Heuristic Research

I begin my journey with something that has called to me from within my life experience, something to which I have associations and fleeting awarenesses but whose nature is largely unknown.

Clarke Moustakas, Heurustic Research1

My decision to adopt heuristic methods to help me on my journey is perhaps best summed up by Moustakas when he explains that “the heuristic process is autobiographic, yet with virtually every question that matters personally there is also a social – and perhaps universal significance”. 2 Heuristic research contains an implicit challenge, the importance of embracing the inevitability of being changed by the enquiry, continuing a process of personal growth which reflects my deep commitment to explore new territory within myself, which involves acknowledgment of the tacit knowledge3 I possess that as well as looking inward to find meaning I must also look outward, I must examine all of my relationships, not only with other humans but with the more-than-human world.

Heuristic enquiry asks me what it means to live authentically, it challenges me to fully realise the potentialities of my existence, to let go and fall in the river,4 to grab hold of myself and pull myself back from my fallenness.5 Am I standing still and the river of authentic experience is moving or am I falling and authenticity is a kind of stillness? This kind of question characterises an aspect of heuristic research which focusses on the exploration of essences of an experience, the understanding that an experience has multiple meanings, and an engagement in a rhythmic flow with the experience is necessary to uncover more of those meanings. Implicit in this is the idea of an organic process of engagement with meanings which may change over time.

Heuristic research methods are open-ended, meaning that any form of creative expression or channel of exploration is an appropriate method for scientific investigation.6 Therefore the material I present in this website will include self-dialogues, photographs, journals, artwork, poetry and anything else which helps me to identify with the focus of the enquiry. As a starting point I might, for example, enter into a self-dialogue by posing the question, “What is my personal experience of feeling really connected with nature?”7

References

  1. Moustakas, C. (1990) Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology and Applications. London: Sage. p.13.
  2. Moustakas, C. (1990) Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology and Applications. London: Sage. p.15.
  3. Polanyi, M. (1983). The Tacit Dimension. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith.
  4. Roads, M. (1985). Talking with Nature. Tiburon, California: H J Kramer Inc. p.25.
  5. Van Deurzen, E. (2002). “Heidegger’s Challenge of Authenticity” in Further Existential Challenges to Psychotherapeutic Theory and Practice, Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis. p.373.
  6. Bridgman, P. (1950). Reflections of a Physicist. New York: Philosophical Library.
  7. Moustakas, C. (1990) Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology and Applications. London: Sage. p.42.

Notes from a journey towards ecological consciousness