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Psychology Professor Addresses Qualitative Research in New Book

In his new book The Science of Qualitative Research, Dr. Martin J. Packer addresses not only the question of why qualitative research is conducted but also recommends a different approach to this particular research method.

An associate professor in the psychology department since 1995, Packer has taught classes on qualitative research methods to undergraduate and graduate students, has conducted this type of research and is widely published on the topic. Qualitative research methods focus on tools such as interviews, ethnographic fieldwork and analysis of discourse.

“In the book, I address the question of what this kind of research is trying to do because, often, people engage in that kind of research because they say that the other, more traditional approach to research somehow leaves out peoples’ subjective experiences—it is just studying objective facts about people or about the world,” explained Packer. “It seems to me that that way of thinking about a qualitative approach to psychology is falling back into a very old dualism—it’s subjectivity and objectivity. What we could be doing as psychologists, as qualitative researchers, is something much more interesting than that.”

Packer recommends in The Science of Qualitative Research that qualitative research should study how, together, people create a culture and how that culture in turn shapes the kind of person that one becomes.

“It’s not really a ‘how-to’ book, it’s a book that addresses why should we do a different kind of research,” said Packer. “It explores debates over methodology in psychology, but also anthropology, political science and philosophy. It tries to lay the basis for a different kind of research.”

The Science of Qualitative Research was released by Cambridge University Press on Nov. 30. Packer resides in Greenfield.

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