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 Source: Unpublished Graduate Research Paper, University of Canterbury, NZ, Tulett, H. (2010).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.