In this paper I explore the research process I undertook to recover from research. For three years from 2013 I was involved in a research project exploring the history of foster care in Australia. At the end I was exhausted and suffering trauma symptoms I initially attributed to the difficulties of juggling a major research project while teaching and undertaking key administrative tasks. Reluctance to write up the research findings, however, made me reconsider this attribution and at the end of 2016 I set out to make sense of what had happened to make me feel so bad while undertaking a research project I was thrilled to be involved with. Recovery came through identifying as a survivor-researcher, exploring the literature on trauma and recovery from trauma, and thinking through a “wish list” of protocols and self-care activities I should have put in place earlier. I conclude the paper with recommendations for ways by which survivor-researchers can look after themselves, and ways for others to support survivor-researchers.


Qualitative Inquiry, Survivor-Researcher, Vicarious Trauma, Survivor Guilt, Retraumatization, Vicarious Resilience, Post-Traumatic Growth

Author Bio(s)

Dee Michell is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Criminology & Gender Studies at the University of Adelaide. Her research interests include ways of caring more inclusively for children on the margins of Australian society (e.g., Aboriginal and refugee children, those in state care, with disabilities and from poor families). Dee is co-author with Nell Musgrove, Australian Catholic University) of the first national history of foster care in Australia, published in 2018: The Slow Evolution of Foster Care in Australia (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan). Please direct correspondence to dee.michell@adelaide.edu.au.


Many thanks to my family who provide ongoing and considerable care and support. The History of Foster Care Project was made possible by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant.

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