Abstract: "No One Ever Asked Me": Using Real-Time Reflexivity in Qualitative Interviewing (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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"No One Ever Asked Me": Using Real-Time Reflexivity in Qualitative Interviewing

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Camelback B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Nina Tahija, LMSW, LCDC, Research Assistant, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Priscilla Kennedy, LMSW, Research Assistant, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Phylicia Allen, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Gabrielle Aquino, MSW, Research Assistant, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Eshwar Ranganath, High School Diploma, Undergraduate Student, University of Houston, TX
Quenette Walton, PhD, LCSW, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Background and Purpose: Reflexivity involves critical reflection that prompts an epistemological interruption (Riach, 2009). In the context of qualitative research interviewing, this involves interviews as a catalyst for real-time reflexivity, or “change as it happens,” that prompts a shift in a person’s consciousness (Perera, 2020, p. 144). Researcher and participant reflexivity are both valuable in qualitative research as they provide insight into the interview process, inform future best practices, and invite exploration into how personal narratives and other factors shape the production and interpretation of data (Bishop & Shepherd, 2011; Holt, 2010). While extant studies on qualitative interviews have focused on researcher reflexivity, there are considerable gaps in knowledge about the role of participant reflexivity, especially among Black women, who have been historically underrepresented or misrepresented in research (BeLue et al., 2006; Ford et al., 2013; Perera, 2020). Their lower participation rates in research limits the generalizability and validity of study outcomes, further exacerbates current health disparities, and reduces access to Black women’s voices (BeLue et al., 2006; Ford et al., 2013). The purpose of this study is to examine how Black women describe the impact of the interview process through their real-time reflexivity.

Methods: Forty-three in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Black women 21 years of age and older who self-reported having had experiences with COVID-19 and racism and self-reported middle-class status based on their education level, income, and occupation. Women were recruited using participant driven sampling methods (snowball sampling), social media outlets such as Twitter, and emailing flyers to various social groups that predominantly served middle-class Black women (e.g., Black female sororities and Black female professional organizations). At the conclusion of each interview, the interviewer elicited the women’s perspectives on experiencing the interview as a participant. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed to explore instances of real-time participant reflexivity.

Findings: Based on their analysis of interview transcripts, the researchers identified turning points during interviews in which participants expressed real-time reflexivity. Based on thematic analysis of interview turning points that elicited reflexivity, the three main themes that emerged are 1) feeling seen and heard, 2) “I feel like I can breathe,” and 3) “no one ever asked me.”

Conclusion and Implications: Findings reveal that study participants experienced a sense of relief, validation, and affinity for the interviewer because they felt seen and heard. Most literature has placed researchers as the focus of discussions on reflexivity. When qualitative researchers fail to center the voices of participants, we can miss key opportunities on what participants are experiencing. Our results indicate that adopting a non-threatening, therapeutic, appreciative, and learning stance can facilitate real-time reflexivity among participants. Further research is needed on understanding and identifying interviewing techniques that facilitate participant reflexivity in order to bring participant-researcher equity into the qualitative interviewing process.