Things I’ve learned from cleaners

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Just before I started writing this post, I reviewed my last one. I must say that I’m very glad I said no to those three tempting activities that I’d been considering. I’m not committed to as many things this year as I had been, but somehow the ones that I’m committed to are all expanding to fill the available space in my diary (and my mind). BUT! Here it is, mid-February, and I’m writing another post, on schedule. Being a strength-based social worker, I think I’ll dwell on that for a moment. (Sighs happily.)

I’ve possibly commented in an earlier post somewhere that the appearance of my desk offers a clue into the state of my mind. It’s something I comment on fairly often. At the moment, this will depend very much on which working space you look at – my desk at uni is looking very organised but the dining table at home is a complete disaster, and not because of an over-supply of dining equipment. There’s a very powerful feedback mechanism happening in all this, too. I get up in the morning keen to get on the bus and in to uni. At uni, I have lists on my whiteboard, and a wall planner with targets and coloured dots and sparkly smiley faces. I even have a shelf of good books arranged in size order from tallest to shortest (it’s a beautiful thing, don’t knock it.) I tick things off as I accomplish them. My workspace is quiet and focused.

In contrast, the dining table is strewn with fliers, articles, charging devices, coffee cups, and a laptop that’s gasping its dying breath but still responsive enough that I can get in and retrieve the occasional file.

Needless to say, this is not my favourite place to be.

However, I learned something very useful from a cleaner that I employed several years ago – let’s call her Ivanka – and yesterday I started putting Ivanka’s advice into practice again.

1. Put things into piles.

At the time that I employed Ivanka, I had two small children and was working and studying. I didn’t spend much on clothes or entertainment, so having someone to clean my house became my treat for myself. Ivanka would come in and the first thing she would do was sweep everything on every horizontal surface into piles. No thinking was involved, it was a purely physical activity: clothes, toys, books, papers, the children…well, not the children (they didn’t like her much, by the way. But I loved her.). It was amazing how things looked instantly more manageable, and even if she couldn’t get through all the piles in her allotted time it left me with a home that I felt I could conceivably wrangle back into a presentable condition by myself. And how you feel about things matters….

2. Sort the piles.

Obviously. Having spent a few minutes creating jumbled piles in each room, she would go through one room at a time, one pile at a time, and order would follow in her wake.

3. Every now and then, take a moment to stand and look at the places where the piles used to be.

It wouldn’t be a long self-congratulatory wallow, but once each pile had been sorted into non-existence, Ivanka would stand and look for a moment at the space. These places were evidence of her (your) effectiveness – you transformed that square metre of floor from chaos to clear space! Go you! It’s important to remember to look at these spaces regularly, or you are in danger of forgetting that they are there, and more importantly how they came to be like that, and it’s important that you balance the ‘must do’ thoughts with ‘I can, because I did’ thoughts.

4.  Once a room is clear of piles, give it a joyful going-over with the duster and vacuum cleaner.

Sing while you’re doing it – Ivanka would. If it’s not appropriate to sing out loud because of shared workplaces, have a little sing inside your own head. Remind yourself that you’ve risen over the hump, and now you’re looking at the promised land. Live in the moment – muttering to yourself about how long it will stay looking like this and how no-one appreciates it anyway is Not Helpful. It’s not the point, and don’t do it.

5. Then rest.

Ivanka had a time limit. What she couldn’t do in the time didn’t get done. Well, not by her, anyway. Or perhaps it would wait till she got back to it the following week. Either way, she had a set time, and she would put her head down and slog for that period of time, and then she would walk away until it was time to do it again.

Now these lessons obviously translate well into research and other study activities too.

Literatures? Data? Piles of random and diverse documents on your dining table? The basic approach still works, and I can assure you that seeing the chaotic mountain of stuff shuffled into smaller piles/categories is amazingly empowering. Once I’ve piled/sorted/dealt with the stuff on my dining table, or even one corner of my dining table, I’m turning my attention to my as-yet-incomplete data set. Different mechanical process, same theoretical principle. Bring it on.

PS: You might be wondering what happened to Ivanka. I was about to type that ‘things went pear-shaped’, but as part of the story was her pregnancy, that metaphor probably isn’t in very good taste. But she did indeed become pregnant, and rather than stop cleaning, she decided to sub-contract to her newly unemployed husband, to clean under her direction. Unsurprisingly, his transition from mechanic to domestic cleaner didn’t go smoothly. In the end, we agreed that it was probably time for all of us to start a new phase in our lives. I never did find another cleaner who was up to Ivanka’s standards.

What was that I said last January?

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I really love January. It’s a time for refreshment in every way. Our campus closes over Christmas and the New Year, so it’s a good time to simply stay away (although people who are keen/desperate to keep working can still get in if they really need to).

After a very enjoyable couple of weeks hosting family members at our place and a couple of local B&Bs, and a week interstate preparing and participating in a Planning Day for the Committee of Management of which I’m now president, this week marks my first ‘normal’ week for 2015. And I’m loving it.

I’m acutely aware that I’ve only updated this blog twice in the past year, and one of those posts was 51-and-a-half weeks go so it only barely counts. A quick review of that post reveals that I am all good intentions and very little substance. Tsk. I’m quite disgusted with myself. January is dangerous, I said. I always overcommit, I said. I have a brain and self-awareness and I’m going to use them, I said. Did I? It appears not.

But, you now, today being the first day of the rest of our lives, etc, etc, here I am again. And this time things are going to be different.

So I say. But, as the wise and often-quoted Anonymous has said (more or less), you can’t keep doing the same things and expecting a different outcome. In other words, if I post the same reflection that I did on 20 January 2014, which I don’t know how to link to yet (note to self: add this to ‘Goals’), and don’t do anything differently, all the self-awareness in the world will only result in me being cast once again in the parallel roles of ‘lead character’ and ‘onlooker’.

The good news is that a couple of very significant things have, in fact, changed, and this is directly linked to the very reflection I posted nearly a year ago. Sometimes change happens slowly. The forward movement may be virtually imperceptible, but it’s happening. My forward movement didn’t become very noticeable until November and then a few things happened all in a rush. To cut a longish story short, I’ve resigned from my part-time paid work, and am now studying full-time and planning to do a little undergraduate tutoring to contribute to the family coffers (I really hate to be dependent). This means…yay!…I qualify for my own workspace on campus. I ‘took possession’ yesterday and I cannot begin to express the joy of having a wall where I can put up an annual planner and a whiteboard (they have to share the same bit of leaning-space, but no matter), a shelf that fits all my folders and books, and three drawers of filing cabinet space (two lockable). And the room is locked, and I have a key, and the people who share the room are very quiet workers. I’m so happyyyyyyyy!!!!!!

And the most important bit of all this is not what I can see, but what I can do. I can focus. I can work. I can lock stuff up and come back to it in the morning, and not carry it with me (physically or metaphorically).

But my January challenge remains. Can I avoid the segue from January’s energy to mid-February’s overcommitment? Well, I’ve already consciously NOT followed up three things I’d like to get involved in this year: a role on another committee, a voluntary role in a program that provides ‘gig-buddies’ to people with disabilities so they can go to mainstream events, and a voluntary role with the Sydney Heritage Fleet. The latter is a bit self-serving; as much as I want to contribute, I want to learn from people who know about this stuff so I can work on my own wooden boat. All of these things can be picked up later if it seems I have time after all.

Watch this space. If I stay on track, there will be another post in February. And one in March. And so on. Now I’m off to tick ‘blog post’ off my January to-do list. I’m so happyhappyhappyhappy.

A clear desk does not mean an empty mind.

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My research will involve exploring participants’ interpretations of certain experiences and situations, and as a result I’ll be thinking a lot about the attribution of ‘meaning’ over the next few years. I’ll be exploring an aspect of participants’ experience that is on the surface quite practical, but unpicking their descriptions of it to gain a better understanding of the meanings that might be hidden in layers beneath the obvious.

Symbols are often designed to universalize communication and transcend verbal language, contributing to shared meanings – think of the wheelchair sign on parking spots or toilet doors, for example. On the other hand, sometimes meaning is influenced by culture and can vary across groups of people. Why, for example, do politicians and media personalities in some countries (anyone feel like making a guess?) insist on pointing at an apparent ‘someone’ in the audience? I presume they’re pretending that there’s a particularly prized person in their sights (“Hey, favoured person! Fancy seeing you here! Must do coffee some time!”). The reality is that in a crowd, about twenty people will all think “He’s pointing at me. Hey, look everyone, he’s pointing at me”…the impact of which is surely reduced by the fact that the nineteen people around you, who are the only ones who would be able to see you and be impressed by your special status, all think he’s pointing at them. But I’m wandering off-topic…my point is (boom boom) that the extension of a finger towards another individual could also be considered extremely rude and aggressive in other cultural or situational contexts.

Bringing this discussion closer to home and into a more personally reflective vein, I’ve been thinking recently about the meaning of place and space, and particularly about their meaning in terms of work, study, fun, and a balanced life.

Several years ago, I worked with a woman we will call Jenny. Jenny was a kind, friendly person, who was particularly good at smoothing troubled waters – an important skill, as we were working in a bureaucratic environment frequently characterised by frustrations, interpersonal and interagency tensions. Our workplace was the sort of open-plan office you see on TV shows: cubicles giving a false perception of privacy, each decorated as a home-away-from-home by the busy corporate types who, in all likelihood, probably did spend more time there than at home. Among all the bright, high-stress, glittering twitter (that’s small-t twitter…it was in the days before Twitter was capitalised) Jenny’s workstation was one of those places that speaks to my inner archaeologist: piles of paper, stacked on other piles of paper, stacked on books; family photos; stress balls and coffee cups with conference logos; and sticky notes pinned on every otherwise-naked surface.

Jenny swore that in this woman-cave, she knew the location of every single item and piece of paper. Unfortunately, my experience didn’t bear this out, as proven on many occasions of flustered ‘it’s in this pile, I think…no, I know it was, but maybe it’s over here…’ I loved working with Jenny and she had many valuable strengths, but when it came to her organisational skills I think she was delusional.

I, on the other hand, consider that my workspace gives a direct message about my state of mind. If it’s looking chaotic, I am probably feeling overwhelmed and out of control. If things are in neat piles, with a sticky label on top (‘work’, ‘study’, ‘read’, ‘file’, ‘shred’, etc) I am reasonably on top of things. Note the virtuous tone with which I make this observation. I am not delusional at all.

Toward the end of last year, I decided to try and make my main workspace, which was at that time the only table in our small apartment, into a ‘paperless office’. (Guess what my motivation was? It had to do with food…) Step one was to move all the papers to a different place – piled in the stacks mentioned above, naturally – and then start working in a clean space, retrieving only what I needed and discarding or saving it electronically as I went. I was amazed at the emotional impact of sitting down to my normal workspace with no papers around it. Even looking at it felt odd. Rather than feeling free, I felt curiously unanchored – which is not quite the same thing – and it didn’t take long at all before the papers were starting to creep back to the table.

Why was this? Well, being brutally honest with myself, I think the logic went like this: chaotic workspace = chaotic mind, tidy workspace = tidy mind, and therefore clear workspace = empty mind. So, logically, there was a link between visible signs of work and actual mental activity. This gave me a new insight into the meaning I was giving to my physical environment, and also makes me wonder whether Jenny wasn’t so much chaotic, as fearful of not being busy, or perhaps not being seen to be busy. Maybe she thought (however deeply buried in her workspace/mind) that her personal value as an employee was somehow intrinsically linked with the visible signs of activity. Maybe Jenny and I actually have a lot in common.

I am trying to re-wire my own perceptions by, firstly, challenging my personal notion of the meaning of a clear space. A clear desk does NOT mean an empty mind. It means (because I choose it to mean) a clear desk, and only that. The housekeeping of my mind is a necessary but separate activity, and the use of electronic files, folders and to-do lists is simply a tool to assist in that, with a lovely capacity to be shut down and invisible at the end of the working day. And that, in turn, creates space for a delicious meal. Symbolically, and literally.

Summertime, and the livin’ is…dangerously easy

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January is a dangerous time for me. I don’t mean Australia’s spiders, jellyfish, snakes, sharks, crocodiles, mosquitoes, or even the weather extremes and increased risk of sunburn (curiously, the latter causes by far the most actual damage to tourists, and yet they continue to squeal about everything else while doing everything in their power to get sunburnt…weird…).

The danger that I’m referring to is the renewed energy I always feel at this time of year. The enthusiasm. The vigour. The excitement at new possibilities. All good things, but the concern is this: over-commitment.

It’s more than just New Year’s resolutions. Sure, plan to lose weight, get fit, spend more time on the things that matter. Pfft. Who’s to know when, by January 4, you have had a lunch of chocolate-covered blueberries before returning to the computer, your loved ones having nicked off to watch Australia and England slug it out on the cricket pitch (…or was that just me..?)

I’m talking about serious commitments. The sort of commitments when People Notice. And not only that, but There Are Consequences, not only for yourself but also for others. Things like “Yes, I’d love to join your choir”, “Your committee is desperate for new members? Not a problem, I’ve always been interested in what you do.”, “A vacancy in your music teaching load this year? Yay, I’ve been wanting to get back into my double bass lessons”. Et cetera. I’m 54 years old, and you would think the last…oooh, 40-ish?…Januaries would have taught me something about realistic workloads.

What this says about my intelligence and ability to learn from past experience is perhaps a little worrying. It’s not a question of lack of insight. Some years back, a friend and I were reflecting on our shared dilemma – life is short, and there’s lots to fit in. We both consider ourselves capable and curious women – itself a dangerous combination, because people seeking volunteers pick up this combined ability and interest with a ‘sixth sense’ usually attributed to the non-human animal world. We discovered a shared tendency to say yes to requests, even though we were already overloaded, because (a) we possessed the knowledge and skill to do said tasks, and (b) they sounded interesting/worthy/fun. We used to meet regularly and practice a little mantra we developed: ‘I’m sorry, I’d love to, but I can’t just at the moment’. (Hi, I’m Postgradpanda, and it’s 5 days since my last acquiescence.)

In January each year, previous deadlines have general been met (or irrevocably missed), the crazy social whirl that is Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year/whatever has subsided, and the memory of November (and many months preceding it) has faded. I feel refreshed, and the days seem longer and more relaxed. Of course I can fit everything in…I’ll have time for A now that I’m not doing B any more… conveniently forgetting why I dropped B in the first place.

So if it’s not about lack of insight, why do I keep finding myself in this same place every January? Well, I think there are a few reasons for me – there will be  other reasons for other people.

1. Upbringing. I’m not blaming my parents, but they do share some responsibility, being busy and overcommitted people for as long as I can remember. I’m the eldest of four – my dad was doing his PhD when I was born and my mum went to night school between babies 3 and 4 to complete her secondary schooling, after which she went on to do further studies in midwifery, Infant Welfare (as it was then) and finally, once all her kids had grown up, a Masters in Health Education. When we were kids, they led a youth group for many years, and have both been, and continue to be, very active in many aspects of church leadership and pastoral care. On their ‘retirement’, they picked up the pace, incorporating viola lessons (dad) and art lessons (mum) into their schedules. Needless to say, I’m incredibly proud of them both…but, really, there is no growing of grass under their feet.

2. Reward. I get something of value out of every single thing I do. A friend (not the one mentioned above) told me the other day that she does nothing unless she is paid for it. She has reasons for taking this approach – she’s in a very different phase of life to me. But I was still a bit taken aback. Apart from the obvious thing that everyone who works in the not-for-profit sector would immediately pick up (the entire sector would collapse if we all took that approach), there are so many non-monetary rewards worth pursuing. Social connectedness, a feeling of self-worth, the joy of learning new things, the knowledge that you have made the world a slightly better place for someone, even if that’s a very indirect benefit (a good policy is a beautiful thing. I mean it. Good policy work makes the world a smoother, happier, safer place to be.)

3. Fear. Fear? Yes, fear. Fear of what it will mean if I’m NOT overcommitted. Of course, it could mean that I actually do the most important things, more effectively, and reach December 2014 in good shape at every level. But what if it also means that something worthwhile didn’t happen that could have, had I only stretched myself that little bit more? And, further below the surface and a bit embarrassing to admit, what if I discover that things carry on perfectly well without me???

Well, let’s try it. In the course of reflection as I wrote this blog post, I decided I need to do more than just reflect. I need to make some changes, and the changes I am going to make are not earth-shattering. Basically, I am going to try REALLY, REALLY HARD to simply walk my own talk. I have a calendar – I will use it. I have separate workplaces for paid work and study – I will use them. I have a couple of very good apps (more about that in my next post, I think). I will use them. And I have a brain and some insight into the sneaky ways I trip myself up. I will use them.

Working from home, or living at work?

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A fellow PhD student (not in my faculty) recently mentioned in conversation that she occasionally sleeps over at uni to get tasks completed, and once spent three unbroken days on campus. I was a bit horrified, I must admit. Apart from the lack of comfortable facilities (I’m thinking of a bed, in particular, which I could do without for a single night but not for three days in a row) this seems very unhealthy at a psychological level. Surely if your workload – or work habits – result in overnight stays, at least one of those aspects needs a serious examination?

It occurs to me, however, that working from home can end up being just like this, with the added benefit of a bed but the added disadvantage that when you see a fluff bunny on the floor you think ‘I suppose sooner or later I’m going to have to clean that up’.

Until very recently, I have undertaken both my paid work and my unpaid study from the salubrious location of my dining room table. To begin with, I cleared everything away each evening as a symbolic gesture, a demonstration that I understand boundaries – I am, after all, a social worker. I always sat at a different chair for meals than the one I worked in. But gradually there were activities that needed to be left out for the night, then for a few nights, and finally it became apparent that perching our dinner on our knees on the couch was simply the way we now lived.

Similarly, as there is no room for my bookshelf elsewhere, it lives in my bedroom, with the result that the last thing I see at night and the first thing in the morning are my folders of completed assignments, journal articles (I’m not one for reading quantities of text from the screen), and stationery.

I offer the following thought to anyone contemplating the ‘luxury’ of working from home:

  • One of the benefits of working from home is that when you get a break, you can clean the toilet.
  • One of the disadvantages of working from home is that when you get a break, you can clean the toilet.

Think very, very, carefully about whether you really want to work from home, and how you will manage it so that you don’t end up feeling like you are living at work. There are certainly advantages either way, and no one correct fit for everyone. In my experience, though, the tentacles of ‘work’ creep insidiously into the nooks and crannies of your ‘non-work’ life. I don’t only mean hours, either. I mean thoughts, emotions, your very identity (not to be too dramatic or anything). The very benefits of not having to get dressed, put on make-up, spend time travelling between locations, deal with workplace culture and relationships, as well as the possibility of multi-tasking different aspects of a many-layered life, sneakily morph into the significant disadvantages of blurred boundaries, isolation, stir-craziness, multiple distractions and endless opportunities for procrastination.

A few weeks ago, my eye was caught by a flyer sticky-taped to the wall of a local shop, advertising sub-lease of a desk space in an open plan office. Curious, I decided to check it out, and as a result I now work 2 days per week in an office, ten minutes’ walk from where I live. Ironically, the space is available because so many of the resident team now work from home. There’s a quiet focus among the ones who remain. I’m finding that my productivity goes right up when I’m there, and I can’t begin to describe the lightness of locking my filing cabinet and walking home at the end of the day.

As my PhD is part-time, I don’t get an allocated desk space at uni, but I have a locker and I’ve commandeered a filing cabinet drawer in a shared Research Student office. I’m able to keep my laptop and USBs in a backpack, and the books and papers that need to live at home are contained into a place that can, when necessary, be relegated out of sight and (more or less) out of mind. I still do some work and study from home, but am not immersed in them.

This balance is working very well for me. I no longer feel like I live at work. And equally importantly, my partner no longer feels like he lives in my workplace

Urgently needed: A sense of urgency.

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It’s been as good as three months since my last post. That’s appalling. I could trot out the traditional December cry (‘Where has the year gone?’) as if it’s some huge surprise that it’s December again, even though we all say this every year and I can confidently predict that this time next year we’ll all be plaintively wailing the same thing.

In fact, I know exactly where the year’s gone. It’s been full of work, study, travel, socialising, packing as much activity into each day as possible and collapsing exhausted in front of the TV with a (petite) glass of wine, before catching some sleep and getting up to do it all over again.

It’s been a good year, in the scheme of things. I’ve achieved a lot. On the research front, I’ve completed my required Units of Study, presented my first poster at an international conference, received approval to continue my project as a PhD rather than DSW, and had my proposal accepted without changes. I had hoped to have my ethics application through by now, but that was ahead of my ‘real’ schedule.

And that’s the crux of my problem, I think. I’m ahead of schedule, and instead of capitalising on that, which was my plan, so that I could spend more time on data collection and analysis, I find myself coasting instead of peddling. I’ve set aside two days per week for concentrated effort on study-related tasks, most particularly working towards the ethics application, but as my blog activity attests, I’m not really in the zone. To use the cycling metaphor, my head is replaying a mantra ‘must peddle! must peddle!’ but the necessary adrenalin is not kicking in, and my feet are relaxing happily on the pedals as I drift along with the minimum momentum required for forward movement.

The outside world is not helping, of course – it’s not really my fault. All these Christmas jingles, holiday talk, work-related imperatives (there’s no absence of a sense of urgency there, and work sits crouched and waiting to leap into any distractable ‘study moment’ – especially problematic since this gives a feeling of having achieved something worthy, when it is really just a sophisticated form of procrastination).

What to do? I’ve tried focusing on different spaces for different activities (some success with this), imposing ‘pretend’ deadlines (pfft…my brain knows and is not going to be hoodwinked that easily. I’m still ahead of schedule, after all…) and making a day-by-day, hour-by-hour plan of activities (but I’ll just check my email first…).

So this is a blog post without any real content. It’s just an exercise. Sit down, I told myself, and write a damn blog post. Do it. Now. So I did. And you know what? I think it’s working. I’m at my computer, I’ve written something (sort of), and I’m seeing that zone I need to be in. Perhaps I don’t need a sense of urgency after all – that will come anyway, in due course. Perhaps I need to approach this like a marathon, not a long sprint. After all, I’ve recently proved to myself that if I just roll out of bed at 5.30 and put on my exercise gear without waking up first, I can do a half hour walk before breakfast. I can do this. Who needs urgency anyway – time enough for that later. As the greeting card says (approximately), ‘she who stumbles along is still going faster than the person still sitting on the couch.’

Working on my core

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For the past few months I’ve been doing a weekly Pilates class, primarily for some neck problems but also to ‘strengthen my core’. Yes, my tummy is flabby, and if I try to stand on one leg I’m rather wobbly. The wonderful physio who takes the class has tactfully and encouragingly pointed out that it’s necessary to 1) be aware of our core, 2) gradually build up our core, and 3) keep using it – don’t just think about it for one hour per week.

But this blog is not about my pathetic muscles (which are responding to the Pilates, by the way); it’s about my research project. And the concept of core strength is relevant here, too. Some months back, I read a very interesting article by a nurse researcher about the importance of a ‘disciplinary core’, and the necessity for a researcher to identify not only her/his disciplinary core, but to locate the study’s methodology within that core (Thorne, 2011). She makes the following statement:

“Absent a disciplinary core, the generic health researcher risks a great deal of conceptual confusion. I think we all ought to be quite cautious in how we engage with that species of scholar. Although they might use familiar terminologies and syntax, one might argue that they are not only foreign language speakers, but actually an entirely different life form.” (p.451)

This statement has stayed with me, niggling in much the same way that something in your sock niggles uncomfortably until you are irritated enough to take it out and see whether it’s a grass seed or something that might, in fact,  bite you. The reason for the niggle stems from its implications for a researcher who takes an interprofessional perspective (my undergraduate degrees were in nursing and social work), who wants to look at the world through the participants’ (non-disciplinary) eyes, and who is particularly interested in participants’ views about a formal service ‘system’ that comprises multiple disciplines. It seems to me that my study has no easily-identifiable disciplinary core at the level of researcher, participants or context. Oh dear. Am I an alien life form?

Having given this a great deal of thought, I’ve decided that yes, I probably am, and that’s a GOOD thing. Postgraduate research is all about finding out new stuff, or at least looking at familiar stuff differently. If I try to locate my study within a single discipline I am at risk of understanding the participants’ experience only to the extent that it intersects with my own. Thorne and I agree that the methodology has to emerge from the question. I’m still thinking about that, and trying to reconcile it with the argument that the methodology should be based on the disciplinary core. Does it mean that researchers from different disciplines should only ask questions that are within their own disciplines? To a certain extent of course, this is reasonable for purely pragmatic purposes. A geneticist in a lab is hardly in a position to ask about the narratives of people in the community…at least, not for research undertaken within the context of the genetics lab. But how do we research questions that arise in the world that exists outside a specific discipline?

If I understand her correctly, Thorne draws a distinction between applied health and social scientists and their research purposes. She considers that health research should stick to solving health problems, while social sciences apparently are better placed to theorize about them (p.450-451). As a social worker, I’m profoundly uncomfortable with that distinction. I’m not sure why these two domains need to be mutually exclusive. If they are not, though, how does one combine them without losing one’s disciplinary core? If, as Throne suggests, there is overlap in the area of interest but distinction between disciplinary philosophies, should we not be working towards a shared philosophy (in the interests of the wider world) rather than shoring up the walls between us?

At this point in my cogitations, I’m thinking that the difficulty lies in assuming that research lacking a clear disciplinary core has no core at all. Maybe Thorne wasn’t ever suggesting that. I don’t know. But I am feeling comfortable that my research can (MUST) rise above disciplinary parameters and still have a strong core. The core, rather than being located in a single professional discipline, must be located in the ‘discipline’ of the participants, and in my own capacity for reflexivity. That way, I can work with confidence towards a result that is characterised by both strength and balance.

Thorne, S. (2011) Toward Methodological Emancipation in Applied Health Research. Qualitative Health Research 21(4), 443-453