Bringing your Personal Stories into the Research

In 2018, me and some colleagues organised our Higher Degree Research Conference, a place for researchers in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UTS to show their work and connect with colleagues. 

As a newbie in this academic world, this was my first conference. I was in the organising committee, but more important than taking care of the organisation of the event was to see so many possibilities of research inside my faculty.  

Research and PhD life is a lonely endeavour and more often than not we find ourselves so immersed in our own struggles that we don’t have the time or even the motivation to see what is going on around us, what our colleagues are doing. I find myself on this spot a lot! But it is when I allow myself to see and hear what others are doing that I feel more inspired and excited about my own research. 

Seeing so many different works made me realise that it is possible to research in so various ways, from so diverse standpoints. It is amazing. And a conference is the best place to see this diversity in a short period of time.

Two Inspiring Projects

All the projects I saw during the conference helped me in some way to figure out something in my own research. Even when it was a research on education or what topic not related to mine. And all were interesting and inspiring. But, two of them made me think a little more how our personal experiences can be used as a strength in research. 

Life on the Edge, by Sinead Roarty, was a great surprise to me. She is using walking methodologies to understand the relationships the community form with a place known as for a spot for suicides in Sydney – The Gap. Her presentation begins with her memories of the place, that she used to visit during her childhood. Besides the research around traumascapes, she is also writing a novella, as a creative outcome. 

What made this presentation so special to me, was her engaging storytelling and her personal relationship with the research. You could see that she was deeply present in her research and this made it all so much more powerful.


Scripting for screen and space: how alternative exhibition formats such as virtual reality are impacting poetic documentary practice by Renée Brack sounds (and it is) incredibly technical and sophisticated but it was also filled with her personal story. Personal archive and her relationship with dementia (experienced by her father) were used to produce a Virtual Reality video and a poetic documentary to help the public to have a grasp of what it is to live with dementia and, hopefully, bring more awareness and empathy to this illness. 

Renée’s presentation made me realize that our stories are our strength, they are what make each one of us unique in the competitive academic world and that we (me) should explore this more.  

Both projects showed me how our personal stories can lead to exceptional research work and make our projects even stronger. And made me proud and grateful to be part of such inspiring team of researchers.

What about you? Have you used your personal stories in research? Or do you have any good examples to share?

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