ACHIEVING REFLEXIVITY: MOVING RESEARCHERS FROM ANALYSIS TO INTERPRETATION IN COLLABORATIVE INQUIRY

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Liverpool]On: 03 October 2014, At: 05:44Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Social Work Practice:Psychotherapeutic Approaches inHealth, Welfare and the CommunityPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjsw20

    ACHIEVING REFLEXIVITY: MOVINGRESEARCHERS FROM ANALYSIS TOINTERPRETATION IN COLLABORATIVEINQUIRYMaggi SavinBaden aa is Principal Lecturer at Coventry University , Charles WardBuilding, HSS, Coventry University , Priory Street, Coventry CV15FB, UK E-mail:Published online: 20 Aug 2006.

    To cite this article: Maggi SavinBaden (2004) ACHIEVING REFLEXIVITY: MOVING RESEARCHERSFROM ANALYSIS TO INTERPRETATION IN COLLABORATIVE INQUIRY, Journal of Social Work Practice:Psychotherapeutic Approaches in Health, Welfare and the Community, 18:3, 365-378, DOI:10.1080/0265053042000314438

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0265053042000314438

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Maggi Savin-Baden

    ACHIEVING REFLEXIVITY: MOVING

    RESEARCHERS FROM ANALYSIS TO

    INTERPRETATION IN COLLABORATIVE

    INQUIRY

    The idea of teaching reflexivity might seem to some to be a nonsense but manystudents, both undergraduate and postgraduate, struggle with it as a concept, a processand as a means of moving away from simplistic themed research categories towardsin-depth interpretation. This paper will examine the nature of reflexivity from theperspective of a personal stance and suggest the use of particular strategies forinterpreting data reflexively. Such strategies include the use of biographical accounts andorganising principles, the exploration of metaphor and metonymy and the utilisation ofpoetry as an interpretative device. It will offer particular ways of undertaking reflexiveinterpretation that have been used successfully with many postgraduate students andresearchers.

    Keywords reflexivity; analysis; interpretation; interpretative; discourse;disjunction; biography; narrative; subtext; personal stance

    Introduction

    It seems to me that one of the greatest difficulties people have when examiningqualitative data is how to actually make sense of the data. There are texts that offeruseful guidance about different ways of managing data (Burgess, 1985; Denzin,1989a, 1989b; Wollcott, 1994; Hollway & Jefferson, 2000) but this is an area withwhich many researchers continue to have difficulty. In this paper I will explore theplace of personal stance in reflexivity and help the reader to consider where theyhave placed themselves in the data analysis and interpretation process. Teachingreflexivity demands that we try to understand how people see themselves in relationto their contexts. We need to explore how peoples perspectives of themselves andothers shape the contexts in which they live and work and ensure that we situateourselves in relation to the related but different accounts. I do not mean the notionof situating oneself to be as formulaic as pronouncing a particular positionedidentity connected with class, gender, race but rather situating oneself in orderto interpret data demands that we engage with questions about .

    . What is being realised through this research, by whom, for whom?

    . What is being argued for in the interpretation of these data?

    Journal of Social Work Practice Vol. 18, No. 3, November 2004, pp. 365378

    ISSN 0265-0533 print/ISSN 1465-3885 online # 2004 GAPS

    http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/0265053042000314438

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  • . How are peoples biographies being taken account of in the arguments of thetext?

    This paper is not presented as an all-embracing solution, but rather as a practicalguide that may help researchers, of whatever level, to shift from lists and codes tounderstanding the subtext of data.

    Reflexivity as personal stance

    One of the difficulties with the conception of reflexivity is that how you see itdepends upon where you are coming from. In social research and in our work aseducationalists, social workers or therapists we are conscious of our identity and ourposition in relation to our clients and our students but we sometimes leave this out ofour research. It seems to me that it is a concept that is deeply embedded in both ourperceptions of self and our perspectives of the world, which ultimately is connected toour personal stance. My use of the term, personal stance, follows Salmon:

    Taking the metaphor of personal stance gives a different meaning, not just tolearning, but also to teaching, which, as teachers, we think about less often thanwe should. Because personal stance refers to the positions which each of us takesup in life, this metaphor emphasises aspects of experience which go deeper thanthe merely cognitive, and which reflect its essentially relational, social andagentic character.

    (Salmon, 1989, p. 231)

    My own stance is that of an occupational therapist, educationalist, educationalresearcher and consultant in problem-based learning who spends her timemanaging these often-colliding worlds. As a therapist and educator I seek to enablepeople to reach their desired potential, yet the notion of helping gets clouded byconflicting notions of self-direction and autonomy and the relationship betweenfacilitation and didactic forms of training. What all these issues have in common isthe need for a recognition of the influence of my personal stance on the people andcontext in which I am workinghence my interest in reflexivity. Thus reflexivityfor me is about situating my/self in the research and the processes of research inways that acknowledge and do justice to my personal stance and to the personalstances of those involved in the research. What I mean is that at one level we tendto see research as something that is formalised and connected with protocols,methodological choices, findings and publications. This conception of research,which is largely necessary to maintain and sustain our place in academe, is differentfrom the processes in research that we actually experience. It is in dealing with theseprocesses that the issue of values emerges. For me reflexivity is about disclosing myvalue-base to those who participate in research. It is about working with people,doing research that is collaborative and sharing perspectives in the process of doingresearch. Yet it is also about being cynical about what is possible in terms of thiskind of research. I often speculate as to whether collaborative forms of research areidealised. For example, I have been influenced by the work of Carr and Kemmis

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  • (1986), Reason (1994), Weil (1989), Barnett (1997) and more recently Niemi andKemmis (1999) in terms of focussing on research being participatory andcollaborative in nature. The emphasis in this kind of research is on the researchercontinually reflecting on her behaviour whilst at the same time inviting participantsto be co-inquirers. It seems to me that this kind of research is not easy and I oftenwonder whether being a collaborative inquirer is really a possibility. For example, isit really possible to be collaborative in the context of doing research when issues ofpower and voice are at stake, and how is it possible to ensure that our data really arepresented honestly and credibly? These are just a few of the challenges I haveencountered when trying to take a collaborative stance in research. This is wherereflexivity becomes part of the ongoing challenge of being the kind of researcherwho really does negotiate description and int