Throughout our 2 week residency on campus our cohort has been exploring several different research ‘lenses’ through class discussions, group assignments, loads of research articles and reading Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. I have to be honest in saying that I was not initially looking forward to a class in research methods. It sounded terribly dry and potentially prescriptive. My past research is limited within a literary context. Reading critical literary theory seemed like a far cry from scientific research using quantitative data. I was skeptical that I would ‘get it.’ Imagine my surprise upon delving into our textbook that some research approaches, or cultures of inquiry, such as ethnography and action research were not entirely unfamiliar to me. This familiarity gave me a bit of confidence and I jumped in deeper.
One lens in particular captured my interest. Up until 2 weeks ago I couldn’t even pronounce phenomenology let alone describe it (I still can’t describe it…). It is slippery and hard to wrap my head around. Of course I was instantly drawn to it. I read passages out loud over and over in the hopes that something would click and the proverbial lightbulb would go on.
This poem, as quoted by Max van Manen (2011), really strikes a chord with my new found love for phenomenology.
If I were to tell you where my greatest feeling, my universal feeling,
the bliss of my earthly existence has been,
I would have to confess: It has always, here and there,
been in this kind of in-seeing,
in the indescribably swift, deep, timeless moments
of this divine seeing into the heart of things.
(Rainer Maria Rilke, 1987) (2011, p. 1)
Phenomenology looks for the purest form of human experience of a particular phenomenon. It seeks to describe an individual’s experience as their physical and emotional reactions come into consciousness. One on one interviews are the most common method and the researcher takes into account his or her own experience.
van Manen (2011) elegantly describes a phenomenological approach:
Not unlike the poet, the phenomenologist directs the gaze toward the regions where meaning originates, wells up, percolates through the porous membranes of past sedimentations—and then infuses us, permeates us, infects us, touches us, stirs us, exercises a formative affect. (2011, p.2)
Yes, I’ve definitely found the beauty in research.
Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. [Kindle Paperwhite version]. Retrieved from Amazon.ca.
van Manen, M. (2011). Phenomenology & Practice, Volume 1 (2007), No. 1, pp. 11 – 30. Retrieved from http://www.maxvanmanen.com/files/2011/04/2007-Phenomenology-of-Practice.pdf.