"Lay Person" or "Health Expert"? Exploring Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Reflexivity in Qualitative Health Research

  • Bruce Bolam Queen's Medical Centre
  • Kate Gleeson University of the West of England
  • Simon Murphy University of the West of England
Keywords: reflexivity, lay health beliefs, lay/medical knowledge, qualitative health research


Although the need for reflexivity in qualitative research is widely acknowledged, the practical means by which researchers can engage in this process are comparatively underdeveloped. Researching lay health beliefs necessarily highlights the researchers' own embodied concerns and thus problematises the traditional distinction between "lay" and "expert" perspectives. We critically examine a range of theoretical and practical issues raised by these observations, with reference to an empirical study that involved the first author interviewing healthy participants about a range of health related topics. As an aid to reflexive practice, the first author was interviewed using the same interview schedule as used with study participants by the second author, this data being subsequently transcribed, coded and analysed in the same way. A range of benefits and difficulties encountered with this strategy are discussed. Acknowledging that there are problems with prescriptions regarding how to approach reflexivity in qualitative research, we nevertheless emphasise the need for the practical implementation of this process to be both clear and sensitive to specific research interests. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0302266


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