Poetic inquiry

This week’s post and screencast is authored by Ayça Fackler. Ayça Fackler is a Ph.D. candidate in Science Education in the Mary Frances Early College of Education at the University of Georgia, expecting to graduate in 2022. Her research interests include scientific models and modeling, multimodality, emergent bi/multilingual learners in science education, and history and philosophy of science (education). She is particularly interested in investigating how multimodality embedded in modeling practices helps students with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds make sense of scientific ideas. She is committed to education that values all learners.

To view the screencast, click HERE


Hi everyone! In this video, I will introduce an arts-based perspective on research, poetic inquiry and the ways that poetry can be used reflexively, as analytical processes and representational forms.

The topics we will discuss in this video include history of the use of poetry in qualitative research, poetical mode of thinking, ways of thinking about poetic inquiry.

The use of poetry in qualitative research is not new. As early as 1982, anthropologist Toni Flores was using poetry in her work. She realized that her poems served to add to one’s observation of the process of observation and added a dimension to our study and methods. Poetic inquiry had its first real boost in qualitative research in the early 1990s when sociologist Laurel Richardson used found poetry to depict interesting stories she heard from her participants. Since the early 1980s, poetry in research has been described variously as field poetry, found poetry, ethnographic poetics, poetic transcription, data poems, autoethnographic poetry, investigative poetry, research poetry, poetic inquiry.

The use of poetry in qualitative research has taken root across many disciplines that include anthropology, leadership, medicine, nursing, social work, and education.

According to Leavy, poetry is not just a representational form but also another way of interpreting and thus understanding. Poetical thinking is one way of thinking about our data, understanding and representing it. Poetical thinking quote “Privileges the figurative and performative dimensions of languages, images, and gestures over their literal or representational ones” quote. In other words, poetical thinking encourages languages, bodies, movements, or images lead the way. Poetical thinking quote” Mediates between real and possible felt worlds in ways that open up rather than close the potential for multiple interpretations” quote. It also quote “transcends borders, connecting, as well as dissolving and rearranging, a dynamic world of felt experiences” quote.

According to Butler-Kisber, there are two ways for framing and thinking about poetic inquiry: Found poetry: we create a found poem, when we use the exact words from transcripts and turn them into a poetic form. Generated poetry or more autobiographical poetry can be produced when we use our own words to express participants’ experiences.

So, you may ask how we can create a poem from a transcript. There are several ways to do so. I will be introducing the steps outlined by Butler-Kisber, 2018. First, read your transcript through a different lens. This time you do not have to really think about your research questions. Try to see some eye-catching themes. Then, highlight those eye-catching segments of the data. Next, develop some excerpts. Try to understand what those words and phrases that seem important really mean. Then you can combine the phrases from the transcript. Finally, look for key words for your title. Depending on whether you are interested in a found or generated poetry, you may choose to change words and phrases from the transcript.

Here is an example of found poetry from Ohlen’s (2003) work entitled Evocation of Meaning Through Poetic Condensation of Narratives in Empirical Phenomenological Inquiry Into Human Suffering. This is a comparison between verbatim transcription in dialogue format and transcription with poetic condensation. You may want to pause the video here to see how specific excerpts from the transcript became lines in this poetic representation.

If you would like to read and learn more about poetic inquiry, you can check out the reference list attached along with this video. Happy reading and learning! Thank you for listening.


Ayot, W. (2012). E-mail from the soul. Avalon.

Brady, I. (2004). In defense of the sensual: Meaning construction in ethnography and poetics. Qualitative Inquiry, 10(4), 622-644.

Butler-Kisber, L. (2002). Artful portrayals in qualitative inquiry: The road to found poetry and beyond. The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, XLVIII(3), 229-239.

Butler-Kisber, L. (2004). Poetic inquiry. In L. Butler-Kisber & A. Sullivan (Eds.), Poetic inquiry in qualitative research. Journal of Critical Inquiry into Curriculum and Instruction, (Special Issue), 5(1), 1-4.

Butler-Kisber, L. (2018). Qualitative inquiry: Thematic, narrative, and arts-based perspectives. SAGE Publications.

Faulkner, S. L. (2005). Method: Six poems. Qualitative Inquiry11(6), 941-949.

Flint, M. A. (2019). Hawks, robots, and chalkings: Unexpected object encounters during walking interviews on a college campus. Educational Research for Social Change, 8(1), 120-137.

Flores, T. (1982). Field poetry. Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly, 7(1), 16-22.

Freeman, M. (2017). Modes of thinking for qualitative data analysis. Routledge. 

Furman, R. (2006). Autoethnographic poems and narrative reflections: A qualitative study on the death of a companion animal. Journal of Family Social Work, 9(4), 23-38.

Glesne, C. (1997). That rare feeling: Re-presenting research through poetic transcription. Qualitative Inquiry3(2), 202-221.

Hartnett, S. J. (2003). Incarceration nation: Investigating prison poems of hope and terror. AltaMira.

Langer, C. L., & Furman, R. (2004). Exploring identity and assimilation: Research and interpretive poems. Forum Qualitative Social Research [Online Journal], 5(2), Art. 5. https://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/609/1320

Leavy, P. (2015). Method meets art: Art-based research practice. The Guilford Press.

Madison, D. S. (2008). Narrative poetics and performative interventions. In N. K. Denzin & M. D. Giardina (Eds.), Qualitative inquiry and the politics of evidence (pp. 221-249). Left Coast Press.

Öhlen, J. (2003). Evocation of meaning through poetic condensation of narratives in empirical phenomenological inquiry into human suffering. Qualitative Health Research13(4), 557-566.

Richardson, L. (1992). The consequences of poetic representation: Writing the other, writing the self. In C. Ellis & M. G. Flaherty (Eds.), Investigating subjectivity: Research on lived experience (pp. 125-137). Sage.

Shafer, A., Maxwell, B., Strauss, R., & Knopp, V. (2007). I must tell you in a poem: Poetry and commentary. Journal of Medical Humanities, 28(2), 173-180.

Shapiro, J., & Stein, H. (2005). Poetic license: Writing poetry as a way for medical students to examine their professional relational systems. Families, Systems, & Health, 23(3), 278-292.

Souter, J. (2005). Loss of appetite: A poetic exploration of cancer patients’ and their carers’ experiences. International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 11(10), 524-532.

Sullivan, A., Butler-Kisber, L., Commeryas, M., & Stewart, M. (2002, April). Constructing data poems: How and why – A hands-on experience. Extended pre-conference session at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. New Orleans, LA.

Thomas, S., Cole, A. L., & Stewart, S. (2012). The art of poetic inquiry. Backalong Books.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s