Recovering the "Individual" for Qualitative Research: An Idiographic Approach

Blake Peck, Jane Mummery


As detailed examination of the experience of the individual, the Self or the I is overtaken in the intellectual climate of qualitative research by an aim to understand human experience on a collective or transferable level, the claim made by qualitative researchers to providing genuine understanding of the "what is it like" characteristics of being human arguably becomes shaky. If the wellspring from which we draw our understanding is limited to understandings that researchers recognize as general, then the unique and deeper characteristics of individual experience may be buried within the aggregate. We contend that any such restricted approach cannot begin by itself to cogently inform a theory of or a theory for examining human experience that is sufficiently sophisticated for qualitative research practice. Consequently, we propose a recovery and inclusion, into qualitative research frameworks, of a strongly idiographic consideration of the "what is it like" characteristics of phenomena, as experienced by the individual person. Recommending thereby a recovery of hermeneutic and phenomenological modes of thought, in this article, we suggest that the central ideas of KELLY's personal construct psychology involve fertile ground for guiding such a shift in qualitative research.


idiographic; qualitative research; personal construct theory; experience; George Kelly

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