Another String to Our Bow: Participant Writing as Research Method
Social scientists have a complex relationship to the psychotherapeutic domain: they have borrowed from it extensively, been openly critical of its individualizing tendencies, and somewhat nervous about any blurring of the boundaries between psychotherapy and the social sciences. In contrast, the author of this article adopts a pragmatic stance towards the psychotherapeutic domain, suggesting that social scientists might usefully adapt some of its techniques for their own purposes. Writing personally and expressively about important aspects of one's life is one such technique. Personal, expressive writing has been shown to enhance the writer's psychological and physiological well-being. The beneficial effects of personal writing provide grounds for extending its use as a method of inquiry with research participants. Knowing that participants benefit from their involvement in qualitative research is especially important when social scientists are exploring sensitive or traumatic topics. Participant writing is thus a method of inquiry that can serve the interests of participants and researchers alike: it attends to the well-being of research participants whilst providing social scientists with access to rich qualitative data, as the author shows.
psychotherapy; qualitative research; methods; writing; participant well-being