Life writing projects have become part of the expanding field of qualitative research methods in recent years and advances in critical approaches are reshaping methodological pathways. Critical Approaches to Life Writing Methods in Qualitative Research gives researchers and students looking for a brief compendium to guide their methodological thinking a concise and working overview of how to approach and carry out different forms of life writing.
This practical book re-invigorates the conversation about the possibilities and innovative directions qualitative researchers can take when engaged in various forms of life writing, such as biography, autobiography, autoethnography, life history, and oral history. It equips the reader with the tools to carry out life writing projects from start to finish, including choosing a topic or subject, examining lives as living data, understanding the role of documents and artifacts, learning to tell the story, and finally writing/performing/displaying through the voice of the life writer. The authors also address the ways a researcher can begin a project, work through the issues they might face along the journey, and arrive at a shareable product.
With its focus on the plurality of life writing methodologies, Critical Approaches to Life Writing Methods in Qualitative Research occupies a distinct place in qualitative research scholarship and offers practical exercises to guide the researcher. Examples include exploring authorial voice, practical applications of reflexivity exercises, the relationship between the narrator and participants, navigating the use of public and private archives, understanding the processes of collaborative inquiry and collaborative writing, and writing for various audiences.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction and Overview
Chapter 2: Theories and Approaches that Guide Critical Life Writers
Chapter 3: Practical Applications and Dreamscapes for Life Writers
Chapter 4: Evaluative Criteria and Final Thoughts
Thalia M. Mulvihill, Ph.D., Professor of Social Foundations and Higher Education at Ball State University, serves as President of the International Society for Educational Biography and the Secretary for the AERA Biographical and Documentary Research SIG. Her areas of expertise include qualitative research methods, life writing, innovative pedagogies, history, and sociology of higher education.
Raji Swaminathan, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research and teaching interests are in the areas of emerging methods in qualitative research, urban education, and alternative education.
Beginning and established scholars in biography, autobiography, autoethnography, and oral and life history will profit from Mullvihill and Swaminathan’s trans-disciplinary commentary and analysis of life writing. Ably contextualizing theory and generalizing practice, the authors offer experienced and well-reasoned guidance to those who want to write competently researched, readable, and honest narratives. The strategically positioned research journal and sketchbook exercises make the book a highly usable text for life writing courses. My only regret is that Critical Approaches to Life Writing Methods was not published fifty years earlier when I began my career as an historian and biographer of education.
Gerald L. Gutek, Professor Emeritus, Loyola University Chicago
Thalia Mulvihill and Raji Swaminathan offer a great gift to those qualitative researchers entering the burgeoning field of life writing and educational biography. This primer guides the life writer into new research realms and, from their well-conceived metaphor of dreamscapes, permits the neophyte to embrace, understand, and rejoice in the adventure and freedom of blending detailed scholarly research with imaginative, thoughtful writing. With carefully-constructed research activities, the reader begins Critical Approaches to Life Writing Methods in Qualitative Research with great interest and concludes with great knowledge, prepared to embark upon the journey and joy of life writing and biographical inquiry.
Craig Kridel, E. S. Gambrell Professor of Educational Studies and Curator of the Museum of Education, University of South Carolina
Mulvihill and Swaminathan masterfully situate life writing methods in the realm of theoretical, historical, and methodological underpinnings of qualitative research. They invite readers to the forest of complex life writing with invaluable resources, creative ideas, and inspiring suggestions that readers can savour when they embark their own journey of life writing. Critical Approaches to Life Writing Methods in Qualitative Research is a must read that will serve as a safety net for those who are hankering for a quality guide to understanding the value of storytelling. This book makes a remarkable contribution to the field of narrative inquiry!
Jeong-Hee Kim, Professor of Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education, Texas Tech University
"This book, through the union of life writing and critical theory, advances the notions set out by the life writing scholarship by considering the ways to reconceptualize, reconstruct, and reform our interpretations of phenomena. For neophytes and seasoned qualitative investigators looking to life writing for guidance, this book is a must-have. Albeit before reading this book, I was open to grasping how useful this book may be to my own work, I found that the end of this book was met with continuous nodding and moments of realization and inspiration that prompted me to revisit my own work and enhance its theory, transparency, and clarity. This book presents important descriptions of life writing methods in a way that is cogent and tangible."
Umair Majid, Nova Southeastern Unversity