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

23 Entering the Lives of Others: Conceptual, Contextual and Ethical Issues In the Researcher-Participant Relationship In Phenomenological Research

Thursday, January 12, 2012: 3:30 PM-5:15 PM
Laffayette Park (Grand Hyatt Washington)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Marie L. McCormick, PhD, City University of New York
In order for research to matter; to advance practice and influence policy, it must be methodologically rigorous and ethically sound. Through transparency and accessibility phenomenological research demonstrates rigor and accountability. This Round Table offers participants the opportunity to build their capacity to conduct phenomenological research that matters through critically examining the conceptual, contextual and ethical issues in the researcher-participant relationship. This Round Table builds on two preceding SSWR workshops in which 1. phenomenological methodology was compared and contrasted with grounded theory and ethnography and 2. participants were guided through conceptualizing and conducting a phenomenological project. As suggested in these presentations, methodological choices in qualitative research are guided by specific and differentiated epistemologies. This Round Table acknowledges the differences in significance of the researcher-participant relationship--how it is used, interpreted, developed and maintained--across qualitative methodologies. It is with this perspective that this Round Table invites participants to critically examine and discuss the conceptual, contextual and ethical issues inherent in the researcher-participant relationship in the phenomenological project. Phenomenological research proceeds because of the participant's willingness to be seen and known; to engage in in-depth interviews infused with deeply personal disclosures of the ‘self' made to an initially unknown ‘other'. In order for this to occur the researcher must be skilled at establishing a rapid positive alliance characterized by empathic attunement and a communicable sense of mutuality that conveys a willingness to be discovered as well as to discover. This Round Table considers the mutually transformative dimensions of the researcher-participant relationship and the risks to the ‘self'(s) of researcher and participant in engaging in the research relationship. Participants will be encouraged to examine their perspectives about the essential relational context of phenomenological research. They will be invited to share their experiences in entering the lives of others, and to raise the ethical dilemmas they have encountered. Participants will be asked to consider the similarities and differences between the social worker-client and the researcher-participant relationship, and to reflect on the potential tensions for the clinician/researcher in sustaining the researcher role. Specific methodological issues such as the effect on the researcher-participant relationship of using audio and/or video recording devices will be raised. To initiate discussion, examples from presenter's research will be used that illustrate the conceptual, contextual and ethical issues encountered in entering the lives of others.
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