Working solo

Just Describe

By Anitra Nottingham


If you want to improve the place where you conduct your research, it pays to fully understand and document the current setting. This recipe works on the idea that the act of writing is a ‘lab tool’ of qualitative social research, and is a practice capable of generating data (Law, 2004), in the same way that a microscope produces data by enabling us to observe realities invisible to the naked eye. Here writing generates a narrative-style description of the field which is then used as data and subjected to analysis.

This dish is the fortuitous result of mixing a lack of human participants, a deadline, and a dash of panic. It springs from theories of the socio-material, in particular actor-network theory (ANT).   It is based on the idea that objects can be made to ‘speak’ – to tell us something of what they may contribute to the social – if we describe them well enough (Latour, 2005).


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