Becoming a Reflexive Researcher, or Considering it, at Least

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As a registered nurse in order to meet the revalidation requirements set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, I am equally accountable and responsible for maintaining my own continuing professional development (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2016).  Reflective writing is a prominent prerequisite towards nurses meeting revalidation, and is commonly achieved by producing a piece of writing which has followed a reflective framework or model such as Gibbs Reflective Cycle (1988) or Johns Model of Reflection (2000).  With the majority of nursing professionals working within a clinical or practice environment, there is then the consideration to ‘reflect in practice’ and/or to ‘reflect on practice’ as suggested by Donald Schön (1983).  However, the term reflexivity within the field of healthcare is not so common, as (D’Cruz et al ., 2007) discovered during her PhD research, whereby she discovered that a clear definition for her professional field of social work was not apparent, and that when the term reflexivity was used, that it held a different meaning for different authors.  Within a sociological context, reflexivity has a clearer meaning and the concept is accredited to Giddens (1991) and Habermas (1985), and focuses upon the need to question one’s own values and attitudes as a researcher, by finding strategies to question those attitudes.

As a novice researcher striving to become reflexive, I would be required to observe myself ‘observing others’ and discuss what I have observed about myself.  Or research myself ‘researching others’ and discuss what I have researched about my research.  And if that wasn’t complicated enough, I would also need to demonstrate that I was aware that my actions or omissions, will be watched by others, who will then become influenced, by me. In simpler terms… Human interaction is reflexive in that humans interpret cues, gestures, words, and other information from one another in order to sustain reality (Garfinkel, 2005:10).

To become a reflexive researcher requires consideration of one’s identity and the acknowledgement of how that identity is molded by social situations.  On that basis, positionality and situatedness would be of key concerns, along with an understanding of one’s standpoint.  To further elaborate on the Social Situatedness and Standpoint Theory blog, Canadian sociologist, Dorothy Smith (1972) discusses how standpoint theory can also be used as a research method, as well as a theory, by ensuring that the researcher ‘sees’ from the perspective of others, by using their own personal and ‘lived experiences’ to enhance, rather than hinder their understanding of the situation.  Whereas it appears that the true meaning of reflexivity is to avert the researcher’s prior knowledge from inadvertently misrepresenting the data (McGee et al., 2007).

Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992) explain how reflexive sociology is a way of deepening the understanding we have of our own self, by becoming ‘skeptical’ of our own view and attempting to remove our pre-conceived ideas, habits and dispositions, which in essence is our habitus.  Who am I informed me that habitus has the ability to change, and become modified according to the environment.  As Lee and Kramer (2013) define as a ‘cleft habitus’ whereby an original habitus is torn by a new level of knowledge, often resulting in an ‘upwardly mobile’ trajectory.   Reflexive sociology informs the researcher that they are also part of the same social reality as the ‘researched, whereas contemporary sociologist often considered themselves to be removed and detached from their research.  To be considerate and mindful of this ‘social reality’, it would appear to me that the most logical thing to do, would be to write about it… I feel another blog coming on.

References

Angrosino, M. (2007) Doing Ethnographic and Observational Research.  London: Sage Publications.

Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L. J. D. (1992) The Practice of Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

D’Cruz, H., Gillingham, P., Melendez, S. (2007) Reflexivity: A Concept and its Meanings for Practitioners Working with Children and Families.  Critical Social Work, 8(1), Available at: http://www1.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/reflexivity-a-concept-and-its-meanings-for-practitioners-working-with-children-and-families [Accessed 1 July 2016].

Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and self-Identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford University Press: Stanford.

Habermas, J. (1985) In McCarthy, T., The Theory of Communicative Action. Reason and the Rationalization of Society, 1 Boston: Beacon Press.

Lee, E. M. and Kramer, R. (2013) Out with the Old, In with the New? Habitus and Social Mobility at Selective Colleges. Sociology of Education, 86(1), pp. 18-35.

McGhee, G., Glenn, R., Marland and Atkinson, J. (2007) Grounded theory research: literature reviewing and reflexivity. JAN Research Methodology, pp. 334-342.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2016) The Code: Professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses and midwives. London: NMC.

Smith, D. E. (1972) Women’s Perspective as a Radical Critique of Sociology. Sociological Inquiry, 44(I), pp. 7-13.

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