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2018 Conference Presentation


10 September 2018

Beyond the spoken wor(l)d: challenges of traditional qualitative research methods in research designs with people with dementia

Katharina Miko-Schefzig, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria


The presentation deals with non-spoken and non-written qualitative methods (e.g. photographs, etc.), which are used in research with people with dementia or with people with age-related cognitive impairments.

Other research fields, e.g. research on and with people with learning difficulties (Buchner et al., 2016), already have a longer tradition of integrating alternative research settings into research with special social groups (“Nothing about us without us”). The adaptation of research methods concerns both the research design as well as the data collection and methods of analysis.

The presentation aims to pick up on selected debates and illustrate them by using empirical examples from my own (teaching) research. Specifically, (i) participatory designs (Miko et al., 2010; 2018; von Unger, 2014), (ii) alternative forms of interviews and participant observation (Lange, 2018), and (iii) the use of artefacts (e.g. photographs) (Breckner, 2012; Froschauer/ Lueger, 2017) will be discussed.

Researching visual culture has become popular among social scientists in recent years, constituting for some a so-called 'visual turn'. Furthermore, in recent years the New Materialism (Fox / Alldred, 2015; Carlile et al., 2013) has brought a fundamental critic on traditional qualitative research designs, claiming that we have to bring back material aspects of the social world into qualitative research designs (e.g. what is the concrete material enviroment of people with dementia and its influence on their well-being, e.g. beds, dining tables, etc.?). Whether or not we are using written and spoken data, we are looking for a number of different challenges. For example, the social situation as such (see Hirschauer, 2002; Kalthoff, 2006) and the relationship between the social situation and social research practices is deeply problematic and contested.

The presentation provides a list of good practice examples and – by discussing these examples – also provides a list of Dos and Don´ts in the qualitative research with people with dementia.

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