CBR Blog: March 2012

CBR Spotlight

In this edition of the CBR blog, I want to shine the spotlight on some of the fantastic research our members are doing. Check out AIDS Vancouver Island’s local research page, which provides information about the projects they have been working on and links to the final reports. Great work, AVI!

If you or your organization are interested in having the spotlight shone in your direction, feel free to send me an email at [email protected]

CBR Musings –Method(s) to the Madness

When if comes to research methods, two words usually spring to mind: quantitative and qualitative. Put simply, quantitative methods are those that quantifying data (i.e. turn it into numbers). Qualitative methods are those that sort data into interpretive themes. These methods are often conflated with their data collection strategies (e.g. quantitative = surveys; qualitative = interviews), even though there are many more ways of collecting data than just surveys and interviews.

Research methods are not just about gathering data. They are the strategies we use to collect, analyze and report data. Frequently, they have specific theoretical orientations built into them, and serve as a guide for the entire research process – from the initial question down to the form of knowledge translation. There is no one method better than another because every method has a different objective. Each method has its own way of ensuring rigour and validity. Although some people may have preferences for certain methods over others, the research question is what ultimately determines the suitability of one method over another.

Even more interesting is that there are dozens of different types of methods that fall under the categories of ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’. Some are naturally suited to community-based research, while others have to be finessed in order to fit within CBR principles. Here’s a small sample of some methods that may or may not be new to you:

Photo-voice: This method uses a radically different type of data: photographs. Although there are many variants of photo-voice, the most common involves distributing cameras to participants who take snapshots of people, places and other images that are important to them in relation to the research topic. Participants are not only a ‘source’ of data, they also be come active in the analysis by contributing their interpretations of the photographs. This method is becoming increasingly popular with CBR practitioners because it recognizes that not all people are comfortable sharing their stories through words or forms. Afterward, the photographs are often used in art displays, which provides a vivid and compelling form of knowledge mobilization. As a method, photo-voice is great for questions that explore people’s lived experiences and for studies that involve populations that are marginalized.

Discourse analysis: Unlike photo-voice, this qualitative method is not ideally suited to looking at lived experience. However, it is a source of critical research that can be quite powerful for advocacy purposes. Discourse analysis focuses on the way that ideas, ideologies, stereotypes, norms, and other biases are hidden within language. The data for this method can be anything where language is present: transcripts of qualitative interviews or of politician’s speeches, news and radio stories, popular books and magazines, advertisements, etc. This method is particularly compelling when it reveals how some ideas that we take as ‘common-sense’ are actually illogical and steeped with prejudices.