Alchemy for inquiry: a methodology of applied phenomenology in educational research

Vallack, Jocene (2015) Alchemy for inquiry: a methodology of applied phenomenology in educational research. In: Proceedings of the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference. pp. 1-10. From: AARE 2015: Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, 29 November - 3 December 2015, Freemantle, WA, Australia.

PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Download (390kB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


This paper presents an original methodology, called Alchemy as Inquiry. It is a methodology grounded in pure phenomenology and made accessible for reflective research into one's own experiences. It is an application of the pure phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. It mandates that the researcher personally experiences the phenomena under investigation, and is able to reflect deeply on that experience. Unlike other first-person approaches that focus on description, such as Autoethnography, Alchemy seeks a definite research outcome in the form of an archetypal object. This is the research essence, or element. Arts practitioners are particularly able to apply Alchemy for Inquiry, as these archetypal insights present themselves intuitively and symbolically, through arts practice – writing, painting, performing, and also through dream analysis. Alchemy for Inquiry methodology is based on three principles:

• that the unconscious mind is far superior to logic and cognition when it comes to seeing patterns and meaning in apparent chaos

• that the main beliefs of psychoanalysis can be wellsprings for reflective research inquiry

• that Alchemy for Inquiry, which is informed by Husserl's pure phenomenological philosophy, can take the researcher from the most subjective reflections to the most intersubjective, universal outcomes

Using analytical tools akin to those of the psychotherapist, the researcher first embarks on an experience of the research in question. Progressing then, through the five phases of the methodology - Experience, Epoche, Explication, Epiphany and Examination - s/he finishes with the answer to the research question in the form of an image, myth or metaphor. This cryptic answer is then analysed, logically, to reveal and explain the research result. Just as, through psychoanalysis, the uncertain and complex dream may provide the dreamer with profound insight, so too may life-world complexities lead the teacher/researcher to universal insights and solutions. The unconscious mind, skilled at making patterns from chaos, can inform research logic.

Alchemy for Inquiry methodology is housed within a philosophically aligned research framework of phenomenology, which can take inquiry from subjective complexity to intersubjective, archetypal research outcomes. This paper presents an introduction to the basic theoretical framework of Alchemy for Inquiry, and its application as pure phenomenology, along with examples of how it has so far been used in educational research.

Item ID: 43540
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
ISSN: 1324-9320
Keywords: alchemy methodology
Related URLs:
Funders: James Cook University (JCU)
Projects and Grants: JCU School of Education
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2016 02:13
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1399 Other Education > 139999 Education not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930102 Learner and Learning Processes @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 188
Last 12 Months: 2
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page