Researching Identity and Identifying Researchers

Ron Chenail
TQR Second Annual Conference
January 8, 2011
Plenary Overview
 Pre-Construction
 Construction
 De-Construction
 Re-Construction
 Post-Construction
Plenary Defined
 Fully attended by all qualified members The American Heritage
Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2004)
Role of the Plenary Address
 Introduction and Orientation
 Informative
 Evocative
 Provocative
 Meta-Perspective
Preeminence of Identity
 Taking its place alongside such core metaphors as
culture, phenomenon, discourse, and narrative,
identity has emerged as an important trope in
qualitative research.
 Be it people's sense of themselves as members of a
family, culture, corporation, or the world society,
qualitative researchers are interested in learning
how people come to define themselves within their
varied contexts.
Conference Examples
 Language, Gender, & Identity in an English Language
Learning CMC Environment
 Identity Construction through Active Listening in an
Online Environment
 Se Echa Pa’lante Pero Se Pierde Mucho: Dominican
Return Migrants’ Identities after Retirement
 Examining the Influence of Skin Color Values on
Hispanic Women's Identity Beliefs
Struggles with Identity
 This area of research is also fraught with
controversy as researchers and their research
participants struggle with gender, sexual, cultural,
brand, product, customer, and corporate identities
and the methodological and ethical decisions
entailed in studying such phenomena.
Conference Examples
 Perspectives on Researcher Identity: An Exploration of
the Personal, Interpersonal and Transpersonal
 ‘Halfie’ Research Identity: On the Intricacies of Being,
Becoming, and Belonging(s)
 Writing, Emotion, and Learning: the Influence of
Researcher Identity and Experience on Analysis and
 The Researcher, the Daughter and Me: Coping with
My Three Selves
Transparency of Identity
 An associated concern is how do we clearly and
ethically identify ourselves as researchers to our
research participants, clients, and colleagues and
how they come to identify us?
 How transparent do we become as we dance with
our own self-identity and the identities of others?
Identity Difference
 As these dance steps are made, how do we as
producers and consumers of these (e)merging arcs
make decisions of quality and utility?
 As we explore these self-narratives and narratives
of others, what are the differences that make a
difference in our qualitative research?
Identity Defined
 Identify suggests both a sense of the individual:
 Identity: The collective aspect of the set of
characteristics by which a thing is definitively
recognizable or known. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English
Language, Fourth Edition (2004)
 And a sense of the relational:
 Identity: The set of behavioral or personal
characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as
a member of a group. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language ,
Fourth Edition (2004)
Identity Defined
 Identify also suggests both a sense of uniqueness:
 Identity: The distinct personality of an individual
regarded as a persisting entity; individuality. The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2004)
 And a sense of sameness:
 Identity: The quality or condition of being the same as
something else. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth
Edition (2004)
Identity as Metaphor
 Three Parts to a Metaphor
 Two distinct but connectable parts
 The perspectives each brings to the other
 Individual and Relational / Unique and Same
 Someone and Someone Else
 Fluid and Multifaceted
Epistemology of Identity
 Identity is discovered or recovered
 Identity is created or performed
 Identity is co-constructed and negotiated (Lavis, 2010)
Identity Implies
 Population-Sample Relationship
 Nature or Logic of this Relationship
 Deductive
 Inductive
 Abductive
 Some or all of the above
Identity Implies
So these relational dualisms suggest we should be
sensitive to both
 How we identify as
 How we identify with
Researcher Identity
As researchers reflecting on our own identities
 Who, What, When, Where, Why and How do we
identify ourselves as something?
 Who, What, When, Where, Why and How do we
identify ourselves with something?
Researcher Identifies Others
As researcher reflecting on the identities of others
 Who, What, When, Where, Why and How do we
identify others as something?
 Who, What, When, Where, Why and How do we
identify others with something?
Ethical Imperative of Identity
 You may not be able to choose how someone identifies
you as something or someone else, BUT
 You should be aware how you identify yourself with
something or someone else, AND ESPECIALLY
 You should be aware how you identify someone with
something or someone else.
Conceptualizing Yourself
 Personal Identities
 Professional Identities
 Disciplinary Identities
 Methodological Identities
 Relational Identities
Personal Identities
 Gender
 Sexuality
 Age
 Cultural
Professional Identities
 Principal Investigator
 Researcher
 Professor
 Consultant
 Change-Agent
Disciplinary Identities
 Psychologist
 Sociologist
 Anthropologist
 Nurse
 Educator
 Market Researcher
 Multi-disciplinarian
Methodological Identities
 Ethnographer
 Autoethnographer
 Phenomenologist
 Action Researcher
 Discourse Analyst
 Life Historian
 Grounded Theorist
 Program Evaluator
Relational Identities
 Curiosity
 Confirmation
 Comparison
 Changing
 Collaborating
 Critiquing
 Combining (Chenail, 2000)
Institutional Review Board
 How you identify yourself
 How you identify “participants”
 How you inform participants
 How you de-identify
 Data Generation
 Data Analysis
Data Generation
 Empathy
 Switching
 Attending to the one and the someone else
Data Generation
 Dual-Dependence
 To enable
 To disable
Data Analysis
 Preserving uniqueness while considering sameness
 Valuing multiple identities
 Expressing stability while acknowledging fluidity
Data Analysis
 What is the evidence?
 What is evident?
Quality Control
 Transparency
 Reflection
Identity Ubiquity
 All research involves identity
 Sometimes identity is more overt than others
 Identity ignorance or opaqueness does not lessen
ethical responsibility
 Identity is an ongoing responsibility
Questions, Comments, and
 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,
Fourth Edition. (2004). Boston: Houghton Mifflin
 Chenail, R. J. (2000). Navigating the "seven c's": Curiosity,
confirmation, comparison, changing, collaborating,
critiquing, and combinations. The Qualitative Report,
4(3/4). Retrieved from
 Lavis, V. (2010). Multiple researcher identities:
Highlighting tensions and implications for ethical practice
in qualitative interviewing. Qualitative Research in
Psychology, 7(4), 316-331.
Ron Chenail, Ph.D.
The Qualitative Report
Nova Southeastern University
3301 College Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33317 USA
Email: [email protected]
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