Using an auto/biographical approach to investigate nurses’ learning
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Using an auto/biographical approach to investigate nurses’ learning

Isis Lioba Howatson-Jones Senior lecturer, Department of Nursing and Applied Clinical Studies/Research Centre for Children, Families and Communities, Canterbury Christ Curch University, Kent, UK

Aim To develop methodological discussion about an ‘auto/biographical’ approach used to research nurses’ learning.

Background Structuring processes involved in auto/biographical approaches can reinterpret knowledge in different ways and help to examine the boundaries of experience, particularly when exploring what might be marginal spaces in cultures and institutions. The PhD study on which the paper is based explored the learning of registered nurses from two NHS trusts in the south of England.

Data sources Purposive focus groups and biographical interviews were used as a data collection method.

Review methods This is a methodology paper that discusses the auto/biographical approach used in the study to examine people’s experiences.

Discussion The focus is on auto/biographical moments as sites of meaning-making in an interconnected analysis frame and on developing a pen portrait to view research processes in more holistic terms. The prevailing argument is that biography offers a way of enabling participants to find a voice through their history. This is about using a personal life story to enter a wider debate of how human activity is directed and organised and assumptions inherent in these processes.

Conclusion Auto/biographical methods can offer more holistic approaches to examining experiences by drawing together researcher and participant experiences in wholesome ways that are respectful. The interconnectedness avoids the abstractions that some other methods can sometimes impose, enabling fuller participant involvement in the research processes.

Implications for practice/research Auto/biographical approaches appear particularly relevant for researching nursing because of their holistic nature. Implications for practice and research are found in the potential for developing personal and professional knowledge.

Nurse Researcher. 19, 1, 38-42. doi: 10.7748/nr2011.

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Accepted: 11 November 2010

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