Difficult data: reflections on making knowledge claims in a turmoil of competing subjectivities, sensibilities and sensitivities

Hoggart, Lesley (2021). Difficult data: reflections on making knowledge claims in a turmoil of competing subjectivities, sensibilities and sensitivities. International Journal of Social Research Methodology (In press).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2020.1857971

Abstract

Much care has been paid to reflexivity, including considering emotional sensitivities in relation to face-to-face interviews. However, less attention has been paid to the impact of such sensitivities on the process of data analysis and the presentation of research findings. This paper focuses on what constitutes ‘the data’ to be analysed, who analyses and interprets the data, what is silenced and what is made public, and what this might mean for feminist research practice in areas considered to be 'sensitive'. It examines these issues by focusing on research on abortion decision-making in which the views and emotions of the researcher were profoundly challenged by women’s constructions of narratives containing a theme of abortion regret. The paper demonstrates how theoretical perspectives - in this case feminist standpoint theory - can be used effectively in sensitive research, to allow the researcher to resolve such tensions by providing a means through which greater attention can be paid to the context of participants’ narratives.

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