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So you are going to write a personal narrative as the introduction to your thesis. Not everyone has – or wants – to do this. But some do, or they want to. But in some disciplines – and places – it seems to be almost mandatory to begin the thesis with a few pages which are about yourself. In other places and disciplines to do so would be unthinkable.

Why do people want – or are required – to write a personal narrative? Well there are at least three reasons – any or all of:

The personal narrative is intended to locate the researcher so that examiners can see how the researcher’s actual life and/or work experience might influence the research, for better or worse. The narrative enacts the (epistemological) position that no research is neutral and all research is written from somewhere, and where matters. Of course, understanding something about the researchers’ experiences can raise questions for examiners about potential blank and blind spots and the need for researcher reflexivity.
The personal narrative is intended to show how the research question arises from the personal life or professional work experience of the researcher. In applied fields for instance it is not uncommon for doctoral researchers to find the mandate for their research in their professional context. They know from their direct experience that a particular kind of research would be valuable and useful and so their thesis reports a piece of work which does just this. And researchers do often end up researching something that is directly related to their life experience. They have a child or friend with… or they have experienced… Alternatively, the research may be a continuation of a scholarly interest formed earlier.
The personal narrative is intended to lay the ground work for a claim for professional knowledge. In applied fields, and often in professional doctorates, people draw on their own experience as part of the data. For instance a headteacher might use their experience of school budgeting to advantage, a midwife use the need to work both emotionally as well as on the body, and so on. (This is sometimes called working with Mode 2 knowledge as the knowing arises from experience in work settings or working on applied problems).

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So you are going to write a personal narrative as the introduction to your thesis. Not everyone has – or wants – to do this. But some do, or they want to. But insome disciplines – and places – it seems to be almost mandatory to begin the thesis with a few pages which are about yourself. In other places and disciplines to do so would be unthinkable.

Why do people want – or are required – to write a personal narrative? Well there are at least three reasons – any or all of:

  • The personal narrative is intended to locate the researcher so that examiners can see how the researcher’s actual life and/or work experience might influence the research, for better or worse. The narrative enacts the (epistemological) position that no research is neutral and all research is written from somewhere, and where matters. Of course, understanding something…

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