I love running focus groups, both from a research and human perspective, but traditionally this method has been far from universally accessible. For example, traditional focus groups present important challenges for people with communication disabilities and disorders, which currently are over 10% of the U.S. adult population.
As someone who cares deeply about the inclusion of traditionally under-represented voices in research, I think there’s a lot that we can do to re-think methodologies to make them more accessible. In an article I published in the journal Qualitative Research earlier this year, I drew on my experience organizing, moderating, and analyzing focus groups to discuss low-cost, relatively straightforward, and flexible solutions to ensure that people with communication disabilities and disorders are equally as empowered as any other participant to contribute their perspectives, opinions, and experiences to these studies. While this article can only begin to scratch the surface of this issue, I hope it will help us start a conversation about how to adapt and innovate qualitative research in all fields to make it simultaneously more inclusive and more valid.
You can find the full article here (get in touch directly for a pre-print version, if you like):
Participating in focus groups can be challenging for people with communication disabilities. Given that more than 1 in 10 adults has a communication disability, focus groups that overlook their needs exclude a large part of the population. This research note makes a unique contribution toward creating more inclusive focus groups by discussing a variety of strategies employed in a recent study of political participation among Americans with disabilities that included a high proportion of participants with communication disorders. Universal design principles can support the “mainstreaming” of communication disabilities in focus group research, contributing to more inclusive and representative social science scholarship.
I’m thrilled to be part of a Featured Papers in Information Technology and Politics panel at this year’s American Political Science Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA. I will present some of my latest work on the experience of American voters with disabilities with online election campaigns in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Here’s the panel information:
Featured Papers in Information Technology and Politics – 30 min. paper presentations
Friday Sept. 1st, 12:00-1:30pm – Hilton Union Square, Union Square 14
This is a new APSA panel format in which three papers will be presented and discussed by the public, but without a formal discussant.
I just got news that my paper “Search Engines: From Social Science Objects to Academic Inquiry Tools” was accepted for publication in the Internet studies journal First Monday. In this article I argue that, although so far most academic work on search engines has focused on their role in contemporary information gathering practices and their implications for democracy, social science scholars have much to gain in approaching these platforms as useful research tools too. In particular, I discuss the challenges involved in integrating accessory search engine applications such as Google Trends into social science research, including analyzing data obtained through these media in conjunction with the outputs generated by more traditional methods such as content analysis. Watch this space for a link to the article once that is available online (November/December 2014).
The College of Social Sciences at Glasgow University has put together a free one-day conference on Social Media Analysis, Methods and Ethics. I will be talking about the ethical challenges involved in researching sensitive issues online and the need to ‘de-bunk’ some established methodological conventions in order to enable the development of ethically effective research designs that are fit to archive and analyse social media content. You can find a complete list of speakers and download the abstracts here. The conference will take place on Friday 25th April from 9:15am to 5pm at the Adam Smith Building, Gilmorehill Campus and anyone wishing to attend can register for free here.
I recently started work on a new project as part of the University of Glasgow’sMRC/Scottish Public Health and Sciences Unit. As the name suggests, this is a new place and a new and exciting area for me. I will be carrying out qualitative research on the effects of the recession, welfare reform and rising costs of living as part of the 10-year GoWell research project. This links to my PhD research, which focused on online disability rights networks that campaigned against welfare reforms and public expenditure cuts in the UK and the United States. In the meantime, I also continue to be involved in the VoterEcology project, which has now approached the writing-up phase.