Perceptions and me (with special thanks to Kathy Charmaz)
This past week has brought with it a level of sadness to those who embrace the Grounded Theory approach with the death of Kathy Charmaz. I remember an instance when Kathy was in the audience when I presented a poster as a young naive post-graduate student in a time when I thought I had a handle on what is real and what I perhaps created. That brief interaction was the only time I can claim to have "met" Kathy, and of course I didn't, not really anyway. I have now idea as to what she may or may not have felt about my presentation. What I can say now is that looking back 12 years, I am pretty certain that I had no real awareness of my own preconceptions.
Fast forward to now, and once again I am on a doctoral pathway having jumped ship 11 years ago in it's first iteration. I have started down a different pathway and as fortune would have it I was led to Constructive Grounded Theory and the work of one Kathy Charmaz. This is underpinning my work now, as I have found the way that she wrote to resonate considerably and help me to make sense of approaching qualitative research and attempting to produce a robust study.
I have been reading Kathy's book "Constructing Grounded Theory" today and focussing on perceptions, in particular my own and how I realise them in my study. I realise as I read that I have in the past all to easily fall prey to following my own perceptions in not only my work but also my private actions and thoughts.
As to my research, analysing my data I am still aware of the shadow of preconception looming out there over my shoulder, like an amorphous cloud just out of reach; but at least I am now aware of it. But am I aware all the time? The hardest times I think are when a participant echoes my own world view. Do I question them with the same candour as those who do not? Or do I just accept the view without analysis. The beauty of GT lies in the iterative cycle. I can revisit my data and look at them afresh with eyes a little more opened I hope. Open to new insights and open to questioning claims/viewpoints/and yes, my own preconceptions; leading to new and exciting emergent possibilities.
So I am left to reflect on the life and impact of one researcher who has and is continuing to have profound changes on and in researchers around the world just like me. Thank you Kathy for a life well spent, I aim if I can to continue in the tradition.