E-Guide to Qualitative Methods in Physical Activity Research

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E­Guide to Qualitative Methods in Physical Activity Research

By Laura Azzarito, Ph.D.


About This E­Guide

This e‐guide is part of the AAHPERD Research Consortium Researcher’s Toolkit. The Toolkit is a series of e‐lectures, multimedia case studies, interactive assessment activities and online reference links aimed at providing faculty, early career researchers and students with information and resources on various topics related to planning, conducting and disseminating research in physical activity and health. This e‐guide was written by Dr. Laura Azzarito of Teachers College, Columbia University with review by Dr. Kim Graber of the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign. It is intended to provide an introduction to qualitative research design in health, kinesiology, and physical activity research. It should not replace texts and other more comprehensive training on the topic but should be used as a supplemental resource.

Suggested citation for this e‐guide:

Azzarito, L. (2011). E‐Guide to Qualitative Methods in Physical Activity Research, Reston, VA.: American Alliance for Health Education, Recreation and Dance.

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Table of Contents What guides the research process? A reflection on paradigms ............................................................. 5 An introduction to qualitative research methods .................................................................................. 8 Research designs in qualitative research: Which approach is the most appropriate? ......................... 10 Ethnography .......................................................................................................................................... 11 Auto‐ethnography ................................................................................................................................. 13 Phenomenology .................................................................................................................................... 16 Narrative research ................................................................................................................................ 18 Action research ..................................................................................................................................... 20 Image‐based research ........................................................................................................................... 22 What renders a qualitative research study sound? .............................................................................. 25 Suggested readings ............................................................................................................................... 26

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What guides the research process? A reflection on paradigms

The starting point for any novice researcher’s engagement with research is to consider the belief systems, worldviews, and philosophical assumptions that undergird his/her own thinking. Before problematizing areas of inquiry, building a review of literature, identifying specific research questions, and thinking about appropriate research methods, the novice researcher’s very first step is to acknowledge, familiarize him/herself with, and reflect upon research paradigms. Before beginning their investigations, researchers should consider the ways their metaphysical views ‐‐ their philosophical views on the nature of reality ‐‐ influence their practices and decisions in academic research. How researchers explore issues links to the ways they see and understand the world. It is important therefore that novice researchers become aware of the ways in which the ontological, epistemological and methodological perspectives they hold orient their engagement with research processes. Novice researchers’ consideration of paradigms encourages them to understand how ontological commitments and epistemological positions inherent to an investigation inform choices in the research process, as well as the claims that researchers make. A paradigm is “the basic belief system or worldview that guides the investigator, not only in choice or method but in an ontologically and epistemologically fundamental way” (Guba & Lincoln, 1998, p. 195). Paradigms, on a continuum from positivism to critical theories, link to the ideological positions investigators hold. The researcher’s positionality(ies) within paradigms varies based on the kinds of epistemological, ontological and methodological assumptions they make. The choice of paradigm(s) guides the investigator’s inquiry. For example, an epistemological assumption underpinning a positivist paradigm is that there is an objective reality that can be accurately measured in laboratories or controlled environments, producing impartial and objective knowledge. Through the lens of a positivist or post‐positivist paradigm an individual’s health or weight are treated as objects of research, and they can be controlled or measured. The investigator might rely on a cause‐and‐effect, or post‐positivist paradigm, to make sense of issues of weight and health objectively. On the other hand, researchers committed to an interpretative paradigm would make different choices and claims throughout the research process. Differently from a positivist paradigm, when drawing from an interpretative or critical theory paradigm, the individual’s subjective experiences about weight and their fitness level are not neglected, but rather the central focus of the research process. The epistemological and ontological basis underpinning interpretative, constructivist, or critical paradigms is that reality is not context‐free, but value‐mediated. People’s subjective experiences are always situated, shaped by the context. The knowledge production process is neither objective nor productive of “facts” or “generalizations”; instead, knowledge formation is subjective, socially constructed and always partial. Communities, culture and research settings cannot be “controlled” and there is no “true” or “objective” knowledge that will emerge from the research, but rather contextualized

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findings. It would be too simplistic, however, to imagine social scientists as positioning themselves on one (e.g., positivist) or the other (i.e., critical theorist) end of a continuum of paradigms. As recently suggested by Guba and Lincoln (2005), as research today is characterized more and more by multivocality, confluences of paradigms, and mutual understanding of paradigmatic positions, researchers might find themselves adhering to more than one paradigm at the same time, developing an orientation toward interbreed paradigms. Moreover, what is important to underline is that the type of research design(s) an investigator adopts, qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods, is not a question of paradigms, though the orientation toward a particular paradigm might influence the kinds of research purposes and research questions raised. As Guba and Lincoln (1998) suggest “Questions of methods are secondary to questions of paradigms” (p. 195). Importantly, the choice of methods flows from the research questions. Reflection on and dialogues about paradigms enhance the investigator’s critical consciousness and self‐awareness by encouraging him/her to be explicit about his/her worldviews and metaphysical assumptions. As “philosophical ideas remain largely hidden in research” (Creswell, 2009, p. 5), for researchers, a critical engagement with paradigms is the starting point for the research process. The researcher’s critical awareness of his/her own position on the paradigms continuum from positivism, to constructivism, to critical theory should thus be identified and made explicit before undertaking a study. This first step of the research process is especially important for doctoral students or novice researchers in the development of a research proposal.

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A Reflective Exercise on Paradigms for Novice Researchers The following questions may guide your own reflection on paradigms and research methods. The questions are designed to help you understand debates about paradigms and to define your own positionality as a researcher: •What is the relationship between ontology and epistemology? How do these notions differ? •What are research paradigms? •Why are research paradigms relevant to thinking about research processes and methods? •Considering the discussion of epistemological assumptions above, what philosophical worldview informs your position? •Where would you position yourself as a researcher within the different paradigms? •How might your philosophical worldview shape the approach to research you undertake?

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An introduction to qualitative research methods Qualitative research genres, especially those which value and promote interdisciplinary work, have become increasingly important modes of inquiry in the humanities, social sciences and education. In kinesiology, a variety of forms of qualitative inquiry are established in the literature and continue to proliferate. Despite the great variety of qualitative methodologies they might adopt, what qualitative researchers have in common is an interest in exploring and understanding the complexity of human social interactions as they occur in daily life. As they allow researchers to investigate the complexity of human movement as social phenomena embedded in physical activity and recreational contexts, the genres of qualitative research are naturalistic, interpretative and critical. For instance, some qualitative researchers might endeavour to understand how events and human interactions occur naturally in a particular context (see Azzarito & Ennis’ (2003) study as an example). Others might use qualitative participatory approaches to explore critical issues (see Oliver’s research as an example). The power of qualitative inquiry emerges from its detailed descriptions and sophisticated interpretations grounded in theory that deepen our understanding of human life in the social world. Qualitative inquiries aim not to measure or define standards of behaviour, actions, or attitudes, but to explain social problems with the rich, subjective detail of words, narratives, visual records, art‐based expressions, and literary representations. Qualitative researchers, rather than conducting research in laboratories, are intrigued by understanding the lived experience of people in natural settings. Qualitative researchers raise questions that aim to address social, ethical, educational and critical issues not attended to by quantitative approaches. For example, using quantitative approaches to measure the body fat of a certain cohort of the population compared to population norms would not allow a researcher to explore how individuals think or feel about body weight or fatness, or to gather and interpret individuals’ views, experiences or narratives. Qualitative research using exploratory (Krane & Barber, 2005), and/or descriptive (Armour & Yelling, 2007), and participatory (Oliver & Hamzeh, 2010) approaches stresses the importance of context and the insights gained from participants’ subjective experiences, values, attitudes, beliefs and embodiments. While I have summarized qualitative research by describing how it differs from quantitative research, I acknowledge that there is no simple demarcation between the two strands of methods. Qualitative and quantitative methods might, for instance, co‐exist within the same study (i.e., combined methods). However, this e‐guide will approach qualitative research as a distinct genre.

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Qualitative research relies on the skills and abilities of the researcher to develop a sound research design and to present accurate findings. The story told by a qualitative inquiry, to address the research question(s), emerges from the researcher’s theoretical perspective or ideological orientation, which informs the fieldwork, interviews and interpretation of findings. For example, a researcher can undertake a qualitative study informed by a post‐ structuralist, a constructivist, a postcolonial, a queer, a Foucauldian, a Marxist, a Freudian, or a feminist theoretical perspective, or by a combination of more than one of these theoretical views. By focusing on the research context and on people’s interactions, qualitative researchers collect many different forms of empirical data, qualitative verbal, visual, and written texts or other tangible documentation. The kinds of qualitative data that can be collected might include field observations, interviews, documents and images. In summary, qualitative research aims to generate theoretically informed, “thick” descriptions and analyses of cultures, events or particular features of human social life. In the past ten years, qualitative researchers have developed sophisticated methodologies that are culturally relevant in real world research settings, as they are able to identify complex patterns as they emerge from their contexts.

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Research designs in qualitative research: Which approach is the most appropriate? Becoming knowledgeable about the types of qualitative approaches available to researchers, and about how these approaches differ from each other is an important starting point for novice researchers. From here the researcher can choose the appropriate method and make a research plan. Whatever approach is taken, qualitative researchers should provide a rationale for the methodology used. The research design is an explicit plan for conducting a study, a plan that involves a series of choices the qualitative researcher will make over the research process. The research design includes decisions about the general approach (qualitative, quantitative or mixed) and its rationale. For qualitative methods, the researcher presents detailed information about the research setting, the selection of participants, the researcher’s role, the data collection and management, data analysis strategies, and techniques for establishing the trustworthiness and accuracy of the findings. The choice of methods depends on the appropriateness of a design for addressing the research questions and the nature of the research. Importantly, the rationale should demonstrate how the methods employed flow from the research questions. As Patton (2002, p. 33) suggests: “Be sure that a qualitative approach fits your research questions!” With this in mind, flexibility, however, is a particular trait of qualitative methods. For qualitative researchers, the research questions are posed in a developmental manner. In other words, initial research questions could be refined or reshaped over the research process, to permit the qualitative researcher to fully explore the depth of the research context by considering emerging data. To be sound, the qualitative researcher’s choice of methods should be explicit and grounded in relevant literature and theory. Clear, logical justifications that underpin the research design should draw from relevant methodological literature as well as from a conceptual framework; and previous work on the researched topic should support the choice of the methods. Whatever plans, procedures and steps a qualitative researcher follows, the methods of data collection and analysis should always be clearly detailed, so that other researchers can consider the thoroughness of the research process and so that good examples of research designs or innovative practices can be shared with the academic community. The researcher’s discussion of the qualitative research method he/she adopts should include a description of the specific procedures used. The specific procedures for a research design might be defined as “approaches to inquiry” or “strategies of inquiry” or “research methodologies.” In the next section, I provide an overview of key qualitative research methodologies.

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Ethnography A method originally employed in anthropology, ethnography is a strategy of inquiry in which the qualitative researcher studies a cultural group in a natural setting. Literally, the notion of ethnography means the description of a “cultural group” (Patton, 2002, p. 81). Historically, social anthropologists adopted ethnography to study “other” cultures, cultures that were seen as different from European/Eurocentric values, habits, and ways of life. Ethnographic inquiry is adopted by researchers who study an intact culture, the patterns of human behaviour, actions, social rules, and beliefs of a group of people in a specific natural environment. Understanding culture as contingent upon a specific context and historical moment is of central importance in ethnography. Ethnographers immerse themselves in the culture of the research context. They aim to understand how and why a certain group of people behave, act and function within their culture. Ethnography engages the researcher in the discovery of patterns, which emerge from the data gathered over time spent with the participants in the research setting. Research settings are usually well defined environments, such as a school class, a team, a playground setting, a fitness gym. The research approach usually demands that ethnographers spend a considerable period of time in the research setting, collecting a wide range of primary data sources, including field notes from participant observations, interviews, written documents and images. Participants’ routines, aspects of their daily lives, their beliefs, and the meanings they construct around the particular issue investigated are important parts of the research data. Findings from ethnographic inquiries do not provide generalizable theories, but detailed and contextualized accounts that aim to reflect the points of view of the participants studied and their culture as embedded in a specific research context. Ethnographers, thus, neither “test” theories nor establish relationships between variables. Rather, they explore the meanings constructed and the social world perceived by a group of people in the specific context of their daily lives. Since understanding culture is the central aim of ethnography, this qualitative approach might be used to explore the importance of culture in various physical activities, sport, fitness, recreational or health settings. For ©2011 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance

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example, ethnographic methods can be adopted to investigate marginalized groups in sport (e.g., gay, lesbian, trans), or specific sport cultures (e.g., football hooligans); to study children’s socialization processes in school physical education settings, or young people’s issues of embodiment; or to evaluate physical activity, health or fitness‐based programs. As ethnographic methods continue to develop, many different approaches have emerged in the last decade, from classic (Lee & Martinek, 2009) to critical (Azzarito et al. 2006; Tischler & McCaughtry, 2011); visual (Azzarito & Sterling, 2010) and virtual.

Examples of Ethnographic Research Azzarito, L., Solmon, M., & Harrison, L. Jr. (2006). A feminist poststructural perspective on girls in physical education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 77, 222‐239. Fisette, J.L. (2011). Exploring how girls navigate their embodied identities in physical education. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 16, 179‐196. Lee, O., & Martinek, T, (2009). Navigating two cultures: An investigation of cultures of a responsibility‐based physical activity program and school. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 80, 230‐240. Tischler, A. & McCaughtry, M. (2011). PE is not for me: When boys’ masculinities are threatened. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 82, 37‐48.

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Auto­ethnography Like ethnography, auto‐ethnography emerges from the field of anthropology. Auto‐ ethnography, however, is an inquiry method that has evolved in the past two decades in response to critical questions and concerns challenging anthropologists’ traditional use of ethnography. Auto‐ethnography as a method responds to the postmodern and postcolonial problematization of issues of power relations between the researcher and people researched, Western and non‐Western cultures, the researcher’s positionality within the research context (i.e., on the continuum from outsider to insider), and the traditional social anthropologist’s fascination with “other” cultures ‐‐“primitive”, “indigenous” and/or “illiterate” cultures or isolated tribes in secluded or remote parts of the world. Historically, anthropologists’ Eurocentric view described groups studied as “exotic”, different from their own culture, the norm. Social anthropologists were particularly interested in mapping “less developed” cultures, cultures and ways of life “uncontaminated” by the industrialized, modern Western world. Auto‐ethnography emerges as a critical reaction to the “othering” of particular groups of people within traditional ethnography. Auto‐ethnography is the study of the ethnographer’s self and culture as a part of the culture of the participants researched. What is critically interrogated over the duration of the auto‐ ethnographic research process is the interplay between the researcher’s own personal biography, identity, status and power and that of the participants in the study. Auto‐ ethnography calls for introspection; the researcher’s identity, values and beliefs cannot be eliminated, but are a built‐in part of the findings. The narratives that emerge from this particular qualitative approach are the result of an autobiographical account that unfolds multiple layers of connections between the personal and cultural. The researcher then provides a public account of the self in relation to the observed events or cultures. Auto‐ ethnography, often written in first‐person, blurs the traditional distinction between the ethnographer’s personal life and her/his intent to represent an “other” culture. Rather than gaining insights about an “other” culture, the auto‐ethnographer narrates the “encounter” between her/his making sense of self and her/his making sense of the “other” culture (e.g., through fiction, a novel, or short story) and/or presents this encounter in an expressive, even artistic form (e.g., poetry, photography, documentary). Differently from ethnography, in this approach, the researcher’s introspection, self‐ reflection, self‐awareness, and post‐colonial sensitivities and reflections about the culture studied are all primary sources of data. This is a method of inquiry to find out about one’s self in the social world of an “other’s” culture. In the context of kinesiology, a white researcher from an upper middle class background exploring his/her personal experience of health and exercise‐ cultural values, attitudes and habits‐ in relation to the cultural habits of health and exercise in a predominantly Latino working class community would be an example of an auto‐ethnographic study. Artikinson (2010) and Denison and Markula (2003), for instance, move beyond traditional ethnography, celebrating auto‐ethnographic research in sport, the personal narratives of the self, physical activity experiences and embodiment at ©2011 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance

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the intersection of others’ experiences. Another example of auto‐ethnography conducted in a School PE setting and informed by Butler’s theory of gender performativity is Azzarito & Katzew (2010).

Examples of Auto‐Ethnographic Research Azzarito, L., & Katzew, A. (2010). Performing identities in physical education: (En)gendering fluid selves. Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 81, 25‐37. Atkinson, M. (2010). Fell running in post‐sport territories. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 2, 109‐132. Denison, J. and Markula, P. (2003) (Eds.). Moving writing. Crafting movement in sport research. New York: Peter Lang.

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Phenomenology Phenomenology is a strategy of inquiry in which the researcher explores the lived experience ‐‐including the preconceptions, assumptions and beliefs‐‐ of a particular phenomenon as described by participants in the research. Phenomenology is both a method of inquiry and a philosophy. Among a significant number of philosophers, Merleau‐ Ponty (1962) and more recently, Van Manen (1990), have made significant contributions to the development of phenomenological theory and to phenomenological approaches to research. Acknowledging the various debates in philosophy and research methods associated with the term phenomenology, in this text, I broadly refer to phenomenology as an approach that focuses on the investigation of how human life is experienced. Phenomenology aims to present ideas and understandings of lived experience as closely or faithfully as possible to the conceptions of the participants studied. To understand the lived experience of the participants in depth, in phenomenology, the researcher usually sets aside her/his own subjective experience (positions herself/himself as an “outsider”). However, because this method of inquiry is malleable and sensitive to the subject matter, there may be situations in which the investigator does not bracket his/her experience, but rather shares with the participants his/her own lived experience of the phenomenon studied, thus becoming a co‐participant in the research. In any case, the researcher’s perspective in relation to the phenomenon studied must be explicit and elucidated. With this approach, phenomena studied may diverge greatly, varying from aiming to capture a particular emotion, to understanding participants’ experience of a job, involvement in a program, or conceptions of a life‐changing event. For the researcher to collect detailed records of the ways participants make sense of, describe and interpret a particular phenomenon, this approach typically involves a small number of participants. Understanding the essence of the lived experience of some phenomenon, participants’ insights and multiple narratives of their lived experiences, demands from the researcher an extensive, prolonged involvement with the participants. For a phenomenological inquiry, in‐ depth interviews, in particular, are a key data collection technique for gathering rich, full and deep descriptions of the significance of the lived experiences investigated. Whereas phenomenology aims to reveal the essence(s) of a phenomenon as commonly experienced by the participants, in this approach the constant comparison and triangulation of the participants’ multiple, in‐depth interviews and observations is the foundation of a rigorous data analysis. A phenomenological approach in kinesiology, for example, could aim to capture the essence(s) of the lived experience of several women, first‐time mothers with post‐partum depression, who belong to a well‐being/physical activity program designed to help them overcome their depression. A phenomenological inquiry could thus capture the significance of their shared experience of being participants in this particular program. What and how this small group of women have experienced being participants of the well‐being program

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would be the focus of the participants’ descriptions. Some of the research questions that could be asked are: What is the nature of a post‐partum depression phenomenon? What is it like to be part of this program for women with post‐partum depression? What does it mean for these women to experience post‐partum depression? How do they experience this program, and what does the experience of the program for women with post‐partum depression mean to them? In kinesiology, useful examples of studies that employ phenomenology are Nilges (2004) and Hutchinson and Buschner (1996).

Examples of Phenomenologic Research Berry, K., Kowalsky, K.C., Ferguson, L.J., McHugh, T.F. (2010). An empirical phenomenology of young adult women exercisers’ body self‐compassion. Qualitative Research in Sport & Exercise, 2, 293‐323. Hutchinson, G.E. & Buschner, C.A. (1996). Delayed‐entry undergraduates in physical education: Examining life experiences and career choice. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 16, 454‐468. Martha, B. (2011). The feel of mobility: How children use sedentary lifestyles as a site of resistance. Sport, Education & Society, 16, 385‐398. Nilges, L.M. (2004) Ice can look like glass: A phenomenological investigation of movement meaning in one fifth‐grade class during a creative dance unit. Research Quarterly for exercise and Sport, 75, 3, 298‐314.

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Narrative research Narrative analysis, or narratology, is an interdisciplinary approach influenced by phenomenology that has particularly flourished in the humanities and social sciences. When the researcher’s “story” or “personal narrative” becomes part of the inquiry, this approach intersects with auto‐ethnography. This strategy of inquiry seeks to describe the meanings of experiences of particular groups of people, centering and honouring people’s stories by aiming to reveal social patterns through their narratives. Narrative research includes a range of forms of narrative analysis, from in‐depth interviews, life histories, biographies, oral histories and autobiographies, to personal narratives, creative nonfiction, documentaries, and historical memoir. This type of qualitative inquiry is used by the researcher when she/he is interested in exploring the lives of participants by asking them to tell stories about their lives. The narrative the researcher retells is the combination of the participants’ life stories, and the researcher’s interpretation of their stories. The researcher usually shares this interpretation with the participants in a collaborative manner. The epistemological assumption that storytelling is inherently part of human beings’ making sense of their lives underpins a narrative research approach. Narrative research, therefore, is presented by “telling tales”, story‐like narrative chronologies. A life history approach tells tales about the lives of a specific group of people, and maps their experiences, linking them to the contingencies of the socio‐historical moment(s) in which they occurred. Data and interpretation, in this case, offers “thick” description of the life of the participants, but also new perspective around the narrated socio‐historical contexts. Stories people tell symbolize significant moments in their lives; they are an essential part of individuals’ constructing, changing, and re‐constructing their identities. Storytelling, therefore, is a particularly useful approach for revealing how individuals construct their identities in fluid ways over time, and for shedding light on the complex intra‐ and interpersonal processes through which individuals make sense of themselves in the world. Some narrative inquiries, framed by critical theories, have emancipatory purposes. For example, Munro’s (1995) life history narrative research offers an intriguing portrayal of how three American women teachers negotiated cultural gender representations of the female school teacher during the 1930’s and 1960’s. By centering these women‐educators’ life narratives, Munro’s feminist work is emancipatory, as it raises critical awareness about the cultural, institutional, and economic forces that shaped these women’s subjective experiences as teachers. The narrative approach can also be useful for understanding the ways children experience the world, learn, think and feel (Greene & Hogan, 2005). As children become avid story‐tellers, their play, drawings, and the stories they tell, are all expressions of their experiences that can be used in the research process to illuminate how they come to learn in a wide range of settings. Because the stories children tell change as they get older, the use of narrative analysis can be a powerful research tool for tracing childhood development and knowledge construction. At the same time, narrative analysis can increase children’s agency in the research process, lending them greater control over ©2011 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance

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the stories they want to tell. In kinesiology, narrative research has been used by researchers primarily to study adults. Sparkes’ (2002), Telling tales in sport and physical activity offers an intriguing example of new narrative forms in qualitative research. Other examples of studies that used storytelling and thematic narratives to address critical issues in kinesiology are Krane and Barber (2005) and Burden et al. (2005).

Examples of Narrative Research Burden, J.W., Harrison, Jr., L., & Hodge, Jr. (2005). Perceptions of African American faculty in Kinesiology‐based programs at predominantly white American institutions of higher education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76, 2, 224‐237. Greene, S., & Hogan, D. (2009) (Eds.). Researching children’s experience. London: Sage Publications. Krane, V. & Barber, H. (2005). Identity tensions in lesbian intercollegiate coaches. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76, 1, 67‐81. Munro, P. (1998). Subject to fiction. Women teachers’ life history narratives and the cultural politics of resistance. Philadelphia: Open University Press. Sparkes, A.C. (2002). Telling tales in sport and physical activity. A qualitative journey. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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Action research An action research study is an inquiry approach that aims to solve a specific problem embedded in a real world situation. As theory‐into‐action, its purpose is to engage people in a participatory research process – the participants study the problem in question with the researcher with an aim to improve or change a social issue. The problem the action research aims to address must be clearly identified and defined. Action research might take place in a wide range of contexts, from school settings, to community sport programs, to local churches, to social organizations or clubs. Because this kind of inquiry purposely aims to change a situation, the conventional distinction between research and action becomes blurred. Action research also blurs the distinction between the researcher and the participants researched. This research method tends to be less systematic, as all the steps and procedures are flexibly carried out in order to solve the specific problem in the context of the research. In this approach, the participants themselves play a crucial role in the research process. However, the extent to which the research is participatory varies based on the researcher’s greater or lesser involvement in the setting, data collection strategies and research agenda. In participatory and emancipatory research, where the participants are fully involved in implementing ideas and generating strategies for social change, the methodological procedures undertaken result from both the researcher’s and participants’ choices and decisions in the research process. Participants, like the researcher, are involved in collecting relevant data and studying themselves within the context of the research to tackle the defined problem and find possible solutions. Participants become co‐researchers, and the research process unfolds in interactive, dynamic and collaborative ways. Research journals, field notes, student and teacher checklists, researcher and participant conferences and interviews, video tapes, and photographs are all examples of types of data that can be collected. Since a large amount of qualitative data can be collected in this inquiry method, it is important that the plan for data collection is focused, clearly delineated and justified. The transformative aspect of action research relies on disseminating a summary of findings and recommendations to members of the larger community, which could be a school context or organization (e.g., policy makers, teachers, families).

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A philosophy of praxis and/or a social justice agenda often directs the researcher’s development of this type of inquiry. For instance, action research projects such as Gubacs‐ Collins’s (2007) study, might be committed to enhancing praxis, understanding practice through theory and vice versa. Other researcher‐educators might aim both to enhance praxis and to address critical issues. Freire’s (1970) critical, participatory work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, has significantly influenced the development of emancipatory action research and the adoption of praxis in educational settings. Inspired by Freire’s philosophy of praxis and emancipatory education, educators/researchers have increasingly embarked on school and community‐based participatory qualitative inquiries to either identify best practices in education and fill the gap between practice and theory or to facilitate students’ and teachers’ empowerment and critical awareness (Johnson, 2005). In an action research project informed by critical perspectives, the researcher and participants become political activists and intellectuals; and the researcher/educator’s participatory approach aims to raise participants’ consciousness about socio‐educational situations in order to support action for social change. In the context of physical activity and schools, Oliver’s body work with girls (Oliver et al., 2009; Oliver & Hamzeh, 2010) offers examples of action research with an explicitly emancipatory feminist agenda. Oliver’s research investigates how adolescent girls view their bodies, and aims to help them learn to critique messages of the body that threaten their health and to assist them in naming and transforming physical activity inequities.

Examples of Action Research Gubacs‐Collins, K. (2007). Implementing a tactical approach through action research. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 12, 105‐126. Oliver, K.L., & Hamzeh, M. (2010). “The boys won’t let us play:” Fifth‐grade mestizas challenge physical activity discourse at school. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 81, 1, 38‐51. Oliver, K.L., Hamzeh, M., & McCaughtry, N. (2009). “Girly girls can play games/Las ninas pueden tambien:” Co‐creating a curriculum of possibilities with 5th grade girls. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 28, 90‐110.

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Image­based research John Berger (1977) suggested that “seeing comes before words…and establishes our place in the surrounding world” (p. 7). With the growth of digital technologies (e.g., video and digital cameras, internet, cellular phones) in hyper‐visual Western societies, the use of visual research methodologies in the social sciences and humanities has expanded significantly. Since the 1990’s, as people more and more make sense of their human existence visually, visual methods have offered innovative approaches to social researchers interested in understanding and producing knowledge about the world, challenging the orthodox of word‐ oriented qualitative research in the social sciences. Images play a central role and are primary sources for studies in qualitative visual research. Visual researchers argue that images and their accompanying commentaries are encoded and generate meanings, communicate ideals, feelings, and conceptions more fully and more capably than written texts. This is especially true when conducting research with young people, as visual methodologies can increase their agency, enabling and/or empowering them to express themselves in meaningful and contextualized ways. Through photo elicitation, images become a vehicle for self‐ expression and the representation of ideas about their own worlds and through their own ways of seeing (Harper, 2002). Visual methods comprise a wide range of approaches, and visual data may take a variety of forms, including photographs, media images, advertisements, documentaries, films, drawings, graffiti, symbols and maps. Images as visual data are cultural‐historical texts that open windows to the historically contingent social worlds in which people live. As Prosser (2007) suggests, approaches to image‐based inquiries might focus on “found data”, “researcher created data”, “respondent created data” and “representation”, or a combination of these. This last approach is a more collaborative‐based inquiry in which the images participants produce are the result of a cooperation between the researcher and participants in the process of researching the specific issue of the study. A participatory research approach usually calls for nurturing a close relationship between researcher and participants. In participatory visual research, as part of the data collection, participants

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themselves creatively produce photos that express ideas, attitudes, understandings and experiences about the topic researched. Whereas different approaches to analysing visual data have been identified by social researchers, analysis and interpretation procedures are an ongoing topic of debate within cultural studies (van Leeuwen & Jewitt, 2001). For instance, some researchers follow very carefully defined “step‐by‐step” criteria for visual analysis; other visual researchers use less structured, detailed forms of analysis. In other cases, researchers adopt more artistic and creative analyses that they recognize as useful in the interpretation of the data for enhancing the expressiveness of the images (Phoenix, 2010). Although visual methods research is still in its infancy in the domains of sport, health, physical activity and physical education pedagogy, visual methods provide cutting‐edge approaches to researching key issues in physical culture from constructivist and critical perspectives, offering significant potential for exploring contemporary issues in pedagogy and issues of the body (Azzarito, 2010). Researchers have used visual methods to reveal hidden gender trends as represented by sport media (Capranica et al. 2005); and more recently, Phoenix and Smith (2011) have put together a collection of studies in health, sport and physical education that use a range of qualitative visual approaches to researching physical cultures.

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Examples of Image‐based Research Azzarito, L. (2010). Ways of seeing the body in kinesiology: A case for visual methodologies. Quest, 62, 155‐170. Azzarito, L., & Sterling J. (2010). “What it was in my eyes”: Picturing youths’ embodiment in ‘real’ spaces. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 2, 209‐ 228. Capranica, C., Minganti, C., Billant, V., Hanghj, S., Piacentini, H.F., & Meensen, R. (2005). Newspaper coverage of women’s sports during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76, 212‐223. Harper, D. (2002). Talking about pictures: A case for photo elicitation. Visual Studies, 17 13‐26. Phillips, M.G., & Tinning, R. (2011). Not just ‘a book on the wall’: pedagogical work, museums and representing the sporting past. Sport, Education & Society, 16, 51‐65. Phoenix, C. (2010). Seeing the world of physical culture: the potential of visual methods for qualitative research in sport and exercise. Qualitative, Research in Sport and Exercise, 2, 93‐108. Phoenix, C. & Smith, B. (2011) (Eds.). The world of physical culture in sport and exercise – Visual methods for qualitative research. London: Taylor and Francis. Van Leeuwenn, T. & Jewitt, C. (2008). Handbook of visual analysis. London: Sage publications.

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What renders a qualitative research study sound? Criteria of “goodness” for qualitative research are different from the criteria used for quantitative research (Creswell, 2009). Whereas quantitative methods typically produce a set of findings generalizable to places and individuals outside of those studied, generalizing qualitative findings to other people or settings can be problematic. Particularity rather than generalizability is the hallmark of qualitative inquiries, as they produce detailed, in‐depth and contexualized information. In qualitative research, it is important that researchers take steps to ensure the accuracy, trustworthiness and credibility of the findings. Whereas validity in quantitative research is based on the careful development of an instrument that measures what it claims to measure, in qualitative research, validity depends on determining whether the findings accurately reflect the views and standpoints of the participants. The Credibility/believability of a qualitative study depends on rigorous, systematic data collection procedures, and the research skills and competence of the qualitative researcher conducting the study. In particular, the researcher’s presentation and interpretation of the data should emerge from a meticulous analysis of all the data collected. Trustworthiness in qualitative research replaces the objectivity of quantitative methods, emphasizing researcher’s fairness, balance, consciousness and careful, sensitive attention to multiple perspectives and realities.

Definition of terms Ontology: Philosophical views on what the nature of reality is and how reality in the world is presumed to exist. For example, reality might be explained by natural laws, and/or viewed as shaped by social, economic, political and cultural factors. Epistemology: The theory of how knowledge is formed. It refers to the nature of the relationship between the knower (researcher) and what can be known. This relationship is influenced by the ontological commitment and thus ranges from more objective to more subjective positions. Post‐colonialism: Post‐colonial theories concern issues of slavery, oppression, representation, race, gender, and social class as historically produced by European colonialist discourses. Post‐ colonial theories problematize texts produced by European imperialism, especially British imperial power, about indigenous practices and ways of knowing (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 2007). Praxis: Teachers’ critical understanding of practice through the lens of theory and vice versa. The notion of praxis recognizes the relationship among teachers’ action, reflection, pedagogical change and theory as inseparable and dynamic (Hatton & Smith, 1995).

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Suggested readings Armour, K., & Yelling, M. (2007). Effective professional development for physical education teachers: The role of informal, collaborative learning. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 26, 177‐200. Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (2007). The post‐colonial studies reader. London: Routledge. Azzarito, L., & Ennis, C.D. (2003). A sense of connection: Toward social constructivist physical education. Sport, Education, and Society, 8, 179‐198. Berger, J. (1977). Ways of seeing. London: Penguin. Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. London: Sage Publications. Denscombe, M. (2007). The good research guide for small‐scale social research projects. Berkshire: Open University Press. Freire, P. (1971). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder New York. Publications. Greene, S., & Hogan, D. (2009) (Eds.). Researching children’s experience. London: Sage Publications. Guba, E.G. & Lincoln, Y.S. (2005). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research. London: Sage Publications. Guba, E.G. & Lincoln, Y.S. (1998). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research. London: Sage Publications. Hatton, N., & Smith, D. (1995). Reflection in teacher education: Towards definition and implementation. Teaching & Teacher Education, 11, 33‐49. Johnson, P. 2005. A short guide to action research. New York: Pearson Education. Marshall, C. & Rossman, G.B. (2006). Designing qualitative research. London: Sage Publications. McQueen, R., & Knussen, C. (2002). Research methods for social science. An introduction. Essex: Pearson Education.

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Suggested readings continued Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. London: Sage publications. Sparkes, A.C. (2002). Telling tales in sport and physical activity. A qualitative journey. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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