Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Academic Voice in Scholarly Writing

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Academic Voice in Scholarly Writing

Article excerpt

Tensions across disciplines and methodologies over what constitutes appropriate academic voice in writing is far from arbitrary and instead is rooted in competing notions of epistemology, representation, and science. In this paper, I examine these tensions as well as address current issues affecting academic voice such as gender bias and the rise of social media. I begin by discussing reflexivity in research and then turn to the ways in which personal-reflexive voice has been hidden and revealed by academic writers. I also illustrate how the commercialization of academic science intersects with the use of distant-authoritative voice in sometimes corrupting ways. I examine variations in academic voice as they relate to issues of researcher emotion, class, race, and gender. Finally, I discuss the scientization of qualitative research and resulting increased interaction between scholars of varying epistemological positions which I argue can increase attention to the epistemological underpinnings of academic voice. Keywords: Writing, Epistemology, Reflexivity, Ethics, Publishing

As a methodological practice, reflexivity garners the most attention in the humanities and social science disciplines, primarily in the area of qualitative methodology (Hertz, 1997; Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). Yet with technological advances in qualitative data analysis as well as expanding interest in interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research, quantitative researchers across many disciplines have increased their engagement with qualitative methods. This expanding pool of researchers is not only helping to increase the popularity of qualitative methods, but they are also accentuating competing epistemological perspectives that have caused controversy between and within disciplines (Creswell & Miller, 2000). Some authors suggest that there is now more debate within qualitative methods than between qualitative and quantitative methodologies (Culyba, Heimer, & JuLeigh, 2004). These debates affect not only how qualitative methods are used, but also norms related to voice and reflexivity in scholarly writing across disciplines.

Researchers that employ qualitative methods hold various epistemological positions that range from science-based (objective epistemology) to constructivist (interpretive epistemology) to more critical perspectives (Creswell & Miller, 2000; Gray & Jones, 2016). While an author's epistemological position may not be made explicit in published manuscripts, his or her authorial voice is informed by it (Hertz, 1997). Voice refers to the way that authors present themselves within their written work. It is the mediating link between author and subject in any style of writing, and it reflects "what the author brings to, aims for, and does with the material" (Charmaz & Mitchell, 1996, p. 295). In this paper, I discuss tensions around the use of voice in academic publications and argue that these are rooted in unarticulated epistemological divisions among a diverse group of scholars.

Epistemological tensions among academics are routinely experienced but not always reflected upon during research practice. The "crisis of representation" that erupted in the 1980's alongside the postmodern movement sharpened arguments against the existence of a single overarching truth, suggesting alternatively that there are competing interpretations and discourses that continually shape understandings of social phenomena (c.f., Clifford & Marcus, 1986; Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; Marcus & Fischer, 1986). This critical epistemological position suggests that "there can be no single correct interpretation because one's interpretation of the facts--indeed, the facts themselves--are products of one's interpretative stance" (Flaherty, 2002, p. 479; see also Fish, 1980). Classic qualitative projects based on objectivist epistemologies such as the Discovery of Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and Street Corner Society (Whyte, 1955), faced poignant critiques from the postmodern movement and the constructivist turn in qualitative research targeting the implicit assumptions of these texts (c. …

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