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Y is for… Your story too #AtoZChallenge

Y is for… Your story too

In this world we often feel alone and until we hear other people’s stories we might continue to feel that way.
I have spoken to a number of PhD students and soon began to realise that my sense of confusion in trying to determine my direction was not completely unique.

Today I attended the PGR conference (Post Graduate Researcher) at work and presented my poster – I shared the abstract for it in my B post and below is how it looks printed in the abstract booklet.

The graduate school offered to print the posters but for one reason or another I didn’t manage to get my poem ready on time. I decided to ask if I could be a little more creative with my poster – go old school and hand make it. I was a little anxious about doing so but thankfully I had positive feedback, including a mention by the keynote speaker who was talking about public engagement. So I’ve decided to share it here with you in the hopes that you might recognise aspects of the story and not feel so alone. Scroll down for a brief review of the process of making it  if you are interested (click on the image to zoom in).


The poster is made from four pieces of A3 watercolour paper hole-punched and knitted together with wool (with extra tape on the back). This symbolised the bringing together of lots of ideas into a whole. The title indicated the format, circles (in purple pastel mixed with water and lavender acrylic) with square 1 in the middle. Blackness shows the frustration. The fact that I used gold paint made me use the image of prospecting in the poem. The circles didn’t quite reach to the edge on the left hand side so I made a gold ‘book spine’ for my circular PhD story.
When I cut out the lines of the poem there were too many to fit in single lines so I grouped them. Most are in the top half of the circle symbolising the period of confusion start on the outer circle, read the top line and the line below – move round that circle and then back to the next circle).
I decided to spread the rest out at the bottom – as I started to see the light and find my direction.
Looking at the poem itself I had fun especially when talking about the different methodologies I’ve explored. I also used the bookish links because of my creative writing topic focus.
It’s not perfect but I think it reflects how I was feeling at the time – I also enjoyed playing with the glue gun and laminator.

Just one more post left to go on Zen and the Art of Writing.

So does any of this resonate as your story too?

O is for… Ontology, Epistemology and all that Jazz #AtoZChallenge

O is for… Ontology, Epistemology and all that Jazz

Two days ago I shared with you the image of me ‘Drowning in Words’. Not only did this relate to books and other reading material but all the new terminology too.

Two words I still haven’t fully integrated into my brain are Ontology and Epistemology – so I’m going to use today’s post to attempt that upload, along with a few others along the way.

 Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

Creswell (2007, quotes below from pp.16 − 18) looks at five philosophical assumptions in qualitative research.

Ontology is a ‘stance toward the nature of reality’ – ‘Reality is subjective and multiple.’

This links very much with a personal philosophy about difference – that is is OK to have different viewpoints. Yes there may be similarities in experience but there will be differences too. Also ‘reality’ changes over time, as we gain further insights and as we change, so there can be multiple realities for the same person too.

‘Epistemology’ is the stance regarding how the researcher knows what they know  – ‘Researcher attempts to lessen distance between himself or herself and that being researched.’

I guess I’m lucky here because I will be researching something I already engage in – and what better excuse than to engage in it all even more. The worldview of social constructivism fits with my personal understanding of me coming to know what I do about my experience through interacting with other people (I think this also helps me understand why it has been hard to come up with my research question/s – I’m not sure I fully know until I’ve talked to the other people who will be involved). I’m going to be somewhere between the left of the qualitative continuum – artistic, impressionist and interpretative – and the middle-ground (further left though I think)(Ellingson, L.L. 2011).

‘Axiology’ is the stance regarding the role of values in the research – ‘Researcher acknowledges that research is value-laden and that biases are present.’

I am hugely biased – I’m a writer and I want to know more about my experience of writing. What it is going to be important to do is document the biases or ‘position myself’ (as discussing in the J post on Journalling and Reflexivity).

‘Rhetoric’ is the stance regarding the language of research – ‘Researcher writes in a literary, informal style using the personal voice and uses qualitative terms and limited definitions.’

Autoethnography encourages this kind of writing and that fits with my personal preference to write more creatively – links to the idea of narrative and story as discussed yesterday. I’m going to talk more about Rhetoric for my R post.

‘Methodology’ is the stance regarding the methods used in the process – ‘Researcher uses inductive logic, studies the topic within its context, and uses an emerging design.’

I haven’t even started yet and my ideas are constantly changing. My hope is to be quite fluid with the exploration. As I discussed in the E is for ethics post – I need to consider appropriate justification for this level of flexibility to get my research accepted by the ethics panel. Because I see myself learning from others all the time the last thing I would want is to list set ‘questions’ that I am bound by and can’t change in response to feedback and new insights. The worldview concept of pragmatism fits in here – doing what works best. As I’ve already mentioned the social constructivist worldview I was happy to read that it is not uncommon to use more than one, as long as they work together.

So just a few concepts/terms covered in one post – think that’s enough for today.

Creswell, J. W. (2007) Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Ellingson, L. L. (2011) Analysis and Representation Across the Continuum. In: Denzin, N.K. And Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds) (2011) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 595-610

Do you think you empathise with the perspectives above or are you more to the right of the continuum?

A is for… Autoethnography #AtoZChallenge

A is for… Autoethnography

Not surprisingly, as a writer who is studying creative writing from an occupational science perspective, I am taking a qualitative approach to my research, looking at words and not numbers.

My parents and grandparents, who are watching me surrounded by books, think all of this research terminology seems like double dutch. So I will try my hardest to make this interesting and understandable.

I will start briefly by describing Ethnography – this is research that explores a cultural group, one that develops ‘shared patterns of behavior, beliefs, and language.’ (Creswell 2007 p. 68). Ethnographers usually observe this culture and document the meanings and interpret what they witness. Ellis (2004 p.26) breaks the word down to ethno – people or culture and graphy – writing or describing. When we add auto we add the self.

Autoethnography therefore ‘utilizes the researchers’ autobiographical data to analyze and interpret their cultural assumptions.’ (Chang 2008 p. 9).

So, yes, in short, my research is going to be about me and my experiences of engaging in the occupation of creative writing. But, I don’t think I’m quite so vain to think it is all about me or that it’s all about you (cue song)

so I am exploring the concept of Collaborative Autoethnography (Chang et al 2013).

I am making the presumption that writers belong to a ‘writing’ culture, especially those who are online.

The other aspect that appeals to me about autoethnography is the idea that you can be creative when writing it up, using story, poetry etc. It is much more appealing to me to write a novel than a thesis and I hope I can mix the two. Ellis (2004) presents her methodological book in novel format which makes it much more engaging to me as a reader.

Autoethnography does appear to mean lots of things to lots of different people and so I need to read more and make some decisions on what it will mean to me.

Chang (2008 p.49) highlights that ‘autoethnographers face the initial challenge of identifying a research focus…’ – That is what tomorrow’s post B is for…Beginnings will be about.

If you are a writer do you feel you belong to a ‘writing’ culture?
If you have experiences of using or reading autoethnography please do share them.

Chang, H. 2008. Autoethnography As Method. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Chang, H., Ngunjiri, F.W., and Hernandez, K-A,C. 2013. Collaborative Autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Creswell, J.W. 2007. Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: choosing among five approaches. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ellis, C. 2004. The Ethnographic I: a methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

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