The Value of our Expression in Research

By Jen Smith, RN, Australia

Two years ago I participated in a research study on self-care for health professionals who work in palliative care. It was a qualitative research study where I was interviewed on what self-care was to me, how I understood it and how I applied it to my own life. This interview was a wonderful experience, which I shared in a blog at the time called ‘The Value of Qualitative Research -Understanding and Expression.’  

The research has since been published and it’s had me pondering further about what we call research.

In fact, I re-read the article that I wrote on my experience at that time. As a result of participating in that research I came to new understandings about:

  • Myself, working as a nurse and how important self-care is
  • How confirming it was to discuss with a researcher how my life has changed with the simple activities of self-care
  • Research itself and how amazing it was to participate in a research study.

As I read the research article there was very little, if at all anything on what I had expressed. Not that this is an issue necessarily, but it highlighted something very important to me. There is an intrinsic value and importance to our own expressions and experiences that persists even if they are not reflected directly in a research study, that does not make our experiences any less. Our experiences are just that… our experiences and remain valuable to us because they have been our experiences.

This then lead me to wonder about how some research is more highly prized than others, which was part of my contemplations in my previous article. Something that I did not even consider as part of research were case studies. Case studies are basically regarded academically as the ‘bottom of the barrel’ when it comes to research.

Why is this the case?

Well, one reason could be that there is no money in this form of research, but what stands out even more is the power held within each case study. Because in each case study is a person who is sharing a lived experience. That experience is completely owned by that person and is completely alive within their body.  And when we share ourselves in such a way it can inspire others to look at themselves and their lives and to ask deeper questions about themselves. It becomes an intimate and personal connection through this way of sharing. Something that is rarely, if at all, the experience of other research.  There is no criticism of other forms of research here, just a recognition that this is what this method of research offers.

So, the question I have now is: why is it that we do not value case studies or our personal experiences on an equal footing in terms of research?

As I read through many of the blogs on this and other sites, each blog, which is a potential case study, has invited me to ask deeper questions on life, to reflect more deeply on my relationships, on the meaning of medicine, health and wellbeing and on the person that I am. To me this personal form of exploration or research is as valuable and important as any other form of research. In fact, given the results from my own experience, and how such personal changes have inspired me to make true and lasting changes in my own life, I would say they have been much more important.

Read more:

  1. The Value of Qualitative Research – Understanding and Expression 
  2. Measuring the form of behaviour – a failing of evidence based research in mental health 

 

 

467 thoughts on “The Value of our Expression in Research

  1. Since coming across Universal Medicine I’d say that my approach to my life has become more scientific. Observing behaviours and the energy behind them, practicing methods learnt in workshops and presentations then observing and reflecting on the results. It’s a brilliant approach to life.

  2. I agree with you Ariana,
    Someone’s lived experience can transform a way of life that was deeply entrenched in function to one of knowing that there is so much more than what we have been raised to expect. This is worth studying because how is it that by reflection so much can be changed; so that many lives can be turned 180 degrees on their heads, from being withdrawn and miserable to leading a full and vital life. One day this will be researched because those people will stand out from the rest of society in such a way people will ask their own questions how is this possible and start their own research. It’s already happening in fact.

  3. Jen you have raised a valid point, qualitative studies hold just as much value as quantitative studies. We need to study a cohort of people and how they live and ponder why are they so well when they have cancer, or a condition that would hospitalise people…

    Another example, if we researched why people prefer to drive one brand of car then another, you would discover an array of reasons. Sometimes it isn’t affordable for one car to be bought by everyone. And then once you ask about their experiences in driving these cars, you will find a whole load of personal reasons, which adds value for the car to be refined when a new model is manufactured.

    All research needs to have equality as all have its purpose in helping others. We shouldn’t just be relying on one type of research and it having superiority over all others.

  4. ‘There is an intrinsic value and importance to our own expressions and experiences that persists even if they are not reflected directly in a research study, that does not make our experiences any less. Our experiences are just that… our experiences and remain valuable to us because they have been our experiences.’ Quite often we are, or our experiences are, dismissed by others if they don’t want to or can’t connect to what has been felt. What do we do in this instance? Do we negate them within ourselves and begin to dismiss them too, do we feel less for having felt what we have felt, or do we honour them in the fact of having felt them despite others’ responses or reactions?

    1. I’ve often found myself becoming distressed when I was reading quantitative research. The statistics, the tables, the wording etc. was painful to understand and why complicate things. Give me a person’s personal experiences anytime…

      1. When I am teaching, the moments where my classes have been the most engaged and present have been when I have shared personal anecdotes that are pertinent to the learning. The same is true for myself. I am always interested in a person’s personal accounts when they are relevant because there is so much learning to be had in the observation and in the new awareness shared.

  5. “Case studies are basically regarded academically as the ‘bottom of the barrel’ when it comes to research.” As you say in your article, one reason may be is that there is no money in this form of research. Yet I would suggest that many case studies, put together can form a very valuable piece of research, qualitatively. Individual experiences are important, and if many people have similar experiences, then doubly so.

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