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Training in (alternative) qualitative research methods at Wageningen University

Updated: Jan 19



PhD training in the social sciences at Wageningen

The University's Centre for Place, Space and Society's (CSPS) aims to facilitate and advance creative, critical and engaging scholarship within and beyond the social sciences.

While Wageningen University is frequently associated with life sciences research and teaching, it's also home to a vibrant array of social science chair groups. Several of these -- Cultural Geography (GEO), Health and Society (HSO), Rural Sociology (RSO) and Sociology of Development and Change (SDC) -- are united in the University's Centre for Place, Space and Society's (CSPS), which aims to facilitate and advance creative, critical and engaging scholarship within and beyond the social sciences. One of the key ways in which we do this is through teaching. We offer the following courses through CSPS:

Advanced qualitative research design and data collection methods course

I've introduced new content into the course this year with the intention of fostering greater openness to a more diverse range of methods among our PhD cohort.

I'm currently in the midst of running the Advanced Qualitative Research Design and Data Collection Methods course (GEO 56806), a course I was commissioned by the Wageningen University Graduate School of the Social Sciences (WASS) to design and run two years ago when they revised their vision for PhD training. In addition to the expected methods (e.g., interviewing and participant observation), I've introduced a couple new ones into the course this year with the intention of fostering greater openness to a more diverse range of methods among our PhD cohort. So, we're having sessions on visual and more-than-visual sensory research methods as well as on participatory and co-creation research methods. The sensory research methods session (see next section) was part of the CSPS's SENSE, SEE, PLAY, TELL: Creative Methods Workshop Series.


The course focuses on helping PhD and advanced master's students with the following:

  1. Assess the analytical value of different types of methods relative to the student’s own research questions and epistemological/theoretical positionings;

  2. Identify different types of methods’ particular logistical requirements and challenges;

  3. Anticipate ethical issues posed by the use of specific research methods;

  4. Design an individualised data collection methods strategy aligned with the student’s own research question and epistemological/theoretical positionings.

The sessions draw on the expertise of staff from a number of Wageningen University social science chair groups:

CSPS Sense, See, Play Tell Creative Methods workshop series

In Sense, the first installment of our workshop series on 16 January organised together with the Advanced Qualitative Research Design and Data Collection Methods PhD course (GEO 56806), we explored sensory methods – methods that are attuned to the complex ways that the senses are entangled with other forms of experience and ways of knowing. Keeping in mind the interplay between the different senses, we focussed on what it means to eschew the dominance of the visual and turn our attention to the other senses of hearing, taste, smell and touch, but also the role of extrasensory perception. We explored some examples of how to collect and analyse sensory data and how to incorporate the senses in our own research, with practical exercises focusing particularly on sound and listening. 



The workshop - attended by more than 20 staff and students - included a lecture by Karolina Doughty (GEO) on sensory methods and an interactive workshop with Kristina Hansen (MSc student, MTO), where participants experimented with using sound as an elicitation technique and with gathering sound and analysing it for research purposes. 



Other courses on offer in 2020

OtherWise, a Wageningen University-based student-led organisation focused 'questioning the status quo and exploring alternative pathways towards a more environmentally and socially just world', is also running its second annual Alternative Research Methods: Storytelling, Visuals and Sensory Data course from 10-14 February 2020. Together with Ingi Mehus from Pocket Stories, I'm contributing to the course with a session on the use of storytelling in research. Our Roots Guide project is also one of the case studies that students in the course are encouraged to engage with. The course also links up with CSPS's SENSE, SEE, PLAY, TELL: Creative Methods Workshop Series.


> Find out more about my teaching and supervision at Wageningen University

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