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Saturday Session 1: Writing Data into Meaning

This was a fascinating session for Emily and I to facilitate.  It was – to some degree – a ‘re-run’ of  the workshop that we had delivered to PhD colleagues just a few weeks previously (see blog ‘Session 5: Wrestling with an Octopus’) that had spawned such a fascinating and excited engagement, both in the session and on the blogpost afterwards.  So although we didn’t exactly wrestle with an octopus, or indeed, any other creature of the deep, we did find that we became as equally metaphorical and rhetorical as our PhD colleagues, as we strove for images and ways of  representing our engagements with our data as text.

Emily and I had invited professional doctorate researchers (pursuing either their EdD or DSW) to bring along examples of their data for this morning’s session.  We began by encouraging paired discussion closely followed by five minutes, and then ten minutes of ‘free writing’, punctuated by small group talk and then some whole group feedback and sharing.  These are approaches and writing methodologies that we have been putting to work throughout this term with PhD researchers to oil the rusting writing cogs and to give permission to think and write ‘otherwise’ about our research materials (to which we are all so close, and in which we have so much invested).

I will allow my ‘prof doc’ colleagues the space below to comment upon the rich veins of thoughts and revelations they shared with us.  Some of the fantastic insights  discussed in the group included:

  • What are the ethics of representing our participants and their voices ‘fairly/honestly’ in the transcript?
  • How do I transcribe emotion? What might that look like?
  • How am I the researcher implicated in this process?
  • How can I bear to hear my own incoherence in the data I transcribe?
  • How do I represent what’s NOT in the data…what’s fallen through the gaps somehow but is just ‘there’? Where does this ‘go’ in the thesis text?
  • How do I represent ethically what it is that my data may be conveying that I nonetheless just can’t understand?
  • How do I make connections between my data and other texts e.g. literature and what meaning gets made when these are written together?

The discussions that followed these questions explored the messiness, uncertainties and problematics of data analysis and writing.

In the workshop I wrote about the way in which I am always struck by the power of free writing to illuminate the unexpected as captured within the discussion afterwards.  I find that thoughts are often expressed as seemingly rather unimportant, incidental and ‘off-hand’.  Yet they can develop a power and resonance all of their own through having emerged in that moment.  Their value, having been captured within the sociality of the group, allows them to breath and acquire a stature that might never otherwise have seemed possible or plausible in another time and space.  They acquire a worth and legitimization that means – perhaps – that they may even find their way in some final theses texts:  who knows!  Let’s hope so.

As ever, Emily and I enjoyed ourselves enormously and counted ourselves privileged to call this ‘work’.  Thank-you all.





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