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Creative Imagination in the Research Process

I am currently pondering: What does it mean to creatively imagine in a research process?

[The analysis of qualitative research] is a dynamic, intuitive and creative process of inductive reasoning, thinking, and theorizing.

(Basit, 2003, p.143)

Basit (2003) discussed the idea of creative imagination all throughout her piece on coding. This idea struck me because quantitative research “the creative imagination” mostly comes out in the design phase because the analysis is largely informed by a body of statistical knowledge that already exists “out there.”

However, with qualitative research, the body of knowledge and creative imagination produce new insights into a particular field or theory. This adds a bit of excitement to the process because as the researcher, you are able to explore various aspects of thought about a given topic.

And this is the piece that jars my thinking: What does it mean to creatively imagine in a research process? I think the time-consuming nature of any form of thinking is difficult but can be done fairly easily if you sit down. But unlike a critical thinking process, creatively imagining requires un-concentrated, yet focused attention on just being and thinking and feeling about the topic or phenomenon under investigation by the researcher.

Creative bursts cannot be scheduled like other tasks – room must be made for them, and the type of thinking and visioning that goes into the creative process must be given time and value. One way that I engage in the “creative imagination” process is by thinking of unrealistic possibilities if we lived in a world unlike any other we’ve ever seen.

I liken this to the visioning work I’ve done in the nonprofit world. When strategically planning for achieving particular goals, the visioning part of this happens collaboratively and there is a great deal of imagination enacted in coming up with all of the possibilities of the change we, collectively in that setting, want to see brought about in the world at large.

In thinking of solutions to problems, we often cannot solve the problems while muddling in them so to think outside of them is one way to come up with ideas for solutions. In thinking about thinking, I realize that it’s most difficult when there is no TIME for free and undirected thought.  Yet, when conducting qualitative research, that time factor is huge. It’s not necessarily just making time, it’s using the time in a free, thoughtful way to both: a) process the information that has been gathered, and b) to think creatively about the topic/problem/phenomenon being investigated.  


LaNysha Adams, Ph.D.

Author LaNysha Adams, Ph.D.

LaNysha Adams, Ph.D., an award-winning education consultant with professional expertise in applied linguistics/TESOL, coaching, and research methodology, owns and operates Edlinguist Solutions LLC. After teaching and conducting education policy research for more than 15 years, Dr. LaNysha Adams was inspired to create a company that promotes educational freedom as a way for students at every educational level to feel empowered for achieving success as they journey through life. Dr. Adams is currently completing the master-level coach certification with an International Coaching Federation-certified program and she holds a certificate in 360-degree Feedback Assessments from the Center for Creative Leadership, a Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies from the University of New Mexico, an M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages/Applied Linguistics from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in Linguistics & Rhetoric from Cal State San Marcos. An avid traveler, Dr. Adams has only 6 states left to get to 50!