While the social sciences are experiencing narrative and emotional turns that are largely based on exploratory and theoretical qualitative research, the problematic dismissal of qualitative research approaches continues to loom large outside academia. Frequently described as a collection of “anecdotal stories,” qualitative research is dismissed as unscientific and unreliable— comments that limit the perceived usefulness of qualitative findings, especially in terms of policy reform. This article problematizes evaluating qualitative research according to quantitative measures of rigour and explores the richness and value of documenting experiential stories and the process of storying in social science research. Notably, we take up the issues of criminal record suspension (pardons) and the abolition of carceral segregation as two case studies to demonstrate how the qualitative value of experiential research and personal stories are simultaneously mobilized and rejected by key actors such as politicians, government researchers, and judges. Our analysis highlights the power that stories have when it comes to influencing change within the criminal justice system, depending on who takes up/rejects these stories. We conclude with a discussion of why stories matter and how, when “layered,” they can contribute to the production of meaningful interventions to the ongoing criminalization and punishment of vulnerable people.
Qualitative Research, Narrative Research, Case Study, Criminology, Criminal Justice Reform
Thank you to Dr. Erin Dej and to Dr. Sheri Fabian who both provided thoughtful and helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We would also like to thank everyone who provided positive and enthusiastic feedback at the Critical Perspectives conference at St. Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Finally, thank you to everyone who chooses to participate in qualitative research projects - we value your stories.
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Recommended APA Citation
McAleese, S., & Kilty, J. M. (2019). Stories Matter: Reaffirming the Value of Qualitative Research. The Qualitative Report, 24(4), 822-845. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2019.3713