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Mazzei co-authors award-winning tome

Lisa Mazzei, an associate professor in the Education Studies department, was recently awarded the 2013 American Education Studies Association Critics' Choice Book Award for Thinking with Theory in Qualitative Research: Viewing Data Across Multiple Perspectives, published in 2012 with her co-author and frequent collaborator, Alecia Jackson, a professor at Appalachian State University.

"The two of us, having taught qualitative research for some time, were very frustrated that we didn't have the types of exemplars that we could use with students that we were trying to use to educate them in terms of analyzing their own data," she said. "Qualitative analysis is often taught where you get some data, break it into codes and categories, and you sort of leave behind the theory that informed your design of the study to begin with.

"What we wanted to do was to try to illustrate how, if you bring the theory and the data together, it produces a more nuanced and complex set of questions that students, faculty and researchers can use to interrogate their data in much more interesting and productive ways."

The book is one of several collaborations with Jackson, whom she met years ago at a conference. Since they're basically never in the same place at the same time - for writing purposes, anyway - they rely on modern tools like Adobe Buzzword for real-time writing, editing and correspondence. In addition to co-authoring this book and co-editing another, they've also worked together on a number of scholarly articles.

"It's turned out to be a very productive and enjoyable relationship," she said. "One of the things we've found is that we both deliver. We trust one another to produce what we've said."

Mazzei says the book and its subject are very closely related to the classes she teaches in Education Studies, and is an area of expertise for which she ostensibly was brought to UO.

"It's a text that is looking at how to perform analysis of qualitative research data, different ways of thinking about analysis and representation. That's something I directly bring into my mentoring of doctoral students and also to the courses I teach."

What does qualitative research have to do with Education Studies? A lot. Field placements, which are a crucial part of the major, partly involve asking students to pay attention to certain qualitative data in the classroom, such as how students react to different social scenarios or group projects. Mazzei said that a thorough understanding of qualitative methods can help faculty decide what their students should attend to, because it's rooted in what they know about qualitative methods. On the doctoral side, the parallels are clearer still, as they effectively are traning tomorrow's researchers and faculty members.

"An intimacy with contemporary theoretical trends and debates and discussions is key to preparing well-qualified students who we hope can go and get good faculty jobs when they leave here," she said.