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Engaging Crystallization in Qualitative Research: An Introduction

The concept of crystallization was introduced in 1994 by Sociologist Laurel Richardson in her landmark essay, Writing as a Method of Inquiry. She proposed a postmodern alternative to enhancing methodological validity through triangulation, the traditional process of using multiple methods of gathering and/or analyzing data into order to achieve more trustworthy findings. In contrast, crystallization embodies a postmodern awareness of the indeterminacy and partiality of all truths and the inevitable influence of researchers' standpoints on all aspects of research design, data collection, analysis, and representation.


In Engaging Crystallization, Dr. Laura Ellingson builds on Richardson's work to develop a framework for practicing crystallization in qualitative and mixed methods research projects in the social sciences, education, and allied health fields. Crystallization takes seriously the opportunities for not merely using multiple methods of analysis but also embracing multiple genres of writing (such as report, poetry, narrative, essay) along with visual arts (such as photography, painting, collage) and live performance to share research findings in both social scientific and artistic genres. Multiple genres not only enable researchers to reach across academic disciplines but also to engage stakeholder audiences such as practitioners, policymakers, and community organizations. At the same time, a set of diverse genres engenders a postmodern form of validity through which research findings become both richly illuminated and problematized as multiple and partial.


A growing community of researchers are embracing crystallization. Check out the creative uses of crystallization in research on Google Schoilar.