University of Limerick
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Shaping qualitative research: the significance of shape in collaborative inquiry and other circles

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-14, 10:18 authored by Melanie Nind, Sadhbh O'DwyerSadhbh O'Dwyer, Marta Cristina Azaola

This article explores the use of the circle as a shape metaphor in qualitative and education research and particularly in research designs. Circles dominate the shape metaphors found in the literature and the paper argues that this is because circles have key features that align well with designing and conducting qualitative research. Circles represent non-hierarchical dialogic spaces with horizontal interaction. These are often safe spaces for sharing stories, experiences, emotions, information and support, communicating a sense of belonging to a community. The paper examines the structure and intent of sharing circles, talking circles, yarning circles, belonging circles, research circles, diary circles and collaborative inquiry circles in qualitative research, including the influence of concepts from indigenous methods. The authors reflect on their own experiences in using an online diary circle and collaborative inquiry circles and the circular aspects of the research supervision at the heart of their collaboration. The paper concludes that shape matters in conceptualising qualitative research as places of belonging and dialogue and that research training will benefit from understanding how circles suit particular kinds of people and particular kinds of qualitative research endeavour when seeking collaboration and equitable participation.



International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 2024


Taylor and Francis

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  • School of Education

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