Finding a research voice

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There are a few things that seem inescapable in our grad work. I have previously mentioned Foucault (or “Mikey” as one of our Profs refers to him) – that bad boy will pop up in every reference list of every paper we read. Another is the idea of the “middle ground” – aka “binaries are bad” (I may be oversimplifying this a bit). As human beings, we love binaries, good and bad, black and white, qualitative and quantitative. Sadly, life is more complex – we really know this but “tidy binaries” are just so comforting and easy to argue about. That’s why poor old bisexuals get a bad rap – come on (our imaginary exemplar yells) – pick a side already! This weekend we were all about the bricoleur, and its accompanying verb – bricolage.  This word is ubiquitous in many of the papers we are reading – it implies someone (the bricoleur) who uses a variety of methods and approaches to construct an argument, a research framework, from what already exists. It implies a pragmatic spirit, flexibility and an ability to weigh what is useful and what can be discarded.  I had seen this term before- and imagined it to be some rarified French philosophical definition, perhaps even by Foucault himself (praise be his name). Turns out it is basically French for DIY – and there are stores in France that are called “Mr. Bricolage”.  Yes, like Home Depot. Bit of a letdown.

Class this weekend was a bit of a bricolage. There was guitar playing, some Pogues, poetry writing, interviewing, free writing, a lesson in drawing owls and an attempt to discuss a paper via Twitter (#itsreallyhard).  We are trusting that this will lead us gently to the point where we can point to a research method/critical theory and say “yes, that is the one I want to take home” but in the meantime we EdD bricoleurs are like magpies – sifting through the piles of shiny, useful and not-so-useful things to construct our nests (which will really be our dissertations, in case you got lost back there.)

The free writing and the poetry writing made me consider issues of voice and style. There is a ton of advice out there about “finding your voice” as a writer, and then there’s the counter argument that voice is seriously overrated.  There is also style, the way in which something is written and why. Style depends on the purpose and the reader/audience. I realised my usual style has become (by default) the writing I do at work. The 3,500 word max, third person, hope-this-will-pass-peer-review journal article and the reports I write have become comfortable and easy for me. What I remembered (as I did the free writing) were the times in the past I wrote for fun, or felt compelled to write – when I needed just to get things out there. I wrote compulsively after my father died of lung cancer, I wrote over and over again about what it had felt like to hold his hand, to feel it go cold, My writing was full of emotion, full of my voice – I couldn’t pull apart the story and how it had made me feel.

The challenge I’m facing (and one of the reasons I started this blog) is to rediscover that voice, that passion. I want to do research – and write about research – with both my head (which I am good at) AND my heart (not my comfort zone). Unlearning the reliance on neutrality and other voices (the references, the multiple supporting quotations) is tough. However, when I remember that the reason I chose my topic (aside from “the current situation sucks”) is because the LGBTQ patients that are “unseen” in our system are also me. I am increasingly feeling that “as I write and theorize the lives of my participants, I theorize my own” (St.Pierre, 1997)- and progressively aware that it’s not only allowed, it’s mandatory.

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2 thoughts on “Finding a research voice

  1. Brilliant blog, the finding your own voice is interesting. One of the first assignments we did on the DProf was almost an ethnographic piece, reflection on our lives and work and how that possibly influenced thinking. When you go back, even to childhood, it’s interesting to reflect on how those experiences shape and form you ( even when you know they shouldn’t)
    Keep blogging Amanda, enjoying them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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