In a certain type of intellectual conversation, it is common to hear the statement that this is highly subjective. By making such a proclamation, a person usually means to imply that a remark made by someone else raises a lot of contextual possibilities and potentially a variety of possible positions. Qualitative research is tainted by the author’s personal feelings and philosophical and political outlooks. Subjectivity is both a strength and a weak point of qualitative research. Similarly, recognising your contribution to the research is part of reflexivity. You participate in the study process as a qualitative researcher, and your existing knowledge, presumptions, and beliefs will impact the research process. So, subjectivity and reflexivity are the two important characteristics of qualitative research and therefore, this article will attempt to provide you with a comprehensive overview of subjectivity and reflexivity.
Subjectivity and Reflexivity: Definitions
The term “subjectivity” is frequently used and now has a wide range of aspects in its meaning. The most important description would be that a person’s self-identity is composed of individual ideas, sentiments, opinions, and aspirations, and these factors impact the research produced by a particular individual. However, subjectivity is frequently portrayed as the complete antithesis of objectivity in a conventional research discourse. It implies that subjectivity and bias are synonymous since objectivity is frequently understood to be the lack of bias.
It should be highlighted that one’s epistemological presumptions have a significant impact on how one perceives subjectivity in research. In the conventional research approach that originated from the natural sciences, objectivity is regarded as a crucial component in conducting academic research and advancing the reasonable overview of a research area; as a result, subjectivity is disdained in natural sciences.
However, the postmodern theoretical approaches are against the scientific approach in social sciences and humanities. The pioneers of postmodernism value subjectivity and discard the notion that there are any objective truths. They assert that in social sciences and humanities research, the contextual implications are always present, and one cannot possibly discard the epistemological and ontological presumptions of the author. Therefore, they value subjectivity over objectivity in qualitative research.
However, empiricists and analytical philosophers contradict this idea, especially in the social sciences, because they argue if research becomes a subjective endeavour, then there would be multiple interpretations lacking consensus. But according to post-modernists and pioneers of subjectivity, interpretation is the hallmark of this world, and the human mind perceives and interprets the external phenomenon according to subjective notions.
Fundamentally, qualitative research allows scholars to fully comprehend a subject through accurate documentation and direct personal experience. It is beneficial to work with data sets, which means that the data should be categorised and tagged to identify different links and themes to ensure the correctness of this type of research.
You can be reflective once the data has been coded. Reflexivity typically entails analysing your beliefs, practices, and judgments while gathering facts. Being reflexive is recognising any personal beliefs that might have unintentionally influenced the research. So, subjectivity and reflexivity complement each other and play a crucial role in qualitative research.
You must be prepared to challenge your presumptions during reflexivity. A researcher is crucial to the data collection method, particularly when conducting qualitative research. Reflexivity causes a portion of the attention to move from the subjects to the researcher. It necessitates a widespread acknowledgement of the reality that researchers are active participants in the qualitative method and directly impact the research’s conclusion.
Subjectivity and Reflexivity: Importance in Qualitative Research
Subjectivity and reflexivity have crucial roles to play in qualitative research. Subjectivity entails that the researcher understands the contextual impact of one’s philosophical and political dispositions on the research. Contemporary qualitative research focuses on the significance of subjectivity in qualitative research, and it has helped researchers reconceptualise many things with a different perspective. For example, the ethnographical studies conducted by the British and French colonisers previously thought to be objective were tainted by Eurocentric assumptions. These studies did not consider the indigenous people’s subjective experiences and classified the literature according to European outlooks. However, contemporary research reversed this trend and aimed to understand people from other cultures by considering their subjective experiences.
Similarly, reflexivity is crucial in qualitative research because qualitative research is so largely dependent on participant-provided data. Reflexivity acknowledges that the data acquired during qualitative investigations may be affected by philosophical leanings since researchers conduct all of the interviews, discussions, and questionnaires. Recognising potential bias and how it affects study results is the main objective of reflexivity. While some research methodologies may focus on minimising bias, others may make use of it as a key tool for knowledge generation. Researcher’s biases and prejudices can impact the research in several ways, including:
- Data collection methods
- Sampling procedures
- Data analysis mechanisms
- Reporting tools used by the author
Therefore, subjectivity and reflexivity play an integral role in qualitative research. Qualitative research is fundamentally subjective, which is why you need to include reflexivity in your study process. Identifying subjectivity and reflexivity in qualitative research requires keen observation and deep philosophical knowledge; therefore, if you experience difficulty conducting a thorough assessment of your research while incorporating reflexivity in the research methodology, you can always take help from experts at Masters Dissertation Help.
Subjectivity and Reflexivity: Disadvantages
You can use the reflective process as a powerful tool to authenticate qualitative research. However, reflexivity can sometimes be overemphasised. If you place too much emphasis on reflexivity, you might link each choice with excessive frameworks of reference, complicating how your research is ultimately conducted. Therefore, you must concentrate on the issue at hand if you wish to incorporate reflexivity into your approach. You must concentrate on particular problems rather than discussing every reflexive judgment choice. You can describe how interactions between the researcher and the research could lead to an interpretational pattern.
Subjectivity and reflexivity are the hallmarks of qualitative research. Subjectivity entails acknowledging that the qualitative research process is not detached from one’s philosophical and political leanings. On the other hand, reflexivity helps identify potential biases and take appropriate measures to provide a balanced account in qualitative research.