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Whitelaw, A. (2000). Feeling/knowing in research. Free Associations, 8(2):121-139.

(2000). Free Associations, 8(2):121-139

Feeling/knowing in research

Angela Whitelaw

This is a Story about my experience of doing therapy research. In brief, it is a story about how what started out as an empirical therapy project became conceptual research based on that project. I begin with some suggestions as to why this story is important and I elaborate on the kind of story this is. I then give a brief summary of the original project before telling and discussing a story about feeling guilty doing research.

Writing this story is important for several reasons. Firstly, it contributes to the debate in the human sciences (particularly sociology it seems, see for example Mouzelis, 1993; McLennan, 1995) concerning the extent to which research should be concerned with ontology or epistemology. The transformation of this project from a therapy case study to a study of the research process, contributes to the epistemology-ontology debate by demonstrating their interconnectedness and interdependence. Secondly, the narrative nature of research is highlighted. By drawing attention to the rhetorical devices (such as synecdoche and metaphor) used in scientific as well as literary writing, Richardson (1990) convincingly argues that all research is reasoned and represented narratively. In using my experience of doing research as a research case study, the subjective, storied nature of research is foregrounded rather than suppressed. Burawoy suggests:

In the social sciences the lore of objectivity relies on the separation of the intellectual project from its process of production. The false paths, the endless labours, the turns now this way and now that, the theories abandoned, and the data collected but never presented - all lie concealed behind the finished product. The article, the book, the text is evaluated on its own merits, independent of how it emerged. We are taught not to confound the process of discovery with the process of justification. (Burawoy, 1991: 8).

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