Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

My Dissertation Healed Me: A Retrospective Analysis through Heuristic Inquiry

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

My Dissertation Healed Me: A Retrospective Analysis through Heuristic Inquiry

Article excerpt

I had underestimated the power of research based on personal experience. It was only toward the end of my dissertation that it started to dawn on me that what had begun as an intellectual quest was a journey into my personal experience of intimate partner violence (IPV). I had listened to the research participants' narratives that were similar to mine, transcribed interviews that echoed my life experiences, and wrote about what was now our shared understanding of the phenomenon. I recall being deeply disturbed with the label of "survivor of IPV" during the data collection process of my dissertation, and I could not fathom why 12 years after divorce I was still trying to reject or hide from my past. Thus, what began as a nagging feeling to address my unresolved past trauma developed into engaging in a process similar to Clark Moustakas's heuristic inquiry. To this end, my dissertation participants helped me undertake this study, and after initial reluctance I found myself immersed in the topic of "IPV survivor" identity.

Early stages of the literature review depressed me, as I was overwhelmed with statistics and narratives on IPV. I became cynical after learning that decades of work on IPV had not eradicated it; rather, it had become a global epidemic (Alhabib, Nur, & Jones, 2010; Campbell, 1995; Garcia-Moreno, Jansen, Ellsberg, Heise, & Watts, 2005), and stories from across the world were not very different. Further, having grown up as a middle-class woman, I was aware of the social stigma associated with domestic violence (Berg, 2014) but was unaware of its deep impact across factors such as race, location, culture, and economic independence. I was shocked to find the absence of middle-class women in IPV in the literature and the lack of studies on the role of work in empowering working women across class and race. Although I was skeptical about my research since my predecessors' insurmountable efforts had yet to bring an end to this social evil, I was moved by the missing voice of middle-class women in IPV and decided to pursue this research.

As a doctoral student returning to school after 12 years of demanding corporate work, it was rather liberating to learn with no pressure to pursue a certain topic of research. I had the privilege to study in a multidisciplinary environment while focusing on a doctoral degree in human and organizational learning. I was determined to build depth and breadth of knowledge through diverse perspectives by taking courses across management, adult education, sociology, philosophy, psychology and women's studies. It was at a critical theory conference that I stumbled upon my dissertation topic, when the conference participants introduced themselves by sharing their personal story (of addiction, abuse, identity crisis, etc.). For some reason, after listening to my IPV background, the conference participants assumed I was studying my personal experience of IPV and cited examples of similar work. Thus, critical theorists and feminist scholars taught me that personal is political (Hanisch, 1970) and motivated me to study a phenomenon emerging out of my personal experience as a IPV survivor for whom paid work played a powerful role.

I faced significant resistance from academics who believed my study was too intimate to qualify as a dissertation topic or was better suited to a sociology or psychology department. In essence, there was considerable reluctance to support "intimate inquiry" (Laura, 2016, p. 220), or research driven by personal experience. Nonetheless, there were those who not only wholeheartedly supported my quest but were convinced of the impact and urgency of my study on IPV and work. My committee members and the works of eminent scholars continued to encourage me to pursue a study based on personal experience (Anderson, 2000; hooks, 1994; Moustakas, 1990) or trauma that has the power to guide and liberate others (hooks, 1994).

As I began my research, I had an intuition that this was going to be more than an intellectual pursuit; it was going to be a journey into my own life. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.