1 – Wellbeing & Disadvantage

The first seminar of the series, Wellbeing and Disadvantage, was held on 20 May 2014. Follow the link on the right to watch a recording of the event. Below are details of the speakers and their abstracts.

1.30pm – Introduction with Bridgette Wessels (University of Sheffield) and Kandy Woodfield (NatCen)

1.40pm – Dr Sara Paparini, Terrence Higgins Trust is an anthropologist researching health policy in the UK, with a particular focus on HIV, sexual health and inequality. She has worked across the NHS and voluntary sector carrying out studies related to the experiences of people living with HIV in the UK. She has been a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV of the Homerton University Hospital in London as well as for the large HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, where she currently works in the Policy Team. Her PhD research (School for Policy Studies, Bristol University) focussed on methodological challenges in qualitative research practice, particularly the dilemmas involved in classification, representation, sampling and analysis in research on the social aspects of HIV.

Title: Intersectionality, categorisation and the social science of HIV: challenges in research practice

My paper focuses on the application of the principles of ‘intersectionality’ to the study of HIV discrimination in Britain. This involved exploring the ways in which the categories of sex/gender, race/ethnicity, class, citizenship and sexuality jointly shape and affect the lived experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination for a qualitative sample of 35 people living with HIV. A tailored, intersectional approach to sampling and data analysis was deployed looking at the interplay of the five categories chosen for the study as well as the other potential categories and characteristics that emerged from semi-structured interviews as analytically relevant to participants’ narratives. The study presented a range of methodological challenges to do with the definition, measurement and operationalisation of social categories, discussed in this presentation to stimulate further debate about innovation in qualitative methodologies.

2.10pm – Dr Lizzie Coates is a researcher based in the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield. Lizzie’s background is in sociology and health services research, and she has worked in several academic and government research posts. She is currently working on a large, multi-disciplinary research grant exploring the use of remote care technologies within the NHS. Lizzie’s research interests include health and technology, qualitative research methods, and research utilisation in policy and practice.

Title: Exploring the use of technology in NHS Community Services through action research – Some methodological reflections

This research examined acceptance and utilisation of telehealth (remote care technology) in routine community nursing practice in four NHS sites. In phase 1, qualitative interviews were completed with 105 staff involved in the implementation and delivery of telehealth. In phase 2, an action research process was established in collaboration with local staff, to address identified barriers, and improve delivery and acceptance of telehealth within each site over a period of 6 months. My paper will outline and reflect on some of the methodological challenges in conducting action research within a changing context, where staff engagement is already fragile and the benefits of the intervention are not widely agreed. In particular, I will consider access and informed consent, power and relationships, validity, roles, confidentiality and anonymity. In providing this reflexive account of the research process, the aim is also to highlight how methodology can be socially shaped over time.

2.40pm – Helen McDonald is a doctoral student at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and the key topics that underpin her research interests are the interconnected issues of the marketisation of education, especially the closure of schools, and the impact of social class on educational achievement. She has been a teacher for 13 years and she currently teaches Sociology, Psychology and Media Studies, as well as being Head of Year 10, at a high performing co-educational academy in Essex.

Title: “Do you still write about me, Miss?” The ethical considerations of being an insider-researcher.

Her paper will focus on the insider-researcher aspect of her experiences, in particular the ethical considerations of conducting research from a critical theory perspective within her institution of employment.  Using data collected from interviews, observations and found documents, such as the school handbook, she will explore the tensions that result from embodying the dual role of teacher and researcher.  In addition, she will consider the impact of her own social class position on her analysis of critical incidents, such as fixed term exclusions and staff attitudes towards students from divergent cultural backgrounds.

3.10pm – Susan Oman is a doctoral student at the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) at the University of Manchester. Her inter-disciplinary research is linked to the AHRC-funded project ‘Understanding Everyday Participation – Articulating Cultural Values‘ and investigates the politics of cultural practices, participation and well-being.

Happy talk: free-text fields, ‘forced choices’ and the ‘Other’ voices of national well-being

Despite the prevalence of free-text fields in surveys, there is little discussion or guidance on how ‘they might be analysed, or even used’ (Garcia 2004) and efficiency concerns in survey methodology often justify their omission or minimal attention (O’Cathain 2004). These fields are gaining recognition as ‘a valuable data source, suitable for content, thematic and narrative analysis’ (Rich et al., 2013) and in this paper I present my secondary analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data in which I ‘listened’ (Back 2007) to the narratives of well-being found in free-text fields called ‘Other’.

I propose that ONS analyses of its 2010 Measuring National Well-being: What Matters to You? debate overlooked opportunities to understand well-being presented in 6,787 ‘Other’ fields. Written by participants who described ‘What matters to you?’ in their own words, these narratives also outline a rejection of the ‘forced choices’ of ONS-prescribed tick boxes. I conceptualise the unique space and form of the free-text field in shaping a conversation between participant-authors and survey-authors to conceive the ‘grand(er) narratives’ of national debate and well-being; offering new perspectives on the potential of social survey methods of data collection and the possibilities for re-analysis of data beyond that which becomes the social indicator.

3.40pm – final comments with Bridgette Wessels (Chair)