1st Edition

Qualitative Inquiry for Social Justice

By Tim Huffman Copyright 2024
    392 Pages 57 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    392 Pages 57 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This textbook introduces students, researchers, and activists to the practice of qualitative inquiry that contributes to fairness, freedom, and flourishing in community life.

    The book takes a cyclical approach to research and action by using the metaphor of the four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) and the day cycle (dawn, day, dusk, and dark) to organize the content and activities. It lays out the step-by-step process of community-based research projects and guides readers in how to plan projects with diverse partners, generate data while participating in direct action, reflect on experiences and analyze complex data, and share insights with others through various modes of writing and presentation. Specific skills include planning, fieldwork, interviewing, thematic analysis, modeling, writing, and presenting. This innovative book provides tools for readers to conduct qualitative research that generates knowledge that can aid policy change, political mobilization, social movements, and organizing to meet universal human needs and rights.

    The book is tailored to advanced undergraduate and graduate students in qualitative research methods courses in communication studies, sociology, education, social work, and public health and is also useful for professionals who use inquiry in their occupation, such as program design/evaluation, solidarity/solutions journalism, nonprofit leadership, and community development.

    Online resources, including worksheets, lecture slides, facilitation tools, and sample assignments, are available at www.routledge.com/9780367567651


    1. Introduction

    What Is This Book?    

    Qualitative Inquiry      

    What is Qualitative Inquiry?    

    Elements of a Qualitative Project           

    Combining the Benefits of Qualitative Inquiry      

    Social Justice   

    Conditions of a Just Society    

    Being Responsive to Injustice 


    Combining the Multiple Accounts of Justice         

    Qualitative Inquiry for Social Justice   

    Participation, Action, Community           

    Data, Democracy, and Design

    Qualitative Justice       

    Cycles of Seasons and Days    

    The Cycle of Seasons  

    Seasonal Layout of the Book  

    The Day Cycle

    At the End of the Day, What Will You Create?    

    Winter Ends

    Section 1: Spring

    2. Planning

    Basics of a Research Project    

    Planning the Framework         


    Questions, Problems, and Assets           

    Grounded, Theory-Driven, Or Iterative Approach      

    Narrowing Down       

    Creating Partnerships and Asking Permission      

    Planning the Data       

    Types of Data 

    Considering Data Foci

    Estimating How Much Data   

    Planning the Analysis  

    Planning the Outcomes          


    Other Considerations  

    Roles and Authorship on a Team           

    Institutional Support and Requirements  

    Planning to be Flexible

    Reading Scholarly Literature   

    Why to Read   

    When to Read 

    What to Read  

    How to Read  

    How to Take Notes    

    Designing Activist Efforts      

    Universals of Community Planning           

    Communities Initiating Inquiry           

    Planning Day Cycle     

    What Will You Create?

    3. Commitments

    Elements of Scholarly Commitments  





    Specific Scholarly Commitments         



    Social Constructionism           



    Indigenous and Decolonial     


    Commitment Mash-Ups         

    Elements of Activist Commitments    



    Communicative Strategy         


    Institutional Trajectories         

    Specific Activist Commitments           

    Direct Action  


    Community Development       




    Social Entrepreneurship          


    Other Activist Approaches     

    Commitments Day Cycle        

    What Will You Create?

    4. Standards

    Academic Ethical Standards    

    Ethical Principles        

    Situated Ethics

    Relational Ethics         

    Procedural Ethics       

    Discipline-Specific Standards  

    Pulling it All Together 

    Qualitative Research Standards           

    Worthy Topic 

    Rich Rigor      




    Significant Contribution          

    Meaningful Coherence

    Speaking Plainly about Academic Standards           

    Activist Ethical Standards       



    Community Rights      




    Trauma-Informed Participation           

    Standards of Effective Activism          





    Pulling the Four Fs Together  

    Thinking about Activist Success Concretely       

    Standards Day Cycle   

    What Will You Create?

    Spring Ends

    Section 2: Summer

    5. Fieldwork

    What Is Fieldwork?     







    Approaches to Fieldnotes and Journals           






    Blending the Five Fieldnote Approaches     

    Other Considerations  

    Thinking Reflexively About Fieldnotes       

    Solo vs. Collaborative Fieldnotes           

    Activism in the Field   

    What Is My Activist Role?      

    Activist Goals in the Field       

    Staying Safe in the Field          

    Critically Evaluating Participation           

    Fieldwork Day Cycle   

    What Will You Create?

    Should I Include Fieldwork in My Research?        

    6. Interviews

    Designing Qualitative Interviews        

    Individual vs. Focus Group Interviews       

    Designers and Coordinators    





    Cultural Context         


    Interview Structure     

    Interview Relationships           


    Mutual Collaboration  


    Interview Content       

    Question-Based Conversations           

    Prompt- and Activity-Based Conversations 

    Interview Skills


    Facilitation Skills         

    Activist Conversations

    Institutional Change    

    Motivational Interviewing       

    Working Groups        

    Community Conversations      

    Healing/Growth Groups        

    Transformational Conversations           

    Example: Radical Imagination

    Opening Material        




    Relevance in Activist Context 

    Interview Day Cycle    

    What Will You Create?

    Should I Include Interviews in My Research?        

    7. Media

    Types of Media           

    Social Media and News Media

    Organizational Texts/Media   

    Visual Media   

    Academic Literature    

    A Splendid Array of Other Media           

    The Role of Media in a Project

    Sole Data Type

    One Data Type Among Others           

    Media as Background  

    Part of Another Data Type     

    Examples of Integration and Exploration     

    Curating Media Data   

    Explore and Consider (Dawn)

    Engage and Select (Day)         

    Organize and Evaluate (Dusk)

    Store, Secure, and Preserve (Dark)           

    Producing Media Data

    Researcher Produced  

    Participant Produced  

    Ethical Considerations

                Overt vs. Covert

    Exposure vs. Protection 

    Proprietary vs. Open Use

    Engaging Media as an Activist

    Transformative Texts 

    Social Media   

    Sector-Focused Media

    Choosing What Media to Engage           

    Media Day Cycle         

    What Will You Create?

    Summer Ends

    Section 3: Autumn

    8. Themes

    Qualitative Themes     



    Close Reading 



    Thematic Summary     

    Preparing Data



    Evaluating Data          

    Making an Analytic Plan         

    Exploring Possible Themes    

    Crafting Themes from Data    

    Crafting Themes From Theories           

    Crafting Themes Iteratively     

    Solidifying Themes     

    Defining Themes        

    Coding Comprehensively        

    Assessing Themes       

    Modifying Themes      

    Other Considerations  

    Using Crafts and Computers in Thematic Analysis       

    Thinking Reflexively About Analysis           

    Solo vs. Collaborative Analysis

    Analyzing Themes and Activism         

    Summative Thinking   

    Identifying Trends      

    Radical Analysis          

    Analyzing Policy         

    Theme Day Cycle       

                What Will You Make? 

    Should I Perform a Thematic Analysis?         

    9. Claims

    Qualitative Claims       

    Purpose of a Claim     

    Focus of a Claim         

    Structure of a Claim    

    Claims Speak to Other Ideas   

    Degrees of Confidence

    Making Claims

    Inductive Reasoning   

    Abductive Reasoning  

    Deductive Reasoning  

    Claims About Themes

    Flip the Script 

    Participatory Claim Making     

    Deepening Claims       

    Negative Case Analysis

    Carrying Claims          

    Participant Feedback   

    Situating Claims          

    Conceptual Cocktail Party       

    Jeopardy Research Questions  

    An Extended Example

    Activist Claim Making 




    Claim Making Day Cycle         

                What Will You Create?

    Should I Use Claim-Making Techniques?    

    10. Models        

    Qualitative Models      

    What Is a Qualitative Model?  

    Data Visualization       


    Artistic Interpretation 

    Exploratory Modeling 

    Arts and Crafts

    Digital Tools   

    Artistic Synthesis         

    Exploring Causality     

    Exploring Discourse   

    Solidifying Models      

    Building a Prototype   

    Evaluate the Model     

    Finalizing the Model   

    Theorizing Through Modeling

    Activist Modeling        


    Program Models         

    Portrait-Based Design 

    Visionary Fiction         

    Models Day Cycle       

    What Will You Create?

    Autumn Ends

    Section 4: Winter

    11. Writing 

    Writing Strategy          

    Thinking about Audience        

    Central Concept          


    Social Scientific Format          

    Creative Nonfiction Format   

    Written Content          

    Main Argument          


    Context/Review of Literature 




    Writing Process          

    Questions That Guide Approach           

    The Through Line      



    Following the Academic Style Format

    Solo vs. Collaborative Writing 

    Activist Writing           

    Activist Audiences      

    Rhetorical Strategies for Activist Writing

    Activist Language        

    Ethics of Writing        

    Writing Day Cycle       

    What Will You Create?

    Should I Write?           

    12. Presentations

    Academic Presentations          






    Types of Presentation 

    Oral Presentation        

    Embodied Presentation           

    Visual Presentation     

    Artistic Presentation    

    Digital Presentation     

    Presenting as an Activist         






    Activist Storytelling     

    Presentations Day Cycle          

    What Will You Create?

    13. Rest 

    Rest in Inquiry

    Getting It Wrong        

    Strategies for Resting  

    Summative Thinking   

    Community Care        

    Restorative Practice    

    Fucking Off    

    Reconnecting from Separation

    Setting Boundaries      

    Abandoning a Project 

    Sustaining Scholarly Trajectories         

    Break It Up     

    Scholarly Trajectories and Bodies of Work  

    Standards of Productivity and Impact

    Resting as an Activist  

    Strategies for Activist Rest      


    Strategizing for the Long Term           

    Rest Day Cycle

    What Will You Create?

    Winter Ends



    Tim Huffman is an Associate Professor in communication studies at Saint Louis University, USA.

    “If you want to create justice and action with your qualitative inquiry, you have found your perfect book! In this engaging field guide, Timothy Huffman provides solid tips, conceptual development, and engaging examples for conducting activist qualitative research. This practical research toolkit is a gift to all those committed to liberation, transformation, and advocacy.”

    Sarah Tracy, Ph.D., Director of the Hugh Downs School of Communication, Arizona State University, USA

    “Research in higher education has long been at a standstill. Our students want and need more tools to conduct the work they dream of—the kind of life-changing research that will change the world. What Dr. Huffman offers in this text is a portal to the future. He seamlessly carries us through the seasons of change, growth, and knowledge creation from a place of love, compassion, and a deep commitment to humanity's survival and future thriving.”

    Amber Johnson, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Institute for Healing Justice and Equity, Founding Director of the Justice Fleet

    “Qualitative Inquiry for Social Justice outlines a vision of qualitative research that is both exacting and responsive to the emotionality of the human condition that is so urgent in our times. Tim Huffman systematically offers qualitative research as an activist affect; with a criticality of intention to transform self and society with the intentionality of research in academic environs and the boots-to-the-streets drive of activist intervention, to transform society in a performative act of justice for all.”

    Bryant Keith Alexander, PhD, Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, Loyola Marymount University, USA

    “As a qualitative scholar with a research focus on social justice, I have never read a text that marries the two… until now. Tim’s emphasis on the four seasons of the research process adds a focus that no other qualitative texts have. Starting from planning a social justice centered research design in the Spring all the way to resting in the Winter, this text is perfect for developing a holistic researcher with a larger purpose to produce meaningful research for both academia and the community.”

    Jasmine T. Austin, Ph.D., Texas State University, USA

    “Beginning with its title—Qualitative Inquiry for Social Justice— Tim's book makes visible ways to bring intelligence and strategy to collective planning.  He shares strategies for developing visual models for decision processes and how to facilitated the use of data and inquiry to change practices and policies that lead to outcomes. This book provides tangible tools and tactics that invite others to join him in this crossroads of action and evidence.”

    Judy Perlman, Consultant 

    “Qualitative inquiry is critical to better understanding the lived experiences of those living with identities that have been historically marginalized and dehumanized. The various methods presented, the careful consideration of context, and thoughtful explanation of implementation illustrate what a process that creates, supports, and sustains social justice! In a time of deep identity divisions and polarization scholars, and our students, will benefit from this thorough examination of practical, applied research methods that not only reveal what is needed to bridge understanding across identity differences but also helps guide us to engage in the collective action of activism that leads to transformation.”

    Karla Scott, Ph.D., Saint Louis University, USA