Is collaborative autoethnography an appropriate methodology for a PhD study?

I figured I’d throw that question out to my friends in the blogosphere. Most of the research I do these days is collaborative. I’ve always been a fan of hearing multiple voices, and having the benefit of multiple true perspectives. It allows the research to be owned by the participants, and helps to make the findings more than just the researchers’ lens. It helps reduce (or introduce) bias (IMHO).

So, I’m at a state where I’m looking at several different paths to my dissertation. I’m ABD (all but dissertation); however, my original study has died, so I need to propose a new study, find a new supervisor (who must be willing to supervise remotely), and build a new committee. But before I can do all of that, I need to figure out which of my ongoing projects would be suitable/appropriate as a PhD study.

Although I think my Collaborative Autoethnography (CAE) work will be the most valuable – I’m not convinced it would be acceptable as a dissertation.

What do you all think?

4 responses

  1. Jeffrey Keefer Avatar

    Rebecca, what a situation! Have started several doctoral programs before I found the right fit, just tossing aside what I did previously as that would not count, I can empathize with the importance of finding the right fit.

    I am wondering if you have to remain at the same university; is it just because you already started? Asking this as supervisors commonly have to be at the institution which may limit you, given the options there would potentially limit anything beyond their own areas of interest. Having changed multiple times, including countries, I found the the right fit trumped everything in my experiences.

    With that said, let me pose another idea–how about taking your areas of interest, such as how people navigate learning in open and collaborative settings, and study them, bringing an AE component about it in to see how what you learn from others would compare with your own thinking? This may allow for a more traditional study with your own personal sense making, and in turn may be more acceptable to how potential supervisors may consider it?

  2. scottx5 Avatar

    Don’t know anything about what qualifies beyond advancing an idea or capturing a different viewpoint in a PHD. A deep look at life as lived through a powerful interruption / experience and how this might “permit” us to rename and re-purpose our selves comes to my mind. There’s a lot about personal transformation out there but change through the social dimension of collaboration speaks to finding our place or new home-base in the aftermath of disruption–can you tell I’ve been reading academic papers?
    The Rhizo autoethnography is certainly a complexity of many voices and a challenge.

  3. Helen DW Avatar
    Helen DW

    This is a very good question Rebecca. Without any experience or basis for comment, I would think this could be leading edge research if accepted. It will depend on where and what your higher ed institution will accept? Flexibility in format is not known to be evident in higher ed and may need some advocacy!

  4. Maha Bali Avatar

    There is a chapter by Carolyn Ellis and her partner Art where she tells a story of a PhD student who grapples with this. I think in the end the student writes her own autoethnography (about BC btw) and includes narratives from other women – she does bulk of analysis but in collaboration w the women. I think Bonnie’s thesis was kind of participatory and ethnographic.
    I know i didn’t know how to do this myself when i started my PhD so ur lucky to be asking these questions now. It may keep u going if u find a way and a supervisor who “gets it”. Jeffrey may also be able to help

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