The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Reflections on the first issue of In Brief

Fifteen years ago, back in the summer of 96 when the then-AQRP was already 15 years old, it launched its first issue of In Brief, the member's magazine which is still published today. When I discovered that Rose still had a copy of that first issue, and that this is the 15th anniversary of its launch, I felt we just had to preserve that copy by putting it online so that today's members can learn a little more about the history and heritage of the AQR.

Looking back at that first issue has proved fascinating. Some things leapt out and made me realise how fast technology has moved on. 15 years ago, Desktop Publishing was all the rage, and In Brief used fax as the main way of gathering feedback from the reader, with no mention of websites or email addresses. In 1996 the AQR was running events and publishing articles about how qualitative researchers should be considering moving away from making presentations using acetate transparencies on overhead projectors, and moving instead to the brave new world of laptop computers and graphics, although concerns were expressed about whether researchers could ever afford such technology.

The articles discussing methodologies are also captivating. One of the lead articles is about the choice of respondents for research, and whether people are more influenced by TV or print media. I'm sure that debate still goes on today, but perhaps with the inclusion of social media in the mix, such as viral ad campaigns on YouTube and Twitter.

It was also obviously a dynamic time for the organisation. Membership was growing, it was forging new links with MRS, the directory was into its third year and including an overseas section for the first time, international conferences were on the agenda, and Foundation Course delegates seemed obsessed with the quality of the sandwiches served at lunch. Well, no change there.

I was greatly struck by the continuity in qual research, by the many people who were contributing to the association in 1996 and are still notable names today in 2011. Joanna Chrzanowska, who recently was producing video presentations for AQR's Q Festival, and who eight years ago wrote the first paper used by In Depth, was also the person doing that first demonstration of how to use a laptop for qual research presentations in 1996. Another name which leapt out at me is Simon Patterson who was recently elected to committee. Back in 1996 he was already being applauded for his teaching on the AQR's Foundation Course, and apparently delivered it with a deadpan sense of humour worthy of Jack Dee.

We shouldn't forget the continuity in the shape of the people behind the scenes who are scarcely mentioned. Louella Miles joined up with AQRP as the editor of that very first issue of In Brief, when it made the transition from an informal newletter to a professionally published magazine, and she has continued in that role and steered the publications for fifteen years. The other unsung heroes in all this are Rose and her staff, Angela and Nicky. Rose, who has been the association's admin manager for twenty years, runs the St Neots office, ensures the magazines and directories get mailed out to everyone, and does a thousand other things; and on top of all that she is a cheery voice on the end of the phone when members need help.

When I started reading this back issue I was struck by the technology, but by the time I'd finished reading it I realised how much more the AQR, and the qual research industry, is about people and the skills and continuity that they bring to the party.

If history tells us anything it is that in another twentty years time when the AQR is celebrating its fiftieth, many of you reading this today will be the respected old guard of qualitative research, and students on the Foundation Course will be asking "Is it true that you once had to do presentations without using holograms?"

So whether its bringing back fond memories for you, or, like me, you are reading it for the first time, I hope you enjoy this first issue of In Brief as much as I did.

Alan Dickinson
Skill Zone Limited