Walker: How does someone know they are a researcher?
Cheryl: I guess it is when you get up in the morning and working on your research project is what you can't wait to do. It is the part of your job that you love the most. You have a love for discovering new knowledge in order to improve patient care.
Walker: How has internet-based data gathering hindered or helped objectivity vs. subjectivity issues inherent in qualitative methodology?
Cheryl: In qualitative research objectivity is not as much an issue as it is in quantitative research. Qualitative research is subjective and involves multiple perspectives of reality. Internet based data collection has certainly helped in my program of research on traumatic childbirth and its resulting PTSD. I have been able to collect data from mothers across the globe i.e. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and U. K. I could never have done this if I had been limited to interviewing the mothers in person. Perspectives of women in these different countries revealed to me as the researcher that it did not matter what continent the traumatic childbirth took place, the core components of the trauma were the same.
Walker: How have you noticed your philosophical paradigm regarding childbirth research change over time?
Cheryl: Yes. When I first began my research on postpartum depression it was from a positivist paradigm wherein the researcher is viewed as independent from the persons being researched. Objectivity is sought. As I began to use qualitative methods a naturalistic paradigm came into play for me. Here the researcher interacts with those being researched. Research findings are created through the interactive process of researcher and participants. Subjectivity is desirable. I am now finishing a mixed methods study on secondary traumatic stress in labor and delivery nurses. The paradigm of pragmatism underpins mixed methods research.
Walker: If you had to pick a favorite phase of research, what would it be? Design, data gathering, or analyses?
Cheryl: Definitely it would be data collection because it is in this phase of research that I actually get to interact with the mothers, my research participants. I love that.
Walker: How do you see research methods evolving in future?
Cheryl: I see qualitative research really taking its place in the hierarchy of evidence. It has been considered in the past the "soft science" by many quantitative researchers. Also mixed methods research will continue to evolve its methodology.
Walker: How have you navigated through the predominantly male dominated fields of academia and medicine with such success?
Cheryl: I think it has been through my sustained, systematic program of research on postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. My research program spans over 25 years using both qualitative and quantitative methods. I have published over 125 articles in top tier journals. So I believe it is the combination of my research and publication. These 2 activities are what are valued the most in both male dominated and female dominated fields of academia. I am the first nurse to be designated as a distinguished professor at the University of Connecticut.
I would like to thank Cheryl Beck for her contributions for this interview. Moreover, I am grateful for her commitment to the research to improve the care of childbearing women to me, she is the quintessential example of the power of "science and sensibility".