Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Creating Vocative Texts

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Creating Vocative Texts

Article excerpt

Vocative texts are expressive poetic texts that strive to show rather than tell, that communicate felt knowledge, and that appeal to the senses. They are increasingly used by researchers to present qualitative findings, but little has been written about how to create such texts. To this end, excerpts from an inquiry into the experience and meaning of music listening in the context of chronic illness (Nicol, 2002) are presented and used to illustrate five elements associated with vocative texts (van Manen, 1997). Further student examples of vocative writing are also provided. The intent is to make a pragmatic contribution to the growing literature on writing and qualitative inquiry, and to stimulate interest in experimenting with different ways of writing. Key Words: Vocative Text, Expressive Writing, and Qualitative Research

Introduction

Qualitative inquiry suggests alternative ways for investigating phenomenon as well as for communicating and disseminating results. The customary use of a formal designative writing style to convey research findings is considered a convention rather than an imperative. By attending to research's aesthetic dimensions, researchers acknowledge language as more than just a medium for communicating information (Schwandt, 2001). Instead, evocation is a goal (Ellis & Bochner, 2006; van Manen, 2002) and language offers possibilities for bridging art and science (Ellis & Bochner), for appreciating multiple ways of knowing (Ellis, 1999), for evoking life as it is lived (van Manen, 1997), and not least of all, for providing an engaging, enjoyable read (Gilgun, 2005). In the last 10 years, attention has increasingly focused on the subject of writing and qualitative research. Denzin and Lincoln's (2005) most recent Handbook of Qualitative Research, for example, included several chapters on the use of artistic texts (Brady, 2005; Hartnett & Engels, 2005; Richardson & St. Pierre, 2005; Stewart, 2005) and the second edition of Schwandt's Qualitative Inquiry: A Dictionary of Terms, added a new entry on "writing strategies" (p. 279) to reflect the "literary turn in the social sciences" (p. 279) and "belief that science, like literature, is an activity situated in language" (p. 280). However, although some research texts do include an index entry on writing style as a consideration in qualitative research (e.g., Bogdan & Biklen, 2003; Seale, Gobo, Gubrium, & Silverman, 2004), many do not (e.g., Camic, Rhodes, & Yardley, 2003; Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2007; McCleod, 2003; Patton, 2002). Even fewer authors give explicit directions for evocative, expressive writing, that is, writing with "... a level of participation that is neither impersonal nor only personal" (Todres, 1998, p. 126), and that evokes both thought and imagination (Locke, Silverman, & Spirduso, 2004). Some exceptions include Janesick's (1998, 2004) "stretching exercises" for personal development on one's role of researcher, and Richardson and St. Pierre's suggestions for using writing as a way of knowing.

For the purposes of this article, the rationale for vocative texts is accepted, and readers wishing for further information are directed to the aforementioned references. My focus is to make an accessible, pragmatic contribution to the extant literature by suggesting ways to explore more artistic ways of writing. Following a selective summary of experiences that locate and inform my understandings, elements associated with vocative texts (van Manen, 1997) are defined and illustrated with excerpts from a doctoral hermeneutic-phenomenological study of women's experiences of listening to music and living with chronic illness (Nicol, 2002). In order to maintain confidentiality and privacy, all research participant names are pseudonyms and identifying details have been altered. Further examples of vocative texts are shared, drawn from student writing that was prompted, in part, by exposure to the doctoral research excerpts. …

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