Research … with heart

Over the past few months I’ve introduced you to my PhD research and a few key concepts I bandied about in my thesis. This time I want to talk to you about the nature of research and how I came into my own through looking, again.

I know that this post might turn you off because of words like ‘methodology’ (or even ‘research’) but don’t worry; it’s not brain surgery. Or rocket science, for that matter. All it requires is an open mind and a beating heart.

Photo by Shane Hauser  on Unsplash

To search, again

The key to research is in the very word itself: to re-search, to look again. It’s a way of systematically look at one or a few many things in the hopes of ending up some place new. That new place might only be a few steps in any given direction, or it could be miles away. It doesn’t matter. The beauty is in the looking – the seeking, the trusting and the investigation.

To find, in a particular way

Methodology, on the other hand, is the way you do things. It’s the approach you take to the search or journey you’ve embarked upon. This can be one specific method or perhaps even a group of methods, it just depends on what you’re looking at and where you want to go.


In my PhD research, I used a combination of autoethnography and a/r/tography to negotiate some pretty heavy, extremely personal materials.  In my experience, autoethnography is a deep dive into the self where writing allows us to swim in our own story. Periodically we surface for air and perspective, with the goal being to find new lakes and rivers to explore. We then articulate (for other people) what these bodies of water look and feel like, how deep they go and how strong the current might be.


A/r/tography, on the other hand, is a living inquiry (nod to Rita Irwin here). It is a deeply engaged way of creatively being in the world, one that I found as second nature to me as breathing is. It’s not something I adopted, but rather, something I discovered about myself, like a new constellation of freckles on my arm.

To question, with authentic curiosity

One thing research has taught me is to be curious about everything. Apathy isn’t cool but enthusiasm is. When we ask questions we are opening our hearts and minds up to possibility. Sure, we might not like the answers we get, but that’s just a fraction of the journey. I know I feel so much more alive when someone looks me in the eye and asks me a question about my life. That, my friends, is a gift we all love to receive. But, do we offer it up first?

 Photo by  pine watt  on  Unsplash
Photo by pine watt  on Unsplash

To know, in our own way

I write because it’s how I come to understand the world. Through language and questioning I see things in a certain light. My perspective is a product of my culture and my history, but it’s not set in stone. Everyday I choose to be who I am and at any point, I can unchoose that too. And I have. Many times over.

To learn, in order to understand

If you would like to re-search your current situation, here are a few questions I’d love for you to mull over this coming week:

What do I know for sure?

Who can I talk to – and I mean really talk to?

How do I show up for the people in my life, even if it inconveniences me?

You don’t necessarily need to change anything, but I often find that when I ask myself these kinds of questions, something always shifts. So if you find yourself looking at things in a new way, know that it’s okay. A different perspective is the bursting of the dam – the forging of a new internal river.

What’s something that’s got your attention recently? It might be a book, a film or even a dish you cooked – tell me in the comments below

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