Reflexivity in Research

Our experiences and identities shape how we view and interpret the world. 

Often - especially in the physical and life sciences - we assume that research is an objective process guided solely by scientific principles and theories. In fact, our personal identities play a huge role in our research, and the scientific theories that we learn and build upon are influenced by other scientists' personal identities. 

As researchers, we should acknowledge our positionality and reflect on how our identity interacts with our work. This is a process known as reflexivity or positionality, which is a widely-accepted practice in social sciences and qualitative research.  

To start your journey to becoming a reflexive researcher, think about the following:

  • What is your identity? Define your standpoint as to who you are; your beliefs; your defining experiences.

  • What was your journey into science and research? Why did you decide to become a scientist, what was your experience in education and training? Did you experience challenges or setbacks?

  • How does your identity affect the way you do science? How might it bias or inform your research?

  • What do you think scientific practice should look like? 

We also recommend you attend our upcoming 'Reflexivity for Scientists' workshop and watch the following videos to learn more about reflexivity from Pollyanna Sheehan and Dr Livio Siboli-Sasco:

ethnicity

race

religion

age

gender expression

location

health

sexual orientation

disability

nationality

relationship status

hobbies

politics

language

education

class

occupation

culture

personality

fertility

income

spirituality

heritage

experiences

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Pollyanna Sheehan (University of Bristol); Inclusive Human Participant Research IRC Seminar; June 2021