"Hope is that fiery feeling": Using Poetry as Data to Explore the Meanings of Hope for Young People


  • Emily Bishop University of Tasmania
  • Karen Willis University of Sydney




young people, hope, poetic inquiry, poetry, Australia


Poetic inquiry is a contentious area of qualitative research. In this article, we discuss some of the issues plaguing this field of inquiry. We then analyse a collection of poems about hope written by a sample of young people from Tasmania, Australia. The poems were written as part of the 2011 Tree of Hope project, which utilised multiple, arts-based methods to provide insights into what young people hope for in the future and the role of hope in their lives. Participants utilised one of three poetic structures. While each structure produced distinct themes, a connection between "hope and happiness" overlapped the two structured types of poetry—the acrostic and sense poetry. However, when writing free verse poetry, the expression of additional dimensions of hope, including the flipside of both having hope and losing hope was evident. We conclude that hope is particularly important to young people and that inviting participant-voiced poetry is an effective technique for investigating conceptual topics such as young people and hope.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs140194


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Emily Bishop, University of Tasmania

Emily BISHOP is a sociologist and youth researcher. While working on the Tree of Hope project, she was a lecturer at the School of Sociology and Social Work at the University of Tasmania, Australia. She has since taken maternity leave. Her PhD research used narrative analysis to investigate the sexual health stories told by young people who had grown up in rural areas. Her work on the Tree of Hope enabled her to explore multiple dimensions of qualitative research methodology.

Karen Willis, University of Sydney

Karen WILLIS is a health sociologist and qualitative researcher. Her current position is Associate Professor, Qualitative Research Methods, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Australia; where she is also Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching. Her research interests focus on health behaviours and the links to broader social and political ideas. The Tree of Hope project was conducted as part of her commitment to community-based research and to giving voice to young people.




How to Cite

Bishop, E., & Willis, K. (2014). "Hope is that fiery feeling": Using Poetry as Data to Explore the Meanings of Hope for Young People. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-15.1.2013



Single Contributions