Image from Jordan Sanchez

I was introduced to qualitative inquiry in graduate school. I took a class with Dr. Mary Juzwik entitled 'Discourse Analysis' and that was exactly the methodology I needed to establish my own work. I combed through hours of text, and heard thousands of words. And I wanted to hear more of what these people had to say, and more importantly how they said it. I then recognized this was my calling because these analyses take so much time and are tedious. But I loved it. My dissertation involved poring over discourse created by a fifth grade teacher and her students over two years in a science classroom. Now, I am still analyzing discourse created by faculty, students and I in a writing workshop. And I am preparing to add the discourse created by students and I in our research project. I'm laughing to myself because realistically, I may not publish these findings until two years from now. But that's qualitative research... not quick and dirty. No, it's long and yes dirty. I call it messy work because there are so many variables to consider... but there is always a path that is tracked to an answer. The girl in blue standing in the forest attending to everything that is around her as a participant but yet standing apart, as an observer. Which stance should she take? How much deeper should she go, or should she pull back? This delicate relationship I share with my data I respect, because if I cling too tightly, I lose the context. But if I loosen my grip, I lose the focal point of my inquiry. 

As a qualitative researcher in psychology, I visualize the answers to my hypotheses, and I do venture into the forest. Often, my answers are mine and do not belong to my participants. The trees that I touch tell me something differently as I walk along the path, slowly and hesitantly. I pause to reflect, and change, and I record why this revision was necessary. My pride is hurt - I do not know all the answers - but if I listen and acknowledge, I believe that I will be guided to the answer that works for my participants and I.