Meet the Methodologies Research Division

Graphic artwork of people holding jigsaw pieces
Professor Glenn Robert introduces the Division of Methodologies in the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care, discussing what drove the formation of the division, their current research projects, and their top tips for producing innovative and impactful qualitative research. 
What was the impetus behind setting up the division?

Previously in our Faculty there was lots of great qualitative research going on, but researchers lacked sufficient opportunities to come together and share their interests, inform each other’s work and develop new collaborations. With the recent establishment of a new Faculty research structure, we applied and were successful in becoming one of four research divisions. As well as advancing our own research programmes, we offer methodological expertise to help support the other three research divisions (Applied Technologies for Clinical Care, Care for Long Term Conditions and the Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation).

What are the aims and scope of the division, and where does qualitative research fit into this?

Our research centres on the application and advancement of a wide range of methodological approaches (as well as qualitative research, the Division includes the Nightingale Saunders Clinical Trials Unit). Members of the Division apply these approaches to issues relating to nursing and midwifery/maternity care specifically, as well as to the co-production of health more generally. Areas of disciplinary and qualitative expertise include:

  • Sociological and anthropological studies of health, illness and healthcare
  • Discourse and conversation analysis in healthcare settings
  • Narrative inquiry as applied to healthcare (Voice-Centred Relational Method)
  • Co-design and co-production of health and social care
  • Historical studies of healthcare practices
  • Policy studies

A full list of our members and their profiles can be found here.

How would you characterise the approach to qualitative research within the division?

Much of the Division’s qualitative research draws upon participatory approaches for improving health (and healthcare). We have a long-standing interest in the use of participatory design and co-design approaches for service improvement, as well as developing and testing new interventions in different healthcare settings. More broadly, we draw on qualitative methods to explore and enhance how health is co-produced with patients and the public.

Tell us about some current qualitative research projects in the division 

Examples of recent and ongoing research which members of the Division are leading or contributing include:

  • An ESRC-funded Method Development Grant and a London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership studentship to test, model and explore the sustainability of new ways for services and researchers to work collaboratively with User Led Organisations and Disabled people, working in partnership with Shaping Our Lives. More information on this can be found here.
  • Promoting homelike environments for people with intellectual disabilities living in group homes: Using Photovoice visual methods to co-produce and explore the feasibility of a user-generated homeliness checklist and toolkit intervention. This is an NIHR School for Social Care Research project, more information here
  • Improving mental health and human capital: developing a mental health intervention for 'Youth in Action' programme in post-conflict areas in Colombia. This is an ESRC 36-month project designed to address the need for better designed mental health interventions for younger people affected by the conflict, aimed at providing relief from mental health problems and supporting young people to make use of assistance available to improve future economic prospects. More information can be found here.
  • An ESRC project to identifying and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on inequalities experienced by people from BAME backgrounds working in health and social care. Full details here.
  • An NIHR School for Social Care Research project to explore people’s experiences from the use (or not) of digital technologies in social worker’s interactions with Disabled service users. The study is being carried out in collaboration with a user-led organisation, and working with Disabled lay researchers. More information can be found here.
  • A postdoctoral research fellowship funded by the Health Foundation’s grant to the University of Cambridge for The Healthcare Improvement Studies (THIS) Institute investigating co-production within the context of patient and public involvement (PPI) in applied health research in England. Full information here.
  • An edited collection for Policy Press’ Rapid Responses pandemic series addressing how and why more collaborative, diverse, and inclusive approaches to health and social care research, policy, and practice could lessen the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic and improve health and social care as a ‘new normal’ is established.
  • A London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership studentship using the Voice-Centred Relational Method to understand the experiences of people who freebirth their babies in the UK, details here
  • A Wellcome Trust doctoral studentship exploring the expression and reception of gratitude in healthcare, further information here.
Picture shows a cartoon boat with four people in it, sinking at one end and the two people at the other end saying "sure glad the hole isn't at our end"
What are your top tips for qualitative research based on experience within the division?

Don’t do it alone! And in not doing so, try to look beyond conventional forms of academic collaboration to bring new insights and value to your work. Given the participatory nature of much of our qualitative research we know first-hand how beneficial it can be to partner not only with colleagues in other Faculties within KCL and other universities but also with people outside of academia, especially in the charity and voluntary sector and local community groups. Such collaborations bring their own challenges. They often take more time than typical research projects and this is partly because twist and turns are inevitable when you bring together people with a diversity of experiences and expertise. But it is worth it because these partnerships and collaborations can lead to genuinely impactful research that really does make a difference to people’s lives. And along the way you will learn a lot (and not just about how to ‘autocode’ in NVivo12 … ;) )