TEACHING IN DEPTH
One of the distinguishing features of teaching graduate students in depth psychology is our approach to the choice of research topic. Identifying the topic is the first and most crucial decision students face in the research experience. Moreover, when research is imagined as arising out of, and in relationship to, dynamic unconscious processes - the sine qua non of depth psychology - how the topic emerges is of foremost importance. In well-regarded texts devoted to research design and methodology, however, finding the topic - or, to foreshadow our approach to teaching research, letting the topic find the student - is given scant attention. For instance in Creswell's (2013, p. 18) thoughtful, important discussion of philosophical assumptions informing a research project, he says philosophy 'shapes how we formulate our problem and research questions' but beyond this treats choosing the topic as a settled matter (pp. 16-19). We contend philosophy is revealed when graduate students are musing upon what to study, long before any formal research process as such commences. If 'attention is the cardinal psychological virtue' (Hillman, 1994, p. 119) then what draws our attention and how it does so - in research as in life - are profoundly psychological questions.
The questions of what and how, at the heart of research formulation, typically are addressed at the level of ego. For example, Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009, p. 113) briefly discuss the personal reasons to choose a topic, emphasizing career advancement. Creswell's (2009, p. 23) text on qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods research says something similar. 'Before considering what literature to use in a project,' he states, 'first identify a topic to study and reflect on whether it is practical and useful.' Marshall and Rossman (2011) also emphasize practicality and utility. The first two (of three) considerations when choosing a topic are 'do-ability,' that is, feasibility, and 'should-do ability,' the potential significance of the study. We agree with the criteria of practicality and usefulness. The aim to enlarge the scope of knowledge within a discipline is a particularly important and laudable goal. We respect the many fine graduate programs that give practicality and usefulness a personal slant, encouraging students to choose a topic that will enhance their curriculum vitae and further their professional career. Occasionally they will urge students to court a highly-esteemed, well-published faculty member whose subject area expertise promises to receive future attention and funding. Joining that faculty's coterie of researchers may accelerate the student's own publishing career. There is nothing wrong with these approaches to choosing a topic. From our perspective, there is something missing.
Marshall and Rossman (2011, pp. 4-6) discuss a third consideration in choosing a research topic: 'want-to-do-ability,' which is the potential of the topic to remain a sustained and sustaining interest for the researcher. The researcher 'cares deeply about the topic' though such attachment does not render the study 'naively subjective' (p. 5). The element of desire, or caring, begins to approximate our depth approach. Thus we appreciate the statement by King, Keohane, and Verba (1994, p. 15), who argue the 'personal or idiosyncratic origin' of the research topic 'constitutes the "real" reason [to conduct the study] ... and appropriately so.' To be fair to Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009), mentioned earlier, their work on research methodology hints at the theme of personal meaning. One of the more compelling reasons to engage in a particular study, they say, is the discovery of an interesting phenomenon (p. 113). They argue that the criterion of interest, or personal meaningfulness, is most powerful at the beginning of one's academic career which commences with the doctoral dissertation. Then, 'ideas may more easily germinate from personal curiosity about meaningful phenomena in the researcher's life or the lives of others' (p. …