Lucy Lindley, MRes student, reports on the Qualitative Methods in Psychology & History and Philosophy of Psychology Annual Conference, Cardiff Metropolitan University, 3-5 July 2019

The Qualitative Methods in Psychology (QMiP) was formed in 2005 and is currently one of the largest sections of the British Psychological Society (Riley et al., 2019). QMiP engages in activities that champion qualitative research methods and those that use and teach them. This year this included holding an annual conference with the History and Philosophy of Psychology Section, which brought together ideas and practice that reflect psychology’s past as well as its future.

To facilitate knowledge-sharing, the conference included workshops, oral and poster presentations, a dedicated hour to discuss methods, and the sharing of resources (including two free textbooks to support students’ qualitative research projects).  This created an exciting space to learn and share, which resulted in me taking away three key messages:

1. Qualitative research methods can be used in a wide range of contexts

I attended several presentations, which demonstrated the diversity of meaningful knowledge and impact that can be produced through qualitative research.

These presentations included:

  • A discursive psychology study that explored the construction of sexually exploitative deals in real-world, naturally occurring interactions with children (Sarah Seymour-Smith, Nottingham Trent University & Juliane Kloess, University of Birmingham).
  • An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study to investigate indications of change within families who had received intervention at the Early Help stage of social care (Emma Maynard, University of Portsmouth).
  • A phenomenological analysis exploring how employees with a diagnosis of Bipolar stay well at work (Joseph Keenan & Elaine Craig, Manchester Metropolitan University).
  • A qualitative study using drawings as an interpretative perspective to understand more fully young people’s ‘future work selves’ prior to them making the transition from school to work (Emma Parry, University of Sheffield).
  • A content analysis of essays written by northern Ugandan children to explore their post-conflict perceptions of life (Grace Lapwoch).

2. Qualitative research methods does not simply mean conducting semi-structured one-to-one interviews

The qualitative research presented used a variety of methods. The sentiment that qualitative research methods does not simply mean conducting semi-structured one-to-one interviews was echoed by keynote speaker, Professor Paula Reavey (London South Bank University). Paula discussed taking a multi-modality approach, which means taking seriously the variety of ways in which we experience the world, ourselves and others (Reavey, 2011). This includes asking participants to show you their world, rather than just telling you about it. For example, Paula has explored patients’ lived experiences of space within a forensic unit (Reavey, Tucker, Brown, McGrath & Kanyeredzi, 2018).

3. Qualitative researchers using diverse approaches can share a common interest

The qualitative researchers at this conference use an array of diverse approaches, underpinned by different ontological and epistemological positions, in their academic work. However, it was evident that there was a shared interest in understanding meaning-making or social processes through methods that do not convert data into numbers. This was demonstrated through the thoughtful questions and debates following each presentation, as well as through the conference’s ‘methods hour’. This session asks participants to note topics they’d like to discuss on post-its, which are then grouped together to form small groups of like-minded participants. These groups are encouraged to share ideas, learn from one another, and to discuss other researchers’ dilemmas, successes or ambitions. The group I joined discussed the issue of co-production, which resulted in sharing contacts, ideas and an opportunity to contribute to a journal.

Overall, as a Master’s student this conference was an inspirational celebration of qualitative research, which highlighted the exciting work that is currently happening, as well as the bright future ahead for qualitative psychology.

Thank you to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Portsmouth for funding my attendance at #QMIPHPP2019 on Wednesday 3 July 2019.


Reavey, P. (ed.) (2011). Visual Methods in Psychology: using and interpreting images in qualitative research. London, England: Routledge.

Reavey, P., Tucker, I., Brown, S.D., McGrath, L., & Kanyeredzi, A. (2018). Living ‘in between’ outside and inside: The forensic psychiatric unit as an impermanent assemblage. Health and Place, 55, 29-36.

Riley, S., Brooks, J., Goodman, S., Cahill, S., Branney, P., Treharne, G., & Sullivan, C. (2019). Celebrations amongst challenges: Considering the past, present and future of the qualitative methods in psychology section of the British Psychology Society, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 16(3), 464-482.