The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Identity crisis? What identity crisis?

AQR's recent Young Guns event enabled me to share my views on the profession with peers from other agencies and companies in a frank and open way.

One discussion theme that sticks in my mind was the presumed identity crisis of the qualitative research industry, the feeling that it lacks a strong and firm set of characteristics. Now, most of us stumbled into qualitative research just as many existing AQR members seem to have done. Due to our highly dissimilar study, work and even cultural backgrounds, you could say that none of us has the "best" researcher profile. So if such a hotchpotch of individuals ever has to represent and promote an entire industry to graduates, would it prompt interest in qualitative research?

At a time when AQR is thinking about its identity — and that of the industry — I'd question whether it needs one that can easily be defined and eventually set in stone. Is that the only way to make young people curious about this industry and willing to delve in to it? I don't think so.

I may be a relative newcomer to the industry, but what's wrong with it having a changeable, fluid, and possibly a forever unfixed identity? Is it a problem if people don't fully understand what you are doing on a day-to-day basis? Or with saying you are a consultant one day and a researcher the next? Basically, we're chameleons. We adapt constantly to our environment, including the industry itself, changing hats as required.

If there was one thing my fellow Young Guns and I did agree on that first evening it was the fact that we aren't bound by a definition, and that drives us the most. I believe it is exciting enough to tell others how diverse and interesting it is to work for agencies with different specialisations, all using various (and innovative) methodologies for an array of clients.

Moreover, there's the opportunity to fill several roles within the research process depending on where you are on the career ladder. I strongly feel that it is our job to embrace our fluid identity and tell others with a twinkle in our eyes how fascinating it is to work in this constantly changing industry. Let's spread the word!

 

Nelise Doornenbal
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2012