Heuristic Inquiry: A Personal Journey of Acculturation and Identity Reconstruction.

Published on Nov 1, 2010in The Qualitative Report
Ivana Djuraskovic2
Estimated H-index: 2
(U of C: University of Calgary),
Nancy Arthur23
Estimated H-index: 23
(NSU: Nova Southeastern University)
When I (Ivana) was preparing to do research on refugee acculturation and ethnic identity reconstruction for my master's thesis, I wondered for a long time which methodology to select. I knew that I experienced acculturation and ethnic identity reconstruction firsthand; however, I was not sure whether I was ready to explore my own personal experience on a deeper level. After all, I had been so good at ignoring it for a number of years. Why would I want to address it now? After considerable reflection, I realized that I would never be able to understand the experiences of others unless I revisited my own experience of acculturation and identity reconstruction. That is why, despite many challenges, I chose to do a study using heuristic inquiry. However, even after I made my decision, the thought of revisiting the painful exile from my home and attempting to find life in a new country lingered long in my mind. And yet, something was propelling me towards using heuristic inquiry, perhaps an intuitive sense that it would help me find peace through better understanding of myself and through understanding the immigration experiences of people similar to me. The purpose of this paper is to familiarize readers with using heuristic inquiry in research. Based upon my experiences, I will share my personal notes of how I came to a decision to use heuristic inquiry in my research. I will describe the process of co-researcher selection, as well as data collection. This article was co-authored by my academic supervisor, who has been my mentor for seven years. Even though this article is written using the first person to reflect my personal experience, linking research with my personal experience was inextricably influenced by the relationship with my academic supervisor. With respect to my research on the process of acculturation and ethnic identity, the research really began when we began to engage in a debate about the topic and what methodology would support my research interests. With her encouragement, I explored existing models of acculturation and ethnic identity to refine my topic. Then I began the search for a qualitative method that would support my research topic and I debriefed my exploration with her. Through our conversations, I felt supported in realizing that a researcher can become fully engaged with the research topic and also utilize one's experience in the process. To that end, we negotiated the methodology for this study. My mentor also engaged in a detailed editing of my writings, helping me to determine choice points and directions of both content and process. The feedback provided through our ongoing dialogue and reading of all of my research drafts provided me with a greater insight about heuristic inquiry in general. She also listened to my discoveries--about the topic, about others, and about myself. Therefore, this article is a result of our collaborative efforts to create a subjective and highly personal account of using the heuristic method in research. The discussion addresses the nature of heuristic methodology, including its concepts and phases, as well as its limitations. Examples of personal reflection that accompanied the research process are incorporated. Readers are referred to another article by Djuraskovic and Arthur (2009) for details about the research design, including the selection of six co-researchers. The article explored the specific issues that refugees face as a result of forced exile and how those issues influence experiences of acculturation and ethnic identity reconstruction. I recruited the co-researchers by advertising my study in community centres and churches, as well as using the snowball sampling method, which involved asking the individuals who decided to participate in the study if they knew anybody who would also be interested to be a co-researcher in this project. Six individuals who identified themselves as refugees from former Yugoslavia volunteered to participate in this study. …
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