The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Edging closer to professionalisation

Watch out for a possible professional qualification in qualitative research in 2017, following the publication of a comprehensive draft guide to its inception.

The industry-wide Steering Group for the Professionalisation of
Qualitative Research, backed by such associations as the AQR,
MRS, ESOMAR, SRA, ICG, APG and AURA, has been developing
the guide for several months.

Professionalisation fans

This May, the Steering Group organised an e-survey to be sent out
by industry associations to their members (email info@aqr.org.uk
for an electronic copy of the full results). It targeted a broad range
of qualitative research users, practitioners and managers,
generating 984 responses. The concept of a professionalisation
scheme and qualification gained an 85% positive rating and those
most enthusiastic are on the client side and newer entrants to the
industry. They appreciated that the scheme could:

  • Define and improve standards across the industry
  • Standardise training for new entrants
  • Add value and confidence to the individual
  • Help raise the profile of qualitative research
  • Be recognised by industry bodies

Some, particularly those with over 10 years industry experience, voiced concerns about how ‘good practice’ would be assessed along with dangers of homogenisation and the stifling of creativity. The survey also revealed, however, that just 9% rated qualitative research very positively on professionalism, holding a much higher opinion of medicine (67%), law (55%), accountancy (47%) and even quantitative (12%).

The survey also revealed a predominantly informal approach to qualitative training, with 57% having had a lot compared with formal training (19%), and 10% declaring they had never had any formal training. This is a recurring theme and why the Steering Group has been driving qualitative professionalisation on an industry-wide basis over the past three years.

Calling on YOU

As the scheme for professionalisation nears completion, we need to address other key issues. An industry-wide governance model for the body to run it is first on the list, followed by discussions on how to market this professional qualification so as to gain traction, industry commitment and participation. And it won’t get off the starting blocks without £40,000 to fund the initial set up and running costs, for which we are currently considering a ‘crowd funding’ approach. This is the start, and we’re looking for traditional or innovative ways to raise this sum, so if you have any ideas that might help, please contact AQR in the first instance.

The recent survey suggests there is a strong desire for a qualitative professional qualification and we would argue that it is in the interest of the qualitative profession that there is one and the sooner the better.

 

Michael Herbert
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2016