Click here Contents Page
to return to the contents page.

Chapter Seven

#[p118] Chapter 8. A mini-project: making sense.

For reasons explained earlier (see chapter 4) I felt unhappy with the idea of adopting an "off the shelf" method of inquiry and thus began to research while learning how to research.

The research method (what I have called "messy method") which developed is reflexive, it can look at itself. I can use the method to look at the whole process or any part of it. During the final write up phase of the thesis (Autumn 1998) I become intrigued by, what for want of a better phrase, I will call "making sense", what in a more traditional project might be termed "analysis". This chapter then is a report of an off-shoot from the main study. It is an attempt to come to terms with the concept of making sense, whilst making sense. As I consciously employ the "messy method" here I have distinguished this from earlier off-shoots and labelled it a mini-project. This mini-project on analysis/ making sense then forms part of my understanding of the research method as a whole, and feeds back into the reflexive process of researching research, together with a later project on identity. Thus the "messy method" is being used to explore itself. The final shape of this method will be explained in chapter 11.

This chapter considers the evolution of research questions; a recursive type of "analysis" similar to "double fitting"; some issues around the nature of my "data"; the two apparently common place activities of reading and writing; and an overall view of the interactive process "making sense". I end with some questions raised by this work.

1. A starting point.

The "data" which I need to "analyse" (the reason for the quotation marks will become apparent later; to save repetition they are omitted below) are the notes contained in several hundred pages of reflective diaries collected throughout the project. My first attempt at exploring these led to unearthing the elements of the method I had used. The initial analysis, which mainly consisted of reading the diaries to extract some notion of the procedures employed, while reading other material and constantly discussing the matter #[p119] with colleagues, eventually led to the article "Notes from a method" (chapter 6). This article was a place to gather my thoughts on the journey.

With more material to analyse and a wish to comprehend the process of analysis in greater depth I began to re-examine the diaries, but with an extra perspective: what exactly was I doing? Again I did not feel comfortable with adopting a ready made solution ( "No study conforms exactly to a standard methodology" Miles and Huberman 1994 p.4) such as the techniques outlined in various versions of grounded theory to analyse my analysis. Quite apart from acknowledging disagreements over what exactly those techniques comprised (as explored in for instance Melia 1996) the research settings of grounded theory advocates appeared in many ways quite different to mine. They seemed often to involve strangers exploring other peopleís territories or practitioners with the relatively "objective" facts of their practice to examine. In my case, although I began with practice, I quickly became bound up with a moving target: my own thoughts about methods of inquiry. Which "theory" of "research" would I be "grounding" as my ideas on "method" shifted and developed over several years?

Parts of some methods of analysis I came across seemed attractive but unclear, for example in heuristic research "the researcher enters into the material in timeless immersion until it is understood" (Moustakas 1990 p.51) - although he does describe a number of other, less vague, steps. In the end I decided to "work without rules" again, to find out my own "rules" of analysis. This ran the risk of re-inventing the wheel (although my hunch was I might in fact end up with a different type of wheel) or simply doing a bad job (although I hoped to be very diligent in my considerations). In any case, the important part of the process for me was not the wheel which appeared at the end (conventional or otherwise) but the inventing which went in at the start.

One view of research I believe I carried at the start of the project embodied a linear process:

Collect data ---® Analyse data ---® Write up.

#[p120] My appreciation of the reality of the procedure gradually came to incorporate a much more complex set of relationships influenced by Baldamusí (1972/1976) concept of "double fitting"; Hamptonís (1993) account of "platforms of understanding"; Minkinís (1997) description of the place of writing in research; McGrath et alís (1981) "knowledge accrual process"; St. Pierreís (1997) description of learning to "live in the middle of things ... making do with the messiness" (p.176) and a range of other sources. I will begin my exploration of analysis with my evolving ideas on the research question.

2. The research question.

Initially I saw the research question as little more than an itch, a vague desire to know more about my practice. Throughout the early years of the project I managed with just a vague, unfocused "questioning", a curiosity. I came recently to view this curiosity, this vague questioning stance, as a potential seed bed for a kind of clearer, but still largely unformed, "proto-question" as a result of the projects on identity and analysis. In the case of the mini-project on analysis, this proto-question took the form:

{?} {"ANALYSIS"} {?}
The first variation of this question which bubbled up was something fairly simple, to the

effect of:

{how should I} {analyse} {my data} (1.10.98)
My diary records my concerns about this: Note the "should" and the implications that there is a correct method; and the implications that analysis and data are unproblematic concepts. I suppressed this question. (1.10.98) Possibly my anxiety at starting a whole new area of thorny problems, while trying to write up the whole project, led to throw-back memories of insecurities in student days and a wish for the comfort of knowing "the correct approach" - hence the "should". There is also, however, apparently alongside this a deeper angst (Cornett 1995 p.123), a fear that #[p121] there is no way out, no answer, let alone a right answer. I have come to recognise this as part of the normal starting-up terror, the leap into the unknown : This bit is practically impossible to capture. Iíll have a stab at analysing my analysis as Iím trying to work out how to analyse. (26.10.98)

I can feel the old scariness coming on again- will there be an answer at the end of this? (1.10.98 4.00 p.m. in park)

The original question "how should I ..." felt too restricting, too "undergraduate". I left the proto-question to "cook" for a while further, suppressing my anxiety, and a little later it transformed into a rather more flexible:

{what is the appropriate way to conceptualise} {"analysis"} {in this kind of research}

That question led to the current discussion, where the concept of analysis itself is interrogated.

While considering identity and research (see chapter 9) I again had a proto-question:

{?} {identity} {?} {with respect to my research}
This resolved into:
  {How does my understanding of the concept of} {identity} {illuminate my understanding of the research process} (5.4.98) That question eventually led to the paper "Identity and Research" (Mellor 1998c) presented to the British Education Research Association (BERA) in Belfast and later submitted to the British Education Research Journal (BERJ). The journalís referees offered useful but trenchant criticism of the article. Of relevance to this section, some of the criticism focused on how I had confused identity, desires, identifications and self-descriptions in the writing (see briefly in chapter 10). For the moment my interest is in what these comments told me about my own research procedures, and, in particular, the research question: had I been asking the wrong question?

#[p122] Although my diary does not unfortunately record this aspect, my memory of the beginning of the identity project (Autumn 1997) was that I was anxious "to get on with" the research. I was near completion of the thesis. The whole new area I had entered needed to be dealt with speedily. I recall that I took up the concept of identity and ran with it, not really stopping to think whether it was the "right" concept or not, simply anxious to explore the link between identity and research. The proto-question crystallised too soon. I did not feel I had the time to spend two or three years working out the question. Looking back now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that a possibly more productive question, making the very use of the concept of "identity" itself problematic, might have been of the form:

{How does my understanding of the concepts of} {"things to do with the personal", such as "identity"} {illuminate my understanding of the research process} (5.4.98) Thus my current position on developing the research question is to leave it unformed as long as possible and, if beginning to formulate it, such as through firming up a proto-question, to be extremely careful to examine the concepts employed within.

Along with a developing question, however, I also had a evolving notion of making sense of the data using the concept of "double fitting", which I turn to next.

3. Double fitting.

Baldamus (1976) describes "double fitting" as:

the unarticulated trial-and-error technique that occurs when an investigator Ďsimultaneously manipulates the thing he (sic) wants to explain as well as his explanatory frameworkí. (p. 40) He explores the "unofficial techniques" (Baldamus 1972 p.282) employed by sociologists in their research, those "inarticulated techniques, devices, and practices which are customarily employed during the preparatory stages in the production of formal theories" (ibid p.295). In these he identifies a process of "double fitting", to explain the "continuous #[p123] restructuring of conceptual frameworks" (ibid p.295) which takes place as the researchers work on the interplay between data and emerging theory: imagine a carpenter alternately altering the shape of a door and the shape of the door-frame to obtain a better fit, or a locksmith adjusting successively both the keyhole and the key. (ibid p.295 emphasis in original) During this process, if I read Baldamus correctly, the data help build a theory while at the same time the theory helps the researcher see the data in a new light. This of course could look suspiciously like "deliberate falsification... cooking the facts" (ibid p.295) - which of course it would be if the investigator began with a fixed mind and simply set out to prove his or her case. In practice, however, At the beginning there is only a vague notion of some ... puzzling phenomenon ... it is gradually articulated by trying to Ďfití it into ... generally known ... concepts...[whose] combination may nevertheless produce new meanings that might eventually illuminate the original unfamiliar phenomenon [or we begin with] a hunch ... a means ... to discover the existence of some regularity ... among certain data. (ibid p. 296-7) Baldamus sees "double fitting" as progressive. The current project, however, involved a more discontinuous process, reaching "platforms of understanding". The inquiry also explored elements Baldamus does not consider. For instance I began to see writing as a form of research itself and to re-configure my views of data and analysis, or what I came to regard as "making sense" (a phrase borrowed loosely from Miles and Huberman 1994 p.245, although they separate out stages such as data reduction, display, analysis and sense making). This double fitting, as I work on "data" and "making sense" is illustrated later.

4. My developing view of some of the elements of making sense.

The research diary extract below, records some recent attempts to re-understand my diaries and the process by which I explore them. My thinking at this point is still employing concepts such as analysis. Rather than a "breaking down", the process which eventually developed was much more holistic, more of a "building up" or synthesis, using many elements at the same time in a cyclical fashion:

Hereís how the analysis has worked so far. The [messy] method paper [Mellor 1998b] gave me a provisional platform of understanding [of] what was in my data. Now (October 1998) Iím going back to this data to see how far my ideas [on #[p124] method] need to alter, if at all, in the light of a closer look at the data (e.g. my concern over the issue of "change" [in my practice]).

At the same time, the framework of concepts I developed in the article is helping me to "see" the data more clearly so that I can identify themes (some old, some just coming into focus) such as: how it all started, beginnings of mess, multiple inputs, action research and counselling, serendipity, to change or not to change, Holy Grail of method. I am, however, well aware that these are provisional and have been changing as I write this morning. (26.10.98)

Trying to understand and accept this recursive process I reflected on some of my own beliefs about living with mess and "errors": Anyway the analysis is a trial and error process, a bit like that quote [from Staw 1981] about "diving in" when insulating the loft, because its going to be wrong anyway - but thatís OK because the thing will self -correct.

Where with some jobs it may be vital to be totally methodical and planned (laying out the bits in the correct order when you strip a gear box), with others, "errors" are just part of the nature of things. (28.10.98)

As I reflected, my view of working practices reinforced my beliefs: "error" elimination is not efficient, it is better to aim to repeat some items than aim for 100% accuracy the first time. In a rough parallel, analysis or making sense could go through cycles of approximating: In a recent conversation at work I remember arguing that having no errors is actually inefficient. It means youíre spending too long checking things, the work will never get done so clients who have to wait suffer that way. Of course, I do my best not to cause harm to the clients I am currently involved with, but part of the trick over the years is learning what you really need to look out for, and how to put right the mistakes you do make, if they are big enough to worry about.

Not that this is an excuse for "sloppy" work (or sloppy analysis) - I am committed to trying to do my best - I just happen to think I work best in this way. In the analysis, I am still in some senses a novice. Like the research itself all along, I am feeling my way, working out how to do it by doing it. There may be a "better" way but my hope is that at the end I will be able to look back, as with the messy method, and say - Yes, thatís it, thatís how it goes. (28.10 98)

The topic of "errors", at least with respect to the various off-shoots of the inquiry, I return to in chapter 11 in discussing their somewhat paradoxical contribution to validity.

In trying to penetrate my own techniques more clearly I turned again to Miles and Huberman (1994). They describe part of the process as "data reduction": to see whatís on the page I first have to get rid of as much as I can (in psychologistís terms "chunk it"), #[p125] so that the material left can stand out. But how did I get the categories (to chunk it) in the first place?

My recall is simply reading the data in the library over a number of sessions, after a period of reading other sources; and thinking and recalling what was in the data in a broad sense. Standard psychology [texts] confirm our efficiency at detecting patterns ... - whether or not the process is fully understood it seems as natural as generating sentences. There may be laboured and technical ways to do this but it seems to happen anyway. (28.10.98) Problems of "selective perception" came to the fore. Patterns which came readily to mind could hide others: Of course the problem is one of bias. I see the patterns I learn to see. I may miss the significance of others and just not perceive some. Time of day became relevant [for example]: thoughts appeared during the night, or early morning or when walking in the park in the afternoons on weekends , almost never during hours at work. The season of the year, the political climate, my state of health did not. (28.10.98) Which brings me to my concern over the nature of the data I am relying on: my diaries, and the theory-dependence of what I recorded in them: But how did I get the data in the first place? Some were obvious - reading a book, talking to people about the research. Some were not so obvious - walking in the park, sleeping, flicking [through books] at random, counselling. The problem was [in all the mass I collected]- what to attend to? (29.10.98) Chalmers (1982) raises the issue that what we take as relevant data depends on our theories about what is going on (see also brief discussion in chapter 9). For instance in early experiments on radio waves, he asks, should the scientist have attended to: ... the readings on various meters, the presence or absence of sparks ... the dimensions of the circuits... the colour of the meters, the dimension of the laboratory, the state of the weather, the size of his shoes. (p.33) Chalmers has set, to my mind, a rather neat trap here, which, however, does not ultimately detract from the strength of his point. He eventually discloses how even apparently trivial or seemingly irrelevant circumstances may, with hindsight, be vital - like the size of the room. It spoiled Hertzís early work on measuring the speed of radio waves as he was, in fact, often measuring waves reflected from the walls. His theories at that time did not anticipate such events, so the room itself was ignored.

There were many activities I did not record:

#[p126] ... I did not record for instance listening to music - although I now recall from my earlier more relaxed days of writing poetry that playing guitar (badly) often triggered a poem (perhaps some right brain-left brain interaction if you believe that sort of analysis - reminds me of Sherlock Holmes playing his violin). (28.10.98) Thus my data collection was "theory dependent" in the sense of what I thought the relevance of some activity could possibly be, determined whether or not I recorded it, and over time my theories changed. So for instance, counselling which at first seemed more of a general support mechanism came to be seen as a vital research tool in clearing thinking (see chapter 9) and I began to record this as part of the project rather than as part of my on-going separate counselling development. Writing eventually became seen as an important phase of research in its own right, not just a means of recording (see below); and an old, partly forgotten identity aspect of "being a writer" also achieved a new importance. My previous writing, of fiction, itself became a kind of data.

The topic of identity and its relationship with research entered the scene towards the end of the project, September 1997, but it was not till October 1998 that I came to appreciate the relevance of another "missing" data set, to do with identity: my explorations as an "amateur scientist" in areas unconnected with the project (recorded in a scrap book). These, I began to realise, might help me to integrate some of my perceptions of my own identities (see later). Initially they had not been seen as relevant data. They had not even been seen.

For the moment I will turn to the issue of writing, via a digression; the other topics are addressed later. The digression concerns, for me, some vital questions on the nature of research.

5. Some questions on the nature of a research project.

Reading Foucaultís "Archaeology of Knowledge" (Foucault 1989), one part of the process he appears to have employed seemed to me most striking: " there is negative work to be carried out first: we must rid ourselves of a whole mass of notions" (ibid p.21). He spends a certain amount of ink exploring what, initially, appeared a rather obscure topic: the definition of a work, an oeuvre: " first sight, what could be more #[p127] simple? A collection of texts that can be designated by the sign of a proper name." (Foucault 1989 p.23). He goes on to ask:

... is it enough to add to the texts published by the author those that he (sic) intended for publication but which remained unfinished by the fact of his death? Should one also include all his sketches and first drafts?... and what status should be given to letters, notes reported conversations ... the vast mass of verbal traces left by an individual, and which speak in an endless confusion (ibid p.24) Foucault raises, for example, the status of Nietzcheís youthful autobiographies, his dissertations, postcards, note books and even his laundry bills, and questions the operation by which we come to view an oeuvre as a unity [which] emerges in all its fragments, even the smallest, most inessential ones, as the expression of the thought, the experience, the imagination, or the unconscious of the author, or indeed, of the historical determinations that operated upon him (sic) (ibid p.24) He argues "What we must do, in fact, is to tear away from their virtual self-evidence [terms such as book, oeuvre, science, literature] ... we must recognise that they may not, in the last resort, be what they seem at first sight" (ibid p.24).

What I take from this exercise [1] is one question which I will address on a very personal level: tearing myself away from the superficial self-evidence of such a term, what, for me, is research? Looking back over my diaries, some of the most obvious features of what I think of as "research" were mentioned only occasionally: reading, going to the library, searching computer databases, listening to learned papers. I have mentioned some of the more unusual features earlier, such as incubation and serendipity. For now, following Foucault, I would like to turn to two of the more "commonplace" aspects.

6. Research and "commonplace" processes such as writing and reading.

(A) Writing.

Writing could perhaps be seen as a simple "transcription" of ideas worked out elsewhere as Bell implies in her book "Doing your research project": "When all the hard work of gathering and analysing evidence is complete, you will need to write a final report" (Bell 1987 p. 151). Minkin, however, identifies what he terms a "holistic style" of writing: #[p128] "seeking an outline of the totality then moving back and forth between the parts and the whole" (Minkin 1997 p 172).

This is not just a change of the order of writing, however. He describes a much more fundamental shift in perception of the process : "writing involved not the recording of a creative outcome but participation in a further creative process" (Minkin 1997 p.178). He explains how there is a "two-way interaction between continuously developed knowledge and continuously developed text" (ibid p.178). In Minkinís experience "there was no clear break in process between the composing of thinking and the composing of writing" (ibid p.175). As well as discovering ambiguities, however, writing "could develop a momentum of [its] own ... even small changes ... could take the argument in unanticipated and significantly new directions" (ibid p.176-7) and "even sentences, occasionally took on new content, involved new arguments and moved in unplanned directions" (ibid p.177). Thus the act of writing became itself part of the creative process.

I became very aware of Minkinís ideas while writing various papers towards the end of the project, but could not stop to examine the process, engaged as I was in reading, writing, analysing and trying to understand many other aspects of the method as it developed.

A diversion: I know I canít look at how my writing changes as I write, how this sentence has appeared from nowhere and is forming itself and changing as I create it. I recall trying to do this a year or two ago. After a short while I told myself "that way lies madness". I have made a conscious decision to leave this as a "black box" - and simply flag it: further research is needed. (26.10.98) Haraway describes the vagaries of the writing process "I think I know what I am going to say, but by the time I get to the end of the sentence, it has committed me to half a dozen positions I donít hold" (quoted in Vines 1997).

Thus, as with other poorly understood procedures (such as serendipity), I am employing the creative aspect of writing as part of the sense making process rather like a scientist quite happily employs a "black box" : I know that certain inputs will (generally) lead to certain outputs without fully understanding the bit in between. The creative aspects of the writing process could be researched further[2] but not in the current study.

#[p129] Richardson (1994) encourages the creative use of different writing styles as a form of inquiry. To explore some of the more subtle aspects of research, authors have employed for instance poetry. From the outset, the current project was one which caused me great confusion as I worked on different levels, reflecting on practice and reflecting on the processes of reflecting and research. I had a choice to make. I could bring home to the reader the reality of this fog through use of an allusive and elusive writing manner; let the reader experience the confusion first hand as it were. Or I could write as clearly as possible about the confusion, to make plain that which was far from plain. I decided on the latter. I aimed "to write as openly and clearly as possible about the very perplexing path of the inquiry" (Mellor 1998b p. 458).

Some have criticised the use of straightforward prose, such as Lather (1996) [3]  my earnest desire, however, was to communicate effectively, although not as in a dry, terse scientific report. I wanted to attract and energise the reader. As I argue later, my view is that part of the "validity" of the study arises from the way other practitioner-researchers can "relate" to the material. To "relate", "to have resonance" I felt the account needed to be clear and at the same time engaging. As Geertz (1988) implies (discussing anthropologists), I needed as much to be a better writer as a better researcher: " Ď[b]eing thereí authorially, palpably on the page, is in any case as difficult a trick to bring off as Ďbeing thereí personally" (p.23).

(B) Reading.

Some books I read cover to cover. Some books I read with great pleasure. Schönís (1983) "Reflective Practitioner" was one of these. Despite its many critics, this work "spoke to me", I cannot explain why. The reading seemed to take on a character different from other situations where I religiously and mechanically turned page after page, reading out of duty, looking for useful quotes. I noted one other piece which particularly "spoke to me" (in fact I scribbled on the page "this speaks practitioner research it does not speak about. It spoke to me!" 20.11.97). This was Hamptonís (1993) account in the journal Educational Action Research. Reading these works was like reading a good novel.

#[p130] But reading was not a passive process, equivalent to copying material from one floppy disc to another. I was actively involved. I made it mine. As an example, whatever Schönís actual intentions, his account of reflection-in-action became, for me, an explanation of my job. It became (in part) an account of how I, and I believe other professionals, to perform efficiently, mould a situation to their own ways of working. Not blindly, not rigidly, but nevertheless, to best suit their own strengths (see appendix B).

I tried to read most of the current volumes of one or two journals. Many books (and journals) I dipped into, selecting the relevant chapters or articles; the further through the project, the more efficient and selective I became. Some books I bought as "security blankets" and barely looked at. One book I bought twice. Certain erudite texts I am not sure I fully understood. Some books I picked at random off library and book shop shelves and let them fall open where they would. Regularly a phrase would "leap out of the page". Often I "flicked" through a book, gaining an impression, to reinforce my delicate sense of where I was going (then cursing weeks after when I could not recall which work held what later seemed a vital point).

In many cases, the most fascinating parts of the book for me were those which I suspect are generally little read - the preface, introduction, footnotes, appendices - those items where the authorís guard is down or where he or she appears to take chances, exposing some of the uncertainties around the work[4]. As Mandlebrot explains, in searching out these obscurer writings, "I started looking in the trash cans" (cited in Gleick 1987 p.110).

I read in, and far outside, what initially seemed the "relevant" fields (I began to turn to politics, history, law, chaos and all manner of scientific areas). Some reading material came on computer screens as I (am sure, inefficiently) searched electronic sources. At times these were, inexplicably, maddeningly difficult to re-discover, having found them once. In one notable case, simply the book title was sufficient to make a point[5]. But it was not just learned books and articles which gave me insight. As noted above, I kept a mass of cuttings from the Guardian and Times Higher Educational supplement. These resolved themselves into various heaps, some mouldering and yellow and barely touched.

##[p131] Occasionally a gem would appear (such as Wilsonís 1997 comments on honesty). Novels provided a regular supply of insights. I quote Sethís "Suitable Boy" and his image of the banyan tree. This enormously long book I might not have persisted with had it not been for my parentsí transmitted love of India.

A book is not an island. It only really makes sense in the context of a culture, which includes other books. In fact, academic works constantly refer to many more "[t]he frontiers of a book are never clear cut" (Foucault 1989 p.23) Thus to read any one book, I must read a large number of others, and my "reading" of the authorís intention will vary, however subtly, with the nature of this range; as will my understanding of this wider range, in the light of this one book - a kind of "hermeneutic circle" (Mueller-Vollmer 1986 p.35). If I read a book more than once, each reading will be a different reading, as I become a different person with different knowledge and attitudes (see for instance similar comments in the preface to Batesonís (1987) "Steps to an Ecology of Mind"). I can no longer read the type of thrillers, detective novels, horror stories and adventures which kept me entranced decades ago, not least because of their sexism and racism.

A book has an author and an author has an aura. As I come to know, however superficially, the authors as people, my view of their work alters. I may be more favourably inclined after a drink in the bar or dancing Ďstrip the willowí with them. I may, for instance, become less favourably inclined when a once revered figure delivers a clearly one sided, poor argument or shows his or her personality quirks. It should not be so, but even the natural sciences are not free of this problem of the interaction of the evaluation of the work and the person. I am, perhaps, at times, only human and this is one of many failings I need to guard against. Collins (1992) in his study of the working practices of physical scientists illustrates this problem. He provides a list of "the Ďnon-scientificí reasons that the scientists offered for their belief or disbelief in [the work of others]" (p87). These included:

Faith in experimental capabilities and honesty, based on a previous working partnership. Personality and intelligence of experimenters. Reputation... Work[ing] in industry or academia. Previous history of failures. ĎInside informationí. Style and presentation of results. Psychological approach to experiment... etc. (p.87) #[p132] His all too human data include comments such as: I think the group at [a particular establishment] are just out of their minds... I am not really impressed with his experimental capabilities so I would question anything he has done more than I would question other peopleís... That experiment is a bunch of shit! (p.85). Thus many books, articles and snippets; some fiction, some non-fiction; some undoubtedly learned and some very popular, picked up in surgeries and take-aways; read with varying levels of diligence and interest; interacted with a host of other influences and written and non-written inputs : TV, radio; chats to friends and total strangers in the pub, at conferences, on trains; lectures; feedback from colleagues; correspondence; my own drafts and so on. In the midst of all this, helping form my views, there was a cast of characters, (my invisible college, who perhaps in one sense could legitimately be regarded as my co-researchers) which runs into dozens (see chapter 4).

And what did I do with this reading when I had read it? Some apparently disappeared into my mind as a kind of background. Some was patiently noted and referenced. Some I "carried around" as I regularly walked in the park, or slept on it, and it "bubbled up" later, often with other connections. Some I imagine I simply forgot. Some I could not see the relevance of until I began to write; some I thought I understood until I came to write.

Towards the end of the write up, I noticed a shift in my perception of reading, a "curious inversion", as the thesis began to fall into place. This is captured in the following diary note:

Just noticed a curious inversion. Most of the time I have been "under the subject", looking up. Reading blindly at times, trying to create a structure to make sense of it all. Now, half way through the final draft, Iíve finally got a structure to slot the material into. I can read confidently and efficiently, I know what Iím looking for. Iím "on top of the subject", looking down. Iím in charge of the reading, itís not in charge of me (20.12.98. in bath) Thus "reading" becomes for me a far from unproblematic part of research, even before contemplating addressing the role of more mysterious processes such as "sleeping on", "walking in the park", "counselling", "talking about", "serendipity" and so on.

#[p133] So, without starting to consider all the potential confusions around the vast range of activities involved in my self study, I am already aware, just from considering two elements, reading and writing, that I can give no simple answer to the question: for me, what is research? And my attempts at understanding and explaining inquiry are likely to change with time as I "analyse" and "re-analyse" my "data" with an ever changing lens. As Foucault explains, concerning his various twists and turns and oversights, covering a long period of work:

It is mortifying that I was unable to avoid these dangers: I console myself with the thought that they were intrinsic to the enterprise itself, since, in order to carry out its task, it had first to free itself from ... various methods [hence] the cautious stumbling manner of this text...

[you may ask] Arenít you sure of what youíre saying? Are you going to change yet again, shift your position ... and spring up somewhere else... laughing at [us]?...

[I would answer] [D]o you think I would take so much trouble ... if I were not preparing - with a rather shaky hand - a labyrinth into which I can venture, in which I can move my discourse, opening up underground passages ... in which I can lose myself [?] (Foucault 1989 p.17)

7. My latest understanding of the process of making sense.

Baldamus explains how his "double fitting" is a progressive process, leading to "a gradual ... stability" (Baldamus 1972 p.299). My own view, outlined earlier, is of a much more discontinuous procedure, with "platforms of understanding" being created, after a period of activity, which may then become a "base" from which to explore further, at some, undefined, later date: "the data is set aside for a while, encouraging an interval of rest and return ... which facilitate[s] the awakening of fresh energy and perspective" (Moustakas 1990 p.51).

Each of the elements of the process, however, interact as I work towards a platform. St. Pierre (1997) describes how she rejected a "clear, linear process of research" (p.180) and how all the activities "data collection, analysis and interpretation happened simultaneously" (p.180). Hart (1995) explains how, for her:

... conventional notions of data collection and analysis give way to a research process in which observations, fieldnotes, samples of work and so on, are merely the occasion for the thinking that provides the starting point for the research. Our preliminary interpretations ... are our data. Through them, we are able to experience ... the limits of our existing thinking. Analysis involves going to work #[p134] on these problems, drawing on our existing resources plus the new experiences provided by the research process. (p.227) She draws on not just conventional academic knowledge but "the whole of my prior teaching experience, like a vast data base available to be scanned" (p.226).

As a picture, the process I evolved would look like the following: (see figure 2)

Figure 2: Making sense


I will expand some of these links and the terms involved.

Data ¬ ----® exploration.

The data were mainly my diary notes, my own reflections. A small number of reflections, even on subsequent readings, did not seem readily to fit any of the evolving categories as I tried to understand my own processes, they were left to one side:

Also jotted down some incomprehensible notes with lots of question marks about I need to find out ?????? something about ?????? about "framework" ??????. Also began to wonder if there was another "level" ???????( 1.10.94) #[p135] Many notes were simply a log of activities rather than thoughts about these as the extracts below illustrate: Walking to the library about 7.30 to pick up the book Iíd ordered by Altrichter and Posch but first borrowed the book ... Schooling the Smash Street Kids. This was not what Richard, who I met in Durham, had suggested i.e. a book that described a methodology of doing something that you donít know what youíre doing (although this may be in his PhD). However, there were good questions on discipline. (11.10.94)

Round about Friday 15 October had taken most of my books back to the library ...and more or less cleared the decks by Sunday the same weekend, to focus on data.(15.10.94)

Most entries were more illuminating and I took those as the data.

It seems fairly uncontroversial to regard the diaries of others as legitimate data for oneís own research; Biott (1996) for instance draws partly on my diaries in illustrating his explorations of practitioner and researcher identities. Using my own diaries as data in my own research is perhaps problematic, highlighting as it does, even more, issues of validity arising from questions such as "for what purpose were the diaries written ?" Relying on journals/ diaries in research appears quite common, in feminist and action research to name just two fields; nevertheless the "legitimacy" of using such material as data may still be a point worth exploring.

I had begun collecting these diary entries with no clear end in sight; a research diary just seemed "a good thing" to have. They were recorded immediately, as the thoughts came to me, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the park, on scraps of paper, on the back of my hand. I had no conception of the central role the notes would play in the project. To an extent then, they were "unwitting testimony" to my methods, not moulded to suit some distant purpose, particularly since the project, its aims and its methods, were unclear to me throughout most of the period.

As Stanley (1993) points out diaries, in the general meaning of the word, are constructed texts[6].  Many of the earlier comments on issues around autobiography are relevant here (see chapter 1). I can conceive of circumstances where, knowing the use I was going to #[p136] put the records to, might have encouraged me to reflect differently, or at the very least, to record the reflections differently, perhaps to show myself in a better light (see Evans 1993 on de Beauvoirís heavily fictionalised autobiography). Whether I would have succumbed (did succumb) or not I am unsure. My feeling, however, is that the reflections were honest, "warts and all"[7] As I explain in Mellor (1998a), concerning reflections on practice, "[w]e can all go through the motions of reflection; the point is, to make it work" (p.174). As St. Pierre (1997) argues in her moving account "[i]n the end, you must take me at my word" (p.181). Which re-introduces the topic of validity. The "painful search for validity" (ibid p. 181) is further explored in chapter 11.

St. Pierre (1997) also draws on her own material and, in challenging the received understanding of "data", includes emotional data, dream data, sensual data (to do with attachment to place) and response data (the reactions of others to her writings). In the current project I have used my own diary notes about the project. If any dreams might have led to thoughts about research, it was the thoughts I collected, not the dreams. Emotional issues and the reactions of others were included, but I can see little evidence of sensual data in the way St. Pierre uses the term.

I continued to find it difficult, however, to justify my own diary notes as legitimate data for me to study. In January 1998 this problem was underlined in reading Biottís (1996) article about practitioner research where he draws partly on some diary entries of mine. I will take a short detour here as the event was something of an epiphany, before returning to the main threads of the chapter.

A detour.

I reflect in my research diary of January, on what I thought of as a kind of "knowledge trick" which Colin Biott and others could perform with my "data" (previous research diary entries) but which, at that stage, I felt I could not:

I am amazed to find my notes suddenly becoming "knowledge". Colin [Biott] could do that, I could not. I remember Tina [Cook] making a point with a rather nice quote [in our focus group]. I asked her who said that and she said that I had. I hadnít noticed its significance and couldnít recall saying it!

#[p137]Reading this article [of Colinís] for the first time there is a kind of unembarrassed "authority" [in my diary notes that Colin quotes] - [me] writing my diary is "telling it how it is". Somehow [me] writing an article about my diary feels different. There is an invisible barrier. I believe others can assert the "validity" of my "knowledge". It is a giant, terrifying leap for me to do that.

Do my jottings have any status? It seems ... arrogant to assert this and at the same time it trivialises the research process - if all that is needed is to put down "whatever comes into my head" (I am deliberately emphasising the negative here, there is of course a lot more than that going on in the background) then research is just poetry (although poetry for me is in fact a tremendously important form of expression which at its best captures a truth "by telling lies" [Burgess 1981 p.45]. I initially needed the seal of approval of publication to re-assure myself that what I wrote was "poetry". Now, I simply assert it. It is for the reader to judge whether in their view it is "good" or "bad", [it is poetry] ).

Am I wrong ... is the research monster that dizzying height [of academic authority] I can never aspire to, or just a "Wizard of Oz" with much smoke and loud bangs and little substance?

The Wizard of Oz is one of my favourite films. I regularly cry over it. Even writing these notes I can feel tears welling up. It touches so many deep themes [which are echoed in this project] "struggle", "true friendship", "overcoming fears", "self-doubt and self-belief", "loss and recovery", "superficiality and reality", "honesty", "finding that home was where you wanted to be all along and all that was needed was a click of the heels".

Like the straw man, do I need the certificate of "pluribus unum" [or whatever] from some fictitious university, to prove I have a brain? I guess this is a struggle with my "researcher identity". If I cannot show p < 0.001, is it "true"? I am still torn apart by this. I realise I am still trapped in my positivist, scientific frame! Perhaps "it" becomes "valid" when I fit it I to a theoretical framework. But the "it" is [still] my notes!

Serendipity! Just flipped over to [an article by] Pauline James [James 1996] on the transformative effect of story telling. Somehow, writing my thoughts makes them real - the word become flesh ["stories appear immensely powerful ... in ... developing knowledge" James 1996 p.215]. (Diary note 7.1.98 emphasis in original)

This battle with "validity", the pull of "science" and the belief in my own ability to create "knowledge" were not, however, resolved (at least to a partial level of satisfaction) for quite some time. Dadds (1998) explains how "examined personal experience may be the greatest resource available" (p.43) but "the practitioner researcherís voice can be easily silenced against the deafening chorus of established expertise" (p.43) which leads to "feelings of disempowerment" (p.47). Winter (1998a) explains how action research is about "seeking oneís own voice" (p.54), however, as Hollingsworth (1997) describes in working with a group of teacher researchers, confidence in "knowledge bearing" is not easily come by: "[t]heir own questions, imaginings and ways of knowing were never good #[p138] enough [in their own eyes]" (p.493). In part this thesis can be seen to be about exploring the struggle to claim such personal knowledge.

Leaving the detour.

Returning to the main account of this chapter, exploration of the data I viewed as a collection of procedures similar to McGrath et alís (1981) "knowledge accrual" but including other aspects such as serendipity (see chapter 5). These procedures led from data to "ideas". Broadly this "exploration" might cover the more formulaic-sounding term "analysis". However, ways of exploring the data, such as using incubation (a walk in the park), often led to the creation of new data (new diary notes as I mused unconsciously). And part of the "exploring" was the writing. I will examine the various links in the process in more detail, as illustrated in figure 2.

Data <-----> ideas.

At an early stage of the project my views about data had begun to dissolve, but in a rather different manner to St. Pierre (above). With my "scientist" hat on I had been used to concrete images of research: "building" theories from "solid" data . Richardson (1990) describes how "metaphor is the backbone of social science writing ... [b]ut ... we often do not recognise [its] role" (p.18) and "in standard social science writing, the metaphor for theory is a Ďbuildingí" ( Richardson 1994 p.524). My view of data had been as incontrovertible "givens", not constructs; "brute data" (Manicas and Secord 1983 p.410) the raw material of the building; data as foundation stones.

I gradually came to a softer, more fluid view: data as stepping stones, not facts, unchanging in themselves, on which and from which to erect an edifice, but, shifting and unsure, elements to rest briefly and lightly upon, clues to mark the path. Switching metaphors to try to capture the essence of my position another way, data were the river, but not the water (as, for instance, we might choose to see the social, spiritual, economic and so on effects of a river, rather than the chemistry of its constituents). In a sense I "skimmed" over the data, not dwelling on any particular item at length. Changing

#[p139] metaphors for the final time, I was more interested in the route I was taking (and creating) than the earth I was walking on.

These data, however, were not simply "analysed" and the results of this analysis recorded in some matter-of-fact way. The "recording", or more properly, the creative act of writing, was itself part of the researching, as described earlier.

Data, however, at times led seemingly directly to ideas, apparently by-passing the complex "exploration" stage. I will take a recent example. When looking into the topic of identity, the mini-project carried out during 1997-8, I was concerned over the nature of my "scientist" identity. Presenting a paper on identity to BERA in Belfast in August 1998, the convenor (Rose L. in the invisible college list) made a vital point. She suggested that I needed somehow to come back to the scientist identity which I had left behind in embracing qualitative research. I had been carrying, however, a rather negative view of myself as scientist, summed up in a recent diary note:

I always was a bad scientist in one sense - the practising kind (in any case my experiments rarely worked) - although I was a good scientist in understanding and loving the field. I never really worked as a scientific researcher. (1.10.98) It is perhaps significant that most of my "science", in the 1960s, had been routine experimentation, mainly confirming the text book results of others and the "rigid certainty" (Collins 1985 p. 161) of the physical universe. My later psychology was little different. Collins explains how the student who goes on to become a research scientist "is traumatized by the first experience of real research" (p.161). My trauma were not to occur for many years, not until I began the current study and began to ask questions such as "what is research?"

A little while after the events in Belfast, having read an article in the Guardian on developments in digital video, I woke up in the middle of the night with thoughts about improving storage capacity on digital video discs. That "data", a cryptic note in my bedside diary[8],  led almost directly to a different view of myself as scientist: I had at the very least always been creative. In the extract below I am recalling how with an old engineering friend, Vic, we liked to discuss "inventions" over a drink, usually scribbled on beer mats.

#[p140] The point is, I always liked to play with new ideas e.g. [with] Vic H. in [the] pub plus table mats, so perhaps I always was some kind of scientist. (2.10.98 4.00 a.m.) Perhaps an (unconscious) exploration phase had occurred already, before the data arrived, sensitising me to the topic, and the data simply crystallised the issue. Whatever the nature of this process, the data did not need a lengthy period of overt exploration to lead onto ideas. Thus the arrow on the "making sense" diagram earlier, linking data to ideas directly.

Ideas <------> data.

I use the term "ideas" here rather than "theories" to capture the varied and fluid nature of the output of the studies[9] (see below also). My data were "theory-dependent" in the sense that ideas influenced what I collected as data. Thus, for example, with my new found "lens" or "idea", of myself as creative "amateur scientist", I began to see the need to include in the data, material I had overlooked, my science scrap book. As mentioned above, changing ideas on the nature of research also led to the re-valuing of counselling and the act of writing as data themselves.

The "ideas" generated formed a collection of notions at different levels of complexity - from an overall view of the research process to discrete aspects such as understanding how my own data were theory dependent.

Data <------>writing.

I transcribed my jottings but also wrote notes, summaries, progress reports and papers. These writings at times then became more data. This new written data could then be explored in evolving my understanding of the research, such as in the current discussion, where the original brief description I had of how I went about "analysis" for the article "Notes from a method" became new data to enter the cycle of evolving a better understanding of analysis or, more broadly, sense making.

#[p141] The writing itself was a far from linear process. I noted in my diary, for instance, on October 10 1998, a few weeks into writing up the thesis, that I was involved simultaneously in chapters concerning background, practice, methods and analysis, a mini-project on identity, about to start on conclusions and had, in embryo, other pieces such as ethics, science and off-shoots. The only area I was avoiding writing was the introduction.

Exploration ¬ ----® writing , exploration ¬ --- ® ideas and writing ¬ -® ideas.

These other elements also interacted. Exploration and writing, for instance, although separable in some respects (talking to colleagues was part of exploration but not part of writing) were closely linked at other times. Thus trying to write up my explorations was in itself another kind of exploration. As Minkin describes, the writing created as well as recorded and as outlined earlier, writing and ideas interacted in a complex way.

Exploration led to "ideas" about research and analysis, but ideas in their turn led to different ways of exploring (e.g. viewing research as a "messy" process allowed me to break out of the constraints of using set techniques). At other times ideas simply highlighted the importance of techniques I had used, but whose value I had not fully appreciated (such as counselling, writing, serendipity, incubation and following blind alleys).

Thus, my making sense of the data was tied up with making sense of the research. How "valid" all this "making sense" exercise is, was a question which haunted me throughout and which I turn to in chapter 11. The following chapter, however, describes another stage in the refinement of the method as I tackle a mini-project on identity.

8. Some questions arising from this discussion.

A number of important issues are not addressed in the discussions above; they may also have relevance to the project as a whole. Some I touch on later, others are, however, left as matters "for further research".

#[p142] 1. I offer this chapter as an account of what I actually did in "making sense", rather than a description of perhaps a personal variation of some accepted method, such as found in grounded theory approaches, for example, or some other previously worked out technique. But does the simple fact of my having done it thereby give it any particular standing? I could have been simply acting out of ignorance.

To illustrate, I could, in other imagined projects, have given accounts of my attempts at, say, historical research, or literary criticism, or aeroplane building. Would it be sensible to offer them for serious consideration, simply because I had carried them out? The overall study is vulnerable to this criticism. Can I assert "I did it, therefore it deserves recognition"? Part of the answer seems to be tied up with the notion of validity, which I address in chapter 11.

2. I do not pursue epistemological issues except to note that I depart from what Griffiths (1995 a) calls "traditional epistemology" i.e. springing from "Descartes, Locke, Hume and Kant ... and their fascination with the possibility of certainty and objectivity" (p.56).

Part of my aim was simply to discover how I worked, not, for instance, to build up a method from a reasoned philosophical position. As Hart (1995) explains "I lacked an explicit epistemology to account for the learning which undoubtedly occurred" (p.213). She goes on to argue, however, that this new learning did not depend on anything other than her experience as a teacher; my position was, however, more complex: I needed to learn to assert my own knowledge claim, and to un-learn old habits of thought (see chapter 12).

The picture which emerges, however, is one of a contingent and ever-changing form of knowledge (see Griffiths 1995a chapter 4 for a roughly similar account in part) which is more like the result of the kind of "bricolage" described by (Maclure 1995) "making do with the best that is at hand, in a world whose shape and boundaries are never finally knowable" (p.110).

#[p143] Scott (1996) comments "[t]here is some doubt about what constitutes the natural science model. For example, the hypothetico-deductive approach is increasingly being seen as ... inadequate ... because it ignores ... serendipitous and intuitive forms of discovery" (p.84 n.1). Given these ever-changing and serendipitous aspects, how legitimate is my claim to have knowledge? (see also discussion of knowledge in chapter 9).

3. I write as one, relatively privileged, white, middle class male, struggling, nevertheless for self understanding. Where would structures of power fit into my account? How would more marginal groups react to the ideas? How would establishment groups respond to what could be read as an attack on received notions of knowledge? I do not address these questions.

4. This is an account of cognitive processes. Where do emotions enter the arena? Some partial examination of the role of emotions in research is offered in chapters 9 and 10.

Key points emerging from the chapter.

In this chapter I use the messy method to look at itself. Diary notes initially led to the article "Notes from a method". I re-examined the data and also the process of examining itself, to discover my own "rules". The "angst" generated by this, the worry that there will be no answer, came to be seen as a normal part of the process.

I originally viewed the research question as a site of undefined curiosity but later developed the notion of a proto-question. These run the risk, however, of prematurely crystallising the focus of the inquiry.

"Analysis" I saw more as a process of synthesis involving a kind of "double fitting, with an acknowledgement of the "theory dependence" of the data.

Unlearning, for instance coming to appreciate a more complex view of superficially straightforward procedures such as reading and writing, was integral to the process of #[p144] gaining a new understanding of the process of "making sense". This making sense involved a complex interaction between data, exploration, writing and ideas.

Using my diaries as data appeared problematic. I assert the legitimacy of this, however, from my past experience of honesty in diary keeping and my view of these diaries as unwitting testimony. In any case, I treated the data more as stepping stones than foundation stones - they were used to indicate the general route, not the fine details of the path.

Some data were "explored", some led directly to "ideas" at different levels of complexity. My views on what constituted data changed throughout the project, for example, new writing became new data. The writing was a cyclical process and itself part of the creative act.

"Ideas" produced by the "exploration" served to modify the nature of that exploration. Asserting claims to know, however, involved intrapersonal struggle. A number of important questions about the overall exercise remain unanswered.


[1] In the "Archaeology of Knowledge", if I read him correctly, part of Foucaultís aim is to examine how "discourses" evolve and are maintained across many levels of society. My interest is more personal. Rather than to attempt to tackle, for instance, the broad "discourse" around research, I want to try to understand my own understanding of research.

Others make similar points about the relative status of, for instance, research diaries, rough drafts, conference papers, published articles and the final consignment of ideas to depersonalised text book summaries (see Knorr-Cetina 1981, Ravetz 1971 and Rowan- Robinson 1995 for example). I am drawing on Foucault here because of the power of the extracts quoted, not to develop a Foucauldian position generally.

[2] Citing C.Day Lewis, Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) describe how "[w]e do not write to be understood; we write in order to understand" (p.22). The authors provide an #[p145] exploration of the "knowledge telling" and "knowledge transforming" (p.10) functions of writing. They view writing as "a form of very complex, ill-defined problem solving" (p.343) which, nevertheless, is open to some inspection.[BACK]

[3] Lather (1996) argues that at times "plain prose would be a sort of cheat" (p.528). She seems to be implying the danger of a kind of "dumb down", to use a current phrase. She rejects an "untroubled realism" (p.539) (see also Usher and Edwards 1994 on Derrida p.121-4). My aim was, however, very much to bring home to readers the troubled nature of the project in a way which might awaken them to the confusion I saw out there, and in here. I wanted to capture this confusion, not to tame it but to turn it loose, transformed but hopefully more effective in its impact. I did not want them to be confused, I wanted them to see confusion.

Usher and Edwards (1994) use the term "resonance" to refer to "understanding where one is unsure of the exact meaning" (p.123). I use it later in this section to refer more to gaining a clearer appreciation that an unsure (and perhaps initially unattractive) situation such as "mess" is relevant to oneís research.

[4] For instance the later added methodological appendix to "Street Corner Society", Whyte (1955), was very illuminating for Whyteís honesty about the "messiness" of his procedures.[BACK]

[5] I had been collecting a scrapbook of cuttings on "science", with a vague idea of writing something on the way "scientific" knowledge grew from a contested arena. Not that it made sense to question knowledge such as the density of copper, but other areas were not so clear cut, and we had to await a consensus.

Phillips (1992) criticises a consensual view of "truth", arguing that a consensus might form round a view such as the world is flat (see p.115). In this, however, he has the benefit of knowing the "truth". He has a "godís eye" view. What are we to make of a situation where the "truth" is unknown and whatever emerges may only do so after a long period of struggle and may, or may not, correspond to some "godís eye" truth. Appreciating this point for me, experiencing the real uncertainty of "not knowing", meant living within a contested arena where the positions, even the nature of the question, were unclear, to get a "gut" feeling. It did not mean standing outside some old, dead argument from history, to gain an intellectual handle on the issue, but engaging with "hot" science (Latour quoted in Patel 1995).

#[p146] As illustration, an evolving "hot" topic during 1998 was that of the safety of genetically engineered crops. Previous issues, AIDS and BSE, which had once been the centre of controversy seemed to have settled down into more "normal" science. Claims and counter claims, evidence and its criticism were put forward concerning these crops (see for instance THES July 17 p.16, the Guardian August 7 p5, August 11 p.9, October 9 p.10. New Scientist Oct 31 1998). Adverts for safe crops were funded by Monsanto, and later criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority (see the Guardian, March 1 1999 p.5). The Ecologist had one print run, which apparently criticised Monsanto, pulped (Guardian Sept 28 1998 p.5). To muddy the waters even more during early 1999, an apparently well respected scientist, Pusztai, had his work undermined by his institute, then re-instated by other international colleagues and Lord Sainsbury, science minister, was seen to hold a patent for a key gene (the Guardian Feb 16 1999 p.1). The Clinton administration was seen to have close connections with Monsanto (the Guardian Feb 20 1999 p. 4).

Catching this topic "on the wing", it seemed clear that whatever "science" was involved, powerful interests were going to be at loggerheads (each one employing their own sources of "scientific knowledge") and the "truth" of such a complex issue (how safe is "safe", for which crops and which populations over what time scale) might never be known for decades, if at all.

In the midst of all this I happened upon Hammersleyís (1995) "The Politics of Social Research" . Just reading the title itself was enough to bring home for me the notion that the creation of (some) knowledge may be part of a power struggle, a question of politics as much as a question of "pure" science, an idea I had been toying with previously (see chapter 6). Hammersley explores a rather more substantial account of what constitutes "politics", in social research, in his chapter 6. I will not address his arguments here, my rather laboured point is to do with the nature of reading, not politics or science. I will not pursue the notion of science as politics.

[6] See also Knorr-Cetina (1981) and Medawar (1963) on the constructed nature of scientific accounts.[BACK]

[7] Since writing "Notes from a method" when matters clarified somewhat, there is increasing risk that the entries could become self-serving to some extent, written more consciously as "material to be researched". My longer experience in keeping a counselling #[p147] diary, where I have been able to maintain a frank record of my work, leads me to believe that I have avoided this trap, however.[BACK]

[8] The cryptic note was : "DVD base 3 = invention". I had an idea about enhancing the storage capacity of DVD discs by a mathematical process. Whatever the value of this fevered fancy, the important point for me was it was another "invention". I suddenly remembered this was what I had always done, a precious part of me was my (possibly totally useless) "inventions" as an amateur scientist.[BACK]

[9] I use the word theory earlier in the chapter in a loose sense. Winter (1998b) for example provides a definition of theory appropriate to action research. In an earlier article (Winter 1998a), however, his description of "being theoretical" (p.67) in oneís approach to data analysis covers more of what I am trying to capture. He describes a process of "using data from oneís own inquiry as a starting point for questioning, for challenging" (p.67). And "theoretical resources" can include:

the whole range of ideas which are available to us, through our education and professional culture, our general cultural experience (including novels, films, drama, religious texts) and the ideas of friends, colleagues, students, clients etc., as well as Ďthe academic literatureí (p.67). As "theory" in academic writing generally, however, often seems such a theory-laden concept, I am using what I hope is the more neutral term, "ideas", simply to advance the discussion of my own particular understanding of a form of research which draws on a wide range of theoretical resources in Winterís (1998a) sense. I will not pursue the definition of theory.

Click here Contents Page
to return to the contents page.

Chapter Nine

web analytics