Report: AIDEA Capri Summer School on Qualitative Methods

By Sarah Brooks, Management and Business Pathway, University of Sheffield

Italy and Capri 2016 024In September 2016 I attended the AIDEA Summer School in Capri, Italy. My attention was drawn to this summer school because of its focus exclusively on qualitative methods and by the time I looked at the photos on the website, I was sold.  Capri is a place of history, wonder and amazement. It is truly a beautiful place.

The aim of the summer school was “to foster knowledge and methodologies among young scholars” and so the focus was strongly on introducing participants to a range of qualitative methods and concepts.  The learning was facilitated through readings which were given prior to attending the summer school, through workshops and lectures with an expert in the field, and through discussion with peers.  At the end of the five days, each participant gave a short informal talk about how what we had learnt had helped us frame our research question and develop our methodology.

The summer school ran from Monday to Friday with the opening event held at a palace built by Tiberius with amazing views looking down towards the coast.  The first day was an introduction to the programme and a chance to meet the other participants. The summer school was fairly small so with only 33 participants, this gave us an opportunity to speak to everyone.  Accommodation on the island was arranged through the summer school so Monday evening was spent settling into our hotels and getting to know each other. The remaining four days were spent at the University building, albeit most of the time workshops took place in the garden.  The summer school started Italy and Capri 2016 037at 9am but the sessions after lunch were spent working in groups, focusing on our individual research and how the topics discussed in the morning might be relevant.  The day finished at 3.45pm, allowing plenty of time to concentrate on learning new concepts whilst exploring the island.

When considering the best time to attend a summer school, I considered that with only three weeks to go before my PhD submission date, I might have been a bit limited in what I could take from it. However, the summer school gave me answers to problems that had been puzzling me for a while and I received valuable feedback from experienced staff on my research ideas.  Maybe more importantly, I got a lot of practice at presenting my ideas which was really useful when preparing for my viva.

This is the only summer school I’ve attended so I am not able to provide a comparison with others, but for qualitative researchers looking for a strong immersion in the range of techniques and methods available, and having the time to work out which ones are best for your research, then I would consider this to be an excellent choice.