Responding to something in your data that no longer fits

So I have got a nice piece of data. It emerged from my analysis as a good example of a particular theme. I paste it onto the page and work out how to introduce it. It has wider margins to show that it’s data. I begin to write about it, explaining why it’s important, referring the bits of detail that make the points I want to draw attention to.

However, I suddenly notice something in the extract that I hadn’t thought about before. I begin to see that it’s saying something that doesn’t actually fit. I try my best to push the argument that I had planned. But no, I can’t. I can’t force it. What does this mean? My whole argument in this part of the text suddenly seems invalid. What can I do?

So I have to do some hard thinking. I like this idea of reverie that Thomas Ogden talks about. I picked it up in one of our researcher discussion meetings. It’s from psychoanalysis. I don’t know much about that. It’s not my area at all. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t learn something from it. I find the article that was recommended. There’s a PDF on the internet. Great. I can only understand parts of it. But I do get that it’s something to do with free association thinking that takes place as a result of something going on between you and your data. I follow the reference it makes to an earlier piece of writing. I find that too. The notion of thirdness is referred to. That really helps me too. I’ve been thinking about the third space and trying to find another angle on what it might mean.

Yes, I can use this. As long as I don’t pretend that I understand or have read about psychoanalysis I should also tentatively refer to the two articles. I should. It’s necessary to show where ideas come from so that my readers can also go there and follow the literature more extensively if they wish. Who knows, they might also then write something that I can read and take the ideas even further. This is how the research community works.

Seeing reverie written about somehow enables me to see even better the value of looking around, watching people – the direct observation I mentioned in my last blog. How people stand in the coffee queue will have clues about what’s going on in the piece of data that I so far cannot get past, but that that might take me somewhere else.

So I begin to think of other things. Yes. There’s another piece of data, and something else that I read. I’d been trying to work out what to do with them, where they might fit; and now I can begin to see the connection. It takes me into another idea that I hadn’t thought of before.

But I can’t really work out how to write about the new idea until I can give it a name. I try to think of a new phrase that encapsulates the idea that’s beginning to emerge. I get it. I create a new sub-heading. Yes, it works. I keep the original piece of data; but now write about it in a different way. I talk about the caution I need to have about what it means. It’s important to do this to show the trajectory of my thinking, and also to communicate how we always need to be cautious. I explain how it takes me to a new connection.

This is now a lot more interesting than the first version, as long as I explain how it works.

Note: Thank you to Katarzyna Gasiorowska for introducing me to Ogden (1997), Reverie and metaphor: some thoughts on how I work as a psychoanalyst, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 78, 719-732.

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