Purpose: To illustrate the importance of considering the researcher's written reflections on the qualitative research process as a valuable source of data and as a means of enhancing ethical and methodologic rigour.
Organizing construct: Excerpts from the researcher's reflexive journal are presented as evidence of an audit trail. Ethical and methodologic concerns arising during the research process are outlined and the value of reflecting on these issues is addressed.
Methods: A hermeneutic-phenomenologic study, conducted in Scotland, included in-depth interviews with six problem drinkers to explore the lived experience of their suffering. The researcher was considered to be a primary data-collection tool, whose reflections on the research process added to the contextual richness of the study. For an interpretative approach to data analysis, the researcher found metaphors to convey the participants' stories to a new audience. This intuitive, creative process was analysed and reported in the reflexive journal.
Conclusions: The researcher's self-awareness, fostered by the use of a reflexive journal, is mirrored by the participants' ability to reflect on the final interpretation of their stories and on the therapeutic benefits of the research process. The researcher's reflexive journal reveals previously hidden contextual information which enhances the prime ethical and methodologic aim of the study--to understand the lived experience of suffering by problem drinkers.