be benefiting from Quirkos or more qualitative approaches?
The volume of data available in the public sector is huge. Qualitative Analysts in the public sector often have strong frameworks, but only low tech tools to analyse, co-ordinate and report to stakeholders compared to their big data counter-parts. I think Quirkos could help them manage and handle their qualitative data more efficiently and effectively, apply their frameworks to their data more consistently and create transparent analysis trails. This makes the development of stronger or more appropriate analysis frameworks easier too. Qualitative reporting can lack the short-hand visual appeal of quantitative charts, leading to vital qualitative messages to decision makers being subconsciously relegated. Quirkos as a visual tool can help in the reporting of findings as a visual with immediate impact. I also think it could practically help commissioners understand the process, and hence the value of qualitative research and so be more willing to use it as a headline research approach, rather than a side-line act.
What does Quirkos need to do better to reach out to more qualitative researchers?
Hear more researcher voices. Researchers want to hear from other researchers. I’m looking forward to creating opportunities for researchers to use Quirkos as a platform to share their thoughts, whether that is through their contribution to our blog, being a speaker for a webinar, or presenting their papers at a Quirkos conference. Quirkos can create a progressive academic space for the community of qualitative researchers of all levels of experience and disciplines to reach out and engage, especially with those who are new to qualitative research.
We'll be hearing more from Cathy on the blog soon, but if you are intrigued enough to discover why Quirkos inspires so many qualitative researchers, you can download a free trial with no registration for the Local Storage offline version! Or sign up to try Quirkos cloud free for 14 days and work anywhere with anyone on your qualitative data.