Subjectivity and Reflexivity in Qualitative Research—The FQS Issues

  • Katja Mruck Freie Universität Berlin
  • Franz Breuer Universität Münster
Keywords: qualitative research, subjectivity, reflexivity, research process, theoretical foundation, empirical examples


By publishing two FQS issues on "Subjectivity and Reflexivity in Qualitative Research," we address a topic that is central for modern science. On the one hand, there are many demands from philosophy of science and there are numerous methods that aim at eliminating researchers' impact on the research process except in controlled treatments. On the other hand, the insight spread that researchers, in continuously interacting with those being researched, inevitably influence and structure research processes and their outcomes—through their personal and professional characteristics, by leaning on theories and methods available at a special time and place in their (sub-) cultures, disciplines and nations. This is especially (but not exclusively) true for qualitative research, because qualitative methods are less structured than quantitative methods, and qualitative researchers interact for most part very closely with research participants in their respective research fields. Are there any ways out of the dilemma between the hope of arriving at non-contaminated, valid, and reliable knowledge, on the one hand, and the threat of collecting trivial data, producing (unintentionally) autobiographies, or repeating the same cultural prejudices prominent at a time or place, on the other hand? The articles that we introduce here attempt to give some (often provisional) answers: by discussing more principally the relevance of subjectivity and reflexivity in and to the process of scientific knowledge construction and by offering possible theoretical frameworks; by examining the research process, using own empirical examples to show in which way (sub-) cultural, social, professional, biographical, and personal characteristics influence what is perceived, interpreted and published; and by providing tools that can be used to highlight subjectivity in the research process in order to achieve new levels of understanding through reflexivity. We published the FQS 3(2) and FQS 4(2) issues in the hope that they contribute to open up further discourse on these topics that are essential and challenging for (qualitative) research. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0302233


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