Jessica Nina Lester


Counseling and Educational Psychology
Academic Programs:
Inquiry Methodology
Research Areas:
Qualitative Research Methodologies/Methods; Discourse Studies; Critical Disability Studies
ED 4060
(812) 856-8328

About Me

Having been trained in cultural studies and research methodology, specifically qualitative research methodologies and methods, I take an interdisciplinary approach to much of my work, including both the methodological and substantive foci in my research program.

My research comprises of two intersecting strands. The first strand of my research program focuses on the study and development of qualitative research methodologies and methods at a theoretical, conceptual, and technical level. More particularly, within this strand of my research program, I focus on five broad lines of inquiry, including: 1) theoretical and practical considerations when engaging in qualitative research; 2) digital tools for/in qualitative research; 3) teaching research methodologies and methods; 4) the practice and implications of centering disability in critical qualitative research; and 5) the epistemological and ontological implications of discursive constructionism. My work in this domain is wide ranging and has addressed a variety of issues common to qualitative research, including consideration of the theoretical and practical challenges of engaging in qualitative fieldwork, the potentiality of leveraging digital tools when doing qualitative research, and the ways by which to assure ‘quality’ in qualitative research, among other foci. Within this strand of my research, I have also co-authored several research methodology textbooks for interdisciplinary audiences.

Bridging my first and second research strands is my ongoing consideration of the usefulness of discursive constructionism, and more specifically discursive psychology, as a means of framing the study of everyday life. With roots in the sociology of science and non-foundational philosophy, discursive constructionism rejects the static foundations of truth and views discourse itself as constructed and constructing the world. This particular perspective is one that I initially examined as a means of expanding how cognitive psychologists might make sense of historically psychologized concepts (such as cognition) and have now begun to engage as a means by which to reframe the place of disabled body minds in qualitative research practices more broadly.

The second strand of my research program is focused on the study of everyday and institutional social interactions. In the broadest sense, this strand of my research follows two context-specific lines of inquiry: 1) child mental health and 2) education as broadly defined. Within both of these contexts, I offer methodological (as related to language-based methodologies, specifically discursive psychology and conversation analysis) and substantive insights, and more broadly, I seek to interrogate and question taken-for-granted discourses and practices. In addition, across both contexts I produce work that is more applied in scope and thereby offers insights to practitioners/clinicians engaged in institutional talk/interaction. Underlying this work is a focus on the performative nature of language (i.e., language is always constructing something via its very construction) and the ways in which historically psychologized constructs (e.g., intelligence) can be studied, reframed, and studied as part of discursive practice. Within this line of inquiry, I use discourse analysis from a discursive psychology perspective to analyze textual and conversational data, and at times I draw upon conversation analysis and poststructural understandings of discourse.

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