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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds I’m Dr Jade Catterson. I’m a lecturer in Human Geography here at Coventry University. I’ve been in the department now approximately a year and a half. I’m a geographer originally but now I’ve branched into the disaster management side of research. My PhD is exploring the lives of street children in the context of natural hazards and I did that within the context of Jamaica. I developed the initial ideas with my supervisor at the time. We were interested in doing something on street children. So, from that I started to do some more reading and realised that the Caribbean particularly had done very little research in comparison to sub-saharan Africa and Latin America with street children.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds So, it was decided that that would be a good location for it. Soon after that you start to develop your aim and your objectives. I had a lot of ideas that I was playing with, so it was important really to narrow the focus of that. I was predominantly interested in the coping mechanisms and the resilience of street children and at-risk youth in the country. And then the objectives in which to answer that I explored the relationships that existed there, the current strategies in place by the Jamaican government and disaster management authorities there and then finally, the role that community has in harnessing street children’s resilience in times of need.

Skip to 1 minute and 49 seconds I worked with three communities in the area and once I built up a little bit of rapport and gained that trust then I was able to start the initial stages of the data collection and the research. I used a range of qualitative methods within my research and these included; participatory mapping, participatory photography, participant observations, semi-structured interviews and walking interviews. So, for me it was really important to have such a range of different methods in order to provide your participants with a choice. You do have issues around language barriers and trust issues with certain research techniques. Secondly, it’s important to have a range of methods to gain a holistic and in-depth understanding of the situation that you’re in.

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 seconds Some researchers might describe this as triangulation, for example. So, that’s when you have a range of methods that all work together in collaboration to understand and address one issue or one problem. Participatory methods such as mapping and photography can be really useful techniques when working with marginalised groups as they attempt to break down some of the power imbalance that exists between the researcher and the participant. There’s this idea of the novice researcher where the participant themselves take more of a control in terms of the research, so guiding, initiating the roots.

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 seconds With my own research the main aim had been to explore the issues surrounding street children in terms of disasters but actually it was found that poverty and crime were quite prevalent issues taking place in the communities. Therefore my own research aim and some of the questions that I explored diversified within the context of doing research. So, this is something to bear in mind while you’re in the field and I think it’s important to explore issues that are important to the participants in your research. I would recommend having a fieldwork diary while you’re doing any research.

Skip to 3 minutes and 55 seconds It helps with being a reflective researcher in the field and I found it extremely useful when I was writing up my research afterwards to be able to reflect back on some of the process, the experiences I had and how I was able to adapt over time, and you can use some of these excerpts within your dissertation or your thesis as well.

Case study two: qualitative research

Now watch the video in which Dr Jade Catterson describes her research.

Jade’s work has explored the lives of street connected young people living in disaster prone societies in the Caribbean country of Jamaica. Here research aims to fill an unexplored gap in the literature with respect to the relationships between these young people and other, often better studied sections of Society.

Her research took a participatory ethnographic approach, engaging the young people with a range of participatory approaches in order to develop a comprehensive and holistic understanding of how they respond to disaster events, how they develop and demonstrate resilience and how to develop risk management strategies designed to include them in their scope and suit their needs.

She used methods that encouraged participation and created spaces for collaboration and knowledge exchange in order to gain the most informed responses and outcomes.

Your task

What do you think makes qualitative methods applicable for Jade’s Research?

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This video is from the free online course:

Researching Risk, Disasters and Emergencies

Coventry University