August 28, 2017
Interviews are wrapping up, focus groups are motoring along, coding in earnest has begun. I feel like I’m in the somewhat abstracted and murky middle ground of discovery. Stuff kind of comes into focus for a few minutes and I can see a larger picture. Then it all spins like a kaleidoscope and I lose all sense of direction. It’s dazzling. It’s disorienting. And I have a sneaking suspicion…it’s right on par for life as a researcher.
The last couple weeks of life as a research gathering instrument have once again taught me that this work is way less difficult in ways I initially expected it to be. People are more than willing to share their stories, ideas, etc. I still am totally amazed at the power of open space, an open mind and (on my part anyways) focused listening to create the atmosphere that leads to a genuine connection with another human. I think in many ways this personal learning might be one of the best things externally to come out of my doctoral journey. Well…clearly the 200+ page dissertation will be what brings world peace and makes me a rock star but…the listening and being present thing too I think might be a good side benefit!
On the flip side, the last couple weeks of life as a research gathering instrument have once again taught me that his work is way more difficult in ways I never imagined it to be. Synthesizing, abstracting, and generally sorting through all the pieces for the bits that are salient to my own tiny slice of research is a mental cardio workout, to put it mildly. When I was designing my study, I loved Charmaz’s perspective that as researchers we co-construct the data with our participants because this view felt alive and energetic. It resonated with my own views. While I still love it on some level….I’m realizing that co-construction requires a depth of engagement that basically takes all of your focus. Coding this data is nothing you can do while concurrently watching television or when you have a couple minutes waiting for a take out order. It requires space and time and a conscious clearing of your schedule. (Things I may or may not have said over the past couple weeks: I’m sorry I can’t hangout with you anytime this weekend because I need to spend time with my data.) Once you get into the flow it does indeed flow but…I must bring the intense focus I’ve learned from interviewing to the data itself and once again learn to listen in written words and typed metaphors.
And so…a new week begins. Back to opening time, opening space, opening the data, opening myself, and giving the kaleidoscope another twirl to see what might emerge.