Volume 3 Issue 1 (2007): Students' Reflections on Doing Research
Main Articles

On Learning the Research Craft: Memoirs of a Journeyman Researcher

Cathy Guthrie
The Robert Gordon University
Published May 2, 2007
  • research journey,
  • qualitative research,
  • bricoleur,
  • methodology


The notion of researcher as craftsman is not new. This article takes the analogy further, exploring the similarities between the research student’s journey and the artisan’s transition from apprentice to journeyman to member of the guild, in the light of the author’s own PhD experience. Having completed her apprenticeship with the MSc, she compares her doctoral explorations of the existing literature and the methodology texts with the medieval journeyman’s migration from one master craftsman to another, incorporating the knowledge acquired into the eventual masterpiece which determines entry to the guild and perpetuates the myth of a linear research process as against the reiterative reality of the qualitative research journey. The relationship between journeyman and master is key. Reflecting on her experience, the author suggests that communication and clear expectations have been vital success factors for her. Progress reports and conference papers have been tangible evidence of the distance covered. This evidence, combined with continual updating of a route map, incorporating outputs, due dates, and so forth, has prevented total disorientation. As she nears the end of her journey, she hopes this article conveys something of the hills and valleys along the way, and offers a gleam of light for future and fellow travellers.