While constructing the research design for my doctoral dissertation, Denzin and Lincoln’s (2000a, 1998) comparison of the qualitative researcher to a bricoleur, piqued my interest in the notion. It their opinion, the qualitative researcher inevitably has to piece together different representations of a complex situation from the data collected. The research results that emerge—from whatever strategies, methods and analyses that were employed—represent the bricolage of the researcher.
Kerstetter (2010) explains that “bricolage is a French term for which there is no suitable English equivalent”. wiseGEEK (n.d.) clarifies that “someone who practices bricolage is known as a bricoleur”; a term that originates the French bricole, meaning a trifle, an odd job, a jack of all trades, a skilful handy person. It means the gathering of readily available objects and methods. The bricoleur makes due with what is at hand to create something. Saki (n.d.) elaborates that “often the materials used were not originally intended for this use”. Inevitably the bricoleur’s skill set expands over time, as does the stockpile of tools and materials. The bricoleur gets a feel for what types of things may come in useful and for what can be used for different types of projects. “Bricolage is inventiveness”, states Saki (n.d.) it is about creating a new use for old things. A bricoleur looks at the potential functions of things and figures out how those functions can be used in a different way to create something. “Bricoleurs are creative problem solvers”, states Saki (n.d.), they derive immense pleasure from figuring out how to fix something without having to go out and buy a part. She concludes that bricoleurs are needed “so that we can find new ways when old ways don't work”; and that it is “a good idea to spend some time with a real bricoleur and to notice his or her use of things that are sitting around”.
The primary objective of a qualitative researcher is to let the voices of the researched speak. To do this inventive research and data collecting methods might be employed.
Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (2000a). Introduction: the discipline and practice of qualitative research (pp. 1-28). In Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.) (2000). Handbook of qualitative research. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.) (1998). The landscape of qualitative research, theories and issues. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Groenewald, T. 2003. The contribution of co-operative education in the growing of talent. D Phil dissertation, Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg. Electronically retrieved 4 January 2013 from: https://ujdigispace.uj.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10210/106/ThomasGroenewaldDessertationJuly2003.pdf?sequence=1
Kerstetter, M. 2010. Bricolage, Bricoleur: What is It? Kerstetter’s blogspot: The Bricoleur. Tuesday, 2 November 2010. Electronically retrieved 4 January 2013 from: http://markerstetter.blogspot.com/2010/11/bricolage-bricoleur-what-is-it.html
Saki, S. n.d. Bricolage and a Bricoleur. Literacy Methods. Electronically retrieved 4 January 2013 from: http://literacymethods.wikispaces.com/Bricolage+and+a+Bricoleur
wiseGEEK. n.d. What is Bricolage? wiseGEEK—clear answers for common questions. Electronically retrieved 4 January 2013 from: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-bricolage.htm