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 



342 thoughts on “The Value of our Expression in Research

  1. It is worthwhile asking “what is the purpose of research?”. Is it for a few people to act as if they ‘discovered’ and ‘own’ the information and for this to be circulated among invested parties, or is it instead to support everyone deepen their awareness and understanding?
    The answer to this question has a huge part to play in whether we stick to just quantitative research or whether we embrace the immense supportive and empowering value qualitative studies provide.

  2. “Our experiences are just that… our experiences and remain valuable to us because they have been our experiences.” Spot on, how can anything beat that?

  3. ‘These same scientists can look with scorn on so-called ‘subjective’ research, in denial of the fact that all research has subjectivity at its heart’ – for too long we have handed over our responsibility and lives to ‘Gods’ in our lives – those who seemingly have all the knowledge and power – when we connect to the one true God we are also claiming our own power and equality with a God who knows no bias.

  4. Case studies are a wealth of experiences that can be shared for the wider public for all to be inspired by. Each person has an experience to share, each person is a walking scientific experiment with much for us all to learn from.

  5. Our experiences are our experiences and nothing can change this or take it away. Others can deem things to be a certain way because of number or statistics, but in the end the experience itself is what we take home.

  6. Case studies are so interesting, as it offers a first hand experience of a situation which, as the reader, you are enriched with awareness, insight, understanding and are able to relate the scenario of the shared experience to yourself, like how would this or does this affect me? what would or how would I respond in the same situation…They are great learning tools.

  7. “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?” Perhaps another reason is that we do not value ourselves therefore don’t value our own lived experience enough and this translates into the research world.

    1. Interesting point you raise. When we value ourselves, our body and the signals it gives, then we would know what is needed. We would not need outside sources with heaps of numbers as proof for what was already with us in the first place. The wisdom is within. Let’s give that some more credit!

    2. very true Elizabeth and this varies. I speak to some people who are very clear about their experience and what they know of their body and yet some not only doubt but they hand everything over to another ‘authority’ because ‘they know best’. In terms of medicine say for example I have seen excellent doctors who know what the evidence says but then listen to their patients and work with them and their experience. This is amazing to watch.

  8. “Our experiences are just that… our experiences remain valuable to us because they have been our experiences.” How very true. And because they have been our experiences, they cannot be denied, even if or when someone else does not want to believe them.

  9. Today we have much anecdotal information on anything, which we can tap into on the WEB. We can check prescribed drugs side effects, product reliability or the best hotel to book.

  10. Case studies are not valued because they are seen as n=1, so there is seemingly no statistic proof in it. At the same time we could say that every person is living science in it self, which is treated by, for example a doctor, as a source of truth. Have you ever heard a doctor say: “what you say is not true because nobody else is having that experience?” That would be ludicrous, just the same as not taking case studies seriously.

    1. That’s an interesting statement that you heard. I have heard many people say things about say medications for example, like panadol makes me sleepy. Now I know that panadol generally speaking would not have that response, however just because is it not common, why would it not be possible? In fact I have heard that on more than one occasion. It would be similar is someone had a rare reaction to a medication. There is another thing that researches like is repeatability, which is interesting. Something that I have observed over my years in nursing is that no 2 responses are quite the same, even though we may get a desirable effect from something. So really there is a lot of what is commonly thought about research that certainly needs questioning, including the statement that you heard Willem.

  11. Our lived experiences are energetic imprints that can be revisited at any time to feel the quality of our connection to our innermost or not.

  12. I know that I respond much more to personal and anecdotal types of research – to hear about what has actually happened for other people – and this is why we need to bring case studies and lived experiences onto the same value footing as other types of research.

    1. Many people do. This is both very useful and can be misused as stories can be taken out of context, exaggerated or simply made up. On the other hand, a large number of true case studies does carry weight.

  13. These blogs on this site and many more that are on the internet, do show another way of life, one that is deeply supportive and healing and it is simple and clear that this has come about through choices. And they do not cost a thing, free, self empowering to choices to make changes, be honest and respond and build a relationships with the body.

  14. Case studies do inspire others to have a look at their own lives and to start asking questions about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and can bring a true change because of this element of connection by sharing personal experiences. Do we want this change?

  15. Nobody can deny the veritable fact of documenting [research] bodily and wellness changes as a result of introducing and deepening a more self-loving lifestyle. To deny this as not being research is to deny the fact that the sun rises.

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