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Researching, with feelings

Updated Wednesday, 19th November 2014
Caroline Clarke has co-edited a new collection on the link between research and feelings - but why is the relationship important?

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Eggs displaying emotions Why should researchers be interested in their feelings and emotions as they carry out research? Emotion is what it is to exist, to be human, and is present in every sphere of our lives and all our activities are infused with emotion, even those that are constructed as ‘rational’.  This is because we never have a feeling without thinking, and we never think without have feelings.

Despite this books about ‘how to research’ are nearly always focused on cognition with ‘to do lists’ and tasks, which seem reasonably straightforward.  Experience tells us otherwise though so we wanted to write down some of the emotional processes involved in doing social and organizational research to share with others, to speak the unspeakable, and admit to the idea that although research can be an immensely joyful and rewarding experience it can also feel bewildering, frightening and make us feel insecure about our own abilities and the implications of this for the outcomes of research.

For example, if doing a PhD what happens if we don’t like our PhD supervisors, or if they don’t like us?  What if we can’t gain or lose our access to our research site?  Writers block?  Stage fright presenting our work?  Feelings of  inadequacy or not knowing enough can be omnipresent – but is this ‘normal’?

With contributions from leading academics and research practitioners, this book  addresses the significant issue of the sometimes intense emotional experiences involved in doing research, and explores how we might understand researchers’ emotions and experiences, and considers the often powerful feelings encountered in a variety of research contexts.

  • Researching with Feeling: The Emotional Aspect of Social and Organizational Research, edited by Caroline Clarke, Mike Broussine & Linda Watts is published by Routledge
  • See an extract on Google Books

People and Organisation MattersThis article is part of People & Organisation Matters, a blog curated and written by members of the Department of People and Organisations, part of The Open University Business School.


Opinions expressed are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of the University or the OUBS.

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