Evaluating the quality of qualitative inquiry has begun to intrigue researchers in sport psychology. Consequently, this has raised important questions regarding the criteria for judging this emerging form of inquiry. With the intent to stimulate methodological debate, this paper explores prevailing notions of validity in qualitative sport psychology by focusing on how various scholars have framed this term. The prevailing parallel perspective of validity is discussed, as are specific problems associated with this view. In contrast, recent attempts to reconceptualize validity in relation to particular forms of qualitative inquiry are considered. The socially constructed nature of validity and the multiplicity of meanings associated with this term are presented according to a diversification perspective. More radical calls to renounce validity and seek alternative criteria for judging qualitative inquiry are also discussed. In closing, the ongoing problem of criteria and its implications for research in sport psychology are considered.
Validity in Qualitative Inquiry and the Problem of Criteria: Implications for Sport Psychology
Andrew C. Sparkes
Autoethnography and Narratives of Self: Reflections on Criteria in Action
Andrew C. Sparkes
A small number of sociologists of sport have opted to produce what have been defined as autoethnographies or narratives of self. These are highly personalized accounts that draw upon the experiences of the author/researcher for the purposes of extending sociological understanding. Such work is located at the boundaries of disciplinary practices and raises questions as to what constitutes proper research. In this paper, I explore this issue by focusing upon the criteria used by various audiences to pass judgment on an autoethnography/narrative of self that I submitted to, and eventually had published, in a leading journal. The problems of having inappropriate criteria applied to this work are considered, and the charge of self-indulgence as a regulatory mechanism is discussed. Reactions to a more trusting tale are then used to signal various criteria that might be more relevant to passing judgment upon this kind of tale in the future.
Fictional Representations: On Difference, Choice, and Risk
Andrew C. Sparkes
This article is intended to stimulate debate regarding recent calls for fictional representations to be used within the sociology of sport. Based on the notion of “being there,” it differentiates between ethnographic fiction and creative fiction. Examples of the former are provided, and their grounding in the tradition of creative nonfiction is established. Moves toward the use of creative fiction are then considered in relation to the willingness of authors to invent people, places, and events in the service of producing an illuminative and evocative story. The issue of purpose is highlighted and various reasons why researchers might opt to craft an ethnographic fiction or creative fiction are discussed. Next, some risks associated with choosing fictional forms of representation are considered. Finally, the issue of passing judgment on new writing practices is briefly discussed.
Toward Understanding, Dialogue, and Polyvocality in the Research Community: Extending the Boundaries of the Paradigms Debate
Andrew C. Sparkes
This paper attempts to extend the boundaries of the paradigm debate by focusing on the textual construction of realities. In doing so, it is concerned to enhance the possibilities of critical dialogue within the research community so that understanding might prevail. Insights from poststructuralism are provided to illuminate the manner in which different paradigms utilize various discourses and rhetorics to persuade the reader of the legitimacy of their findings. It is suggested that researchers be encouraged to become active readers and engage in the criticism of texts so that their involvement in producing texts may be viewed as literary enterprises. The development of such a critical and reflective self-awareness regarding their own stylistic conventions and the manner in which these express specific taken-for-granted paradigmatic assumptions are taken to be vital first steps in opening up the possibilities for entertaining alternative views and exploring the intellectual landscape of others. The difficulties of this task are outlined in relation to the political economy of truth and the manner in which power operates to prevent polyvocality in the marketplace of ideas.
Paradigmatic Confusions and the Evasion of Critical Issues in Naturalistic Research
Andrew C. Sparkes
This paper considers the implications of claiming allegiance to the naturalistic research paradigm. It suggests that the two paradigms that presently dominate research into physical education are separate and distinct, with attempts to bring them together in a “marriage of convenience” being misguided. Claims for compatibility are focused upon in order to highlight the prevailing confusion between philosophical and technical issues in the research process which often leads to calls for methodological pluralism. These two issues are seen to be intimately linked in the production of a resonant research process that raises questions as to the appropriateness, and ability, of certain methodologies to properly reflect the epistemological framework in which they are embedded. The implications of such a linkage is explored, and naturalistic researchers are implored to reduce their parasitic reliance upon positivism by confronting the central dilemmas of engagement with their own antifoundational paradigm.
An Ethnographic Study of Cohesiveness in a College Soccer Team Over a Season
Nicholas L. Holt and Andrew C. Sparkes
Based on an ethnographic study of a collegiate soccer team over an eight-month season, the purpose of this paper is to identify and examine the factors that contributed to team cohesion. Data were collected via participant observation, formal and informal interviews, documentary sources, a field diary, and a reflexive journal. The description-analysis-interpretation approach recommended by Wolcott (1994) framed the data analysis. Four key themes that influenced cohesion were clear and meaningful roles, selfishness/personal sacrifices, communication, and team goals. The fluctuating nature of these themes are discussed in relation to the multidimensional heuristic for cohesion presented by Cota, Evans, Dion, Kilik, and Longman (1995).
Narrative Practice and its Potential Contribution to Sport Psychology: The Example of Flow
Andrew C. Sparkes and Sarah Partington
Narrative practice is an approach that enables researchers to alternately focus on the whats and hows of meaningful social interaction. The potential benefits of utilizing this approach in sport psychology are highlighted by focusing on the area of flow as an exemplar. It is suggested that the majority of work on flow has focused on the whats rather than on the equally important hows of this phenomenon. To illustrate the ways in which a concern for the hows of narrative practice can provide different insights into flow, data are provided from an interview-based study of a white water canoeing club. The findings suggest that describing flow is a relational performance, which is shaped by a number of narrative resources and auspices that operate differently according to gender.
Making the Case for Poetic Representations: An Example in Action
Andrew C. Sparkes and Kitrina Douglas
As part of the emergence of new writing practices in the social sciences, qualitative researchers have begun to harness the potential of poetic representations as a means of analyzing social worlds and communicating their findings to others. To date, however, this genre has received little attention in sport psychology. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to raise awareness and generate discussion about poetic representations. First, the potential benefits of using this genre are outlined. Next, based on interview data from a study that explored the motivations of elite female golfers, the process of constructing a poetic representation about the experiences of one of the participants is described. The products of this endeavor and the reactions of various audiences to it are then presented. Finally, the issue of judging poetic representations is discussed.
The Influence of Social Support on the Lived Experiences of Spinal Cord Injured Sportsmen
Tim Rees, Brett Smith, and Andrew C. Sparkes
This study draws upon life history data to investigate the influence of social support on the lives of 6 men who had acquired a spinal cord injury and become disabled through playing sport. Interviews were analyzed utilizing categorical-content analysis (Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998). The participants experienced emotional, esteem, informational, and tangible support (Rees & Hardy, 2000) from various sources. Alongside the positive influence of social support, examples are shown of inappropriate or negatively-experienced support and where participants considered sport to be lacking. The spinal cord injured person is encouraged to be proactive in resourcing social support, but providers might also be taught to recognize the impact, either positively or negatively, that their giving support can have.
Exploring Dimensions of Marginality: Reflecting on the Life Histories of Physical Education Teachers
Andrew C. Sparkes, Thomas J. Templin, and Paul G. Schempp
For all schools, the priority item always to be on the agenda, is the quality of life in the workplace—its assessment and improvement. Creating a satisfying place of work for the individuals who inhabit schools is good in its own right, but it appears also to be necessary to maintain a productive educational environment. (Goodlad, 1983, p. 59)