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The Heuristic Journey, by Ann Scott

Thursday, January 18th, 2007 @ 1:57 pm
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Posted in  Heuristics, Methodology

A fellow traveller in the PhD group has sent me a demonstrative account of how she views the heuristic journey towards the desired ‘creative synthesis’ as described by Moustakas (1994). This story shows vividly the impact that the heuristic journey may have on the researcher…as for me, I often feel that I am sinking into deep waters, due to my personal involvement with the research topic…but I do hope that, given I grew up in a country all surrounded by sea, am a good swimmer and won’t end up saying “never again”. Here it is (with thanks and acknowledgements to Ann)


“Setting out together, three friends had no idea of what lie ahead. They knew that their journey would take them into deep waters. What they did not know was what that would mean for each individual.
They came to a fast flowing river and realised that they must somehow cross to the other side.
The first traveller waded into the shallows near the bank with confidence. He looked carefully at the water, judged the current and understood the course he must take. As he started swimming, he stayed near the surface, riding the choppy waves. Although his head was under the water much of the time, he could occasionally look up and get a glimpse of the far bank. He knew that life existed outside his present watery home. As he felt invigorated by the challenge he kicked strongly for the shore. On reaching his goal, he looked back, tired but pleased that he had managed the crossing without too much of a struggle.
The second traveller watched the first and was encouraged that ‘This thing can be done.’ As he took the plunge, momentarily he completely lost sight of the surface. Panic rose as he felt the yawning blackness beneath him. Somehow he found within himself the strength to reach towards the surface. To his delight he found a hand reaching down to him. He grasped it and heaved himself up. He took a gulp of air before sinking back into the depths and fast flowing current. Time and again he felt the blackness beginning to engulf him and again managed to reach up for that ever present hand. Slowly he made progress across the river and at last he realised that he was in shallow waters. He gratefully found his feet and heaved himself up onto the bank. It would take him a while before he attempted a similar feat, but he was very proud of his accomplishment.
The third traveller watched all this in silent horror. He knew the only way forward was through the water, yet it seemed an impossible task.
With great courage he took one small step forward. As he did so, his foot slipped and he quickly disappeared from sight. His unprepared-ness for this sudden baptism meant that he was immediately caught up in the watery maelstrom. Down and down he went, loosing all sense of direction. His only thought was of survival. Even if hands were reaching down to him, not only was he out of reach, but he didn’t even know that they were there. He bumped along the bottom in the pitch black, swept along by the current at an alarming speed. He lost hope of coming out of his experience alive. Then, he realised he could just about crawl along the bottom, holding onto the rocks in the river bed. Painfully slowly, he made his way to the far shore. Lungs bursting he found himself moving towards the light as he entered the shallows. Exhausted he lay face down in the water and would have drowned if his faithful companions had not waited for him and come to his aid.
Some time later when he could bear to look back, he still had no idea how he had negotiated the deep. He was glad to have survived, glad to learn of his own inner strength and the trustworthiness of his friends. But it would be a long, long time before he went near water again!”

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