Home > Identity, Research Methods, Research Philosophy, Uncategorized > Moving on quickly then to PhD proposal

Moving on quickly then to PhD proposal

I’ve no idea whether this blog will make any sense today, but I just feel the need to write a couple of things down…

My MRes dissertation (aka pilot study), on the effects of project life on project manager identity is now complete, and in its final packaging before sending to the external examiner.  I’ve started some knowledge exchange in terms of one conference and another workshop in April.  For some reason though, I’ve found that there is a strong desire to move on to my PhD proposal, especially after making the following few realizations (in no particular order).

1. My MRes was great, and an interesting and rewarding research experience.  However, I felt near the end somewhat dissatisfied with the ‘shakey’ and bland case study methods in identity research, particularly around any tie back to ontological and epistemological foundations.  Something lacked a little here without trying to undermine it too much.  I think it is good research, just Master level research.  This I want/need to correct during my transition to new PhD.

2. Identity research from the organisational theorists’ perspectives has also left me a little unsatisfied.  In fact, I’ll agree with Mats Alvesson that there is a considerable myopathy within identity’s philosophical paradigms.  I would prefer to be more holistic in my PhD identity research so I’ve been looking for alternatives.  That’s when I stumbled across Paul Ricoeur.

3. Paul Ricoeur offers a considerable depth for me as a researcher.  From the hermeneutic cycle which I do like as a method to increasing understanding – like reflexive practice, and not claiming any certainty etc.  It also fits with my beliefs around the social construction of human reality.  Next his work on time and narrative, and most important to my research – his conception of narrative identity.

I’m now reading about his structured approach to narrative interpretation through Mimesis.  Mimesis 1, the pre-configuration of narratives events, Mimesis 2, configuration using employment, and Mimesis 3 – a hermeneutic I suppose in the reconfiguration with the addition of the researcher’s/readers own meaning.  I can sense this fits quite well with Wittgenstein’s language games.  I see to that there will be alternatives…  Now, I don’t proclaim to have a great depth of understanding yet, but there is a sense in which this all feels like a safe and exciting place to start my journey.  If anyone has any PhDs, Masters or even articles on Ricoeurian Hermeneutic analysis I’d be most grateful for a heads up on where to find these.

4. Finally, on one hand, I’ve narrowed my interest to specifically the effects of “project success and failure” and on the other hand, widened my interest to the notion of professional manager identity i.e. not necessarily certified project manager.  Ricoeur’s narrative identity looks like a new way of conceptualizing what happens to peoples plots after project success/failure, and I think it will fit well with managers who will need to tell me their stories either by interview, or through text (say a book, blog, autobiography etc)  Narrative identity looks to allow things that seemed lacking in other theories such as allowing the combining of history and fiction; the past, present and future (temporal aspects);  the implicit and explicit; the concordance and discordance; etc.  I currently though to be fair – I do not really understand yet what is on offer and what is not.

I have some reservations on Ricoeur, particularly as he had such a strong evaluative, ethical, moral, and christian side to his works which rubs me up the wrong way a bit.  I’ve always preferred existentialist philosophers better such as Nietzsche or Jen Paul Satre and the aesthetic life.  But at least, another favorite of mine – Heidegger is foundational to Ricoeur.  Nevertheless, reservations aside, I think I’m on my way – and the sense-breaking has begun again as I try to understand his writings and read others writings of him.  When I just thought I understood what identity is… it is once again taken away from me.  How exciting!!!!

  1. February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    If you are still exploring http://naddysheridan.wordpress.com/my-dissertation/ this is the link to my PhD dissertation. Identity negotiations were only part of it, but you might be interested in just searching the document for sources etc. There is a concept in Germany called Patchwork Identities (Michel-Peres) I also used culture in this discourse (made a model p.329).
    Hope you find something that helps you, I stepped away from using philosophy and turned towards pragmatic approaches for the identity part. I think the danger with philosophic approaches (at least for me) was to fall into relativism …

    • February 11, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Nathalie, I’m particularly interested in your comment on philosophical approaches. I must admit, I do not seem to be able to separate the philosophical from research dealing with ‘the self’. Am I missing something? To me, anything we say about the self-identity, professional identity, the personal identity, all will be grounded in philosophy. Ian’s point on operationalising Ricoeur is perhaps what you might be meaning. If that is the case then two people are saying the same. One final point, is not everything we do in research to some extent founded on philosophy also i.e. ontological or epistemological claims? In fact, might the difference between a Master level research and PhD level research is about this firming up on the foundations of any claims… Interesting really, even if I’m worried that following the narrative genre, that ultimately I cannot make any claims at all :o)

      • February 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

        I had fun reading your comment, incidentally even how you approach your comment is exactly the problem I had with using philosophy. Maybe it is a matter of levels. I agree that on principle* a research project (at least a thorough one) cannot (or should not) be but an epistemological process. The learner (researcher) is inevitably undertaking identity work throughout the learning process, this for me is the underlying level of research (and in fact learning).
        I could not comment on operationalising Ricoeur, for I do not know his work.**

        The ‘meta-level’, if you like, is the actual research approach. Exploring (questioning) ‘self’ and identity in your research does not necessarily mean you have to take a philosophical framework. I chose for instance a pragmatic one, and linked it with principles from social psychology and culture theory. At which point you surely will be able to point out further linkage to philosophy ;P

        Third level: In the end I think the decision to make is a fundamental one. What do you want to achieve with your PhD? How much can a philosophical consideration of your research be translated into the ‘real life context’ of your working field? And do you want there to be such a connection or are you simply on a heuristic quest? Are you using a philosophical approach for the pleasure of mental exercise? Can you translate philosophy into solution in a work environment? This was the point I tried to make and my problem with philosophy. If I had chosen this approach I would have gotten lost in the fun of playing with ideas. Therefore, I decided to use a framework practitioners could utilize.

        As for making claims: It felt like the quest for the Holy Grail, and I was sure to find answers, understanding, insight. However, despite my eclectic use of theory and drawing from different fields, I feel I still just skim on the surface of the issues I originally wanted to discuss. I found there was no scope for in depth exploration within the PhD because the project simply was not comprehensive enough. If anything, it posed more questions than it answered.

        PS: This is fun! Did not realize how much I missed such discussions.

        *or is it ‘in principal’? 7 years and I am still not in full control of English grammar!
        ** Will be amended shortly

  2. February 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I agree Ricoeur has lots of potential here depending on what you want to achieve. I am reading his work with interest (although it is hard work and have found a useful secondary text). Although clearly philisophical, I like his ability to relate processes of formation and meaning making to the ‘other’ (i.e. real world of practice for you and I) and as you say his hermeneutic arc provides a useful motif for thinking.

    I think the work to do is in ‘operationalising’ his ideas and being explicit about processes and mechanisms. In other words, connecting the issues of reflection and meaning making with practices, hence my dual interest in forms of pragmatism. Anyway, I look forward to chatting although I’m not sure I feel like any sort of Ricoeur expert at all!

    • February 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      In a book that I will post the title later (I’m in a coffee shop) there is a chapter on operationalising a Ricoeurian Narrative analysis. I’ll get it to you.

  3. February 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Great topic! I’ve not read any Ricoeur, but have investigated the changing identity in the multiple actors (human and otherwise since i am using actor-network theory) involved in change. Have found Karen Barad, Lucy Suchmann and Bruno Latour helpful.
    An example of a failed project is latour’s Aramis.

  4. February 11, 2012 at 1:16 am

    …another thought: I can see Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) being useful analytically to your subject. It’s well applied to work practices in the literature – check out engestrom’s work on 3rd generation CHAT for an alternative (very alternative to Ricoeur) perspective…

    • February 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      Interesting you point out CHAT – but it makes me a little nervous when bringing in “culture” into my thinking…I’ve successfully avoided the term so far. Will take a look at it though. Thanks

      • Paul K
        February 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm

        The culture in CHAT is not so much the culture in more general social studies. It becomes quite defined as a function for your research in the various forms of activity theory i think. Alternatives include distributed cognition and situated theory, but I like the CHAT framework with wittgenstinian epistemology. Nice n tight and allows you to move quickly out of a sound philosphical base and into the research you really want to do for your field. If you can position ricoeur similarly it would be like someone holding your step ladder for you .

      • February 18, 2012 at 7:26 pm

        I think that anything with activity theory or actor theory feels like a move away from my interests. Simply stated I believe that conceptualizations of identity around essential, processual, or post modern world views cannot answer the ‘effect’ question on identity. Therefore:

        Problem: Little is known what effect the constructs of “success” or “failure” in projects has on our identities.

        Some Research Questions:
        – What is “success” and “failure” in projects?
        – How can one measure effects on identity?
        – What are the effects on identity caused by project success or failure?

        Ontology: Interpretivist/Existentialist (Heidegger, Geertz, Ricoeur)
        Epistemology: Social Constructivist, Phenomenology (maybe) and Hermeneutics. Identity seen through peoples stories throughout time, combining history and fiction! (Berger and Luckmann, Ricoeur)
        Data collection Method: Narrative Inquiry through in-depth interviews or text e.g. autobiography. “Tell me the story about you and project X”
        Data analysis: Narrative Identity through Ricoeurian Mimesis and hermeneutic circles.


  5. February 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Michael, glad to see you are continuing to move your thinking along! I have not read Ricoeur, though while I like studying issues around identity, I find it a challenging topic to speak about in isolation. In this area, what problem do you see that you want to explore in your PhD thesis? You mentioned a number of areas that you are interested in, though I did not get the sense of a problem > question > research (at least not yet!).

    • February 13, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      Hi Jeffrey, I want to explore the identity effects from project success and project failure. It seems and unexplored area. I’m hoping to seek out some high profile projects from the past few decades. Again, this is not driven from the literature, more my intuition at this early stage.



  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: