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PhD student Rachel Barnard talks about how she used funding from the Graduate School to attend a top conference.

Published Friday, 1st February, 2019 in Student successes

Rachel Barnard, PhD research student, attended and presented at the IIQM Qualitative Methods Conference last year. Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

"It was thanks to generous funding from the Graduate School that I was able to attend and present at this conference. The following is a brief summary of the benefits I derived from three days at the conference and one day of workshops.

The paper I presented was entitled “Researching across two cultures: Shifting positionality”. Several nurses were amongst the 30 or so delegates who attended my talk, providing an excellent opportunity to present my research to this professional group, and I was pleased with how they engaged. I particularly welcomed their feedback that I had ‘got them’ as nurses and had represented nursing well. Interestingly their comments made me reflect on whether I was also representing my own profession of SLT well, and it made me appreciate the difficulties in keeping balance. The abstract is published in the International Journal of Qualitative Methods (2018) 17: 1-39. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/articles/ijq

One of the most beneficial aspects of attending the conference was the opportunity it provided to network with other delegates and make useful contacts for the future. This was particularly valuable for me, as my research crosses my own discipline of speech and language therapy, into nursing. I had many interesting conversations with nurse researchers; it was helpful to hear their interests and get their take on my research, and I have been building on this network through engaging on twitter. Of particular value was a discussion I had with a nurse educator from Strathclyde University who was using symbolic interactionism in her study. I had been toying with using this theoretical lens, and talking with her confirmed that it was a perfect fit for my study. I could see for example how it would help to think of the meaning nurses’ gave to approaches from SLTs depending on whether the interruption was welcome or unwelcome.

Three highly regarded speakers gave excellent keynote presentations: Johnny Saldana, Katherine Bischoping and Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman. They all covered dimensions of the self and emotion in qualitative research. The keynote I found most powerful was presented by Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, titled ‘Bringing your whole self to research’. It was interesting to hear how she used social-constructivism to think through power from the perspective of the researched and made me think more deeply about where the power lay in my own research, specifically what motivated participants to talk to me, and the concept of non-coercive domination. She urged researchers to ‘relentlessly search for the gaps’ in their understandings.

There was a full programme of high quality presentations covering a wide variety of topics of methodological interest. I took detailed notes and have referred to them often whilst writing the methods section of my thesis. Some memorable examples included: carrying out interviews with dyads, use of photo elicitation, member checking, and thematic analysis. I also attended two half-day workshops by Professor Sally Thorne on analyzing data using interpretative description. These workshops gave me an opportunity to be educated by a leading expert, and equipped me with some practical tools that have been put to work in analyzing my data. The workshop gave me a new lens for thinking about how to frame my work from an applied perspective. It offered a legitimate framework for considering knowledge translation as an outcome beyond pure description, and helped me think about the application of theory to my study. The conference also included some practical ‘how to’ components that were very useful, for example a session from an editor on ‘what makes a great qualitative research paper’, with some usable advice for novice researchers. For example, be true to your epistemological approach, don’t repeat findings in the discussion and don’t be too apologetic in the limitations section.

Overall, the conference allowed me the space I needed to explore qualitative research as a legitimate means of addressing the questions I am interested in finding answers to. I was particularly taken with the overwhelming support for using the self as a tool in qualitative research, and it was hugely beneficial to have so many nurses in attendance. Finally, the conference was located in a stunningly beautiful place. I was extremely lucky to have been able to attend and would like to thank the Graduate School for making this possible."