I referred briefly in a post last week to a technique in autoethnographic writing called Text Spinning and Collaging.  The starting point for this approach is to gather together books, articles, and other writing that speaks to you for whatever reason.  In my case it may be a particular philosophical idea or concept, the way in which a photographer writes about their practice or indeed it maybe images that inspire me.  Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis in their book Autoethnography:  Understanding Qualitative Research set out a six-stage process from this point of gathering together some writing that interests you.

  1. Read through the books and articles again noting down in writing or typing the key passages in the text that you may have already underlined or marked up as important in your first reading.
  2. Work with a number of texts until you have a series of passages from various sources.
  3. Work through the collection of passages, grouping them together in categories that mean something to you – this is known as collaging.
  4. Work through the collaging process until you become inspired to begin writing a story. For me, I think there might be an intermediate stage where I start to put a storyboard together or a mind map.  This helps me to set out scale of the issue or concept and the links between the various key themes. The story or storyboard I have written will then become part of the reference material moving forward.
  5. The process of collaging can be done on multiple occasions with the same, or developed reference material until the story becomes clarified. Re-read the material as appropriate.  In my case, I often need to read the philosophy references over a period of weeks to understand their meaning and relevance to my research.
  6. Stay open to the emerging logic and story that is emerging.

In some ways, I don’t think this approach is far from what I do when I produce a blog, but the reading, re-reading and re-modelling of my ideas and story is very helpful advice.  As I am told by others and keep telling myself I cannot expect to grasp everything first time and part of my PhD journey is to develop, re-develop and re-frame my thinking and ideas.  I see this method as being a particularly helpful process as I start to draft sections of my thesis too – especially the literature review.



ADAMS, Tony, HOLMAN JONES, Stacy and ELLIS Carolyn.  2015. Autoethnography:  Understanding Qualitative Research.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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