The value of anecdotal Vignettes in scholarly work

Year: 2012

Author: Leve, Annabelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


As a (former) teacher, mentor, homestay provider, and sometimes friend to teenage full fee paying overseas students (ffpos) over a number of years, I found little or no correlation between my lived experiences, and the available representations of these experiences that were constructed and used to promote and provide information about the ffpos programs.  Nor did I find much empirical research with which I could relate to my experiences, both the mundane everyday issues, and the more challenging issues that arose.  I worked incredibly hard in the belief that my role(s) was (were) a crucial factor in the quality of experience these students could have. I couldn't fathom the gap between my lived experience of these international student programs and available data and representations of this experience.  My research work therefore, has intended, in part, to address this gap.  Examples of the more challenging and thought-provoking experiences were claimed back and re-presented as vignettes in place of empirical or 'hard' data.  This paper explores a number of examples of 'anecdotal vignettes' that have been used in research, and the methodological questions that arise from this practice.   I argue that although these types of 'data' can be used productively to better describe a context and inspire deeper consideration of complex issues, academic rigour requires thorough scholarly justification and that not all readers (or examiners) will be convinced of the value of anecdote in scholarly work.