Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

A Case for Reflexivity in Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

A Case for Reflexivity in Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research

Article excerpt

Introduction

Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM) is an interdisciplinary field of research conceptualised as any group or study that that is undertaken by scholars from two or more distinct research disciplines. The resultant research is therefore based upon a conceptual model that attempts to link or integrate those theoretical frameworks, using methodologiesthat are not limited to a single field.From this approach, the diverse perspectives and skill sets of those involved are integrated throughout the various phases of the research process.The several overlapping disciplines that ESSM includes but is not limited to biomechanics, exercise physiology, nutrition, anatomy, genetics, and psychology, to name but a few.

Like many other of the physical sciences, ESSM is often seen as a positivist science.From a positivist perspective, the subjectivity of the researcher is not thought to be essential to the research outcome(Renganathan, 2009).Objectivity, it is seen as necessarily to minimise any possible researcher bias towards the project at hand(Patten & Newhart, 2017). Subjectivity and objectivity are often seen as two distinct sociological approaches(Patten & Newhart, 2017).However Feminists, postcolonial scholars, and critical race theorists have amply illustrated (Ackerly & True, 2008; Smith, 1987) that our subjectivities influence the practice of making knowledges objective(Patten & Newhart, 2017).It is not possible to truly dissociate the subjectivity of researcher in the construction of "objective" knowledge.As such, reflexivity becomes a useful method to for a deeper consideration of subjectivity and role of the researcher in the process of knowledge production (Renganathan, 2009).

Reflexivity is an active process that involves reflection, examination, scrutiny and interrogation of the research process, which includes the subjectivity of the researcher, the research participants, the data produced and the context of the research itself(Renganathan, 2009). Therefore, as stated by Watt (Watt, 2007) (p. 82), 'learning to reflect on your behaviour and thoughts, as well as on the phenomenon under study, creates a means for continuously becoming a better researcher. Becoming a better researcher captures the dynamic nature of the process'.

Integrating Reflexivity into ESSM Research

Reflexivity is an active process that involves reflection, examination, scrutiny and interrogation of the research process as a whole, which includes the subjectivity of the researcher, the research participants, the data produced and the context of the research itself. ^Therefore, as stated by Watt,(Watt, 2007)'learning to reflect on your behaviour and thoughts, as well as on the phenomenon under study, creates a means for continuously becoming a better researcher. Becoming a better researcher captures the dynamic nature of the process' (p. 82). Broadly, reflexivity can be assigned to one of two categories: 1) personal reflexivity and 2) epistemological reflexivity(Day, 2012; Renganathan, 2009; Watt, 2007). On the one hand, personal reflexivity refers to the values held by the researcher, their experiences, interests, beliefs and other personal attributes that helped to shape the research, approach and its interpretation(Renganathan, 2009). On the other hand, epistemological reflexivity requires the researcher to critically reflect on the assumptions about the world and about knowledge in research.Therefore, as stated by Renganathan, (Renganathan, 2009)"reflexivity encourages the researcher to acknowledge their role and the situated nature of their research" (p. 4). While reflexivity is a common undertaking in many qualitative approaches to research(Varga-Dobai, 2012)is largely underutilised in the field of ESSM and other "natural" or "hard" sciences. I contend that it is essential that these disciplines critically engage in reflexivity in order to shed light on the assumptions and implications of the objective stance. …

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