UND professor to be honored next month in San Antonio, Texas, for scientific article that uses innovative research method based in personal experience


David L. Dodds

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News Article

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Campus Unit

College of Education & Human Development


Marcus Weaver-Hightower, associate professor and chair of the University of North Dakota's Department of Educational Foundations and Research, has won the 2013 Anselm Strauss Award for Qualitative Family Research from the National Council on Family Relations. The award annually recognizes a scholarly article or book chapter that, according to the NCFR website, is "creative and push[es] the field forward, either in its method, methodology, or theory of method."

Weaver-Hightower received the award for his article "Waltzing Matilda: An Autoethnography of a Father's Stillbirth," published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography in 2012.

"Waltzing Matilda" explores Weaver-Hightower's experiences as a father when his first child, Matilda, was stillborn in 2006. Described by the award committee as "powerful, evocative, well-written, and moving," displaying "rigor and courage," the article uses a series of narrative vignettes alongside social science research to explore how stillbirth, and particularly fathers' experiences of stillbirth, are often hidden.

The article uses a method known as autoethnography, which takes personal experience as an entry point for analyzing social and cultural phenomena. In the citation for the award, the selection committee chair writes, "Autoethnography is a relatively new qualitative research method, which has not yet been well established in family studies. We wish to draw attention to this article as an excellent example of how autoethnography can contribute to our understanding of families. ... [T]his article shifts thinking away from positivistic ways of doing and writing about qualitative research. It also shows how, when done well, autoethnography is scientific and meticulous. Members of the committee believed that this article can serve as a teaching tool, to show students how autoethnography should be done."

Weaver-Hightower will receive the award at the annual conference of the National Council on Family Relations in November in San Antonio, Texas.

Weaver-Hightower teaches qualitative research methods as well as course on the politics and sociology of education at UND. He has published numerous books and articles on gender and education, food politics, education policy, and research methods. His wife and Matilda's mother, Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, teaches in UND's English department.