Sunday, May 3, 2009

On Writing, and Qualitative Research: A Pep Talk

Dear Self,

You are writing a dissertation that has relied on qualitative methods/analysis. That means you have the freedom to let the data tell the story, in as creative a manner as your little pea brain will allow. So quit trying to force it. Pretend it's a blog, and you're writing for an audience of everyone. Isn't that why you fell in love with qualitative research in the first place? Of course it is. You're doing research that everyone can understand. You don't need a PhD to "get" what's going on in your dissertation - which is why someday, it'll be helpful to someone who really needs it.

The qualitative/feminist/critical approach to seeing the world - that everyone's experiences have value, that the mundane is what's important, that there is meaning in our seemingly routine, taken for granted interactions, that who really cares about p-values and standard deviations when what we should be focusing on are the outliers, the marginalized, the ones who are overlooked and without a voice? - when you embraced that approach, remember how much better you felt about the world? And yourself? And how everything just sorta made sense? It's why you are doing what you're doing now. That, and because you knew you could do some amazingly cool studies that might just change the world, or at least one or two people's way of thinking. So don't screw it up. Just write. Let the respondents tell their story (which is a really cool story, by the way), and bring it to life with some tidbits here and there about what you think they meant or why their experiences were what they said they were.

That's all. Oh, and quit procrastinating with your incessant blogging, facebooking, and twittering, and maybe you'll finish in a timely fashion.

Your Self.

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