In Search of a Method

[ Responding to the last post.] What if the stories are the way in to an understanding? To worry that stories may not be “enough” on which to build an exploration is to negate the corpus of work on qualitative inquiry, particularly narrative inquiry, for example

It’s through the stories that my questions take shape; my wonderings drift, connect, and I “see” what I am thinking. I see where I believe one event influences another, how one understanding may build a path toward new approaches, more questions. It’s often the questions that open into whole new worlds of the possible.

As I read about ethnographic methods, I find much that reverberates. I have long pondered about culture and the impacts of the web on the social and cultural fabric of “the world” (Castells, 2014, 2010, 2005, 2001). And I acknowledge this world I conceive is Western, white, and privileged, and thus limited. This acknowledgement must inform whatever processes I take up in exploring my questions. What ethnographic methods and rationales afford is an emphasis on and a way in to culture — certain cultural institutions in particular–and the way new technologies of the web have affected it.

And yet, the more I read, the more I can find what doesn’t fit. My immediate impulse has not been to engage in research that aims to enlist a community to solve a problem the individuals within it identify or embrace, thus furthering its development (LeCompte & Schensul, 2010). My impulse has been to start with the stories and see where they lead.

Silenced Motherhood(s): Forbidden Motherings in the Early Childhood Classroom , a recent article by Dana Frantz Bentley, has validated this impulse. Dana uses narrative inquiry to examine conceptions of mother-not mother in the field of early childhood. She combines vignettes from her lived experience as an early childhood teacher-researcher with a far-reaching discussion of theories of feminisms, power, notions of “care” as a pedagogical move, etc.

I read her piece thinking, “Yes, this is how I’m thinking about this seeking I need to do.”

And, there is more to learn about ethnographic research. Meanwhile, I need to start writing down stories.


Bentley, D. F. (2020). Silenced motherhood(s): Forbidden motherings in the early childhood classroom. Genealogy, 4(2), 41.

Castells, M. (2000). Toward a sociology of the network society. Contemporary Sociology, 29(5), 693-699.

Castells, M. (2001). The Internet galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, business, and society. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Castells, M. (2005). The network society: From knowledge to policy. Washington, DC: Center for Transatlantic Relations.

Castells, M. (2010). The rise of the network society (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Castells, M. (2014). The impact of the Internet on society: A global perspective. In Change: 19 Key essays on how the Internet is changing our lives (pp. 127–148). BBVA. Retrieved from

LeCompte, M. D., & Schensul, J. J. (2010). Designing & conducting ethnographic research: An introduction (2nd ed). AltaMira Press.


2 responses to “In Search of a Method”

  1. Stories usually center around conflict. The middle school lit terms worksheets say there are three kinds of conflict: human vs. human, human vs. nature and human vs. self. Each of those actually seems to have dimensions that are relevant to our current moment.

    • Karen says:

      I just wrote the best response and accidentally deleted it. Dang this new computer– I’m still learning to maneuver its super-sensitive keyboard & touchpad. I’ll try again.

      Have you read Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones? In it, a character says that we are supposed to learn from stories and if we don’t, then the story isn’t much good. I think, too, of the genre of creative nonfiction, where writers push at the traditional ideas and forms of story to craft pieces that make us see and think about “facts” and other truths in whole new ways.

      I hope those junior high kids get to know story as something beyond what those worksheets are telling them. Maybe the center of a story is conflict, but I think tension may be a more nuanced and accurate term. Maybe those tensions can be categorized in three simple columns. I just think humans and human experience aren’t that tidy. Teaching about stories in that way seems to minimize the complex power they can wield. Clearly, I would struggle with being a junior high school teacher…. In fact, I think the first question I would ask is if they thought the worksheets were telling the truth.

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