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It's hard to tell how research feels: using fiction to enhance academic research and writing

Helen Kara (We Research It Ltd., Uttoxeter, UK)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 3 May 2013




This paper aims to explore the scope of fiction writing in academic research as a way of studying “messier” aspects of the process, such as emotion.


The author reflects on her “lived experience” of conducting doctoral research, five years earlier and re‐searched for the paper, by composing a fictional narrative that aims to capture some of the emotional and other complexities of the process.


The author demonstrates that fictionalisation opens possibilities for a deeper probing of the emotional aspects of the research experience. Her conclusion is that this method can help researchers to think about the processes of writing, reflexivity, and emotion. It can also be useful to academic writers more widely, by showing how fiction writing techniques can convey some of the more complex aspects of their day‐to‐day activities.

Practical implications

The paper can act as a model for extending academic writing skills in the area of fiction, by introducing characterisation, plot and dialogue.


This paper offers an original account of the emotions of the doctoral writer, situated within current discourses on emotion, fiction writing and methodology. It will be of value to scholars of arts, humanities and social sciences.



Kara, H. (2013), "It's hard to tell how research feels: using fiction to enhance academic research and writing", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 70-84.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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