Chapter 7: Using fiction in and for research: embodied experiences, performative data, engagement and impact
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In this chapter, we explore how narrative forms and techniques from creative writing can be applied to both conducting and writing up qualitative research. With a focus on fiction, we examine the potential for bringing research to life through evocative and sensory stories. The experiences of individuals are intersubjective, dynamic, relational and much more than representation, and it is through fiction that these facets can be communicated. Here we describe a bricolage methodology, where methods such as interview, ethnography and Participatory Action Research can be adapted to fit the epistemologies that underpin creative writing and creative practice research. We draw on and expand a model of writing ethnography developed by Humphreys and Watson (2009), whose four-fold framework presupposes that ethnography is an act of writing at a fundamental level and thereby attends to the problematic question of how to write up research. We use illustrative examples to show how interviews, ethnographic field notes and data from action research might be written up using devices more commonly associated with fiction, such as building composite characters, verisimilitude, narrative movement and scene-setting. By demonstrating how research can benefit from fiction, we argue that when careful attention is paid to providing rich and thick description to achieve verisimilitude, a clear sense of what it was like ‘to be there’ may be evoked by the researcher - and equally, a clear sense of ‘what this means to me’ may be achieved for end-users of the research.

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