Qualitative studies equip researchers with a valuable bulk of knowledge on various aspects of human life. At the same time, this kind of research is often associated with a considerable degree of bias due to its interpretive nature (Christensen & Brumfield, 2010). Although researchers try to remain as neutral as possible, it is argued that they still have a set of preconceptions, beliefs, and attitudes that can have an impact on the findings and conclusions (Berger, 2013). Being an African American female, I can be biased when implementing a qualitative research. This paper includes a brief analysis of the possible prejudice I can have as a researcher.
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As mentioned above, qualitative studies are often regarded as biased due to a significant degree of interpretation employed to address the set goals. The researcher’s age, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, childhood experiences, family and socioeconomic status, as well as other factors, can influence the way the data is collected and analyzed (Christensen & Brumfield, 2010). Several ways to diminish bias in qualitative studies have been developed.
Bracketing is one of the strategies that can be utilized to ensure a complete or, at least maximal, alienation of the researcher (Padgett, 2016). It is critical to make sure that one’s experiences and attitudes will not shape the way the study will unfold.
Berger (2013) argues that it can be almost impossible to eliminate the effects of the researcher’s identity, but it is possible to minimize its impact. The author stresses that her experiences as an immigrant had certain effects on the way she conducted her studies (Berger, 2013). According to Berger (2013), the researcher can have preconceptions that can make them take some notions and attitudes for granted although the participants can have different views and ideas.
As far as I am concerned, I am aware of the fact that I can focus on such aspects as discrimination and abuse due to my experiences. Clearly, I will concentrate on topics that are in certain ways related to the issues I have encountered in my life. These preconceptions can affect my ability to develop proper questions that are completely unbiased. When conducting semi-structured or unstructured interviews, I can pay more attention to the corresponding areas and ask questions related to such themes.
I will inevitably compare my own experiences with my participants’ background. When interpreting the obtained results, I can express biased opinions and look for (and find) themes that are not there. However, it is possible to make the research less impaired with the help of reflexivity, peer support, thick description, respondent validation, and triangulation (Padgett, 2016). It is essential to use some of these strategies to enhance the validity of the study.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that a researcher can hardly remain completely neutral when conducting a study. Their preconceptions, experiences, and knowledge can have a significant impact on the way the methods and participants are chosen, the ways the data is collected and analyzed. Being an African American female can make me focus on certain topics and neglect some ideas and opinions the participants share. However, it is possible to avoid or, rather, minimize the influence of the researcher’s identity and background. It is essential to refer to peers who can validate the chosen methods and the findings. It is also pivotal to self-reflect and identify the prejudice that can have an impact on the study, which can help the researcher to address this bias.
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Berger, R. (2013). Now I see it, now I don’t: Researcher’s position and reflexivity in qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 15(2), 219-234. Web.
Christensen, T. M., & Brumfield, K. A. (2010). Phenomenological designs. In C. J. Sheperis et al. (Eds.), Counseling research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods (pp. 135 – 150). Boston, MA: Merrill.
Padgett, D. K. (2016). Qualitative methods in social work research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.