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Reflexivity

When we listen to and write the stories of the respondents, we do so through our own experiences. We need to acknowledge our role in the field by drawing attention to the ways in which our background, agenda and emotions influence our interactions.

Reflexivity is an ongoing process that starts before entering the field, and continues after leaving the field. We need to continue consider the possible impacts when we disseminate our research findings.

The practice of reflexivity takes the researcher as an object of research, examining their situation and how it influences what they do or think. Take a look at some reflexive accounts of legal researchers including Wamai, Browne and Moffett to get some inspiration. You will see that these accounts consider the contacts between the researcher, the research participants and the societies to which they belong.

Various tools and experiences are useful practice reflexivity. We suggest that you keep a field diary and talk with colleagues in the field. Some time away from your fieldwork might also be helpful. While confessing the challenges that you experienced might be uncomfortable and not always understood, doing so ultimately increases the transparency, quality and reliability of your research.

Resources

  • Browne, B., Moffett, L. (2016). Finding Your Feet in the Field: Critical Reflections of Early Career Researchers on Field Research in Transitional Societies. Journal of Human Rights Practice (2014) 6(2), 223-237.

  • Hsiung, P. (2008) Teaching Reflexivity in Qualitative Interviewing. Teaching Sociology 36(July), 211-226.

  • McKay, E., Ryan, S., Sumsion,T. (2003) Three Journeys towards Reflexivity. In L. Finlay & B. Gough (eds), Reflexivity. A Practical Guide for Researchers in Health and Social Sciences. Blackwell Publishing.

  • Wamai, N. (2014). First Contact with the Field: Experiences of an Early Career Researcher in the Context of National and International Politics in Kenya. Journal of Human Rights Practice. (6), 2213-222.

  • Rose, G. (1997). Situating knowledges: Positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in Human Geography, 21(3), 305–320.