Reflexivity in Academic Research
perspectives, practices, debates
Why reflexivity in doctoral research?
 Do you see reality as something 'out there', as a law of nature just
waiting to be found?
 Or do you believe that knowledge is a social reality?
 How does your own presence as a researcher influence what you are
trying to un/dis/cover?
 Are you part of the knowledge you are seeking or are you external to
it?
 How does your view of what knowledge is affect the way you
research?
 Do you have a clear theory that predicts what you will find out in your
research?
 Do you aim to change the thing that you are researching (policy,
attitudes, institutions etc.)?
Why be reflexive at all?
• ‘In the social sciences, the progress of knowledge
presupposes progress in our knowledge of the conditions of
knowledge.’
Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice (1990)
• ‘Reflexivity means interpreting one’s own interpretations,
looking at one’s own perspectives from other perspectives,
and turning a self-critical eye onto one’s own authority as an
interpreter and author’
Alvesson and Skoldberg, Reflexive Methodology (2000)
Reflexive ‘turnings’
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
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Critiques of positivism (19th century)
Marxist theories of knowledge and power
Feminist theories of situated knowledges
Constructionist theories of scientific knowledge
Post-structuralist critiques of universalisms
Post-colonial theory of racial, imperial science
‘Writing the world’ – anthropological critique
Action research, militant research, radical science
[1] Do people speak about problems of reflexivity in your
discipline/area of research? In what contexts does reflexivity
become a problematic?
[2] What are the prevailing attitudes towards theories of
reflexivity and reflexive knowledge production in your field?
[3] Do you consider yourself to be a ‘reflexive researcher’? Why
or why not?
[4] Do you need to be reflexive? At what level – epistemological,
methodological, methodical…political?
Reflexivity: key words
Reflection
1: the return of light or sound waves from a surface
2: the production of an image by or as if by a mirror
3: the action of bending or folding back
4: a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a
result of meditation
Reflexivity: key words
Reflective thinking is thinking about the process and parts of our
research systematically, in depth, seeking multiple and
alternative perspectives
Reflexivity is a state of thinking and being in which we strive to
understand ‘the ways in which one’s own presence and
perspective influence the knowledge and actions which are
created’ (Fook in Bolton 2009: 14).
Critical reflexivity has a sociological and political edge; it is
concerned with the social conditions of truth itself, and with
problems of power in academic research.
Forms of reflexivity
• Introspective reflexivity / co-constructed
• Epistemic reflexivity
• Methodological reflexivity
• Sociological reflexivity
• Meta-reflection (deconstructive)
Embodiment and power
• ‘I am arguing for the view from a body, always a
complex, contradictory, structuring and structured
body, versus the view from above, from nowhere,
from simplicity. Only the god trick is forbidden.’
(Haraway 1988: 414 in Delanty and Strydom)
• Seeking ‘an attention to ‘power inequalities that
cannot necessarily be overcome, undone or even
predicted, but that must be thought about and acted
upon’ (Bondi 2009)
Practising
• Introduce your research topic, question, purpose and
proposed methodological approach.
• Consider how different types of critical reflection could be
applied – stretch your imagination!
• Where are there are agreements and insights? Where there
are tensions, contradictions, disagreements or resistances?
• What elements of knowledge seem ‘off limits’ or outside
reflection? What if they weren’t?
Texts
• What practices of reflexivity are being used in this
piece?
• What ‘work’ do they do – in other words, do they
allow us to understand anything differently, more
deeply; do they raise new questions?
• How does this relate to debates in your own
field/research? To your own (personal?) ontological
and epistemological beliefs?
Reflexive practice (practice)
• Introduce your research topic, question, purpose
and proposed methodological approach
• Consider how different types/degrees of critical
reflection could be applied to problematise the
research – stretch your imagination, help each
other!
• Where are there agreements, where do practices
resonate? Where are there tensions,
disagreements, blockages? Why?
X
Deference from scientists toward contributors
Contributors
Scientists expressing deference
attracting
NA
WE
IA
EE
EA
RA
LA
(79%) 40
60
33
53
37
49
Deference
North America
Western Europe
18
(54)
15
24
25
28
33
Israel,Australia,NZ
1
3
(19)
1
3
4
2
Eastern Europe
0
2
2
(38)
3
2
4
Eastern Asia
1
1
2
4
4
2
Rest of Asia
0
1
2
0
0
(24)
0
Latin America
1
0
0
0
1
0
(11)
Africa
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Contributors(3599) 677
760
47
496
114
629
876
Total percent
(17)
Thomas Schott (1998) "Ties between Center and Periphery in the Scientific World-System: Accumulation of Rewards,
Dominance and Self-Reliance in the Center." Journal of World-Systems Research 4: 112 - 144.
‘[A] feminist model of
inquiry can change
how we conduct
molecular biology
research in the
reproductive
sciences’.
Scientific Method
Hypothesis
Materials & methods
[A] feminist theory
‘can influence the
production of
scientific knowledge
at the level of
epistemology and
methodology.’
Roy (2004)
Results
Discussion
Feminist methodology
Locate the origins of
problematics – where do
our research problems
and questions come from?
Uncover the purposes of
inquiry (and further the
broader effects in a wider
context)
Interpret hypothesis &
evidence
Establish relationship
between inquirer and
his/her subject of inquiry
Get in touch
Dr. Sarah Amsler (CERD)
[email protected]
Bridge House 3019
Office hours to be confirmed in January
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Reflexivity in Academic Research [.PPT]