Reflexivity means explicitly acknowledging your role in research. Our projects are shaped by who we are as researchers because we bring our prior experiences, assumptions and beliefs to the research process (University of Melbourne).

Who we are influences our research questions, study design, tool development, data collection, analysis of research findings, and dissemination of knowledge (Finlay, 1998). Acknowledging this can help to establish transparency, rigour and quality in research.

Being reflexive in research means being attentive to:

  1. cultural, political, social and ideological origins of our own perspective and voice
  2. perspectives and voices of those we interview or observe
  3. perspectives of those to whom we report our research (University of Melbourne)

To begin the reflexive process, Austin and Sutton suggest that those involved in research should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Why am I interested in this topic? To answer this question, try to identify what is driving your enthusiasm, energy and interest in researching this subject.
  • What do I really think the answer is? Asking this question helps to identify any biases you may have through honest reflection on what you expect to find. You can then ‘bracket’ those assumptions to enable the participants’ voices to be heard.
  • What am I getting out of this? In many cases, pressure to publish, or ‘do’ research, makes research nothing more than an employment requirement. How does this affect your interest in the question, or its outcomes? How does this affect the depth to which you are willing to go to find information?
  • What do others in my professional community think of this work—and of me? As a researcher, you will not be operating in a vacuum, you will be part of a complex social and inter-personal world. These external influences will shape your views and expectations of yourself and your work. Acknowledging this influence and its potential effects on personal behaviour will facilitate greater self-scrutiny throughout the research process (Austin & Sutton, 2014, p. 437).

Who we are also shapes how our participants view us. Their perceptions of us can influence the kinds of data we are able to collect. For example, women survivors of violence may answer interview questions about mental health challenges differently depending on whether the interviewer is male or female. Similarly, young people may respond differently to questions about exam anxiety depending on whether the interviewer is a professor or an undergraduate research assistant. Your position in society and status as a researcher, therefore, shape the depth in which people answer and the examples they volunteer to share.

These dynamics are not limitations. They are a fundamental part of our research. It is, however, important that we are transparent about them so that others understand the context in which the research was conducted, interpreted and disseminated.

(Author: Hanna Kienzler)

What is it?

Videos:

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Reflexivity in qualitative research by Alvarez Hernandez (2021)

This video offers a brief introduction into reflexivity in qualitative research. It answers the questions: What is reflexivity in qualitative research? Why do we use reflexivity in qualitative research? And, how can I engage with reflexivity in my own qualitative research? At the end of the video, additional readings and links to video are provided.

(Academic reference: Roulston, K. (2021, April 19). Reflexivity in qualitative research. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mX97qybnGc)

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Positionality and research: How our identities shape inquiry by UCLA library (2021)

This short video discusses reflexivity in research, but uses the word ‘positionality’ to refer to it. The presenters explain how our identities and experiences not only influence the choices we make in the research process but also how those factors shape the way others see us and give us power and/or insight in a specific research context.

(Academic reference: UCLA Library. (2021, March 16). Positionality and research: How our identities shape inquiry. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTHFud7fr8c)

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What is reflexivity? Reflexivity in anthropology and reflexivity in qualitative research by Alivia Brown (2022)

This video gives an introduction to reflexivity from an anthropological perspective. Alivia Brown defines reflexivity from the researcher’s perspective and from the cultural perspective, and shares some research strategies that can help you to be a more reflexive researcher.

(Academic reference: Brown, A. (2022, January 23). What is reflexivity? Reflexivity in anthropology and reflexivity in qualitative research. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCZnUUbgePU)

Websites:

Reflexivity by Melbourne University Medical School

This website provides a short definition of reflexivity with examples that illustrate what reflexivity may look like. It also lists useful resources at the end.

(Academic reference: Melbourne University Medical School. (n.d.). Reflexivity. https://medicine.unimelb.edu.au/school-structure/medical-education/research/qualitative-journey/themes/reflexivity)

Articles:

On becoming a qualitative researcher: the value of reflexivity by Diane Watt (2007)

This academic article is a personal narrative of the author to highlight the value of reflexivity both during and after a study.  It takes the reader through the research cycle exploring reflexivity as part of every step of the research process.

(Academic reference: Watt, D. (2007). On becoming a qualitative researcher: the value of reflexivity. Qualitative Report, 12(1), 82-101. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ800164.pdf)

Reflexivity: Situating the researcher in qualitative research by Esha Patnaik (2013)

This academic article explores reflexivity in the social sciences to show how one’s attitudes and values can influence research. Examples are provided from the author’s own research.

(Academic reference: Patnaik, E. (2013). Reflexivity: Situating the researcher in qualitative research. Humanities and Social Science Studies2(2), 98-106. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Esha_Patnaik2/publication/263916084_Reflexivity_Situating_the_researcher_in_qualitative_research/links/57b3fff008aee0b132d8f2bb/Reflexivity-Situating-the-researcher-in-qualitative-research.pdf)

Books:

Reflective interviewing: A guide to theory and practice by Kathryn Roulston (2010)

This book introduces the learner to reflective interviewing as part of both group interviews and individual semi-structured interviews. The author explores the reflective process through the steps of research design, conducting the interview, interpreting the data and representing the findings.

(Academic reference: Roulston, K. (2010). Reflective interviewing: A guide to theory and practice. Sage.)

How is it done?

Videos: