Reflexivity in Research

Musgrave, Jackie (2019). Reflexivity in Research. In: Brown, Zeta and Perkins, Helen eds. Beyond the Conventional: Using innovative methods in early years research., Volume 1. Abingdon: Routledge.



This chapter begins by examining how reflexivity has become an essential ingredient in high quality, educational research. It explores a range of definitions of reflexivity in qualitative educational research; drawing on peer-reviewed journal articles to illustrate how reflexivity is addressed in the literature. The content identifies the factors that inform and shape our beliefs and in turn, our motivation for conducting our research. A central argument is that our research is ‘not a voyage of discovery that starts with a clean sheet’ (Denscombe, 2007, p 68). The reasons why it is imperative to acknowledge and lay bare our motivations and reflexivity are foregrounded, helping the reader to be aware that it is impossible and unnecessary to be objective, and in fact can be unethical not to explore and declare our reflexivity in relation to our research. The skills necessary to be reflexive are also discussed, such as the ability to be critically reflective, especially in relation to the possible impact our research may have on others. Examples of how I used Brookfield’s lenses to achieve this in my doctoral thesis are included. The chapter also acknowledges that reflexivity can be a painful process when the subject of our research is deeply personal. An aim of the chapter is to support the researcher to navigate the line between excessive or indulgent self-reflection, that is ‘navel-gazing’, but, instead giving guidance about getting the tone right when writing about one’s reflexivity. The chapter concludes by emphasising that reflexivity is an essential ingredient of high quality early childhood educational research.

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