Sunday, 24 March 2013

Assignment 4 and Thoughts About 'Doing It"

Reading Chapt. 7 of Knight "Doing It" regarding the practical implications of acting out your research design and its various stages in the real world was almost reassuring in its claim that problems and issues will definitely come up. Throughout this course I have struggled with understanding various concepts and translating what we have been learning into assignments and making it make sense for me. In my experience part of completing any project involves problem solving, and it was an important reminder to anticipate issues and have back-up plans in place so when you are in the field you are not disabled by issues that come up.
The last section "Disclosure and Harm" (p.169-172) brought up the issue of dealing with strong emotional reactions from participants, being emotionally impacted as the researcher, and how to handle these consequences during the process (p.171-172). This made me think of an anticipated problem I for see in terms of writing Assignment 4 due to my close emotional involvement with my field of research. I am emotionally invested in the issue and this social problem because of the impact it is having on the life of someone I love. I understand that this may create biases I may project on to the research if it is carried out. As I was writing Assignment 3 I became aware of the potential problem this could cause and I had to remind myself to not take sides or push for a certain outcome based on my experiences, but be open to unexpected results and be mindful of including every possibility so as not to narrow the point of view and not miss/ignore/exclude important information I may find surprising.
Initially I thought due to my personal connection it will be easier for me to invest in this assignment. But the more I am learning about the role of the researcher and the importance of being aware of your personal biases and how they may affect your work, I am learning that it could make my job as a researcher more difficult and may act as a burden. Perhaps I should have chosen something I was not as invested in emotionally (note to self for next time).
What I realized from Chapt. 7 is the importance of separating myself and my personal connection to my research question from my role as researcher while working on this assignment so as to not undermine the quality and inclusiveness of my approach and the potential data analysis and conclusions.

Knight, P.T. (2002). Small-Scale Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


  1. I agree with Shadi about the difficulty of maintaining emotional boundaries between oneself and the research participant(s). Qualitative research, particularly interviews, often requires the researcher to develop relationships with participants that attempt to overcome emotional boundaries. For example, in chapter 7, Knight suggests a strategy for getting interviewees to open up that involves offering up one’s own similar personal experiences (2002, p.170). Potentially, this could be a very revealing and emotional experience. As Shadi points out, the emotional element of research has the possibility of affecting the trajectory of one’s findings.

    Revealing information about the researcher also has some ethical implications that generally are not at the forefront of research ethics discussions. Parry & Mauthner (2004) explain that policies on research ethics are generally preoccupied with the rights of human participants and fail to acknowledge the rights of researchers themselves when it comes to issues like confidentiality (p.145). For example, the School of Graduate Studies’ Student Guide on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Human Subjects (2011) focusses mainly on protecting participants’ rights when it comes to privacy and confidentiality. Say for example, you were required to deposit your research data including interview transcripts in a public repository as a condition of your research funding. While it might be possible to de-identify your interviewee’s data it is fairly difficult to de-identify what you as the researcher revealed about yourself in the interview.

    Knight, P.T. (2002). Small-Scale Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Parry, O., & Mauthner, N. S. (2004). Whose data are they anyway?: Practical, legal and ethical issues in archiving qualitative research data. Sociology, 38(1), 139-152.

    School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto. (2011). Student Guide on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Human Subjects. Retrieved from:

  2. Nicholas, excellent point. I hadn't thought at all about the need to protect the researcher's privacy. Something more for me to chew on vis-a-vis research ethics.

    Shadi, I think bias is inevitable for all of us, to some extent. I think the key is to try and be as transparent as possible and put those biases out there front and centre. Of course, this only helps with regards to biases that you can identify yourself. I guess the discovery of hidden biases is what peer review's for.