Qualitative Research Seminars 2017-2018


Research & Valorization

Target groups

This seminar series, organised by the Doctoral Schools of Ghent University, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, University of Antwerp and Hasselt University, targets PhD students and young researchers in social and behavioural sciences at the beginning of their academic career.


All PhD students

Organising committee

  • Prof. Peter A. J. Stevens, Ghent University
  • Prof. Karen François, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Prof. Dimitri Mortelmans, University of Antwerp


Seminar 1: Strategies in qualitative data-analysis from a Grounded Theory perspective: from coding transcripts to writing output - Dimitri Mortelmans, Antwerp University

Making sense of qualitative data is the title of a handbook by Goffey and Atkinson. But is probably one of the most important tasks a researcher has while doing a qualitative study. At the same time, it is one of the most difficult tasks because 'meaning' is a precious stone that is daunting difficult to mine for. In this seminar, we will use the Grounded Theory methodology to show starting researchers how they can analyse their data in a systematic way. The following topics are discussed in the seminar. (1) The transcript process: how do you transcribe ? What is necessary for a good transcript ? (2) Coding: what is open coding ? How do you choose your codes ? (3) Axial coding: what is axial coding ? How do concepts arise from your data ? (4) Selective coding: how to build your theoretical framework ? How to use graphical representations and storytelling effectively in your journal articles ? This seminar uses no software (see the seminars on Nvivo) and works with paper and pencil. All participants are invited to bring their own material (if already collected). The language of instruction and communication in this seminar is English, unless all participants understand Dutch. In order to facilitate discussions between participants, only 10 participants can take part in this seminar. Registration: https://webappsx.ugent.be/eventManager/events/fromcodingtowriting

Seminar 2: Ethnography in challenging contexts: observing and responding to deviance and conflict - Tom Decorte, UGent

Seminar 3: Narrative Analysis - Carol Gilligan, NYU (USA)

Seminar 4: Focus group interviews for advanced users - Dorien Brosens, VUB

Seminar 5: Developing interview questions and basic interview skills - Peter Stevens, UGent

Seminar 6: Theory Construction in Qualitative Research - Gert Verschraegen, UA - Registration: https://webappsx.ugent.be/eventManager/events/theoryconqr

This workshop aims to teach elementary knowledge and practical skills for theorizing qualitative social science inquiry. By a mix of lecturing and practical exercises in theorizing, it wants to make students familiar with the basic theoretical and epistemological choices implied when conducting qualitative research, while providing them with some skills for independently theorizing qualitative research observations. Balancing theory and observations in qualitative research is a difficult and not always well understood problem. Some researchers focus all attention on methods and gathering data and only start thinking about theory after the empirical research has been done. Others conduct research to confirm a theory they consider highly plausible, or squeeze their findings into some existing theory. Still others patch together pieces of theory without providing clear links to their empirical data. In this workshop we want to think more systematically about the relationship between qualitative data, and theory and analyse some of the problems that are involved when trying to theorize your research observations, so that researchers get more skilled in constructing a theoretically informed research problem.
In the first part of the course we will introduce some basic philosophical and epistemological approaches to qualitative research and highlight which role theory plays in each of these approaches. We will shortly discuss the limits of different philosophical and epistemological paradigms underlying qualitative research (e.g. naturalism, interpretivism, postmodernism), deal with both inductive, deductive and abductive approaches to qualitative research and emphasize the role of ‘heuristics’ for nurturing theory formation. In this way we also want to discuss some problems that plague qualitative researchers across the social sciences, like how to select cases, how to think about causality and explanation and how to manage the variation of observations. In the second part of the course we will deal with some essential aspects of the research process, such as description, concept formation, operationalization of theoretical concepts, and explanation. We will provide practical exercises that enable participants to learn through doing. Participants will also be stimulated to provide examples from their own research and look for ways to theorize it. The language of instruction and communication in this workshop is English. A maximum of 20 students can participate in the workshop. Participants will be provided in advance with accompanying literature.

Abott, A. (2004), Methods of Discovery. Heuristics for the Social Sciences, New York: Norton.
Swedberg, R. (2014), The Art of Social Theory, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Tavory, I. & Timmermans, S. (2014), Abductive Analysis. Theorizing Qualitative Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Seminar 7: Critical Discourse Analysis - Stijn Joye, UGent

Seminar 8: An introduction to writing qualitative research papers for publication in academic journals  - Peter Stevens, UGent

Seminar 9: Artistically inspired research methods  - Karin Hannes, KUL - Registration: https://webappsx.ugent.be/eventManager/events/qrsinspiredresearchmethods

Arts based research (ABR) is a methodology in which the expressive qualities of form are used to convey meaning. ABR has successfully been used in a variety of different disciplines. In many cases the art is considered the ‘data’ (e.g. images instead of transcripts) or the vehicle for dissemination of findings (a creation or installation to communicate with a broader public instead of a written report).  Artistically inspired research formats may present themselves as a drama or dance performance, an exhibition, an installation or a visual representation. These forms represent a considerable challenge for researchers not trained in the aesthetics of using forms. This is why most of us use artistically inspired data as a supporting tool rather than an end-product in itself.  In this workshop we will present examples of how we have used artistic methods (visual data, (upcycling) materials,…) in the context of our research investigating challenges of international students and studying the relation between people and their living environment. We will share and discuss ethical pitfalls and challenges involved in working on the thin line between art and science. We will also apply some of these methods in practice.

Karin Hannes - Qualitative Inquiry team, Social Research Methodology Group
Centre for Sociological Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, KU leuven

“…there is a kind of passivity, willingness to let experiences accumulate and sink in and ripen, which is an essential of development. Results (external answers of solutions) may be hurried; processes may not be forced. They take their own time to mature. Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked” (John Dewey 1916; 1959, 50–1).
Coemans S., Hannes K. (2017). Researchers under the spell of the arts: Two decades of using arts-based methods in community-based inquiry with vulnerable populations ☆. Educational Research Review, 22, 34-49.
Coemans S., Raymaekers A., Vandenabeele J., Hannes K. (2017). Evaluating the extent to which social researchers apply feminist and empowerment frameworks in photovoice studies with female participants: a literature review. Qualitative Social Work: Research and Practice, in press, 1-13. 
Wang Q., Coemans S., Siegesmund R., Hannes K. (2017). Arts-based methods in socially engaged research practice: a classification framework. Art/Research International, 2 (2), 5-39.
Seminar 10: Qualitative Comparative Analysis  - Tim Haesebrouck, UGent
Seminar 11: Using NVivo for qualitative data analysis - Dimitri Mortelmans, Antwerp University
Important note: Please bring your own refreshments and lunch ! These are not provided by the Doctoral Schools (there is a student restaurant on the campus). PC's NVivo installed are provided.

NVivo is by far the most widely used qualitative software program in the Low countries. Unlike its popularity, many users have difficulties implementing the software in their daily research practices.
This seminar gives researchers a first insight in the use of Nvivo. The first day focuses on two basic tasks. (1) Project management: how to start an NVivo project and organize you material ? (2) Coding: how to code your transcripts and visual material ? Special attention will be attributed in gaining efficiency while coding. We also show how memos are used and integrated in your qualitative analysis.
The second day, we continue with more advanced tools in the package. (1) Node and source classifications. These are badly understood concepts in NVivo while they give the qualitative researcher a powerful tool to make complex comparisons in their data. (2) Queries: how to build coding queries and text search queries ? How to adapt queries to search for coding, grounded in its context ? How to use queries in your coding work ? We will also show how classifications are used to explore you data with the matrix query. This query is the most powerful query in NVivo and we show the different possibilities of this query in qualitative research projects. (2) Working in team: how to integrate Nvivo in larger projects ? (3) Other topics like the use of models, the use of NVivo in focus groups and (if time) a short introduction in analyzing visual material with Nvivo.
If students have digitalized research material (transcripts, photos) they can make exercises on their own material. The language of instruction and communication in this seminar is English, unless all participants understand Dutch. Due to the limited number of computers in the class room, only 30 participants can take part in this seminar.

Evaluation criteria (Doctoral Training Programme)

Presence and active participation. Each seminar can (on its own) be included as transferable skills seminar (cluster Research & Valorization) in the Doctoral Training Programme. Max. one seminar can be included in the minimum set of the training programme and max. 3 additional seminars can be included in the maximum set.

Registration fee

Free of charge for members of the Flemish Doctoral Schools. Participants from other institutions will be contacted individually about the registration fee.



Name contact person Doctoral School

Email address

Free University of Brussels (VUB)

Mrs. Nele Van Schelvergem


Ghent University

Mrs. Mia Rousseau


Hasselt University

Mrs. Ilse Van Damme