3.2.1 Choosing the Topic

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That’s up to you. You decide what the grid is to be about, since this relates to

some purpose you have for doing a grid in the first place.

Oh dear! That would be to throw away a wonderful opportunity to engage in collaborative

researchwith your interviewee. Kelly (1955/1991) reminds us that we are all

scientists, in the sense that we try to construe our experience based on what

happened in the past; we draw on this to forecast what will happen in the future; and

we are prepared to alter our construing in the light of what actually takes place. It

seemssucha shameto put yourself intheprivilegedrole of ‘investigator’ (a particular,

and privileged, sort of scientist), and see your interviewee merely as a passive

provider of their personal constructs.Wouldn’t it be best to see yourself and the interviewee

as jointly exploring the interviewee’s construing?

And, of course, collaborative researchisby definitionresearchinwhich there is a joint

agreement on the subjectmatter to be investigated (Brown & Kaplan,1981).Let’s start

by collaborating on the name of the topic!

Oh come on! That depends on the circumstances! In many situations, the

investigator will know the potential of the grid technique and the interviewee

won’t, so the investigator’s voice will inevitably carry more weight in

specifying the topic.

Two Rules of Thumb

It’s best to choose the topic yourself:

. while you are still learning grid technique. The rationale here is that it’s

easier to sort out, and learn from, procedural errors when one person makes

them – you! – than when two do.

. when you are in a situation in which key participants expect you to take

charge. This would apply to all research projects done for an academic

qualification in which your supervisor is uncomfortable with participative

research and expects you to take the lead. It would not apply in the case of

collaborative research – which implies that you’d have to explain the basis of

repertory grid techniques to your collaborators.

Qualifying Phrases

Once you have determined the topic for the grid, ask yourself why you’re

interested in this topic. Get as clear as you can about what point of view your

interviewee is to be answering from. Then devise a qualifying phrase which

sums it up. For example, in a grid about ‘my friends’, is the purpose to

understand how the friendship was formed, or is it to help your interviewee

decide which of them to go on holiday with this summer? A suitable

qualifying phrase in the first instance might be ‘friendship . . .

. . . . in terms of how the relationship with them was formed’; and in the

second

. . . . ‘in terms of what they might be like to spend a lot of time with’.

Another example. If this is a grid on what makes a manager effective in

handling employees, suitable qualifying phrases might be ‘effectiveness . . .

. . . . in terms of the social skills the manager uses’; or

. . . . ‘in terms of what managers actually, visibly, do to be effective’; or even

. . . . ‘in terms of the way managers handle their budget’.

The qualifying phrase will help to sharpen your own thinking about the topic,

and why you’re doing the grid. It is also immensely valuable at step 4 in the

basic procedure outlined earlier. We’ll return to this issue shortly, in

Section 3.2.3. Bear with me!