Using metaphors in research methodology (What can they do in research?…
Using metaphors in research methodology
What can they do in research? (Applying known characteristics of familiar concepts to other less familiar phenomena)
an opportunity to examine phenomena from a unique and creative perspective (Carpenter 2008)
to provide structure to the data (Carpenter 2008)
to understand a familiar process in a new light (Carpenter 2008)
to identify situation-specific interventions (Carpenter 2008)
to evoke emotion (Carpenter 2008)
serve as a powerful strategy to portray complex realities (Miles & Huberman, 1994)
illuminate aspects of phenomena not previously noticed (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980)
add depth of meaning to understanding (Kangas, Warren, & Byrne, 1998)
helps to clarify and broaden understandings of the less familiar (Moss, Moss, Rubinstein, & Black, 2003)
exemplify behaviors and processes by simplifying concepts, emphasizing some properties over others (Lakoff & Johnson)
Misuse can result in...
Misuse of metaphors may detract from the intended research message (Carpenter 2008)
Mixing metaphors, failing to follow through with metaphors (Carpenter 2008)
Using metaphors that do not fit the data can misrepresent the data (Carpenter 2008)
The choice to use metaphors should not become a self-serving attempt at creativity that supersedes subject and substance (Carpenter 2008)
What are metaphors?
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2006–2007), the simplest definition of metaphor is that of a figure of speech, replacing one idea or object with another to suggest an analogous relationship.
Analogy is the inference that if the dissimilar things relate to each other in some respects, they will likely relate in others (Carpenter 2008)
By reducing concepts or ideas into their shared characteristics, metaphors enable linguistic transference from one to another (Coffey & Atkinson, 1996)
‘‘Metaphor constitutes a displacement and an extension of the meaning of words; its explanation is grounded in a theory of substitution’’ (Ricoeur, 2003, p. 1)
Lakoff and Johnson (1980) argued against the idea that metaphors are merely linguistic devices - referred to the complex metaphorical nature of the human conceptual system, asserting that metaphors structure human thought and understanding of experiences
metaphors are so embedded in language that humans are often unaware of their influence (Grey, 2000)
Lakoff and Johnson demonstrated how conceptual metaphors are reflected in common, everyday expressions that often go unnoticed. Expressions such as ‘‘I can’t swallow that claim,’’ ‘‘Now there’s a theory you can really sink your teeth into,’’ and ‘‘That’s food for thought’’ reflect the broad conceptual metaphor, ‘‘ideas are food’’ (p. 46).
Using metaphors in research
employ metaphors as a mechanism to structure data or to help the researcher understand a familiar process in a new light (Carpenter 2008
Their implications may suggest appropriate interventions, and they can be used as a rhetorical tool to evoke emotion (Carpenter 2008)
How metaphors function in qualitative research depends on the researcher’s intent and at which stage in the research process they are employed and are not mutually exclusive (Carpenter 2008)