Our emotions influence how we think about, conduct, and interpret research, but to acknowledge emotion is like showing your underwear in public. The philosophy of science rests on a dichotomy between reason and emotion, and since emotion is assumed to block or distort rationality, it is anathema to scientific method. And even though cognitive science, philosophy, anthropology and feminism have challenged and nearly destroyed the dichotomy, letting emotion into our research is still suspect.
To be sure, many scholars have rejected objectivity, neutrality and emotional distance as something desirable, or even possible. A favorite trope of qualitative and interpretive research is that “we, ourselves, are our primary research instrument.” But beyond this slogan, we know little and teach little about how to use our instrument. We may have rejected emotional distance, but we don’t yet know what do with emotional proximity.
Research from the Heart is a practical guide to using emotion in research and writing. It shows how deliberately using emotion enables social researchers to find truths that resonate with human experience. This area of scholarship has four purposes:
- To demonstrate how emotion can be a source of intellectual creativity and insight.
- To show readers how to use emotion as a method—specifically,
- how emotion provides the researcher or analyst with cues about what to look for;
- how emotion provides evidence for beliefs, both our own and those of everyone we study, including policy makers; and
- how emotion provides us as social scientists with the compassion we need to understand why people behave as they do—not necessarily as we wish or as our policies hope to influence them, but as they experience their world.
- To teach how to analyze emotion in our research relationships, which means paying attention to our own emotion, our subjects’ emotion, and how we interact.
- To teach how to write about emotion for scholarly purposes.
What This Book Is Not
- It is not a self-help book to counsel people how to deal with their emotional troubles while doing research.
- It is not a tip sheet on how to use emotion instrumentally to gain and maintain access to our research subjects. (Insofar as textbooks on fieldwork deal with the topic of emotion, they take one or both of these approaches.)
- It is not a manual of propaganda. On the contrary, it aims to bring emotional motivations and appeals into the sunlight and treat them honestly.