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Speaking from within – speaking from without: Implications of taking a mixed insider-outsider perspective through co-participating in one’s own research.

Steffen, E and Coyle, A (2010) Speaking from within – speaking from without: Implications of taking a mixed insider-outsider perspective through co-participating in one’s own research. In: Qualitative Methods in Psychology Section Conference of the British Psychological Society, 2010-08-23 - 2010-08-25, Nottingham.

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"It is usually acknowledged that the researcher has a personal interest or ‘stake’ in the research, and the emphasis on reflexivity in qualitative research has arisen out of a willingness to acknowledge the researcher’s ‘agenda’, almost as if to ‘come clean’ about it. This still assumes that the researcher’s subjectivity may ‘contaminate’ the research and needs to be kept away from participants’ accounts which are seen as holding more claims to ‘truth’. Objectives: This paper examines some implications of the researcher co-participating in their own research, using the example of a recently completed study of the experience of ‘sensing the presence of the deceased’ in bereavement. The focus of the study was on the perceivers’ subjective experience; it asked what role this experience might play in post-bereavement meaning-making. This presentation considers some potential benefits and pitfalls of being both the researcher and one of the researched and the methodological implications of taking a mixed insider-outsider perspective. Design: Data were collected through one-to-one semi-structured interviews, using open-ended questions to enable participants to describe their experiences as freely as possible. The transcribed interviews were subjected to a version of thematic analysis. Methods: Participants were recruited through non-religious community groups and snowballing. Participants had to have reported at least one ‘sense of presence’ experience and to have been bereaved for at least 18 months. Twelve participants were included, two of whom were the researchers themselves, who interviewed each other. Rather than attempting to ‘bracket’ personal experiences, it was decided to acknowledge the researchers’ subjectivities more openly but place clear limitations on them by subjecting them to the parameters of participants’ accounts. All accounts underwent the same coding process and codes were then grouped meaningfully under initial themes. Data extracts were collated accordingly. Overarching themes were developed and repeatedly checked and reviewed. Results: Seven overarching themes were identified across the data set, three of which were considered key: ‘finding benefit in the continuation of the deceased’, ‘finding benefit in the continued relationship’ and ‘finding meaning through existential, spiritual and religious sense-making’. There was considerable variation between individual accounts, and the researchers’ accounts did not stand out as more or less homogeneous compared to the rest of the data set. It was found that co-participation led to a greater emphasis on reflexivity during the analysis and it was noted that variability in data treatment may occur equally when dealing with one’s own material as when dealing with that of another. Awareness of any data being potentially self- or other-generated led to an attitude of decentredness or ‘mindfulness’, a stance beyond a traditional insider or outsider perspective. Conclusions: Methodologically, it was concluded that active co-participation can promote empathy and reflexivity and encourage a levelling between researcher and researched. Traversing the traditional boundary between ‘subject’ and ‘object’ and assuming a dual insider-outsider identity may constitute a creative tension and entail shifts in perspective. Furthermore, moving back and forth between an insider and an outsider perspective can lead to a greater sense of ‘epoché’ than traditional ‘bracketing’.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Steffen, E
Coyle, A
Date : 2010
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 15:51
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 15:02

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