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What role does emotion play for researchers?

  • Date

    Tue 6 Nov 18

Dr Tracey Loughran

A new book explores the role of researchers’ emotions in the research process, challenges the stereotypical view that emotional involvement can undermine research, and tackles the issues of how emotion, rationality and professionalism can co-exist.

Emotion and the Researcher: Sites, Subjectivities and Relationships was co-edited by Dr Tracey Loughran from our Department of History, with the social psychologist Dr Dawn Mannay (Cardiff University). Dr Loughran became interested in the relationship between emotion and research after her first major project exploring psychological trauma in the First World War. The emotional impact of reading about traumatic experiences wasn’t reflected in her published work and she began to question whether other researchers experienced similar feelings that went unexpressed.

Dr Loughran said: “Often researchers feel that they should not admit to emotion, as though that would undermine the validity of their research, but emotion is a crucial part of our experiences as human beings.”

Dr Mannay shared Dr Loughran’s interest in the subject and together they ran two workshops on ‘Emotion and the Researcher’ at Cardiff University in 2013-14, bringing together researchers from a wide range of disciplines. Many of the chapters in Emotion and the Researcher arose from those workshops and it features contributions from fields as diverse as sociology, literature, geography, physiotherapy, psychology, healthcare science, neuroscience and museum studies.

“I want readers to understand that emotion is always present in research,” said Dr Loughran. “That emotion doesn’t undermine research, and that to build strong and supportive research communities, we need to think honestly and openly about emotion.” 

The launch of Emotion and the Researcher was celebrated with a podcast on emotion in research featuring several of the book's contributors, and a blog post by Dr Loughran. 

Fellow Essex historian Dr Kate Mahoney wrote a chapter for the book exploring the influence of emotions on the way historians write about feminist activism in late twentieth-century Britain. 

Dr Mahoney said: “There are really very few books that explore the ways in which emotions influence the research process across so many different disciplines. The analysis of historians’ emotions during the research process is still an emerging focus. Therefore, it is great that this book positions history alongside so many other disciplines, including sociology, politics, and physiotherapy.”

Emotion and the Researcher: Sites, Subjectivities and Relationships, co-edited by Dr Tracey Loughran and Dr Dawn Mannay, is available now from Emerald Publishing.