It is a common misperception among researchers that the analysis of research data is a process that is confined to the data itself. This is probably truer among qualitative researchers than survey researchers given that the latter frequently publish their work in the literature comparing and contrasting their data with relevant earlier studies. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is typically held up to less scrutiny; and, except for the usual comparisons of populations segments, it is rare to find an analytical discussion that goes beyond the patterns and themes derived from the qualitative data itself. This may be for any number of reasons. It may be associated with the idea that qualitative research by definition is chock full of uncontrollable variables that vary from study to study making data comparisons across studies unreliable, or it may be researchers’ unfamiliarity Read Full Text
In November 2012, Research Design Review posted an article titled, “Interviewer Bias & Reflexivity in Qualitative Research.” This article talks about why self-reflection is an important and necessary step for qualitative researchers to take in order to address “the distortions or preconceptions researchers’ unwittingly introduce in their qualitative designs.” Although the article focuses on the need for reflection as it relates to the potential for bias in the in-depth interview (IDI) method, the relatively¹ intimate, social component of qualitative research generally and other methods specifically – focus groups, ethnography, narrative – make them equally susceptible to researcher biases and suppositions.
The outcomes from a qualitative study are only as good as the data the researcher returns from the field. And one of the biggest threats to the quality of the research data is the ever-present Read Full Text
Research design of any sort has to grapple with the pesky issue of bias or the potential distortion of research outcomes due to unintended influences from the researcher as well as research participants. This is a particularly critical issue in qualitative research where interviewers (and moderators) take extraordinary efforts to establish strong relationships with their interviewees (and group participants) in order to delve deeply into the subject matter. The importance of considering the implications from undo prejudices in qualitative research was discussed in the April 2011 Research Design Review post, “Visual Cues & Bias in Qualitative Research,” which emphasized that “there is clearly much more effort that needs to be made on this issue.” Reflexivity and, specifically, the reflexive journal is one such effort that addresses the distortions or preconceptions researchers unwittingly introduce in their qualitative designs.
Reflexivity is an important concept because it is directed at the greatest underlying threat to the accuracy of our qualitative research outcomes – that is, the social interaction component of the interviewer-interviewee relationship, or, what Steinar Kvale called, “the asymmetrical power relations of the research interviewer and the interviewed subject” (see “Dialogue as Oppression and Interview Research,” 2002). The act of reflection Read Full Text