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 



519 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. 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.

  3. ‘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.

  4. “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.

  5. To me the value in research is in the outcomes, because if we are changing as a result to improve our wellbeing, health, relationships, sense of purpose, etc, then to me the research is valuable.

  6. There is such a difference from wanting to know in our minds what the research is proving to feel when something is working in the body, proving to us that it works without any thoughts.

    1. I totally agree Gill- modern research is all about wanting/needing a specific outcome. However, case studies have no attachment to the outcome. They are simply the lived experience of people which is being expressed openly and honestly.

  7. In my opinion, if “Case studies are basically regarded academically as the ‘bottom of the barrel’ when it comes to research”, what a huge pot of gold will be waiting at the bottom of this proverbial barrel for someone if they were wise enough to drain it. The lived experiences of people have the power and the potential to inspire others to explore the opportunities in their lives for change. I am one who has been inspired many times and as a result I have made some amazingly supportive changes to the way I live, and from these changes, the quality of my health and well-being have increased, immeasurably so.

    1. I agree Ingrid. One day, case studies will be looked at and there will be so many that they won’t be able to be ignored. No-one can argue with someone’s lived experience because it is true for them.

    2. I so agree Ingrid. “The lived experiences of people have the power and the potential to inspire others……” What could be more valuable than to inspire others to live a more vibrant healthy lifestyle?

  8. Our experiences are gold, they are so powerful when we can show the world around us that we are more than we have been raised to expect. When we connect to the gentleness of our own breath and walk this, then magic happens. Our choice of connection and then to express that connection outwardly this transforms our day.

    1. 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.

  9. Highly prized, research is an apt expression. Are these the ones that have a real pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Are these humanitarian or greed based? Personal experiences research allows us to grow, not just our wallets.

  10. I love your question here Jen “why is it that we do not value case studies or our personal experiences on an equal footing in terms of research?” Could it be that we have for far too long been actively diminishing ourselves, now it’s institutionalised. Time to turn the table and begin to deeply value all we are.

  11. Do personal experiences only show up on those long pieces of paper in small print that come with some medicines that show the low adverse occurrences to some people?

  12. We all have something to offer life from our experiences especially around health so it would be great to collate this as there are so many people that have by changing their life style, improved if not totally turned their health issues around. I know for myself I no longer or very rarely have back pain yet this used to plague my life and now If I do, I know what I need to look at and what changes to make, so I am offering myself my own medicine. This is the way forward with health, the Health Service can no longer cope with the demands we put on it, but I feel as yet the health professionals are too busy fire fighting and trying to fix us to look past the well trodden path and narrow way of looking at things that the scientists offer.

    1. As you say, the health services can no longer cope with the influx of ill patients. Many live in a less than an optimal state of health. Many also turn to google symptoms to try to find alternative ways of supporting them selves. The website is a great source of inspiration.

  13. Imagine if the quality of our expression were to be researched? Perhaps then we would be tapping into the truth of things and understanding the nature of life.

  14. There is something not quite right within current research paradigms if it does not value a person’s individual experience. Everyone’s experience is important to them and if it is not valued, then what is the purpose of research, for would this not be the foundation of much of our research?

  15. There is no end to the depth we can go in term of reconnecting back to who we truly are and the richness this brings back into our lives.

  16. Our experiences, we are able to feel what is happening around us from our observation when it comes to the simple things like food and health should be a part of how evidence based humanology works. So our vitality and health as we deepen a healthy-life-style can debase the corruption and greed that can be within some of the so-called healthy ways.

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