The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Reflexivity and Epistemology: The Role of Reflexivity in the Generation of Knowledge

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Marina 6 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Guy Enosh, PhD, University of Haifa, Adital Ben-Ari, PhD, University of Haifa, Jane F. Gilgun, PhD, LICSW, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Barbara Probst, PhD, Smith College
In an era of post-modern thought, we are witnessing a significant increase in scholarly discourse around the construct of ‘reflexivity’ in social work research, theory, education, and practice. The purpose of this roundtable panel is to examine both the practical and theoretical role of reflexivity in the construction of knowledge in qualitative research and its implications for social work practice and education.

The roundtable brings together four experienced qualitative researchers from the U.S. and Israel to address reflexivity from three complementary perspectives: a theoretical exposition, including a conceptual model of the co-construction of knowledge; lessons learned from an international study of qualitative researchers; and implications for practice-based research, as exemplified by the role of reflexivity in the study of secondary trauma.

The moderator will introduce the session by placing the topic within scholarly context: how reflexivity has been defined in the literature, including views on the appropriate use of self and the contribution of reflexivity to rigor. Findings from a recent study of how qualitative social work researchers understand and utilize reflexivity will be also described.

The first two panelists, as a team, will focus on "space of reflectivity" as the creation of epistemological stance by researchers and participants. In their presentation, they will maintain and demonstrate that every study may be perceived as an arena that reflects the interactions, worldviews, moral-stances and power-differentials existing between researchers and participants. Paying attention to, analyzing, and using differences between researchers and participants may prove to be the cornerstone for understanding the substance and process of knowledge construction. The panelists will discuss the research endeavor as a liminal space of reflectivity, an in-between stance, in which, through the interactions and reflective processes of both researchers and participants, transformation of experience into constructed knowledge can take place.

 The third panelist will focus on the role of secondary trauma in reflexivity. There is little discussion of the relationship between secondary trauma and qualitative research, yet many researchers experience this because of the nature of the topics we research.  While it is natural to shield oneself from internalizing the suffering of those we study, this can lead to unintended consequences, including the perpetuation of harm, that bear further inquiry In addition, through mindful  persistence, secondary trauma can lead to deeper self knowledge, deeper insight into the situations of persons we are researching, and thus to an enhanced ability to tolerate the trauma of others.  

Following these presentations, the moderator will pose a series of questions for the panelists’ response; attendees will be welcome to pose additional questions in order to expand a shared exploration. The moderator will then reflect on what has been discussed and offer suggestions for further study. A resource bibliography will be distributed.

See more of: Roundtables