Access: TED Talks
Summary: A “researcher storyteller,” Brené Brown colorfully discusses her experience as a qualitative researcher in this TED Talk. Brown explores the personal and professional journey she's undertaken as a qualitative social science researcher, explaining her revelation that “stories are data with a soul.” Self-depreciating at times, Brown humorously and powerfully outlines her changing research perspective from “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” to becoming comfortable “lean[ing] into the discomfort of the work.” Specifically, Brown talks about her research on shame and vulnerability, in which she drew upon such methods as interviews, focus groups, and content analysis, accumulating “thousands of pieces of data.” Her methodological choices stemmed directly from her research query, which required her to understand how people give purpose and meaning to their lives. In her discussion, Brown brilliantly displays the vulnerability of doing qualitative work, as the “researcher storyteller” can easily become professionally and personally affected by her findings. I show Brown’s TED Talk to a few different sociology classes, including Introduction to Research Methods, Introduction to Sociology, and Contemporary Social Problems for three reasons. First, Brown’s presentation demonstrates to undergraduates the potential for qualitative methodologies to be fun, creative, non-linear, and profound. Second, the clip shows how social science research can measure—using qualitative methods such as interviews, focus groups, and content analysis—ostensibly tricky “variables” such as wholeheartedness and love. After showing the talk, I have the class discuss “variables” that they are now inspired to sociologically research, via qualitative methods. Finally, Brown validates the potential for social scientists to experience vulnerability when conducting qualitative research; this experience can potentially lead researchers to use their work toward remedying the social problems they study by connecting to their subject matter on an empathetic level.
Submitted By: Beverly M. Pratt