What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: A Duoethnographic Exploration of the Dissertation Relationship

  • Robert J. Helfenbein
  • Susan R. Adams


In the aftermath and mop-up following a successful dissertation defense, an unintended and unexpected data source remained unexplored and unanalyzed: 32 audio-recorded discussions and work sessions documenting the processes, approaches, and decisions made by a dissertation director and his doctoral candidate. What might those conversations reveal about the dissertation relationship? Taking a page from Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love,” we wondered what we might have been talking about when we were talking about dissertation writing. Inspired and shaped by Norris, Sawyer, and Lund’s (2012. Duoethnography: Dialogic methods for social, health, and educational research. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.) duoethnographic methods, this study provides opportunity for us to not just look back on the journey, but pushes us into the messiness of “recalling and reconceptualizing” (p. 10). As we each “become the foil for the Other, challenging the Other to reflect on their own life in a deeper, more relational, and authentic manner” (Norris et al., 2012, p. 10) we also interrogate and trouble our own simplistic categories of analysis.


Academic Task Teaching Relationship Phone Conversation Garden Path Double Bind 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Helfenbein
    • 1
  • Susan R. Adams
    • 2
  1. 1.School of EducationLoyola UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationIndianapolisUSA

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