Why Choose Duoethnography as a Research Method?

This month we published Duoethnography in English Language Teaching edited by Robert J. Lowe and Luke Lawrence. In this post the editors explain what duoethnography is and why you might choose it as a method for research.

Duoethnography as a best-fit method for research

Duoethnography is an emerging qualitative research method that involves two researchers working together to harness the power of dialogue and the researchers’ own lived experiences to uncover new insights and challenge grand narratives. Here we talk about how we came to duoethnography, lay out the main characteristics of the method and offer it up as a method of best-fit, especially for new researchers.

Finding a research method

Finding an appropriate research method, especially for new and emerging scholars, can be one of the most challenging aspects of carrying out any research. You might have read up on all the literature, found an area in your field that you are passionate about, and come up with a great idea for a project – but then the problems start! One problem is simply finding the confidence that you have the skills to carry out the research, and another is that the research methods available don’t seem to fit what you want to do. For us, although there were a number of alternative qualitative research methods out there, the problem we found was that our own voices and experiences – the very people whose knowledge and experience had inspired the research projects in the first place – were shut out at every turn.

How we came to duoethnography

We both came to duoethnography when we found that our own personal experiences didn’t quite chime with what we were reading in the literature. However, there didn’t seem to be an academic frame within which to explore these experiences. As well as not seeing our own experiences reflected in what we were reading about and studying, we also realised that our individual experiences were just that: individual experiences. Although valuable and valid in their own right, they would benefit by being juxtaposed with the experiences of others, preferably someone coming from a different background or perspective.

Key points of duoethnography

Duoethnography is designed to be simple enough for beginner researchers to try out, but also sophisticated enough to handle the complexity of the modern ELT and applied linguistics field. Although it is flexible to individual needs and style, some key points of carrying out a duoethnography are:

  • The self as research site – in duoethnography the researchers and their personal histories are the site of the research, but not the topic
  • Dialogic – conversation and dialogue are used to explore topics. These dialogues are then reconstructed into readable and accessible scripts
  • Requires trust – due to the often intimate and personal nature of duoethnography, trust between researchers is very important
  • Disrupts grand narratives – duoethnograhy uses personal stories to question taken-for-granted ideas

At first glance duoethnography may seem like an unorthodox method of research, but we believe that as researchers, rather than bending to outdated methods that are ill-fitting for what we want to do, it is best to find the research method that best fits our own needs. Duoethnography is a flexible, accessible method of research that any researcher, whether just starting out or a veteran in the field, can make use of to find their their own voice and forge their own path in ELT.

Robert J. Lowe and Luke Lawrence

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Critical Reflections on Research Methods edited by Doris S. Warriner and Martha Bigelow.

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