Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Reflexivity in Qualitative Research: A Journey of Learning

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Reflexivity in Qualitative Research: A Journey of Learning

Article excerpt

Conducting research, more so, fieldwork, changes every researcher in many ways. This paper shares the various reflexivities--the journeys of learning--that we underwent as field researchers. Here, we share the changes brought about to ourselves, as a result of the research process, and how these changes have affected the research process. It highlights the journey of discovering how we, as researchers, shaped and how we were shaped by the research process and outputs. All these efforts were done in our attempts to discover and understand various social phenomena and issues such as poverty, development, gender, migration, and ill health in the Philippines. This article includes the challenges encountered in our epistemological stance/s and personal and methodological concerns shown in our reflexivity notes/insights. Indeed, it is when researchers acknowledge these changes, that reflexivity in research constitutes part of the research findings. It is through this consciousness of the relational and reflective nature of being aware of personal and methodological concerns that we honor ourselves, our teammates/co-researchers and all others involved with the research project. As researchers, we need to be cognizant of our contributions to the construction of meanings and of lived experiences throughout the research process. We need to acknowledge that indeed it is impossible to remain "outside of" one's study topic while conducting research.

Keywords: Reflexivity, Qualitative Research, Learning, Fieldwork

Conducting qualitative research, more so, fieldwork, changes a researcher in many ways. Through reflexivity, researchers acknowledge the changes brought about in themselves as a result of the research process and how these changes have affected the research process. The journey of discovering how researchers shaped and how they were shaped by the research process and output is an iterative and empowering process. More so when their positionality/ies is/are challenged and the researchers acknowledge that reflexivity should be recognized as a significant part of the research findings.

The term "reflexivity" represents a new chapter in qualitative research but is poorly described and elusive. As most investigators only focus on the varied approaches towards successful qualitative studies, the value of reflexivity has been widely neglected. Barusch, Gringeri and George (2011) identify several strategies that qualitative researchers use to enhance the rigor of their work: sample rationale (67%); analyst triangulation (59%); specification of problems or limitations (56%); careful representation of analysis (53%); use of theory or conceptual framework (50%); observation or prolonged engagement (24%); thick description (16%); reflexivity (16%); negative case analysis (8%); and, external audits (7%). Barusch et al. (2011, p. 7) write, "The absence of reflexivity in this sample of recently published social work articles is surprising. Perhaps the authors feared it would be unprofessional or intrusive to disclose their personal characteristics, or perhaps they thought personal disclosure would be inconsistent with editorial demands."

Reflexivity pertains to the "analytic attention to the researcher's role in qualitative research" (Gouldner, 1971, p. 16, as cited in Dowling, 2006). It is both a concept and a process (Dowling, 2006). As a concept, it refers to a certain level of consciousness. Reflexivity entails self-awareness (Lambert, Jomeen, & McSherry, 2010), which means being actively involved in the research process. It is about the recognition that as researchers, we are part of the social world that we study (Ackerly & True, 2010; Frank, 1997; Morse, 1991; Shaffir & Stebbins, 1991). Reflexivity as a process is introspection on the role of subjectivity in the research process. It is a continuous process of reflection by researchers on their values (Parahoo, 2006) and of recognizing, examining, and understanding how their "social background, location and assumptions affect their research practice" (Hesse-Biber, 2007, p. …

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