Another String to Our Bow: Participant Writing as Research Method


  • Vivienne Elizabeth University of Auckland



psychotherapy, qualitative research, methods, writing, participant well-being


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. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0801316


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Author Biography

Vivienne Elizabeth, University of Auckland

Vivienne ELIZABETH is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Auckland in Aotearoa/New Zealand. She often finds herself writing on matters to do with gender, identity and power relations in familial settings, as well as violence between family members. This interest has seen her publish, amongst other things, on the money management practices of heterosexual couples; the use of separation by women to renegotiate power relations with violent male partners; and place of marriage in constructions of heterosexual identities.




How to Cite

Elizabeth, V. (2008). Another String to Our Bow: Participant Writing as Research Method. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(1).