Bricolage: A tool for race-related, historically situated complex research
As medical education grapples with larger issues of race and racism,
researchers will need new tools to capture society’s complex issues. One promising
approach is bricolage, a methodological and theoretical approach that allows
researchers to bend analytical tools to meet their needs. Bricolage is both a metaphor
and an activity to describe the cognitively creative process researchers engage in
while conducting interdisciplinary and multidimensional research.
Process: At the heart of bricolage is the researchers’ engagement in critical hermeneutics,
which at its basic level recognizes that all objects under study are subject to
larger social, political, and historical forces that constrain individuals. Researching
with bricolage treats objects of inquiry as part of a historically situated complex system.
As such, data are interpreted in ways that build conceptual bridges between
individuals’ concrete experiences and concepts acknowledging larger social, historical,
economic, and political forces.
Pearls: To engage in bricolage, researchers should begin by reading and comparing
ideas across disciplines to expose disciplinary-specific assumptions, as well as learn
about new theories, approaches and methods that might be utilised for a bricolage
project. Researchers should also ask themselves philosophical questions to identify
new readings or their data. And finally, researchers should experiment with analytical
metaphors because they help to frame new relationships between seemingly
unrelated theories, methods and concepts.
As researchers engage in bricolage, they need to sidestep their training and overreliance
on research protocols and checklists and engage in a creative tinkering to
interpret the world in new ways. In doing so, scholars will be able to push traditional
research boundaries and generate critical dialogue to move the field forward.
Wyatt TR, Zaidi Z. Bricolage: A tool for race-related, historically situated complex research [published online ahead of print, 2021 Sep 13]. Med Educ 2021;10.1111/medu.14629. doi:10.1111/medu.14629