My past experiences with research methods focused primarily on one of two types: qualitative and quantitative. Curious to explore new ideas, it was with much interest that I read through two research articles that introduced me to a specific type of qualitative research (autoethnography) and to a research tool (the research diary). Both articles presented me with new information.

The first article, taken from the “International Journal of Qualitative Methods”, “Research Diary: A tool for Scaffolding”  by Marion Engin (2011) discussed the benefits of journaling while researching. According to Engin (2011), the act of journaling experiences, connections, thoughts and questions while researching leads to deeper understanding and allows for greater reflection. Engin, (2011) discusses how the mind will forget what it was feeling or thinking at a particular time and aptly uses a quote by Durkheim (2006)  where it is “suggest[ed] that we can only think about a topic when we have named it, and this can only be done verbally: …without language, we would not have, so to speak, general ideas; for it is the word which, in fixing them, gives to concepts a consistency sufficient for them to be able to be handled conveniently by the mind” (Engin, 2011 p). It would be fair to assume, given the context, that “verbally” would also include the written word. The benefit of writing ideas down is that you can go back to them multiple times; they are not lost. The spoken word, unless it is recorded, is lost the moment it ends.  My personal experience with journaling while reading research papers it that the act of recording my thoughts and understandings as I view that article gives me a deeper and more thorough understanding of the article.  As part of my journey through this grad program, I will have many opportunities to continue to experiment with research journaling and to discover the benefits for myself. This will be an ongoing discussion throughout my time in the program.

The second article, from the, “Forum: Qualitative Research”, Autoethnography: An Overview by Ellis, Adams and Bochner (2011), defines and discusses Autoethnography. According to Ellis et al. (2011), “this approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a politically, socially-just and socially conscious act” (abstract). This article got me thinking about my past experiences with research; in all my experiences it was drilled into me that research, in order to be good, it must be unbiased.  Words like “double blind”, “control group”, “experimental group” and the negative connotations associated with researcher bias come to mind. Past encounters with research have trained me to believe that this type of research is superior.  So, it was with great interest that I viewed and journaled my way through this article. Ellis et al. (2011) discuss the authenticity of this type of research and how it, rather than ignoring bias, accepts that this is a part of the research and uses it and attempts to understand it. However, they also argue that this doesn’t mean that the research is unsubstantial and state that it is still: “rigorous, theoretical and analytical” (Ellis et al. 2011. p.11). The discussion also includes a well-reasoned and thoughtful exploration of how culture, bias, age, location, experiences and many other aspects do affect both the researcher and the researched. Interestingly, this research connects directly to the previous article by Engin, (2011) on journaling.  When Ellis et al. (2011. p.7) cites Richardson’s (2000) statement that, “writing is a way of knowing, a method of inquiry” and Kiesinger (2002) and Poulous‘s, (2008) statement that “ we write to make sense of ourselves and others”, one can see that discussion(s) around the benefits of writing is expressed by the authors in both articles.

Both autoethnography and research journaling discuss the importance of writing and the benefits that come from engaging with writing. In both readings the act of writing is shown to divulge truths, create meaning and extend thinking. This reinforces my thoughts around the practice of journaling and it’s potential benefits. This also lends itself to classroom practice as if journaling is a benefit to researchers, it seems plausible that it would also benefit students. Future ideas for research and classroom implementation may include using journaling to extend students understanding of what they are reading and as self-assessment.

Clearly the benefits of journaling are well documented. But I wanted to see what other connected information I could find on journaling. A quick google search led me to some information on bullet journaling and the benefits of this style of journaling.  I have used this with my English students but could use it in a more focused, authentic and ongoing manner throughout the year. 

Link to TEDx video on bullet journaling

Another type of journaling I found some information on was video journaling. This could be an alternative to writing thoughts down. Students could include these in a blog to showcase their learning and progress or could record and keep them for personal use, perhaps reflecting upon them at certain points during the year/semester/project.  One of the reoccurring themes that came up is that journaling in any form fosters creativity; creativity has been acclaimed as a 21st century “soft skill” that will help prepare students for the future.

Change in Your Pocket: How a Video Journal Can Help You Grow