Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

194 Uses, Meanings, and Experiences of Reflexivity At Each Stage of the Research Process

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 10:45 AM-12:15 PM
Independence E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Barbara Probst, PhD, Fordham University, Ian F. Shaw, PhD, University of York, Marie L. McCormick, PhD, City University of New York and Kay Scott, LCSW-R, CASAC, Fordham University
Reflexivity is one of the core constructs distinguishing qualitative from quantitative research, yet is often used too vaguely to fulfill its purported role in assuring accountability and trustworthiness of qualitative findings. Considered a means for “unpacking” the research process, the term itself needs to be “unpacked” and its role critically examined at each phase of a qualitative research endeavor. This workshop will thus address reflexivity as both principle and action/task in: (1) the choice of research topic, questions, and methodology; (2) data collection (interviewing); (3) data analysis and interpretation, and (4) data (re)presentation including writing and publishing. Each section of the workshop will include discussion of positionality, authenticity, and documenting choices, as well as providing concrete examples from the presenter's research. The four panelists represent universities in New York and England and are experienced researchers with backgrounds in a range of methods including grounded theory, thematic analysis, and phenomenology. This diverse expertise will enable them to address the topic comprehensively across methods and contexts. The aim of the workshop is to provide an informed context for participants to consider together the cognitive, emotional and practical aspects of reflexivity through interactive discussion and exercises. The first presenter will explore reflexivity in the context of choice of topic and method. Critical elements relating to the researcher's positioning, agenda and relationship to and with the topic will be explored, including ethical considerations. The second component will consider reflexivity in the data collection phase, emphasizing the mutuality of ‘self' discovery and focusing on in-depth interviewing across methodologies. The need for the researcher to remain in a continuous state of intersubjective attunement with the participant will be developed conceptually and supported by examples to illustrate how mindful presence to the continuous self-other/subject-object interplay can lead to the discovery of dimensions of the ‘self'(s) of both researcher and participants that transform detailed description into the discovery of meaning. A third presentation will explore the role of reflexivity in analysis, thematic development, and “interpretation.” Awareness of the researcher's epistemological assumptions, personal history, professional agenda, doubts, fears, and hopes in facing the data is a recursive process that involves naming one's subjectivity, sustaining ambiguity and uncertainty, taking responsibility for what is “heard” (valued/revealed) and what is silenced, and living with the discomfort of trying to make sense of “someone else's data” in a context of inherently unequal power relations. The last presenter will address the centrality of reflexivity in writing and the subsequent “career” of a research article. Although reflexive writing has been most commonly used with narrative analysis, arts-based and auto-ethnographic studies, and with developments in understanding 'voice' in social work writing, it can also be incorporated into more structured quantitative methods. Principles and guidelines for reflexive connection with dissemination and utilization of research, through engaging with stakeholders and speaking about research, will also be discussed. Following these presentations, panelists will facilitate interactive discussion about the challenges and implications of reflexivity for social work theory, education, and research.
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