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Record Type: Review ID: 822
Research and Reflexivity
Steier, Frederick (Ed.).
|All of the sciences from physics on down have discovered the importance of the role of the observer. In parapsychology, especially, the experimenter effect has proved to be one of the most reliable findings, even though by its nature it casts doubt on the reliability of any other experimental variable. For this reason some researchers regard it as a stumbling block to be removed if at all possible. Another view is that it is a window revealing how the experimenter is implicated in his or her work. This would be a laboratory analogue on how reality is socially constructed. The task then would not be to halt construction, but to learn to consciously observe it as it happens. The reflexivity of research is also is well known in the social sciences where a social constructionist approach has been developing that is based on it. Steir, who is Director of Research and Training at the Center for Cybernetic Studies in Complex Systems and Associate Professor of Engineering Management at Old Dominion University, points out that "these constructionist approaches have grown from similar starting points, particularly with regard to the idea that worlds are constructed, or even autonomously invented, by 'scientific' inquirers who are, simultaneously, participants in their worlds" (p. 1). He writes that "the chapters in this volume address the implications of the idea that if researchers and scholars are to take seriously principles of constructionism, these very same principles must be applied by researchers to themselves and to their research. That is, the research process itself must be seen as socially constructing a world or worlds, with the researchers included in, rather than outside, the body of their own research" (pp. 1-2). Thus, this book is very relevant to parapsychology and probably to efforts to investigate any kind of exceptional human experience. It focuses on the process of "reflexivity," which G.H. Mead saw as "a turning-back of one's experience upon oneself. However, as many of the authors in this volume note, as did Mead, the self to which this bending back refers, and the experience upon which the process is predicated, must also be understood as socially constructed. We are talking about a circular process, in which reflexivity is the guiding relationship allowing for the circularity. . . . Thus, included within this focus are issues of self-reference, and how issues of self-reference can inform methodologies and the research process in general. The questions guiding us in this volume then unfold from one central question: how do I develop methodologies to do research and conduct inquiry from a social constructionist standpoint, particularly if I take reflexivity seriously?" (p. 2). The book is in three parts. The first consists of four chapters on "theoretical issues in research and reflexivity." Part II has five chapters on going "from theory to reflexivity in research practice," and the third part contains four chapters on "from research experience to reflexive method."|
|Publisher Information:||London, England: Sage Publications, 1991. 257p. Chap. bibl; 34 figs; Index: 251-257|
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