I am new to this but it’s OK. By Katie Brailsford

In July, the GFGRG co-sponsored the ‘Reflecting on Qualitative Research Methods’ workshop.  In this post one of the participants reflects on her experience of the day.

Friday 21st July marked my first experience of a RGS-IBG Reflecting on Qualitative Research Methods Day and what a brilliant day it was.  The day started with networking over a well-deserved cup of tea after travelling to the RGS-IBG London headquarters.  I have to admit it is easy to feel daunted approaching a building of such stature, but I soon felt welcome as the session began with an introduction to the day and an explanation of some of the key RGS-IBG research groups, see here for information regarding RGS-IBG postgraduate fellowship.

The session that followed was a key note by none other than Professor Gillian Rose, a key figure in the world of geography. Professor Rose led a key note entitled “A cultural geographer in digital times: doing qualitative methods differently.” This is an area of research that was completely new to me and it was fascinating to hear the methods and techniques Professor Rose used to integrate the analysis of images from twitter into the heart of her research project. As a qualitative researcher who has stuck firmly to the world of interviews, Professor Rose opened my eyes and the question and answer session afterwards also helped me see that as researchers our skills are constantly developing and adapting to the changing world around us. For more information on Professor Rose’s work please click here.

After a tasty lunch and a chance to talk more the afternoon sessions began. This is where my trepidation went up a notch. I can now admit I don’t actually start my PHD until October, what was I going to bring to an interactive session on qualitative methods? There was no need to worry what followed was a superb session led by Eveleigh Buck- Matthews practising free writing, imagined maps and body mapping. Free writing is exactly what it says on the tin: you time yourself for a minute and just write.  This was centred around three themes: the first, how would we feel as our participant? We had one minute to just write whatever came into our heads if we got stuck we just repeated the last word. The next round involved thinking of the tactile qualities of our research what did it feel like as an object and as a sensory experience? For this again we had a minute just to write. For the final round, Eveleigh was generous and gave us two minutes to write how we felt about our research. This was a very liberating experience as there was no right or wrong and there is something very satisfying about getting words onto paper. I feel this technique will come into its own when writer’s block hits allowing progress to still be made. For the second half of this workshop I focussed on creating an imagined map of my project, allowing me to create an image on the current status of my master’s project and map ideas for my upcoming PHD. Eveleigh also explained the practical use of imagined maps for research and how they can be a powerful tool to aid discussions around a particular topic.

The last session of the day was centred around reflexivity where Heather Jeffrey took us through an activity based on other research projects challenging us to talk in small groups stating our opinion on the situation and what we would have done differently. The catch, we were not allowed to comment on anybody else’s opinion allowing us to gain confidence in the validity of our own voice.

Overall the whole day was six hours long but I think it is one of the best six hours I have spent in terms of progression in my thinking surrounding use of different methods. I titled this piece ‘I am new to this but its OK’ because as I left the RGS-IBG that day this is how I felt, after discussion with my peers and a brilliant day of activities I knew that any imposter syndrome feelings I had were just that, feelings, and I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. So I would recommend all masters or early stage researchers to tackle the imposter syndrome straight on and attend events like the RGS-IBG Reflecting on Qualitative Methods workshop. Sometimes the world of research can be isolating but there are opportunities out there to come together and help each other, so take that leap of faith!

Thank you Eveleigh Buck- Matthews, Heather Jeffrey, Dan Casey, Professor Gillian Rose and all those at the RGS-IBG that supported this event.

Katie Brailsford is based at the University of Portsmouth.

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