Qualitative Research on Sport and Physical Culture: Volume 6


Table of contents

(17 chapters)

In assembling a research design using qualitative methods, what we are really doing is building bridges between the ways that we see the world and the ways that we think it would be best examined and explained. Another way of saying this is that qualitative methods link ontology, epistemology and the Millsian sociological imagination (Mills, 1959).

Purpose – This chapter explores various approaches to historical methods as they relate to sport and physical culture research.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter discusses various paradigmatic approaches to historical methods (reconstructionist, constructionist and deconstructionist) and takes up current debates related to archives, newspapers, photographs and oral history as they relate to the method. Drawing on these discussions, I outline various approaches to designing a sport and physical culture project using historical methods, focusing on my work on women's industrial sport in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Findings – I discuss how data evolved from the method and how I made choices about the inclusion and exclusion of materials. The chapter concludes that historical methods are tedious, complex and messy but also exciting and insightful ways to do research. I also conclude by encouraging the researcher to be reflexive and aware of one's ‘positionality’ as a researcher and embrace the historical process.

Originality/value – The chapter is original work. It is not so much a prescriptive ‘how-to’ guide for historical research, but it works to take up current debates in historical methods. It also endeavours to engage students and scholars alike as they consider their research projects and the potential value of historical methods.

Purpose – This chapter explores a traditional mode of ethnography referred to as ‘realist ethnography’ as it relates to sport and physical culture (SPC) research.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter discusses different approaches to ethnography, but principally addresses a realist ethnography I conducted on Ashtanga yoga in Canada.

Findings – I discuss how data evolved from the realist ethnographic method, and outline the manner in which ethnographic research is as a ‘way of life’. The chapter concludes that the realist ethnographic method is not untenable, as some authors suggest, but rather a viable and exciting mode of knowledge production in the SPC field.

Originality/value – The chapter is original work. It makes a case for the retention of realist ethnographies in our methodological lexicon, and illustrates the empirical process of writing culture. It also endeavours to engage students and scholars alike regarding the value of ethnographic methods more broadly.

Purpose – The purpose of the chapter is to introduce interviewing as an exploratory research approach for understanding the lived experiences of individuals and groups in sports and physical cultural contexts. The author draws on her own research with snowboarders to illustrate some of the standard and unique issues related to conducting interviews as part of ethnographic fieldwork.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter begins with a brief history of the development of qualitative interviews and their various uses in sport studies. The author then provides a description of her use of ‘postmodern-inspired’ interviews as part of a broader ethnographic study of snowboarding culture. Following this, she adopts an alternative representational approach to illustrate some of the practical, ethical, political and embodied issues for reflexive researchers working in the critical paradigm and conducting interviews in sport and physical cultural fields.

Findings – The chapter illustrates the value of a postmodern approach to interviewing that recognises the interview as more than textual, and gives greater consideration to the affective, sensuous, relational, embodied and socio-spatial dimensions of each interview event.

Research limitations/implications – The chapter examines the strengths and limitations of qualitative interviewing, with particular attention to the potential and perils of interviewing in the sports field.

Originality/value – The chapter provides a succinct introduction to the use of interviewing in sport and physical culture, and makes an innovative contribution by focusing on ethnographic interviews.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to outline what narrative inquiry entails, why it is relevant for the study of sport and physical culture and how researchers might engage in its analytical methods.

Design/methodology/approach – Narrative inquiry as an approach, not simply a method, is delineated in this chapter. The design of a project is outlined. Three types of narrative analysis – holistic-content, holistic-form and meta-autoethnography – are the focus. The chapter also attends to the benefits of using multiple forms of analysis and representation as part of engaging with the methodology of crystallisation.

Findings – Key findings of narrative research on sport and physical culture are illuminated throughout.

Research limitations/implications – The limitations of narrative analysis are highlighted, including how in many narrative studies the interactional dynamics of storytelling are often neglected.

Originality/value – The chapter provides a succinct introduction to why narratives matter, how narrative analysis as a craft might be practised and what theoretical assumptions underpin it. The authors also highlight innovative practices for deepening understandings of sport and physical culture. These include time-lining, mobile interviewing, analytical bracketing, crystallisation, meta-autoethnography and analysis as movement of thought.

Purpose – The purpose of the chapter is to introduce visual methods and, more specifically, arts-based forms of visual methods, as an innovative and emerging research approach within the study of sport and physical culture. The chapter examines the use of art and aesthetics as research data and as a representation issue. It draws upon the case of a research-based arts exhibition to represent and communicate research on bodies.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter details an international collaborative research project exploring the impact of health policies and their imperatives on schools in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The research formed the focus of an arts-based exhibition involving artists’ interpretations of the authors’ research findings. The chapter addresses salient epistemological and ontological issues of ‘representation’ and ‘interpretation’ in visual methods.

Findings – The chapter reveals how the use of arts-based approaches to research do not simply ‘represent’ research, but are constructive in the generation of new insights and forms of knowledge.

Research limitations/implications – The challenges of using arts-based and visual approaches to research are highlighted, particularly in terms of issues of knowledge interpretation. The ways in which these methods allow for lines of sight into life that written texts do not are highlighted.

Originality/value – The chapter provides an introduction to the use of arts-based visual methods in sport and physical culture research. Rather than focusing on visual methods solely as an approach to the collection of data, the chapter extends the discussion around visual methodology to include its use as a form of interpretation that generates and translates knowledge from a new perspective.

Purpose – To discuss the history and relevance of audience research as it pertains to sport and physical culture and to demonstrate an approach to doing audience research.

Design/methodology/approach – A step-by-step overview of a study conducted by the authors is provided. The study examined ways that groups of young males in a Vancouver, Canada, high school interpreted images of masculinity in popular media, and ways these same youth performed masculinity in physical education classes. We reflect on how studying interpretations (using focus groups) and lived experiences (using participant observation and in-depth interviews) in an integrated fashion was helpful for understanding the role of media in the everyday lives of these youth. We also describe how the hegemony concept guided our data interpretation.

Findings – We highlight how, on the one hand, the young males were critical of media portrayals of hegemonic forms of masculinity and, on the other hand, how these same males attempted to conform to norms associated with hegemonic masculinity in physical education classes. We emphasise that our multi-method approach was essential in allowing us to detect the incongruity between youth ‘interpretations’ and ‘performances’.

Research limitations/implications – Limitations of audience research are discussed, and the epistemological underpinnings of our study are highlighted.

Originality/value – The need for audience research in physical cultural studies is emphasised. We suggest that researchers too often make claims about media impacts without actually talking to audiences, or looking at what audiences ‘do’ with information they glean from media.

Purpose – The purpose of the chapter is to introduce queer feminist cultural studies methodologies. For illustrative purposes, the chapter draws upon one specific study of locker room space undertaken by the author.

Design/methodology/approach – The design of the locker room study is delineated, including methods of data collection and analysis: self-reflective narratives, interviews, text and discourse analysis. Issues of contextualisation and insight into the use of queer feminist cultural studies methodologies to study normative geographies are foregrounded.

Findings – Findings acknowledge the systems of knowledge production that cohere around gendered and (hetero)sexed normative and non-normative bodies in locker room spaces.

Research implications – There is no quintessential queer methodology, which is a drawback to researchers trying to forge their way in this area. Instead, all interrogations and interpretations start from a critique of the (hetero)normative discourses and practices of gender and sexuality that take place at the expense of non-normative experiences.

Originality – The chapter provides an overview of queer feminist cultural studies theories and methodologies, for those unfamiliar with this post-positivist and counter-hegemonic approach. The author suggests that queer feminist cultural studies methodologies provoke us to ask the following questions: What new thoughts does my work make possible to think? What new emotions does my work make possible to feel? What new sensations and perceptions does it open up for diverse subjectivities? Such questions take researchers in new and exciting directions.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to differentiate between a sociology of the body and an embodied sociology, prior to considering what this might mean in methodological terms for those wishing to conduct research into the senses and the sensorium in sport and physical culture.

Design/methodology/approach – The approach taken involves reviewing the work of those who have already engaged with the senses in sport and physical culture in order to highlight an important methodological challenge. This revolves around how researchers might seek to gain access to the senses of others and explore the sensorium in action. To illustrate how this challenge can be addressed, a number of studies that have utilised visual technologies in combination with interviews are examined and the potential this approach has in seeking the senses is considered.

Findings – The findings confirm the interview as a multi-sensory event and the potential of visual technologies to provide access to the range of senses involved in sport and physical culture activities.

Research limitations/implications – The limitations of traditional forms of inquiry and representational genres for both seeking the senses and communicating these to a range of different audiences are highlighted and alternatives are suggested.

Originality/value – The chapter's originality lies in its portrayal of unacknowledged potentialities for seeking the senses using standard methodologies, and how these might be developed further, in creative combination with more novel approaches, as part of a future shift towards more sensuous forms of scholarship in sport and physical culture.

Purpose – To introduce autoethnography as an innovative research approach within sport and physical culture, and consider its key tenets, strengths and weaknesses. For illustrative purposes, the chapter draws upon two specific autoethnographic research projects on distance running – one collaborative and one solo.

Design/methodology/approach – The design of the two projects is delineated, including methods of data collection and analysis: tape-recorded field and ‘head’ notes, personal and analytic logs, phenomenological, thematic and narrative data analysis. Issues of representation are addressed and the chapter explores salient, but often-overlooked, ethical considerations in undertaking autoethnographic research.

Findings – Key findings of two research projects are presented, cohering around issues of identity construction and identity work, together with lived body and sensory experiences of distance running.

Research limitations/implications – The limitations of using an autoethnographic approach are discussed, including in relation to fulfilling traditional, positivistic judgment criteria such as validity, reliability and generalisability; more appropriate criteria are proposed, particularly in relation to evocative autoethnographies. Novel forms of the genre: collaborative autoethnography and autophenomenography, are suggested as future directions for autoethnographic research in SPC.

Originality/value – The chapter provides a succinct introduction to the use of autoethnography in sport and physical culture, for those unfamiliar with the genre. The author also suggests an innovative variation – autophenomenography.

Purpose – The chapter outlines mixed methods as a recursive and co-operative approach to research. In doing so, it challenges the dominant conception of ‘real’ mixed methods research as requiring the use of methods from both qualitative and quantitative frameworks by outlining not only logistic and pragmatic issues requiring the attention of researchers but also the underlying philosophical tensions inherent in mixed method designs.

Design/methodology/approach – The process of designing a mixed methods project that investigated the sociological and phenomenological impact of running shoes is outlined with reference to the various pragmatic and epistemological considerations of the project.

Findings – Many researchers require mixed methods to draw on both quantitative and qualitative techniques. However, this chapter demonstrates that such an understanding of mixed methods marginalises critical and interpretivist techniques. It is argued that studies of sport and physical culture have frequently used more than one research method. However, in order for these to be considered mixed methods studies, an explicit attempt is required to connect each technique of data collection and analysis, regardless of the research paradigm in which they operate.

Research limitations/implications – The limitations of mixed methods designs are discussed in relation to pragmatic and logistic concerns as well as the difficulty of connecting methods that present different underlying philosophical assumptions.

Originality/value – This chapter demonstrates the design of a mixed methods project from the initial process of identifying a research problem through to data collection, analysis and publication.

Purpose – Good investigative sociology and high-quality investigative journalism are not just the same but they are close relatives. For both professions, getting under the surface soil of social life, digging deeply into and making coherent sense of the social experience of others, and translating those findings and interpretations into a universal language for widespread consumption are hugely challenging tasks. Understanding the difference and similarities regarding how sociologists and investigative journalists go about this task raises fundamental philosophical, epistemological, ethical, methodological, theoretical and practical concerns, the outline considerations of which are all featured in this chapter.

Design/methodology/approach – Drawing upon more than three decades of investigative research experience in the field and the original and the innovative personal scholarship that this has yielded, the chapter offers students a map reader's guide of how to navigate a way through the complex, challenging and sometimes hazardous labyrinth of investigative qualitative research.

Originality/value – In addition to offering a ‘how to’ primer for thinking about and doing investigative-qualitative sociology, the chapter also offers advice on how to survive the experience and authoritatively tell the tale well to the widest possible audiences.

Publication date
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Sport
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN