OTalk

#OTalk Research 4th May 2021 – Autoethnography and Occupational Therapy

This weeks research focus chat will be hosted by Dr Gemma Wells @GemmaOTPhD. I am a Senior Lecturer and the Professional Lead in Occupational Therapy at Canterbury Christ Church University.  I am a qualitative researcher with a particular interest in using research methods that require an element of creativity, as illustrated by my use of photo-elicitation in my PhD.

As an Occupational Therapist I am inspired by the occupational narratives of people and communities.  The insight that these narratives provide is beyond anything that can be observed as they represent the personally attributed meaning and lived experience of the individual.  This personal experience is set within the context that surrounds the individual, a context that is shaped by a range of personal, local, and global factors.  My interest in the personal narratives of others has recently steered me to consider my own experiences as an occupational being, a process that has led me to the research method of autoethnography.

Autoethnography is a qualitative research method concerned with exploring the interplay between personal experience, and the social and cultural worlds in which this personal experience exists (Denshire and Lee 2013). Starting with their individual narrative, autoethnography requires the researcher to engage in a process of moving between existing theory and their described lived experience to enable the individual to make sense of their narrative.

We are all occupational beings that engage in personally meaningful activities (occupations), with our own occupational narratives to be told and explored. Embracing autoethnography as a research method could enable us all to make a positive a contribution to the body of research that informs Occupational Therapy practice.

This #OTalk aims to explore the potential of autoethnography as a means of contributing to the evidence base and theory informing Occupational Therapy practice.  The questions that will be considered are:

  1. What do you consider to be the benefits of taking an autoethnographic approach in Occupational Therapy research?
  2. How could you use autoethnography to inform your practice of Occupational Therapy?
  3. What are the potential challenges of using autoethnography within Occupational Therapy research?
  4. What might prevent you from personally engaging with autoethnography?
  5. If you were to complete one piece of autoethnographic work, what would be the main theme that you would be interested in exploring?

Denshire S, Lee A (2013) Conceptualising Autoethnography as Assemblage: Accounts of Occupational Therapy.  International Journal of Qualitative Methods 12(1):221-236

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