1 Introduction: Melanie Nind (MN) and Liz Todd (LT), Co-Editors of the International Journal of Research & Method in Education (IJRME) LT: We are the co-editors of International Journal of Research & Method in Education. My name is Liz Todd and I m Professor of Education and Inclusion at Newcastle University. MN: And I m Melanie Nind and I m Professor of Education at the University of Southampton. Q1. For researchers or students who have never encountered IJRME, what is the journal about in a nutshell? LT: So, the journal: the International Journal of Research & Method in Education is, as it says, primarily a journal about research methodology in Education. And what we re interested in; we re interested in evidence of unusual or new methods of Education research, we want conceptual, theoretical or methodological issues in Education research and we d like our articles always to have an international dimension. So if your paper is very much grounded in the area that you re working in, which often it will be, that needs to be thought in terms of how can it speak to the international community of people who will be reading it. We re internationally refereed, we re interdisciplinary but we do focus on methods and that s something that sometimes gets forgotten by people who write to us and end up, will put in papers that are much more just focused on Education alone and it has to be focused on methodology. Is that? MN: Yes, I think that s fair. The journal, in its past, was Westminster Studies in Education and had a previous life under a different title and that was a much more generic journal. But I think, when we were kind of re-launching the journal with this methodological focus, the methodological focus was chosen, primarily because there wasn t another journal doing that. You get journals like the International Journal of Social Research Methodology or Qualitative Research that are doing a really nice kind of job around methodology and you get really nice Education journals but we wanted something that kind of spoke to both Education and method and I think that, as Educationalists, method is intrinsically interesting and, as Methodologists, I think are often concerned with the Educational dimension of their work, so there is a really natural cross-over. And in terms of kind of issues and the range of things, we kind of go from broad kinds of ways of knowing, ways of seeing, ways of understanding the world, ways of capturing and understanding data to quite focused LT: to very particular things, yes. MN: Yes, really in depth; how do you do this form of analysis, using this software? But I think what s distinctive is, there s always that question: And what does that mean for Education? ; What does that mean for us as a community of Educational researchers? Because often the implications are different for Education aren t they? Because, you know,
2 often people are practitioner-researchers or, you know, they ve got that, that kind of applied contextual dimension. LT: And the other thing that I think is really, distinguishes our journal, is that we re not just qualitative and we re not just quantitative. We are very much for the full community, so we really hope that people, that qualitative researchers will continuously be able to look at our journal and find some really useful things and similarly, quantitative. We want to be really innovative in both areas and we also want to be innovative in putting those two areas together, so it s a mixed methodology. And I think that is quite unusual, in terms of a journal. Is that? That s right isn t it? MN: Yes, that s right. That s what Martyn Hammersley said when he was asked to do some publicity for the journal. You know, where else would you be able to pick up a journal and be able to go from, you know, a really kind of intricate LT: yes, an advanced, an intricate thing about some kind of area about epistemology and methodology and then to advanced, you know, multi-level modelling and some kind of the new area of that. Q2. Are there any recent topics, papers, and/or issues which you feel have been particularly successful? MN: It s hard to pick out particular kinds of successes. I think the special issues always draw people in, they re always very carefully chosen, the editors I kind of think always make a really good job of them. Two in particular really, strike in my memory. There was the one around quality in Educational research and there ve been such debates about this and it s such a kind of controversial area after the kind of Hargreaves thing saying that Educational researchers maybe weren t doing the job that they should and such strong responses that that special issue about quality, did a really good job of moving the debate on. I think the special issue that Pat Sikes and Heather Piper edited, as well, on ethics, not just ethics but ethics and academic freedom in Educational research was important because that kind of debate s gone on in other areas of methodology that this was the, you know, the Educational debate around that, so that strikes me. But, I mean, you can pick out individual papers and issues. I think that some of what we ve done really nicely, is just pick out issues that other people haven t done and this isn t always the great big names, but one of the ones that just is in my mind fresh today is the paper that Yvonne, Yvonne Downs wrote. She was an early career researcher, and she kind of took the lid off, in a way, transcription. And just wrote this, wrote and submitted, this beautiful paper for us, around the emotional labour of transcribing, the fact that transcribing was often done by women, in hard-pressed ways and sometimes what they were transcribing was quite painful, difficult material and so, some of the impact on them, some of the impact on the project of the transcribing and so little has been written about transcription. So
3 although, kind of you know, she moves onto the Educational implications of that, I think sometimes the journal just covers topics that other people haven t covered, in nice ways. LT: Yes and these are topics that we, we kind of move over too quickly, aren t they? And they re things that have the potential for being unpacked and looked at and being critical about, that is actually very important to do so. Because they require decisions to be taken, they have implications for that, well for our, for our discipline and for you know, Education therefore. So that s important. Q3. What do you look for when considering articles and submissions? LT: So, the question of what we look for in/when considering articles as an editor, the only thing I look for right at the beginning, is whether it s relevant for the journal. So because with my job, isn t to decide whether a paper should be published in the journal because I pass them - all the papers - on to some reviewers and I select reviewers for the paper. So I, I think, what our job is first of all, is just is it, is it/does it have a methodological issue? And I know that something that we ve developed in our discussions as editor, is even if it is much more about Education than about methodology, if there s a possibility that it could be turned into, and if it s got some methodological warrant there and something that could be turned into and making it methodology / methodological, then we think our reviewers could help that process, we re happy to accept it. So we will, there s a kind of wide range of that so that s the first thing. In terms of advice for people who are wanting to publish for us and what makes a good article? I mean, I would say that really, try to think through what kind of point are you making in your paper? You know, you ve got to be making MN: developing a good argument LT: a good argument and it s usually, probably about one particular point and not trying to make too many points, which I m sure I, you know, as an author, you know, am not very good at doing - But one, one particular point that you follow through and it could be something that s been done before, but are you doing something, are you adding to that? Are you developing something conceptual about and something theoretical? And not just describing how you do it. You know, I think recently and you know, I kind of won t mention the kind of things because I don t want people to feel I m kind of airing, airing their own work in a bad way in public but there are some issues that we ve looked at, papers that we ve had, where there s been some issue that would be really, really useful but it s been done so descriptively with no and it would ve been really good to have had that in, that issue in our journal, but because there wasn t anything conceptual and it wasn t really thought about beyond the how you do it, we couldn t really keep it. MN: Yes, I think sometimes it s easier to think about What s not good? and what is not good
4 LT: It is, I know and I don t want to give examples of that. MN: But sometimes people think, well you know, if they just say this is the methodology I used, therefore I ll send it to a methodology journal and they ll be interested. LT: That s not enough. MN: No, it isn t enough. LT: No, they need to be making a point don t they? They need to be making an argument and there are lots of examples of that in the journal for people to read, to then see the kinds of things they can do. MN: I like things that really highlight the potential and the problems of a method but in a way that s really worked through with data, with contextualisation cause this isn t method in the abstract, it s method in an Educational domain. LT: It is isn t it? Yes, that s a really good point to make. And then there are some really obvious things such as: how people check their spellings, their typos, has it been proofread? And obviously not, not plagiarised, not copied. So there s kind of, all the kind of and a lot of things like that can be sorted out by making sure that people give their papers to their colleagues and their friends to be looked at. Which is very important. MN: And I d advise people to read the journal as well. Go back, see what else has been published: what kind of voice has been used? What kind of voice do they want to adopt when they re speaking, writing, telling their story. LT: Yes, and I think we would encourage people to try to find their own voice, wouldn t we, in their papers? And you ll see that, from our papers, that we also have a very wide range of, of ways of writing. MN: Hugely diverse. LT: Massively, wide ranging. You know, it s not like some journals which have a very similar kind of voice, voice in that paper, don t they? In that journal. MN: Yes there s a journal style. LT: Yes, a journal stance. MN: No, we re not like that. LT: No, we re very, very wide. Yes. Q4. What do you see as the strengths of IJRME as an academic journal?
5 MN: Its strength primarily is its distinctiveness. There isn t another journal within the Educational field that does, kind of, method in this way. That really looks at the whole process of enquiry, not just the outcome of the enquiry but the process of the enquiry, so it s really distinctive, you know, we ve talked a little bit about it being quantitative and qualitative, that s really a strength of the journal. I think the journal actually has an extremely experienced and helpful editorial board. LT: It does absolutely. And I think that s, that s crucial actually isn t it? MN: It makes a difference. LT: Because that does mean that a lot of papers get a lot of very good quality advice. If that paper s got any possibility of being published, it will get some good detailed advice and sometimes, what I saw when I first came on board as part of the editorial team, with papers that I hadn t taken from the beginning but I saw the end point of them and I could see that sometimes things had gone through three different cycles of having review comments and were very different to when they started but was a very strong paper by the end. And I m hoping that that s immensely useful to the authors and that s a real strength. MN: Absolutely. I think the journal has a sort of, a bit of a feel of dialogue about it. Some of the papers are kind of one-off here s, here s something that I can say about using this method, in this educational context, and this is an argument I want to make and that s the end of the story and, but it s a real contribution. But with others you get that sense of a theme being picked up from an earlier issue and being developed or being responded to and I think the journal is quite strong in that respect and it s a way, you know, that I d like to see the journal develop even further and to have that sense of dialogue and you know When we moved - and I was on the board when it was Westminster Studies when we moved from Westminster Studies to the International Journal of Research and Method one of the things we wanted was to be able to cover dissent or different voices, different perspectives. Not to just have lots of isn t this lovely? kind of type papers or, isn t my contribution useful? but actually really to get that rigorous debate and I think that, you know, we have gone some way to doing that. Q5. What are your aspirations for the future of the journal? LT: Our aspirations for the future of the journal? I mean, there are various aspirations, I think one thing, I would be so bold as to say is that we should all in Education, all Educational researchers, should be publishing methodological papers and I don t think they do. So my aspirations, or key aspiration is that we need to be looking more at our methodology. We all do key Educational research, or most of us do they use some kind of method we should be looking rigorously at those methods, presumably we think about those methods, so let s actually get to publishing more of them. And I think that s the first thing I d say.
6 The next thing is, the issue that we ve been talking about already, is dialogue and dissent. So I think our aspirations would be that we d have more dialogue and more dissent. Is that what you would say? MN: Yes. LT: And maybe more papers where you have one view and then another view presented and not being afraid to be controversial. MN: Yes, I fully agree with you. I mean there are some generic things, around the future of the journal I think, you know, all journals want to have better and better quality papers, we d want to see the issues growing. We ve already grown from two issues, to three issues to four issues next year. We ve gone onto the online first thing [ifirst], so the journal is thriving and of course we want it to thrive but it needs to thrive in fairly distinctive ways so, I think, we ll do really well in the future if we can join the Educational community up with the wider Social Science community and methodological community. LT: Yes, that s another one isn t it? That s a further development isn t it? MN: Yes, because Education can be a bit off on its own and can be a kind of, less esteemed discipline sometimes, within the broader Social Sciences. Certainly it gets lesser for, a kind chunk of research money. LT: Yes it does, absolutely right. MN: But sometimes we can be our own worst enemy if we don t join up with that Social Science community, but I see the journal as a being a bridge, you know LT: A bridge into other methods and methodology journals and other methodology debates that we can be taken seriously in those kind of arenas as well. Q6. Have there been any single educational concerns or turning points that have influenced the direction of the journal? MN: Yes, I think the journey to being a journal that was about method and methodological enquiry, rather than a generic, was about filling a gap. That there is very much, or was very much, a gap around that. I think there is this kind of heartfelt thing that a lot of the debates about method, kind of go on behind closed doors and not on the paper. So there might be really heart-wrenching stuff about the ethics of doing it this way or that way but they don t get aired, they don t get shared and therefore, for new researchers, researchers who kind of straddle that I m an Educational practitioner and I m a researcher and I m you know, they really want to be party to those debates and don t often get to join in the discussion sometimes. And therefore to, you know, I think when we were making the transition for the journal to actually, kind of, have some of the closed door stuff out there and in the journal was right and one of those things we wanted to do. And really just something about good
7 quality papers. I think one of the things we do nicely is that real mix of papers from early career researchers right through to kind of, the very top names. LT: And I think the journal, as part of its journey has also taken areas that we use and we kind of, walk over quite quickly without really thinking about; whether it s focus groups or transcription, or a lovely paper that I remember looking at was the practice of, when people, when children are filling-in questionnaires, they make little, sometimes they actually write things in the margins and somebody [E. Alerby & C. Kostenius] did some research of those things that were written. And it s the sort of thing that, whether it s the thing we do all the time; which is say, focus groups and interviews or the things that we see quite a bit but we never really think of looking at. You know, what the journal has done is, being able to present those so that we can really look carefully about what we do, and theoretically about what we do and critically about what we do. MN: And it s kind of joining up the micro with the macro, isn t it? LT: Yes. MN: So those sound like really micro things but actually they re often speaking to the really big public debates. LT: Yes, yes, and ethical issues and issues about what counts as knowledge and? Yes. Q7. What topics would you like to see more of, to represent the ways that the journal has changed? LT: I think the topics we d like to see more of, there s quite a few things that come to mind. It s a bit scary to say because I don t really want to, anybody to think that if they haven t heard their topic in what we say now that that isn t something they should put in. Or, to think that these are the only things that they should be and these will definitely get accepted in the journal. So this is just really some ideas. I mean, the first thing is, well you know we do want to see some of those normal things that we just do, you know like interviews and focus-groups, but building on the things that have already been said in the journal. So we want other papers that just keep looking at those areas again. We don t want ones that repeat what s already there and people quite often do that really. We want more that look, again, at combining quant and qual, qualitative research. We want other ways of thinking about that, other, other ways of doing it I m particularly interested in video, I know there s a lot on video but there s a special issue MN: a nice special issue coming out on visual methods. LT: Yes, a special issue coming out on that, so, but there s always more that can be done on that. I would like to see more that actually gives us some of the cutting-edge ideas on the quantitative methods, but does it in a really friendly way but still doesn t shirk, say, what
8 that issue is for the quant people, you know and that s a really difficult thing and I don t think we get enough of that. We get quite a few quant stuff that we can t use because it simply is not understandable by anybody apart from the statisticians. If it s only about statistics, we can t use it. So we need that, we need more addressing innovative points, more on issues we think we know tons about like participation and voice, you know we think we know lots about that but there s so much that we re not doing in that area that we could go on for ever and ever. More about ethical issues, again, we think we ve done that but we haven t. What about you Mel? MN: Yes, I m really interested in the innovation side, I d like to see more of that. I think being part of the National Centre for Research Methods and being really tuned into that innovation agenda. I think Educationalists are quite innovative in the things they do, I think they sometimes almost take for granted what they re doing and don t necessarily, you know, kind of promote their, the ways they go about their enquiry and recognising the innovation in it. And I think the other thing I d like to see more of, is more of kind of the disciplinary border-crossing. LT: I was wondering about that, yes. MN: You know, the Arts in Education, History in Education, Philosophy in Education and Education is already a kind of multi-disciplinary discipline. LT: It is isn t it? Yes, yes. MN: And I think it s often when disciplines kind of come up against each other that you get the interesting innovation. So more of that would be nice. LT: Yes, absolutely. I think that s absolutely right and I d like that as well. Q8. What have been the most important/controversial events in contemporary debate that have been discussed in the journal? MN: I think probably, one of the most important issues has been around quality. What does quality mean? I think we still grapple with this, the whole kind of Educational, the whole methodological community grapples with quality. I think it s not for us to leave it to other people to decide what makes good research. I think that that s something we as a community need to own and to develop and it s very easy to kind of sit back and just take the agenda and quality as given, especially when there are such strong drivers like the research evaluation exercises and things. They re really strong drivers and if they re not careful, if we re not careful, they dictate to us our understanding of quality and you know, that special issue around quality was really important as an issue to debate. But I think we keep chipping away at that, as well actually, more and more, so I think that s a really interesting one. Probably the ethics is going to be
9 LT: Yes, I was thinking the ethics as a key thing as a MN: controversial one. LT: Yes, because everybody s now, has ethical, quite strong ethical procedures in their universities in a way that they didn t ten years ago. MN: I think sometimes where we ve had the most debate, the controversy in terms of one researcher arguing or responding with another researcher, has been actually about specific methods. Often within the quantitative domain actually but you know, there s been those controversies too, which have been interesting. LT: And what counts as innovation? as being a key controversial thing, I think really. You know, what people are seeing as innovative and claiming as innovative. Q9. Can you say a little about the themed special issues? MN: The special issues have been good, we re very I can t remember how long they ve been going on quite a while and they ve all been good. We do try to get special issue editors from outside of the editorial board a lot of the time. Increasingly now, from outside of the UK as well. They, it just gives us a chance to kind of give a steer. So, I know when I was involved, and I was strongly involved in steering us towards having a visual methods issue, I kind of thought don t let s just leave it to all the sociologists and ethnographers and stuff to be talking about visual methods, as Educationalists, we should be talking about that. LT: Yes, and that was a good one because that coincided with, with Education actually getting, you know, we were as a journal being able to say we re kind of at the forefront of this because Education is starting to take that on strongly itself. And we re able to have as our journal editors, for that special issue, people that have themselves been strongly involved in taking that to the fore with the SRC backing. So that s really good. MN: The special issue we had on using secondary data LT: Yes, that s very important. MN: That really spoke to that thing I was talking about, about joining us up with mainstream agendas. You know, ESRC are really, really into secondary data. Education could just be left out that whole kind of movement but that special issue helped to say, you know, this is really relevant to Education too. So the special issues just give us that bit of strategic steer to make sure that the journal is covering the important things it needs to. LT: Yes, it does doesn t it? It s very strategic but it s also really in depth and it s funny the way it goes, isn t it? Because sometimes we think we don t know what we re going to have and we kind of reach this thing where we think, what s got a [sticky]issue? and our minds go a complete blank and we think and then we suddenly, a little bit of time will go by and
10 then we, it becomes much more clearer to ourselves we know what the next one could be and we start to maybe ask, people that we know to put in some proposals and then a few proposals come in we haven t known about and we can have some very lively board discussions on them, can t we? I mean one of, some of our most lively discussions have been about proposals we ve had in or proposals we ought to be trying to MN: stimulate LT: stimulate to happen. And, you know, that s led to some high quality journals.