Session: Leveraging the Reflexive Self in Research: Reflections on Cultivating a Self-Reflexive Practice (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

120 Leveraging the Reflexive Self in Research: Reflections on Cultivating a Self-Reflexive Practice

Friday, January 18, 2019: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Continental Parlor 9, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement (RD&M)
Erin Harrop, MSW, University of Washington, Martha Aby, MBA, MSW, University of Washington, Claire Willey-Sthapit, MSSW, University of Washington and Taryn Lindhorst, PhD, University of Washington
Reflexivity is the systematic process of investigating how one's own beliefs, choices, and interpretations affect the research process. According to the 2018 recommendations released by the APA, reflexivity should be integrated throughout the research process to increase transparency, trustworthiness, and credibility. Embedded in a researcher's approach to reflexivity is an epistemological understanding of the concept of bias and underlying theoretical approach. This roundtable will explore: 1) epistemological differences in attending to bias, 2) alternative theoretical approaches to reflexivity, and 3) reflexive practices that are useful for identifying and responding to the interface between the researcher and the researched.

We begin this roundtable by discussing various epistemological approaches to the concept of bias, how bias affects the research process, and the rationale for self-reflexivity. For example, post-positivist approaches to research attempt to eliminate bias that may result from differing sampling strategies, measurement issues, or experimenter awareness of the treatment conditions. However, they tend to be silent on addressing bias that enters into the research through study design. From a critical theory perspective, bias cannot be eliminated, but must be recognized and addressed throughout the research process. In interpretive approaches to qualitative research, the researcher is conceptualized as an instrument in the research process and self-reflexivity is fundamental across the arc of a research project. Different theories suggest alternative approaches to reflecting on how researcher identities, positionalities, and life experiences shape the research. In the second part of this roundtable, we turn to the theoretical grounding for each of our work, examining how self-reflexivity is conceptualized within each theoretical approach. Specifically, we draw on feminist standpoint theory (Harding; Hooks), medical anthropology and narrative approaches (Kleinman; Stone), and intersectional and transnational feminisms (McCall; Nagar & Geiger). These theories examine how various identities situate the researcher as an insider or outsider, how identities relate to systemic power structures, and why these questions matter in the research process.

Members of the roundtable will describe some of the reflexive methods utilized to enhance research integrity at various stages in the research process. Author one reflects on how her positionality as both a clinician and patient impact recruitment, protocol development, data collection, and analysis. She explores the impact of empathy and visual arts tools in the interview process, and the value of post-interview journaling. Author two reflects on how she could be a participant in her own study; how her previous workplace setting relationships impact the interview process, data analysis, and report writing; and how her analytic choices influence her findings. Author three reflects on her transnational work by showing how systematic memoing has facilitated exploration of aspects of her identity invoked by research participants and how these different relationships might impact participant responses and trust-building.

We end with a brief discussion of the benefits of engaging the reflexive self. As feminist scholars, we believe that our varied relationships to our participants and the research is not simply a risk to be mitigated, but also a tool to be leveraged to enhance understanding.

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