"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Monday, February 24, 2014

Protecting Neutrality – Bracketing, Reactivity, and Positionality

My generative term for this week is “neutrality.”  For some reason, this concept was brought to the forefront of my attention while I was working on section 1.3 (Personal Relationship to Fieldwork and Subjects) of 1-2-3 project.  In this section I came across three terms, addressing different aspects of neutrality,  that I was unfamiliar with and thus wanted to learn their meanings; the terms were: bracketing, reactivity, and positionality.  The following definitions are “extracts” from the sources cited.

Bracketing is a method used in qualitative research to mitigate the potentially deleterious effects of preconceptions that may taint the research process.  Bracketing is also a method to protect the researcher from the cumulative effects of examining what may be emotionally challenging material.”  Source: Tufford, L., & Newman, P. (2012). Bracketing in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Social Work, 11(1), 80-96. doi: 10.1177/1473325010368316, page 80

Reactivity, also known as the observer effect, takes place when the act of doing the research changes the behavior of participants, thereby making the findings of the research subject to error.”  Source: McKechnie , L. (2008). The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods: Reactivity. Retrieved from http://srmo.sagepub.com/view/sage-encyc-qualitative-research-methods/n368.xml

“Positionality is a complex phenomenon and shifts according to multiple factors which include space-times, place, people and life course.  Steinar (2007) suggests it is important to show how the researcher’s geographic location, social status, ethnicity, and gender fundamentally shape the questions asked, the information collected, and interpretation of that information.” Source:  Unpublished Graduate Research Paper, University of Canterbury, NZ,  Tulett, H. (2010). Positionality and Praxis. Retrieved from http://www.geog.canterbury.ac.nz/postgrad/420papers/2010/Helen%20Tulett%20%28highly%20recommended%29%20Positionality%20and%20Praxis.pdf

Although my awareness and knowledge of these terms is embryonic, I now have a greater appreciation for the level of effort a researcher must make in an attempt to protect his or her neutrality — or at least identify and account for their biases.


  1. Hi Bob-
    I've always struggled with neutrality because, even though I'm very aware of my biases and make them known in most of my papers, somehow I feel that I should be above them; particularly when I am conscious of a negative one.
    I do agree with your statement that reads that you now have a greater level of appreciation for the level of effort a researcher must make in an attempt to protect his or her neutrality.
    In reading the Belfiore text, I consider most of the researchers to have completed a neutral analysis of their sites, and that allowed me to flow better in reading with the text.
    It's when you get into the realm of articles, journals, and media news that I think there is not an intentional attempt for neutrality and that is when I start to read against the text. Though I understand that other dynamics are taking place there and that the writer may have a willful approach to be biased, in the end, I consider both neutrality and non-neutrality to take a lot of effort. The first one's effort is done while researching, the latter's effort is done after the piece has been published; when they have to account for all their biases.

    1. I agree. I am struggling with neutrality as well. I appreciate your post it definitely provided additional insight. I think it would be beneficial to bring this topic up in class to get further understanding and help the rest of the class.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.