How will I be able to make my writing engaging? How can I bring my work to life in the form of a doctoral thesis that entices and intrigues? Will I be able to offer the reader a glimpse inside a social world that offers hope and new possibilities? Will I be able to achieve this whilst sitting at my desk, trying to make sense of what has happened over the past year?
In this process of nurturing and presenting my reflexivity, I am making myself wholly vulnerable and I am taking a risk in doing so. Does this make me a radical? In the spirit of socially consequential writing, I certainly do aim to be ‘unruly, disruptive, critical, and dedicated to the goals of justice and equity’ (Denzin and Giardina, 2009, p. 29). If ‘normal’ research is ‘puzzle-solving’ and a ‘form of practice that does not question the rules of the game’ (Schostak and Schostak, 2008, p. 4), then perhaps what I aim to do might be seen as something radical. As my doctoral thesis comes into being, I am slowly removing items of clothing until I am fully exposed to the critical gaze; I am ‘voluntarily standing up naked in front of (my) peers, colleagues, family, and the academy’ (Forber-Pratt, 2015, p.1.). Is this allowed? Will it make my readers feel uncomfortable? If it does, then those readers are invited to reflect on their own epistemologies and to consider the paradigmatic stance that they are coming from. Recognising alternatives is what makes us human; we don’t have to agree with them, but we can give them the consideration and respect that they deserve. In fact, rather than being tempted to deny that differences exist, they should be at the centre of an ethical discourse about research and scientific inquiry.
Exposing myself and recognising my own complicity in my research is at once daunting, but at the same time absolutely necessary. I cannot pretend that I am standing outside my context and that I am not personally involved. I embody my own knowledge and, through reflecting on this and making it known, I am offering a trustworthy and honest account. I am not prepared to ‘erase the individual in the name of generalizability’ (Pelias, 2011, p. 663).
So, in writing my thesis, which is in itself an integral part of the process of qualitative inquiry (Holliday, 2016), I am coming to terms with what I think and feel. I hope that, as I gradually undress myself, and I “write into” rather than “write up” my research (Pelias, 2011), my readers gaze upon my naked self and appreciate just what it has taken to get there.
Denzin, N.K. & Giardina, M.D. (2009) Qualitative inquiry and social justice: Toward a politics of hope. In N.K. Denzin & M.D. Giardina (Eds.) Qualitative inquiry and social justice (pp.11-50). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press
Forber-Pratt, A. (2015) ‘You’re going to do what?’ Challenges of autoethnography in the academy. Qualitative inquiry, 21 (9), 821-835
Holliday, A. (2016) Doing and Writing Qualitative Research. London: Sage
Pelias, R.J. (2011) Writing into Position: Strategies for Composition and Evaluation. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 659-668). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Schostak, J.F. and Schostak, J. (2008) Radical research: designing, developing and writing research to make a difference. London: Routledge