Reflecting on, fleshing out, interrogating, and conveying your positionality relative to a research orientation is critical to ensuring the validity of your research stance. After all, no one can be 100% objective. The researcher’s beliefs, values systems, and moral stances are as fundamentally present and inseparable from the research process as the researcher’s physical, virtual, or metaphorical presence when facilitating, participating and/or leading the research project. In fact, even the most passive methods of data collection and quantitative analysis have some interactional aspects, and it is impossible to absolutely control for and ensure the unobtrusiveness of research applications and interventions. Power dynamics flow through every vein of the research process; therefore, it is our ethical duty to intentionally and mindfully attend to our role(s) in the contextual power interplay of the research process.
In addition to the technical qualitative and quantitative research methods for ensuring validity, a preemptive and fundamental step in attending to the ethics of the research process is to critically reflect on, flesh out, interrogate, and state one’s positionality. A great place to labor with and develop one’s positionality is in a researcher reflection memo, which provides a safe, brave, intentional, self-reflexive, and critical space to consider and respond to questions about one’s positionality:
- How do my personal, professional and/or intellectual positionalities (identities, contexts, experiences, and perspectives) cohere with or diverge from my research inquiries?
- What legacies (personal, communal, societal, national, transnational and/or global) inform the social constructedness of my positionality?
- In what ways, or not, am I conscientiously, or not, reifying, resisting, disrupting, and/or changing the constructs of my positionality through this research process?
- How has my own positionality changed, or not, over time, and why? In what ways has it remained static, and why? In what ways has it been dynamic, fluid, emerging and/or generative, and why?
- How does my positionality recognize, honor, and/or problematize intersectional notions of difference (politics, economic class, race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, legality, age, ability, education, sexuality, gender, and/or religion?) as a conceptual praxis of analysis for my research context?
For more support come into Weingarten to meet with a learning instructor during an individual consultation on any and all undergraduate and graduate research or join our working group series called Dissertation Bootcamp.
Staff Writer: Min Derry
“Writing begins when our fear of doing nothing at all outweighs our fear of doing it badly.”
~ Louis de Bernieres
So, how about a hearty shout-out to all the members of the Spring ’17 cohort of Dissertation Boot Camp. Whether you are at the stage of proposing, or data crunching or actually dissertating, congratulations – you’ve made it this far, and like we’d say back in the day, that ain’t nuthin’.
For those not in the know, Dissertation Boot Camp is brought to you by your Graduate Student Center. The boot campers resolve to arrive on-site every morning for two weeks, turn off their email/social media, and get right down to it and have at it until early afternoon. They also get the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a Weingarten instructor to discuss their project, timelines and any unique challenges. Dissertation Boot Camp has become a popular program, and has been running for more semesters than your blogger can count. I mean, your humble blogger could count semesters, but that would require needless additional research, and procrastinating on the writing of this blog post by engaging in needless additional research would be setting a bad example.
For those of you who couldn’t do boot camp this semester, fret not, here are a few helpful hints from your learning center:
- Inviolable Writing Time – Essential and non-negotiable, inviolable writing time is the basis for Dissertation Boot Camp and the “secret” to completing any writing project of considerable length. This means you set your weekly writing time and then you guard it ruthlessly. Nothing and no one gets to intrude on this time. If something comes up that needs time, steal the time from something else.
- Log Off, Sign Out – Writing time can never be inviolable if you are obsessively checking email or social media. For three or four or five hours, you must remain out of the loop, away from everything that is not related to your project. And let’s have none of that nonsense about multitasking; your project demands as much focus as you can muster. Besides, in your blogger’s humble opinion multitasking is a sinister plot created by rogue elements in the human resources industry to make writers feel insecure about their “efficiency”. Confirming this notion, however, would require additional needless research, and since we’ve already dismissed needless additional research, I’m moving on.
- Visit Your Learning Center – Dissertation support is a popular service here at Weingarten. We can help you with managing the project or thinking through research strategies. We provide you with a totally confidential, non-judgmental space. Just think of us as the human embodiment of a hot bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich – soothing.
Senior Learning Instructor