Dr. Pengfei Zhao

Assistant Professor
Academic title(s): 
  • Ph.D. in Inquiry Methodology, Indiana University Bloomington, U.S.A.
  • M.A. Literary Theory, Beijing Normal University, China
  • B.A. Chinese Language and Literature, Beijing Normal University, China
Dr. Pengfei Zhao
Contact Information
Email address: 
peng-fei.zhao [at] mcgill.ca
Alternate phone: 

Education Building
3700 rue McTavish
Montréal, Quebec H3A 1Y2

Department of Integrated Studies in Education (DISE)
Diversity, Identity & Indigenous Topics
Areas of expertise: 
  • Ethnographic and Cultural Studies
  • Research and Methods
  • Qualitative Research Methodologies
  • Feminist Methodology
  • Multilingualism and Methodology
  • Gender and Social Issues
  • Comparative Education

Dr. Zhao has an interdisciplinary background in inquiry methodology, sociology, and cultural studies. In her theoretical and methodological work, she draws from a wide spectrum of theories—from critical theories to contemporary pragmatism, feminism, and post-colonial studies—to formulate a praxis- and social justice-oriented qualitative research methodology. She develops scholarship on critical ethnography, feminist and narrative methodology, participatory action research, and mixed methods studies. She addresses key methodological issues in the tradition of critical qualitative methodologies such as validity, ethics, and translation. Her writing responds to the ontological, epistemological, ethical, and methodological challenges of conducting qualitative research in a politically troubled and culturally diverse contemporary world.

In her empirical work, she uses both Mandarin Chinese and English to perform research in North America, China, and the cross-Pacific transnational context. She is particularly interested in children’s and youth’s identity formation—the gendered and racialized process of socialization, and the various dynamics within and beyond families and communities in perpetuating and/or disrupting the reproduction of social inequality.

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 
  • 2021, National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, U.S.A.
  • 2019, Illinois Qualitative Distinguished Dissertation Award (Traditional Category), International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, U.S.A.
  • 2017, IIQM PhD Dissertation Award, International Institute for Qualitative Methodology, Canada
Selected publications: 
  • Zhao, P., K. Ross, P. Li & B. K. Dennis* (2021). Making Sense of Social Research Methodology: A Student- and Practitioner-Centered Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.
  • Zhao, P., Lester, J. A & Paulus, T. (online first). Digital Worlds and the Folding Reality: Implications for Qualitative Inquiry. Qualitative Inquiry. https://doi.org/10.1177/10778004231163157.    
  • ‡Zhao, P. & P. Li (online first). The Affordances of Videoconferencing Technology for Doing Interviews with Children Online: Methodological Explorations Based on a Critical Ethnography. Qualitative Inquiry. https://doi.org/10.1177/10778004231165464.
  • Zhao, P. & Silberstein, S.* (2022). Not Waves But Ripples: Re-Worlding & Counter-Worlding of Intergenerational Feminism. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. 35(10), 1052-1066. DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2022.2061736  
  • Zhao, P. (2020). Working the Hyphens in Contemporary China: Reconsidering Researcher-Participant Relationship in an Authoritarian State. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. 1-14. DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2020.1828642.  
  • Zhao, P., P. Li, K. Ross & B. K. Dennis (2016). Methodological Tool or Methodology? Beyond Instrumentality and Efficiency with Qualitative Data Analysis Software. Forum: Qualitative Social Research. Access from: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1602160

    (* indicates equal co-authorship)
Graduate supervision: 

Taking new students during the application period 2024.

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