International Summer School on Grounded Theory and Qualitative Methods
University of Pisa – Department of Political Science
6-10 June 2016
It was held in Pisa the first International Summer School on Grounded Theory and Qualitative Methods, under the sponsorship of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) and the University of Pisa, during the days 6-7-8-9-10th of June 2016. A useful opportunity to raise awareness worldwide about the SSSI, as well as about the vitality of the European Symbolic Interactionists’ group.
After this precious experience, we would like to thank all those who have made it possible.
First, we need to thank the teachers who took part in this educational opportunity, providing students with their knowledge and their expertise throughout the entire course. Last, but not least, we would like to emphasize that this experience would not have been possible without the selfless work of the staff of the University of Pisa, and without the rigorous coordination of Dr. Irene Psaroudakis.
For five intensive days the University of Pisa became the nerve center of a renewed interest on the grounded theory methodology and qualitative methods developments.
This is witnessed by the large number of participants which attended the Summer School: about 74 people from all over the world, including students, doctoral students, research fellows, and teachers.
The Department of Political Science at the University of Pisa plans to replicate this pleasant experience in the years to come, aiming to become an internationally renowned centre of education and research on Symbolic Interactionist studies and on constructivist grounded theory methodology. Only by keeping on organizing educational opportunities alike, it’s possible to imagine spreading and consolidating the grounded theory tradition all over the world.
During the first three days, the participants were guided by Professor Kathy Charmaz (Sonoma State University) through an in-depth exploration of the constructivist grounded theory approach and its techniques. An interesting journey through many themes, like intensive interviewing, theoretical sampling, initial and focused coding, memo writing, but also oriented to explore the links between the constructivist grounded theory methodology and the Symbolic Interactionist tradition. Professor Kathy Charmaz prepared some exercises for the students to do, in order to better illustrate the different steps of the constructivist grounded theory approach. The lectures were very interactive, with many questions and comments from the audience.
On the fourth day it was the turn of Professor David Altheide (Arizona State University) to take the floor. After an epistemological digression on the concept of validity in social science – in a phase of deep interest around the dimension of reflexivity and meaning – the focus shifted on the methodological dimension, concerning the triangulation technique, document analysis, and general guidelines for writing a research report.
On the last day the participants were invited to explore the features of RQDA, an open source Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS). Professor Andrea Salvini (University of Pisa) underlined the role of this type of software in conducting a qualitative research study, making a pros and cons lists, and illustrating in detail, by using visual basic examples, the different functions of the software, like coding, categorizing, memoing and conceptual mapping.
After each of these lectures, in the afternoon, the participants were invited to freely take part in a moment for discussion, dialogue and debate on the various topic covered. The “participants’ corner” has proved to be very useful in order to stimulate the vitality of an emerging community of scholars, interested in these topics.
The Summer School ended with a workshop on “Qualitative research traditions in Europe” which was held by scholars from the EU SSSI board, formed by Professor Robert Dingwall (Nottingham Trent University), Professor Vessela Misheva (University of Uppsala), Professor Emma Engdahl (University of Gothenburg), Professor Thaddeus Müller (Lancaster University), Professor Michael Dellwing (University of Kassel). The workshop has proved to be very stimulating, touching on many topics concerning the present condition and the future developments of Symbolic Interactionist tradition in the European scene. Consistent with this, during the entire course of the Summer School, constant reference was made to the relationships between the grounded theory methodology and the theoretical frameworks of Symbolic Interactionism, encouraging the participants to look at the data drawing inspiration from this perspective.
This pleasant experience was the first step for the construction and subsequent consolidation of a community of scholars actively engaged on the issues of qualitative research, with particular reference to the constructivist grounded theory approach and Symbolic Interactionism tradition. The hope is to be able to replicate it in the years to come, and, meanwhile, to offer those who attended the Summer School a structured opportunity to communicate with each other, by sharing experiences and good practices. In order to stimulate this process, in the coming months will be activated and updated the Summer School’s Facebook page and the website, so that they become means for exchanging, sharing and grow together as a community.
PhD Research Scholar in Sociology
Department of Political Science
University of Pisa